Good Gardener/Bad Gardener

digit(ID/WA)December 16, 2010

I have just been doing a little reading (and I mean, very little) on "hugelkultur." But, I was immediately reminded of a gardening friend.

I guess I should say simply, friend. For the last several years, I don't believe he has gardened. He may still have his raised beds outside the backdoor but the last time I ventured into his backyard, he seemed very embarrassed by what was growing there - not a heck of a lot more than volunteer larkspur, as best I could tell. He had transplanted it literally EVERYWHERE but I don't think that he had really intended a mono-culture of larkspur and it didn't seem to be working out all that well for him, either.

I don't mean to start off by suggesting that this fellow is a lazy gardener. No, I have compelling evidence beyond his enthusiasm for larkspur, that he is not a lazy person. In his life, he seems capable of building something from nothing - actually, he does this in his gardening and then moves on. Perhaps, the challenge goes out of it for him.

You see, a good number of years ago now, we were neighbors at a community garden and I was able to see first hand what this gardener was capable of.

He may have known something about this hugelkultur back then. And, I don't mean to put this down because it may very well be an appropriate technique for gardening. But, he set out - in the middle of what had to be the largest community garden plot just about anywhere, to dig 2 enormous trenches. When I saw his undertaking, I immediately became concerned that he wouldn't be able to finish in the time we had to get our soil cultivated and ready for planting - certainly, he wouldn't be able to work thru his entire plot that way.

I am sorry to say that this concern proved out - he did have some wonderful squash plants and lots of green beans on those 2 super-sized beds.

He was back the next year but didn't put in any more beds and seemed to have real trouble finding time for irrigation. The 3rd year, he gave up his plot and I learned, had moved on to have a garden using the same approach at his son's home.

I talked a little with his daughter-in-law about what he was up to on her small farm. Once again, he had begun by moving an enormous amount of soil! This time, he planted blackberries - in quantity!

I wasn't really skeptical about him being successful because things did turn out in his one good year as my neighbor. Sure enuf, after a couple of years - he was overwhelmed by an enormous amount of berries of enormous size! They were beautiful!

That was it . . . His DIL told me that the vines became an incredible jungle and he had never found use for all the fruit that 1st productive year. I'd be afraid to ask now what has become of his berry patch. He still seems to have a good relationship with his son & DIL but his gardening enterprise there ended quickly.

Do you know people like this? He is a real nice person, interesting and enthusiastic but . . .

I'd really like to stay firmly on one side of the Good Gardener/Bad Gardener spectrum so I don't intend to be practicing hugelkultur anytime soon. There's a nagging fear that it wouldn't work well for me either.

Steve

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david52 Zone 6

I dunno if it fits the mold, but our neighborhood has 'Sam", a salt of the earth type in his mid-80's, the same one who plants an acre of onions.

Sam has a 1940's vintage Massey Ferguson tractor, in the condition of what one would expect. Brakes a long faded memory, an old blue-jeans pillow for the seat, baling wire, heavier wire, and rust.

Sam loves to come along in the spring and plow you garden, when he plows his. Then, when he wants to disc his place, he'll disc yours. Then, when he wants to till his, he'll till yours. Thus, the whole neighborhood follows his planting schedule.

Driving around the neighborhood, you will find that everybody's vegetable garden is now surrounded by a fence or somehow made tractor-inaccessable.

Sam is a firm believer in moon phase planting, and will get rather theatrical in his description of what the moon phase has to do with cabbages and human digestion. He does have some interesting observations with this, re brine level in large (25 gal) sauerkraut crocks and moon phase which pass the '52 'what the heck, let me see if its true' test. I have found that if I follow along, I find a wonderfully generous neighbor who will show up with truck loads of manure, and this past fall, he swung by with a few hundred empty plant pots from Walmart, where he works.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 11:12AM
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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

I wish I could meet Sam.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 1:01AM
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digit(ID/WA)

One of the best gardeners I have known is Chai. He is a Southeast Asian and can garden like his life depends on it.

Hugelkultur - I once asked Chai if he could come up with an alternative to "slash and burn." I actually asked him about burying the wood. Just prescient I guess, since I only read about this "hugelkultur" in my old age.

The words were hardly out of my mouth before I realized the silliness of what I was suggesting to Chai. I mean, I should show you the equipment (backhoe) the guy that practices this hugelkultur uses to bury wood. Where was a backhoe for gardening purposes going to come from in SE Asia? Yeah, I can see a guy out there with a hoe burying the trees in a subsistence garden.

Steve

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 11:12PM
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