by Charlene Burgi
What if I added four inches of rotting wood chips to my vegetable garden and planted directly within it?
What if I tucked perennials such as primroses or tuberose bulbs in a drab area of the garden for a colorful or fragrant element of surprise?
What if the vegetable garden contained as many annuals flowers as it does vegetable plants?
What if we broke out of our normal gardening routines and tried something new? Would we impact crop abundance or survival? Or would we meet with success and new-found inspiration? Would we be able to push outside our comfort zones and let go of predictable outcomes?
Gardening can be freeing. We can move our plants about, try new varieties, create new rooms within our garden or keep the status quo. The question is what motivates us to try new things?
This past Easter weekend, my trusty dogs Sassy and Misty accompanied me to our little log cabin nestled in the forest just west of Lassen National Park. Our family acquired the cabin this past autumn. When I first saw this home, it was clear that the past owners loved gardening. I couldn’t wait until spring to learn what treasures would unfold, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The warm sunny days drew the dogs and me outside to feed some magnificent six-foot-tall rhododendrons planted near the creek side. As we walked about, tiny treasures unearthed themselves, revealing a spot of color here and there. We noted new buds breaking from their dormant sleep, and wondered how long before emerging bulbs would reveal their spring splendor. Patches of snow remained in some areas, and where the snow had melted, I found the earth like a sponge underfoot. This was better than any Easter egg hunt I could remember!
| Primrose surprise
The walk opened my mind to how we garden. That sponge underfoot told of how plants thrive in rich soil. How could I duplicate years of forest duff in my own garden? How could I capture that element of surprise embodied in the intense cobalt blue of primrose revealing itself in the midst of a still-dormant winter garden? How could tiny violets hidden by their foliage move us to seek out the source of sweetness permeating the air? What changes could be made in the garden at home to break out of a normal routine?
These questions have inspired new experiments in my garden. To imitate that rich forest soil, I have already shoveled four inches of well-rotted wood chips into the hoop house earmarked for berries such as straw-, blue-, black- and rasp-. My horses and donkeys provide ongoing aged manure for increasing the richness of soil in the vegetable garden. Seed packets stored in the greenhouse contain the promise of annual color to delight all types of beneficial insects that will work at pollinizing the vegetables.
Yes, shaking up our routine can be fun and promising. Are you willing to step outside what is comfortable in the garden and try something new as well? Let the experimenting begin.