140404-0629brown and silver, orange and black

In the morning after a rain, in a client’s leafy forest garden… this beautiful gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) posed at the edge of a rock. It was still chilly and wet, and this torpid insect was so sleepy that I could touch it. When I did, it opened up its wings for a few seconds…

140404-0632

A few minutes later the sun finally emerged, and the butterfly opened its wings again, absorbing warmth. After about 30 seconds it flitted up into the air, soon landing on a nearby viola flower. Wake up, it’s time for breakfast!

140404-0637

Gulf fritillaries are mostly tropical butterflies, whose larvae feed on passion fruit vines. They are not endangered and are surprisingly common in the Bay Area, especially this year for some reason.

140404-0646

Want to encourage more gulf fritillaries in your garden? The best way is to plant a passion vine, but you can also attract them with hardy, nectar-laden tropical flowers like lantana.

The second butterfly was a real blessing. At a different client’s garden, it was right there on the blooming pieris bush, just long enough that I was able to snap a picture…

140404-0649

Is it a monarch or a viceroy? This one is a monarch (Danaus plexippus) as indicated by the lack of a dark bar across the hind wing. Actually, viceroys (Limentis archippus, non-poisonous butterflies who benefit from their resemblance to the poisonous monarchs) seldom are seen in the Bay Area, being more common to the east of the Sierras.

140402-2200
Spring Special from deep nature gardens

Want an abundant harvest this summer? Now is the time to plan and plant your veggie garden!

This year our Spring Special is all about growing food – and doing it in style, with ease, diverse abundance, and surprisingly low water use. With store-bought fruits and vegetables becoming not only more expensive, but also more and more coated with icky chemicals, isn’t it time to grow your own organic, yummy food plants?

Let’s get together on your property for a fascinating hour to discuss what’s possible in your garden.

  • What edibles do best in the sunny part of your garden?
  • What edibles thrive in dappled forest shade?
  • What edibles are already in your garden that you aren’t aware of?
  • How can you make best use of reliable and productive perennial edibles like fruit trees, rhubarb, artichokes and asparagus?
  • What kind of garden might maximize your harvest? A traditional raised bed garden, an integrated garden where your edibles are a part of your flower garden, or a collection of containers? Or perhaps there’s an innovative garden design that would boost your harvest.

After our on-site visit, you’ll receive an email containing a summary of what we discussed along with any additional advice and information that you might need. If desired, I can include tips for tasty ways to prepare some of the edibles we found in your garden.

 

140402-2138An hour of this kind of intensive garden-planning consultation is usually priced at $90, but until April 30 you can have this useful and inspiring conversation for only $75.

Are you ready to start producing lots of great edibles this season?

Get in touch and let’s set up your appointment!

140401-1126

It is a great pleasure to introduce a wonderful new expansion of our garden transformation service. Thanks to recent developments, we can now offer much more than the basic package of deep nature gardening. What kind of garden do you desire? Let us create it for you.

There are some things, like underground plumbing and electrical work, that I am not qualified to do myself. But thanks to our growing network of skilled, experienced, licensed colleagues we can now offer these services and more, to fill all your needs for complete garden design and installation.

140401-1131 We can now handle all necessary garden jobs, including installing or redesigning irrigation systems, trimming, removing, or planting trees, removing sod and replacing it with raised beds, and even rerouting or installing electrical lines for garden lighting. It’s all possible with me and my capable colleagues, under my direction in your garden spaces. This is an exciting new development!

If you have some land that you’d like to garden or farm, let’s start by having a look in person. Schedule a free on-site visit and let’s discuss how to create the kind of garden or farming space you’d like.

Our goal does not have to be a “true” deep nature garden, although we do want to create as many of those as we can.

Regardless of exactly what you envision, we will apply appropriate principles of eco-gardening and eco-farming to the plan.

What are these principles? We always aim for maximum beauty, diversity, and productivity, with the three principles balanced as you prefer for your own garden. Please note that some kinds of gardens, such as those with large expanses of bark chips, gravel, or weed barrier, do not fit well within the principles of eco-gardening, and we might choose not to take on such projects.

