Forest Garden

Wild Daisies, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Our garden in Kitsap is a forest garden by nature (no pun intended).  Despite our three year absence in Philadelphia, our vegetable garden nestled in the Kitsap forests has persisted with chives, onions, thyme, mints, rosemary, strawberries, and other assorted flowers and herbs.  Thanks to the temperate Western Washington weather, these plants have patiently grown year-round without any tending from me.

In between my work I take every chance I can find to get out in the garden and extract the “garden plants” from the “weeds.”  Here in the forest, hemlocks and alders seed themselves readily among the vegetables.  I’ve been fortunate to find that several wild herbs I like have incorporated themselves into the beds including sorrel, red clover, and dandelion.

This July I will be sharing the view from my forest garden as I revitalize my own local food source.  I am in the process of reestablishing the beds in order to sow greens, late tomato starts, and herbs.  We will be building new cold frames, which will be a great opportunity for me to show you some step-by-step instructions for how we build ours from what materials we have available.  Finally, time permitting I will be sharing some simple ideas for drying, storing, and using herbs.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Curious Gardener’s Almanac

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac (c) Copyright Niall Edworthy 2007

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Gardening Wisdom

by Niall Edworthy

The book for today’s review was provided by: Perigee Books, Penguin Group (USA)

At AppleJade I like to share the joy of discovery by bringing you glimpses of the garden in my corner of the world. Niall Edworthy echoes this spirit with his new book, The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Gardening Wisdom.

In his introduction, Edworthy attempts to wrap his arms around this book and explain the “what” and the “why” to little avail. Perhaps I can lend him a hand: this book is itself a garden.

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac is essentially a book of happenstance. As in a garden, you wander the pages and find yourself distracted by flowers of thought here, nuts of wisdom there, and all the while cognizant of the dark earth that engenders such a wealth of gardening wisdom.

Rather than chapters of how-to’s and when’s, Edworthy’s pages are filled with bits of poems, quotations, advice, facts, proverbs, and parables. Edworthy is not a condescending gardening guru, but like so many of us, he is a man with a basic curiosity about his garden, learning literally from the ground up.

As a self-taught gardener, I giggled with recognition when he explained the most unfortunate fate of his onions: rotted to death when left out to dry… in the rain. Those of us who did not grow up with gardens typically lack the innate wisdom of how to manage a thriving garden. What Edworthy shares with us is that not only is this wisdom not lost upon us, but that we can all find a spot of green on our thumbs if we just keep shoving it into the dirt.

Creating a garden is never an instant transformation – nor should it be. In Edworthy’s introduction he confesses, “The first year in the vegetable patch was a perfect disaster—I just scattered a variety of seeds over it, expecting it to turn into the Garden of Eden by the end of summer, like it does on the TV.

Therein lies the deepest wisdom of all: gardening is never a process to be finished. It is an ongoing process of learning and growth of which we gardeners, proficient and novice, are a part. Edworthy’s book includes accessible advice on gardening in each season. I found it refreshing that he includes information both contemporary (like why you don’t need to water your lawn), and traditional (like companion planting and uses for herbs).

This book is like a happy little backyard garden: tangible, unassuming, nourishing, and meaningful. The Curious Gardener’s Almanac is not a reference book—it is a book of discovery. Flip through its pages, and what you’ll find is a chorus of shovels and rakes, plucking at the earth to see what comes up.

Cold Frame: the treasure box

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

It may not look like much, but whenever I see my cold frame I salivate and think about dinner.  A cold frame is a tool for extending your harvest through the cold months by protecting plants from wind while capturing a maximum amount of the low-winter sun to keep the plants warm.

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

We built this coldframe in October 2006, and it has been feeding us ever since.  Our design is based on what we learned in Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest.  (We’ll talk more about this book in the future.)  Cold frame designs can be modified to fit your available space and materials.

Rather than use old storm windows for glass “lights”, we chose to use PVC plastic on our cold frame.  Despite our mixed feelings about PVC, I’m always glad we made this choice whenever I see our husky take a flying leap on top of the cold frame when he’s feeling “defiant.”

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

This year the cold frame is filled with the end-of-summer jalapeños, carrots, and a few stray onions, as well as fresh rows of oak leaf lettuce, mizuna mustard greens, and slow-bolt cilantro.  As we explore nutrition, food, cooking, and gardening at AppleJade, you’ll be seeing a lot of our cold frame – and its bounty.

Do you have questions about cold frames?  Contact me with your questions, comments, and ideas any time, and I will try to address them in future posts.

Welcome to my garden!

Late Autumn Marigold, November 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

At AppleJade, we’re going to talk a lot about foods and nutrition.  Part of our discussions will include ideas for how to grow, cook, and store your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables. I’m an amateur, self-taught gardener with about 10 years of experience.  In our discussions I’ll share what books, ideas, and experiences I’ve found useful along the way.  You will have the opportunity to see my garden while it grows and changes, and learn along with me. 

Currently my writing and creative projects have me swamped, so please enjoy some images from my garden for now.  The garden is currently going to bed for the cold Pennsylvania winter – but that’s not a problem for us.  There is still a lot of life in the garden if you look closely.

 

Above image: Today’s image is a marigold.  I grew these from seed, but I’d have to find the packet to tell you their specific cultivar – maybe giant something…

 

PS – If you like to look at nature photography, I have a whole lot more to share.  Visit me at Arboreality and Brainripples for more pictures!