One fall, I looked at a patch of weedy lawn in the back yard with some old cedars beside it.
It was on a gentle slope with enough of a grade that the bottom floods seasonally and the top is bone dry – an interesting little microclimate for experimenting and learning.
That October I planted 2 apple trees, 2 pears and 2 cherries and made a big sheet mulch over the whole area, which looked like this…
And less than 3 years later, it looked like this (same camera angle)…
My mom and I harvesting some garlic, potatoes and tomatoes.
It’s amazing what can happen within three years in a garden – and in a life.
Back then I was happily married. Six months later I was separated.
For various reasons in addition to the separation, my life has been a roller coaster since then.
But having made it through the stomach-churning descents, I wouldn’t want it to happen much differently than it has.
As you’ve probably figured out for yourself, the tough times seem to have a way of bringing about the most incredible growth in a person, and that’s certainly been the case for me.
Tough times can be good for a garden, too.
We do want to have the basic pillars of health in place in the garden – a diverse soil food web, a decent fertility balance, sufficient water and so on.
But if you were to water and fertilize your plants every day, they wouldn’t have much incentive to extend their root systems.
And that means they’d get sick much easier and wouldn’t produce food as nutritious or a harvest as big.
That’s why we take a break between waterings, and also why we amend the soil further than just the planting hole – because we want the roots to head out further in search of more food and water.
Likewise, if we don’t allow some insect- and disease-infested leaves to remain on our plants, then what will attract the beneficial insects and microorganisms to help us keep those problems under control next year?
Here’s the reverse view of the sheet mulch from three years before…
Now that same view looks like this, with dozens and dozens of varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers…
And here’s a 30-second video I shot while we were harvesting back in August…
Three years later, I have very few pest problems in the garden, while an abundance of delicious foods are starting to come on strong (I ate my first apples and pears this year – and the raspberries are still coming!).
Other than year one, I’ve achieved this while spending only about 1 day per month in the garden because I took the initial time to prepare the soil properly, and since then, have partnered with nature to do a lot of the work for me 🙂