How to create a Back to Eden garden in a hurry

So being that I didn’t have nearly enough time for the woodchips to decompose, and that I wasn’t actually able to acquire the soil from the old garden, I decided that my original vision for this season simply needed a readjustment.

So instead of waiting for the chips to decompose because it just takes too long, I either dug small rows into the beds and turned the soil completely over or planted directly under the mulch in little pockets I made with a small handheld shovel. In the case of out front where I placed the mulch atop  a semi asphalt slab/and gravel area that would otherwise be impenetrable, I simply dug a small hole into the mulch and filled it with dirt into which I planted a winter squash to crawl up the fence.

So I’ve been doing this in succession, meaning in layers over the last month. I planted my tomato and pepper seeds into the cold frame which was somewhat disappointing because only half the cold frame germinated. The tomato side that is, and those were from seeds I saved from my own black krims in 2008 and sungold cherry tomatoes which are just the best snack ever.

After that I planted root crops that are considered to be cold season, early spring or late fall crops. You plant them and they quickly grow and you harvest, make room for other plants perhaps and then you plant again and harvest through the winter. In some cases the root crops actually become sweeter the more they encounter a frost. Some can winter through and if you let them go to flower, you can save those seeds also. I did some carrots I’d saved the seeds from in 2008-09. So far the collards and kale are the only ones that sprouted and those were saved from a previous year as well. (If you want a challenge try saving brassica family plant seeds, thrashing and willowing is kinda fun, collecting the seeds is a little complicated. I found a really efficient way, save old whole foods paper bags or any for that matter and cut the stalks once the seed pods have fully formed and are starting to dry out late fall. Then tie them together by the stalk, placing the flower heads/pods into the bag itself. I wrap them together with a rubber band and then I hang them up side down in a dry place and let it cure for a couple months, eventually the pods split apart as they dry and the seeds fall directly into the bag. Any that didn’t are easily crushed and and seeds dispersed between your fingers into the bag.

Anyways I digress. I planted beets, carrots collards, cabbage and kale as well as some onions and leeks. Then the next week or so I planted some of the squash plants, more peas and beans which is a little early to plant but I have some of that protective plastic sheathing I bought last year for the community garden. So I will put those on top of the warmer varieties. I did replant the half in the cold frame with new peppers, hungarian, habanero and some other types, I’m just going to let them surprise me this season.

The idea is that I initially only water to catalyze germination, and then really once the plants are established, they shouldn’t require a whole lot of maintenance as the soil builds up and the biofilm establishes itself. It is just that decomposition also works in succession, with the fungus as the primary decomposer and then the bacteria taking over once all the varieties of fungus have derived all possible nutrition from the material. Then the bacteria go to work which attracts various other forms of life because in their proliferation lies the promise of food as you go up the food chain. And this is where the ecology of the soil is so important, these critters are very necessary to so many other processes that to strike them dead with various sorts of chemical concoctions as fertilizer or pesticides is really not doing anyone any favors including that damn kentucky blue grass you spent so much money to establish on the lawn.

When I went back to the old property to salvage my garden posts, I found that the lawn which had once been strictly weeds was a lush blanket of native buffalo grass I’d planted 5 years ago under a thick bed of straw mulch. In fact as you had seen from previous photos, I planted grass in the beds to establish a crop of green manure I would reintroduce back into the soil as a nitrogen rich bioavailable food source.

But here I go blabbing on about soil biology when I’m supposed to be talking about how to plant a back to eden garden in a hurry. The truth is that you can’t, Most of my root crops haven’t even germinated, today I looked in the bed again to double check and spotted a couple of bi-leaf formations popping out of the mulch with a maroon underlay. Those are my beets. But I didn’t see too many so I am not sure what will happen, I guess it is just up to the seeds to do their thing now.

You would be surprised at how rich that soil is beneath the mulch though, it made me feel better about not being able to harvest the old stuff from my other garden because in some places it was pitch black and smelled of a deep forest after the rain.