From there, if you choose, we can move on to the actual hands-on work. In some cases I will be able to do this myself, and in others I might bring in one or more of our valued colleagues. The cost of this work will depend on what is needed. My own time is priced at $40 per hour, and of course our colleagues have their own various rates, some of which may be discounted for clients referred by us.

How much involvement do you prefer in your garden / farming projects? If you are very hands-on, you are welcome to plunge right in and physically work with us, getting your own hands dirty to create and manage your growing spaces. If you prefer to sit back and watch as your garden / farm grows, you can leave it all to me and my colleagues. We’ll take care of everything.

Do you already pay for a regular garden service? We can work with your existing garden staff to create the kinds of changes you’d like to see. You can choose to keep your existing people, replace them with new people from among us and our colleagues, or take over and continue maintaining your garden yourself.

When you feel ready to take the next step in your garden’s evolution, get in touch to set up a free introductory visit.

 

140401-1135container gardening

Even if you don’t have any actual garden spaces, we can still help you create more beauty, abundance, and diversity in your life. Indoors or outdoors, container gardening is hot right now and there are many ways to do it well!

Let’s see how we can create some wonderful containers for you. How about some dwarf fruit trees, or a beautiful container herb garden?

The container gardens offering works the same way as the outdoor garden offering described above. Your introductory visit is free, and after that we can set you up at our standard rate of $40 per completed hour, or you are welcome to create your container garden yourself, using the advice offered during the free visit.

Does this sound good? Get in touch!

 

more to come soon

There’s more great new stuff in the works, including the exciting “eco-packs” containing fascinating young plants to enhance diversity in your garden, further expansion of the compost co-op, and more ideas that are just now emerging into the light. Follow this blog to find out about all of these great new offerings, and follow me on facebook for shorter, day-to-day announcements and updates.

140111-0833

Happy New Year to all friends, clients, associates, colleagues, merchants, family, and other respected humans!

With the new year comes a new beginning for deep nature gardens as a business, and a re-evaluation of all the goals and projects. This new beginning is much more than just switching to a new page in the accounting spreadsheet. There will be some fascinating new offerings in 2014… and I am tremendously curious to see how it all unfolds!

 

140111-0837looking back… and thanks!

2013 was an exciting exploration of what is possible with deep nature gardening as a calling. At the start of the year there were only two clients, and it was not yet clear whether it would be possible to do “professional deep nature gardening.”

Over the following 12 months the work deepened, more clients appeared, and a whole lot was learned. Now it definitely feels like deep nature gardening is “what I do.” It is delightful to see how the various clients’ gardens are becoming more beautiful, diverse, and productive.

There are now 11 active clients, including several with large, fully dedicated deep nature areas, some “mixed work” clients with various extra garden tasks, and even a few who only want me to keep their bushes pruned. All of you are valued and appreciated.

So before I describe some of the Great New Stuff, I want to be sure to thank all of you who have supported this work in any way, whether you are a client, advisor, merchant, compost co-op member, or simply through your continued friendship and emotional support. This amazing new calling would not be possible without you great folks.

 

things to come

In 2014 I hope to continue the good work creating beautiful deep nature gardens, and I want to expand that work in some new directions. In order to make that possible there will be some interesting evolutionary changes.

Now that there are more active clients, I will be inviting one or more apprentices to work with me to become trained in all aspects of deep nature gardening, including pruning, thinning, and identification of all the various plants that appear in deep nature gardens. Over time, these apprentices will help me care for your deep nature gardens, either with me or on their own.

As some garden visits are handled by an apprentice, I will dedicate more of my time to working on several new projects that will benefit all of us.

What new projects? The mindheart swirls with great ideas! All of them involve the three basic foundations of deep nature gardening: beauty, diversity, and productivity.

 

140111-0855ecocells

A big new set of project ideas centers around the concept of an ecocell, which is an enclosed ecosystem. Typically, such an enclosure would be a greenhouse, but ecocells can be of many sizes, from a small indoor terrarium / aquarium, all the way up to a gigantic orbital space habitat. The idea is to create a zone where a controlled ecosystem is separated from the rest of the world.

One of the new projects for 2014 is to create some greenhouse-size ecocells and populate them with beautiful, diverse, productive ecosystems. Since I don’t personally have the space for a greenhouse, an early goal is to find a client who has some property and would like to let me create such a thing, either in an existing greenhouse or in a new one we can construct.

