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

 
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We rejoin our story of the transformation of our flagship site, little yellow house in Menlo Park, a short five days after the removal of the giant old silk tree.

It is November 14, 2012. The front garden, now fully exposed to sun, is about to begin a long-term shift toward something much more lush and interesting. But right now it still looks bare in many places. The front wall of the house bears a bright white scar where a huge old jasmine was removed.

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On the left side of the front walk the garden was less affected by the tree removal. From left to right above, a healthy mugo pine occupies the far corner near the neighbor’s driveway; in the near corner there are three daisy bushes; in front of those, a little patch of violets and decorative strawberries; filling the background, a big old wisteria “tree-vine” that has been neglected for years; and in front of the wisteria there are two silvery French lavender bushes. The ground has been prepared and covered with leaves scattered outward from beneath the wisteria.

The front edges of this zone have been slightly excavated, so that the soil at the edge is lower than the sidewalk. That way, any watering or rain overflow will not wash soil out across the walk.

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The right side of the walkway looks much more bare. A lot of invasive violets have been removed along with a large amount of other common plants such as grasses that were occupying most of the space. At the left is a dense pittosporum bush that we will try to preserve. In front of it are some butterfly irises running toward a large patch of bearded irises in the far background. Just behind the left-most two rocks is a single stand of agapanthus, which will also be kept. It is the only full-size agapanthus that will be allowed to remain. The low patches of green in the foreground are mostly violets and various other fairly invasive plants, including the dreaded buttercup oxalis, destined to be one of the most frequently-thinned plants in this garden.

What is not visible here are the tremendous number of tiny seeds already present in the soil. As we will see in future episodes of this story, this garden still bears many traces of its former history.

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In 2012 we actually had some early winter rain. Here in a bare patch in front of the pittosporum bush there are hundreds of small seedlings. These include many grasses (soon to be removed!) and a bunch of fast growing pioneers we will allow to stay just long enough to do their good work of opening the soil and attracting some beneficial insects. These small ecosystem-builders include petty spurge, groundsel, cut-leaf geranium, chickweed, and more of the still-ubiquitous English violets. Also present, tons of buttercup oxalis coming up from their deep bulbs.

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Also in the same area, some naked lady bulbs sprout vigorously. These will now do extremely well in the newly sunny space!

Meanwhile, over in the driveway are stacked some of the limbs taken from the big old silk tree that was removed in the previous episode. They are covered with a truly amazing ecosystem of lichens and some small mosses. Some of these made lovely holiday decorations inside of little yellow house:

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Next: A new tree goes in, and a closer look at more of the interesting plants already present in little yellow house front garden.

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I love starting work in a garden early in the morning. One nice thing about these cool early hours is that many insects are still slow-moving and partly asleep. One such was this lacewing, a voracious predator of aphids and other small critters. I spotted it just as the sun touched the roses.

This one is probably a brown lacewing in the family Hemerobiidae of the order Neuroptera. These are less common than the green ones, and like the green lacewings they are always a welcome sight in the garden.

If the wide, stuffed-looking abdomen is any guide, this one is a female ready to lay eggs. The eggs are fascinating, deposited on the ends of erect, silk hairs attached to the undersides of leaves. Why the hairs? Some theorize that they protect the tiny, active larvae from each other by making it impossible for them to eat the other eggs before they crawl away looking for prey. Amazing little insects!

Here’s more about brown lacewings.

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The lacewing was not the only critter hiding among the roses.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.