Ok maybe not as extravagant as all that, but it sure smelled delicious to me. I love that musk and I loved seeing worms crawling all about as I disturbed the Earth. Definitely a good sign! When I first moved into this house, that yard was as hard as brick, now it is as slick as butter, just a bit of an eye sore is all. It does help with muddy situations though, every time it would rain and I had to walk through the yard I would trudge mud into the house. Now it is just innocuous little pieces of bark that can be swept up easily.

My tomato seedlings are gangly and spindly and I opened up the cold frame one day and the manure I’d planted had just about dried out so they looked very sad only a few hours later.
I will be thinning those out and then transplanting them into the mulch in other beds to do their magic.

Gardening is all about intention. There is a chance as with the lettuce mix I planted, that some of these babies will never germinate and see the light of day. I just have to take that chance, if I don’t plant them then nothing will happen and that is an assurance. So I do it, even though it has taken up the entire last two nights I’ve had free and chose to spend in that way. The sooner everything is planted, and I had a feeling I wanted to get them ready for what little will be left of the rain before we plunge directly into drought ironically enough.

And it poured today, so I was right in doing so.

The update is that back to eden is most wonderful, I already notice a difference in water retention qualities of my patch of land. I only have to water the cold frame once a week. I’ll let you know how the rest of the garden pans out, I did plant random squash plants surrounding my garden beds in the front yard so I don’t plan to specifically water them, if they sprout I’ll even be surprised but I am really curious to see if they do ok without any of my extra attention and to discover how prolific they are.

So those are the adventures of my garden. I have a lot also going on personally, just switched to a new job and have some high hopes for being able to work hard and determine my own income cap, but I’m always trying to stay grounded. I’ve learned from experience that change doesn’t come without running its course and that is in my case- causing pain. I pride myself on being adaptable, but I have to be honest, change is harder for me than most, and not because I can’t do it, just because I have so many hurdles to cross suffering with excessive anxiety which can be debilitating. I just have to ignore it and push forward, because I hate being stuck. Some might say I thrive on chaos, not ever having known anything different really. I’m starting to realize that I need to look at my personality defects as gifts, because if it weren’t for the anxiety I don’t think I’d be as obsessive about things and wouldn’t ever accomplish anything in my life. When you need a plan B, C and D for every scenario, you learn to juggle around and be resourceful in ways that other people don’t even entertain.

I guess in that regards I am lucky to have never been coddled or had everything taken care of. I’ve learned discipline and humility from having to be of service in exchange for monetary gain in some form or another since 12 and my first real job at 14 at Elitch Gardens Theme Park. And I’ve done everything from put up “we buy houses” signs to maintaining plants in office settings, or memorizing a 6 page script to work as a Retailtainment professional and surveying people in king soopers for qualitative surveys or slinging Zip fizz the healthy energy drink at Costco. Working in a bus giving out slushies at festivals all over colorado, chatfield balloon festival, south park music festival and taste of colorado are only a handful of the venues. I’ve had a sordid employment history for sure. I’m ready to settle down and have an actual cause.

Make a commitment towards something that could actually make me some real money, so I can get out of debt. I’m tired of living the status quo mediocre life. And my side projects have been very difficult to realize capitalization perhaps, because I keep putting too many eggs in too many baskets.

This new job I’m hoping, will be something I can focus all my attention towards and it will reward me accordingly so I don’t have to think “creatively” about ways to make money on the side. That is ok by me. And it seems like a really great learning opportunity most importantly. I am just hoping I can stay up to the challenges that are presented as well as trying on some new hats like cultivating some sales skills. I think the one thing I do know how to sell is myself. I’ve been doing it for a while, so I just need to learn how to channel that into what I’m learning to do now.

Should be interesting to say the least. That is also why I’m trying to hurry up and plant, so the garden can take care of itself while I take care of me and my future. There is more to say but I’m talked out now, never thought it would end did you!


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