Why build ecocells? Not only are they easier to protect against pests and diseases, they can also be environmentally controlled very precisely. In a tropical ecocell we can grow papayas, bananas and much more. How much better it is to eat totally organic, locally grown papayas instead of shipping them from Mexico!

Do you have some unused space? Can I build an ecocell for you and fill it with beautiful, diverse productivity? Do you know someone who might like this? If so, let’s talk as soon as possible!

 

140111-0901local resilience ecosystem

Most of us have heard of the term “resilience” — it’s a real 21st century buzzword. It means that if things get bad, we can still survive and thrive, taking care of each other by exchanging raw materials and products among ourselves.

One of the most important basics of resilience is going local. This phrase means that as much as possible, we grow our food and create other useful products locally, instead of paying for products that have been shipped halfway across the planet using non-renewable fossil fuels.

I believe so strongly in local resilience that I’m ready to start building an extended local resilience ecosystem (that’s a provisional name until I figure out what to really call it) among the many good people on the central SF peninsula.

Right here in our area there are hundreds of small back yard gardens that already produce all sorts of edible or useful products. Many of us produce more than we can use. We also have tons of devoted home craft workers, making lots of other useful products from knitted scarfs to scented soaps. Why shouldn’t these valuable, producing community members join together cooperatively to form a local resilience ecosystem?

How will this work? To be honest, I’m not sure yet, but stay tuned and you will find out! If you are curious, the best way to follow my progress (our progress!) is to subscribe to this blog, where I will publish updates on this and other new projects for 2014. The subscription box is at the upper right of every page. Of course, I would be utterly delighted if anyone decides to become an active commenter and question-asker. I am actively asking for your good ideas.

Do you (or someone you know) produce more edible bounty than you can use? Do you (or someone you know) create any kind of useful or interesting home-crafted products? Would you like to exchange your own bounty for cool goodies created by other local folks? Would you like to become part of our experimental new local resilience ecosystem? If so, let’s talk as soon as possible!

 

other ideas

There are other ideas too, but I’m going to keep them to myself for now. Between deep nature gardening, ecocells and the local resilience ecosystem I think I have enough on my plate for 2014.

I definitely won’t be able to do these projects alone, and the community of Good Green Folks (that’s all of us!) are critically important to make it happen.

Whether you’d like to be a deep nature gardening apprentice, or you’d like to offer your extra veggies (or hand-crafted products) to the community in exchange for other goodies, or you have some unused space where an ecocell can grow, or you just think what I’m doing is incredibly cool, I hope you’ll get in touch. If you like these ideas, become part of them!

 

onward!

Happy New 2014 to all, and may we all experience great success this year!

Nick Turner

140111-0905

120318-b-12

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.

120516-34

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.

120623-231

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.

121007-11

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.

121202-2

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.

130213-47

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.

090614-40

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.

090614-28

.

090614-22

.

090614-36

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.

090614-24

.

090614-34

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

090614-19

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.

090614-48

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

090614-45

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…

130720-1337

You’ve probably seen the ads, even if you haven’t bought one. For about twenty bucks you get a wrinkly coil of compressed flexible hose with plastic fittings on the ends.

It’s supposed to be a wonderful new invention. Imagine, a hose that weighs less than the water inside it! Look how easy it is to handle! I had to try it.

130720-1338

reason #1 not to buy one

130720-1339The one I bought is blue and 25 feet long when it is fully engorged with high-pressure water. Following the instructions I screwed it into the faucet, closed the plastic valve on the far end, and slowly turned on the water. Within a few seconds the wrinkled hose began to expand, turning into a semi-rigid cylinder and lengthening from about six feet out to the full 25 foot extent.

Cool! I screwed my trusty hand sprayer onto the end and carefully opened the valve. Then I squeezed the sprayer, to let some water out.

I expected that water would spray out with full force, since the hose appeared to be fully expanded. I got that full spray for less than a second, before the end of the hose nearest to the sprayer literally collapsed, issuing a strange moaning sound. Instantly, the flow coming out the sprayer dropped to a trickle. Huh? A little voice in my head said “Venturi effect!”

I stopped the spray and allowed the hose to re-expand. Tried again… same result.

