Monday, September 13, 2010

Open Garden Report

I had a wonderful time at Saturday's Open Garden, and I gather most of the other hosts did too. It is wonderful to bathe in communication with so many good people! About 60 came through my back yard, and many more enjoyed the butterfly tent in the front.

We seemed to have an unusually sociable group of 40-60 butterflies. Trina would open the tent flap, and offer the butterflies an opportunity to fly freely, but a remarkable number would sit, apparently happily, on children's fingers. Some remained so long, I wondered if they were injured, but eventually they took off and went far, far upward! They seem to like children's fingers, and the children clearly like them.

In the back yard I fielded many questions. Probably the most common was, "My garden and my neighbors' looks so dry. Why is yours so lush?

I think there are two answers. One is the as-thick-as-possible grass mulch that covers my vegetable garden. The other is the organic matter in the soil that holds water for a long time. I described double digging, which you can learn (as I did) from John Jeavon's book, "How to Have More Vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land that you can Imagine." It's in the Montclair public library. When I started gardening, I double dug spring and fall for three years, and then the soil was as friable as it is now.

This led to the question, "Aren't you afraid of the poisons on the grass clippings?"
"Yes, I think they are terrible. Please see the display about Safe Lawns Montclair (or its website), which is working to abolish them in Montclair. They are totally against the law in the entire province of Quebec. The lawns there look just as lush as ours." Then a discussion would ensue about unpoisoned lawns in Montclair, including one on Upper Mountain Avenue. We old timers told about the beautiful lawns before lawn chemicals became available.

Then I would tell about how dramatically my health improved after a few years of eating my own fresh, organic food. The short story is, "The garden is good for me, even with the poisons. I'm sure it would be better without." Later that day Jose, president of Green Harmony Montclair landscaping service, offered to bring me poison-free clippings. Whoopee!

"Do you turn your compost heaps?" No, I did at first, but that has lost its charm. My heaps turn to compost in a few months in the summer, and more slowly in the winter. I have plenty of compost.

"Do you water your compost heaps?" No

"Do you use bio starters?" No, I put weeds in the compost heap, and apparently the soil on their roots provides enough microbes to get the composting going.

"Why do you have all that soap around?" It keeps away the deer. Last year I had one devastating night in the spring, and I assume it was deer. I've heard that Irish Spring soap keeps deer away, so I sent Fred out for some and he immediately bought an 8-pack. Since then I've had not apparent deer damage in my garden, although some deer have been seen in my front yard.

"Why don't you water your lawn?" Mostly because I think I have better things to do with my life. However, the world is having a water crisis, and it makes sense to get into habits of not wasting it.

"What do you do about woodchucks?" That's worth an entire email, which I hope will get written within a week.

Happy gardening!


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