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Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Deep nature gardening in containers can be challenging because there is a lot less room, and water and nutrients can be quickly depleted. Above is a container with some strawberry plants and a little holly sapling. It is late March 2012, and this container has just been thinned of annuals from the previous winter’s growing season. A little white clover has been left at the rear to help enrich the soil and there are a few small creeping oxalis and other small seedlings.

All of these plants came up from random seeds present in the eco-mix that was used to start this container several years before the above picture was taken. Here, the container has already been through a few cycles of growth and thinning.

It is not always necessary to do this severe degree of thinning in a container but in this case I want to encourage the strawberries to grow lushly and bear fruit, so most competition has been removed. A sprinkle of extra-rich eco-mix was added to encourage new growth.

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Above: By May of 2012 the creeping oxalis has spread and now bears cute purple flowers. There are many new seedlings, including a grayish cudweed just left of center. The strawberries have also become lusher, and the holly has a crown of new leaves. Behind the holly are some brownish clover seed heads. Also present (but hard to see): chickweed, lamb’s quarter, and more.

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By late June, even more growth. The cudweed has sent up flower stalks taller than the holly, and the white clover has intruded into the front of the container. It will need to be limited back very soon! But even with the competition, the strawberries are doing great, blooming and setting fruit in the depths of the leaves.

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Early October, and beautiful ripe strawberries dangle over the edge of the container. More are ripening all through the micro-jungle. The white clover has been completely removed, along with cudweed and some others. A tiny new tomato plant pokes up at right front.

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By early December the tomato has grown up a bit more and now bears one humble, green fruit. To its left another cudweed has sprouted up, and in the far back another creeping oxalis has filled in with pretty leaves. The strawberries have become dormant, and just hold on to a few green, yellow, brown and red leaves. At the far right a few sow thistle plants have sprouted and behind them are two stems of lamb’s quarter. Despite the lush appearance, this container is now growing very slowly in the cool winter weather.

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Mid-February 2013 brings us right around again, after a fairly drastic late winter thinning.The dormant strawberries are now fully freed of competition, once again ready for the next growing season. The holly in back is now about twice as tall. After the thinning, a generous layer of seeded eco-mix was strewn everywhere.

In the far background at the extreme upper right (beyond the neighbor’s deck) a blooming magnolia tree drops its petals onto the ground.

Just a few weeks later the container was, once again, lushly filled with interesting new sprouts.

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Way out back behind the abandoned car lot, out by the train tracks, deep nature is returning. Watched over by graffiti and boarded up windows, the pavement cracks slowly yield to invading plants and critters.

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090614-25Above, a triangular nano-garden of spotted spurge and annual grasses. Both are superbly adapted to this harsh environment. Each of the spurge plants can release thousands of nearly microscopic seeds that can remain viable for decades until they fall into a suitable place. The grass seeds carry tiny back-facing spines that help them lodge deeply into the cracks.

At right, a healthy looking plant with slightly fuzzy, slightly sticky leaves (is it some kind of cudweed?) pushes up through some tiny, reddish unknown plants, which might be thyme-leaf sandwort

Below, longer views of some more grown-in areas. These completely untended nano-gardens feature more cudweed, grasses, and some stands of tall prickly lettuce.

Also present are dead leaves dropped by nearby oak and eucalyptus trees, adding their shelter and nutrients to the tiny ecosystems forming at the bases of the pioneer plants.

We stroll around a bit more, enjoying the completely unpruned, totally natural shapes of the plants pushing up through the cracks.

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Below: bright sunlight shines through yellow-green leaves of prickly lettuce.

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Below: Around the corner there is a whole different kind of nature garden, where young eucalyptus saplings drop their chemically acrid, slow-decaying leaves to form an ever-deepening layer over the pavement.

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Below: A small eucalyptus has sprouted at the base of a paint-peeling garage door.

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Postscript: This area was photographed in June of 2009. Today, it has been repeatedly cleared of plants, and there is talk of tearing down the old buildings and putting in condos and “light retail.”

Oh well…