Let’s see… maybe there needs to be more pressure? I opened up the faucet valve further, and tried again. Nope. Even more pressure! Again… nope. Still, the far end of the hose collapsed, diminishing the flow to a mere trickle.

I was not able to get a decent spray from this hose until after opening the faucet to at least two full turns of the handle. After that, it seemed to work okay. There does not seem to be any way to operate this hose with less than full pressure. That is a problem for me because I prefer to use a nice, gentle, very slow flow to water the container garden’s many new seedlings.

That in itself is enough reason for me to not buy another one. But wait… there’s more.

reason #2

One of my garden clients bought one of the longer green ones. At first it seemed like an improvement. Now we can reach distant corners of the garden without dragging a heavy, damaging object across delicate plants. The new hose can rest on top of bushes and other sturdy plants, lightly, without damaging them. Excellent!

130720-1340So my client started using it in the back garden. Then, one day, after finishing the watering, my client shut off the sprayer head, preparing to turn off the water at the faucet. Seconds later, there was a “pop” and water began spraying out of a point in the middle of the hose. Uh oh!

On examination of the rupture point it could be seen that the hose is made of an outer mesh-like layer and an inner band of plastic that spirals around the hose. That plastic band had broken, and the outer mesh layer was insufficient to hold in the water.

Why did this happen? My best guess is that the hose was left in the sun (a big no-no according to the instructions) and suffered UV damage. But this hose was less than a month old. If these hoses are so vulnerable to sun damage that they bust after just a few weeks sitting in the sun, I feel reluctant to even use them in the sun. Since most gardens receive direct sunlight, this is a problem.

reason #3

Handling hoses is always a bit of a challenge. I was hoping that the new, lightweight hose would be easier to handle, and it is in a way. It is certainly a lot lighter. But in my gardens there are places that should never have a hose running over them, places where the plants are just too delicate.

With the old-style, heavy rubber and plastic hoses, it is possible to thread the hose around sturdy hose-guides stretegically placed at important garden corners. Then if I need more hose length, I can pull from a distance, and the hose snakes around the guide, neatly staying on the path or sidewalk.

With the new hoses, not so much. The darn things are so light and rigid that they don’t stay under the hose guides. Instead, they curve up in big arcs, flopping all over the plants. Not so good!

waiting for a redesign?

These three problems are enough to keep me from buying or recommending the lightweight hoses, at least for now. But this is only the first draft of these new-design hoses. I am sure that many people are experiencing these and maybe other problems with the new hoses. No doubt the makers are receiving complaints and requests for refunds.

I will be watching for a revised version, maybe made out of slightly less UV-sensitive plastic and fabric, and maybe with just a tiny bit more heft. Maybe the low-flow problem can also be solved (but due to the laws of physics, it is arguable that no collapsible hose of this type will ever be able to run at low pressure).

If I see a redesigned lightweight hose, I’ll get one and report back in these pages. Until then, I suggest you avoid them.

what do you think of them?

Have you bought one and tried it? Please reply in the comments and let us know what you think of it.

130510-0834

When I lifted up the tarp covering the compost, there they were! Sweet little mushrooms, delicate and ephemeral, poking up between fruit peels, strips of newsprint, and already-decayed material. What a nice surprise this morning!

130510-0835

130510-0836Dainty little fruiting bodies, rising up out of sweet-smelling decay. These are almost certainly some species of Coprinus mushrooms. Much too small and thin-fleshed to eat, if these are actually Coprinus they are nonetheless edible, as are all Coprinus mushrooms, as long as they are consumed before their caps begin to dissolve.

Most Coprinus mushrooms dissolve into a black liquid after they have fruited. That’s one of their distinguishing characteristics, and why they are often called “inky caps.” At right, you can see how the caps of the mushrooms have begun to turn into an inky  liquid. Not very appetizing, but a valuable adaptive trait, since the liquid carries many spores right back into the rich medium underneath the shroom. Like other mushrooms, inky caps also release their spores into the air.

These mushrooms are probably tropical in origin, which may be one reason I have not been able to identify their exact species. Many of the small inky caps frequently found in compost piles and also in greenhouses actually originated in the deep, wet, warm, richly nutrient-laden depths of tropical rain forests. No doubt they find the warm, wet compost most inviting.

130510-0838Everywhere there were masses of fuzzy white hyphae, the actual body of the fungus. In many places, the hyphae were clumping into tiny white mushroom primordia, like the one at left, just emerging near a chunk of shiny-knobby avocado peel visible at the upper right of the picture.

In order to give these tiny newborn shrooms some room to grow and preserve a warm, moist atmosphere, I carefully placed a few plastic milk crates on top of the compost and pulled the tarp back over it. I didn’t want to crush the little fungi. It was the decent thing to do!

Many kinds of Coprinus also have scaly caps or stems. This morning’s delightful little compost lovers show gorgeous fractal scales on the caps. Why do they have scales? Maybe the scales somehow help disperse the spore-bearing inky liquid.

Maybe they are there just to look pretty?

130510-0840

Did you miss the previous episode of this story? You can also jump back to the beginning.

130220-1057

a big day begins early!

Morning sun slants low across the neighborhood early on November 9, 2012. It’s a big day because the old silk tree is finally coming down. But before the men arrive with their big noisy machines, let’s have a little look around.

130220-1104

The space directly under the big tree has been cleaned up. Many of the large irises, pittosporums, and other plants have been removed. Yellow flags mark the gas line. A white area on the house shows where an old jasmine vine was removed. To the right of the white mark, a very smart doggie looks out through the window.

130220-1113

Above: a close look at the front edge of the streetside lantana strip. As promised, irregular slate stones have been placed here, with new grass stems already shooting up between. This is a temporary placement, subject to further editing as the rocks settle in. The grasses and other sprouts between the stones will mostly be removed, making room for mosses and other tiny plants.

130220-1122

men and machines arrive

Here they are! The big truck is being anchored at the edge of the lantana strip, where the tree guy stands on those slate stones we were just looking at. This is it!

130220-1127

With very little further preparation, Tree Guy gets into his bucket and levitates into the branches. The chainsaw roars into life. One by one, branches fall.

130220-1133

Tree Guy is careful not to drop branches on delicate areas of the garden. Still, they cover large areas with masses and masses of leafy, twiggy debris. The truck pulling the wood chipper arrives, and the first branches are fed in…

130220-1137

.

130220-1140

.

130220-1144

All morning it continues, with the noise and the sawdust and the branches coming down. The chipper keeps eating bigger and bigger branches. The remaining tree becomes shorter, and the remaining trunks are the biggest ones of all.

130220-1148

.

130220-1151

We set aside some of the nicest branches, which are covered with an astounding variety of lichens and mosses. This is the kind of gorgeous micro-ecosystem that can develop when no human touches a surface for years at a time. We’ll try to preserve some of these branches to decorate the back yard, but the lichens and mosses will probably suffer a lot from the changed environment.

130220-1157

Several hours later, there’s not much left of the tree. What will happen to all those huge trunks? Wait and see…

130220-1201

.

130220-1206

When they started shoving huge logs into the chipper, I almost didn’t believe what I was seeing. Everything, even the biggest, heaviest trunks, went right in. What a lot of noise!

130220-1211

I could not help feeling quite sad as the last trunk sections were taken down.

130220-1214

The final cuts went right into the main cambium of the trunk. Look how the tree is bleeding. Enough sap is coming from just this one cut to fill a drinking cup in twenty seconds. Feeling very sad…

130220-1219

Just one last cut, and we are down to ground level. But the work is not yet finished. We will need a new tool!

130220-1224

Before we bring in the stump remover, have a look at the stump. See the dark brown circle? That’s evidence of the fungus that has been attacking this tree for many, many years. Where the stain touches the outside of the stump is where the soft spot was that showed the fungus infection from the outside.

130220-1229

Possibly the most evil-looking garden machine ever. The huge toothed wheel arrives, ready to literally eat right down into the ground. Yikes!

130220-1232

.

130220-1234

.

130220-1235

At long last, it’s over. Peace and quiet returns to the neighborhood as little yellow house basks in sudden sunshine. Where there was a huge old silk tree, now there is only a soft spot in the ground … and a yard full of thousands of tiny twigs and leaves.

130220-1245

Next: In the sudden sun, a grand transformation begins.