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141120-0635

Nick says:

I was working in a streetside garden one day and a young girl stopped by, with her dad in tow. She looked about five or six years old. She asked what I was doing, so I described how I was clearing out overgrown creeping oxalis to make room for a melon sprout that had just opened its first yellow flower.

She watched for a few minutes, then asked “Why are you doing this?” I talked about how beautiful the garden was, and how important it is to make beautiful gardens on this planet. But she was quite young, and I missed the opportunity to answer more deeply.

I left a career of more than three decades as a computer firmware engineer to pursue a new calling with little relationship to the old one. Why did I leave behind a whole career for such a risky new path?

 

141120-0641a planet in trouble
I look out at the world, and I see beautiful, living species vanishing by the dozens and hundreds all across the planet.

Amazing natural ecosystems are being torn down, chewed up, and turned into mono-crop farms, cities, and endless uniform suburbs. The planet’s biosphere, also known as Gaia, is being progressively despoiled. Earth is a planet in trouble, and I want to do something to help restore it.

Despite what is happening out there, I still feel hope for Gaia’s future. Lots of people are already doing great work. Some projects are large or even huge, others are small and seemingly insignificant, but all of them are important.

I was ready to do something, but what could I do? I am just one tiny little human. After several years of “casting about” for the next thing to do, I was not particularly wealthy or even well-off. I realized I would have to start small.

 

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a new way of gardening
A new passion emerged for healing Gaia. I decided to start right at home. How could I improve the ecology of my own garden? Could I do that in other gardens?

In that moment of insight, the offering I call “deep nature gardens” was born. A new kind of gardening began to evolve, in which a healthy, diverse, beautiful ecosystem is the most important element. A whole new world of possibilities opened up, and it is still unfolding in amazing, new directions.

We have a big opportunity to work for planetary healing, and that is why I do this work. If enough of us begin to act in large and small ways, we can make a difference. We can create and preserve healthy ecosystems in so many places. The ever-evolving offerings from deep nature gardens are centered around exactly that opportunity and that hope for the future of Gaia. I am one of many people acting in various ways to save Gaia. You can do it too by creating a deep nature garden of your own, and in many other ways. This blog is not just about my own work, it is about what all of us can do to help heal Gaia.

 

141120-0728a growing community
Now, as more and more nature-loving people begin to find us, the passion for this work continues to grow. This path, this inspiring calling, is what I want to do.

There is a plan now, a way of moving forward to do even more for the planet, with new offerings and more beautiful deep nature garden spaces everywhere, not just here in the Bay Area but anywhere there is a gardener who wants to create something truly extraordinary.

This is my work now, and I joyfully offer it to the world, in person and through our excellent modern online tools.

If you are local, my assistants and colleagues and I can shape your garden and continue its evolution as a hands-on service. But no matter where you are, if you have the commitment and the passion I can help you create and evolve a beautiful deep nature garden.

I hope that many more lovers of Gaia will get in touch and explore how to create a beautiful ecosystem, a diverse and abundant species enclave, in their own landscapes.

I also look forward to developing our other offerings, including enclosed ecosystems, artistic mini-landscapes, and so much more that is still being invented, or even unimagined as yet.

 

gratitude
Thanks to all of you who are becoming part of this! I feel so much gratitude to be part of this extended community. I am grateful also to the little girls and boys who are just now asking “why are you doing this?”

in love with Gaia,

Nick Turner

141108-0616

What we do is not like “regular” gardening!

In some ways the relationship between a deep nature garden and its human caretaker runs in the opposite direction than it does in a “normal” garden.

Here is a table that might make these differences more clear:

traditional garden deep nature garden
garden expected to “obey” gardener gardener and garden co-evolve
gardener takes care of garden garden adapts itself to conditions
maintains a consistent design design co-evolves with gardener
garden is planted garden grows in
garden is “done” once it is planted garden constantly evolves
ecosystem is simple and controlled ecosystem is complex and self-regulated
contains only selected plants contains many volunteers
unexpected sprouts are removed unexpected sprouts are celebrated
pruned for controlled appearance pruned for natural appearance
wants to be “complete” may have some blank places
plant eaters are killed plant eaters are welcome
augmented with fertilizers augmented (if at all) with compost
“protected” by poisons not in need of protection
gardener works in the garden gardener merges into the garden
conforms to gardener’s vision always reveals new beauty

 

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140519-0621

We have not seen much dew in the Bay Area in this year of record drought, so here’s a reminder that sometimes there is actual moisture around here! On December 24, 2012 the sun lit up this tiny spider web among irises and Santa Barbara daisies.

140519-0623The spider that spun this web was no larger than a pin head, yet it contained enough instinctive knowledge to construct this complicated, 3-dimensional structure suspended expertly from  leaves and stems.

A typical organic garden contains thousands of spiders of many kinds. Most of them remain hidden in the vegetation, actively exploring for prey. Only a few spin webs that are large enough to be easily noticed.

The presence of spiders in the garden is ecologically profound, because they eat a significant fraction of the flying and crawling insects. In webs just like this one in the same garden, I have spotted fungus gnats, parasitic wasps, fruit flies, many other small insects, and even a lady beetle.

There are more than 42,000 kinds of spiders. They have been around for 400 million years, evolving from fascinating little critters called trigonotarbids that looked a little like modern ticks and mites.

Back in those early days there were no dew-spangled spider webs because web-weaving spiders had not yet evolved. True spiders with spinnerets appeared around 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous, a time when yard-long dragonflies cruised the skies. It must have been a great time to evolve predators!

There’s more about spider evolution at Wikipedia. There’s also a neat article about trigonotarbids.

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140503-1416

It has now been almost two years since this current adventure began into deep nature gardening. The work has evolved, and so has the very basic concept of what a deep nature garden is, and how it works.

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It has been amazing to experience the widely different perspectives people have on gardening, and even on the basic definition of what a garden is. I have worked among straight-edged platonic topiary solids, and amidst the wild tangles of ten-year-old thickets. In all of these very different plant-filled spaces, the question comes up of what the owner actually thinks a “garden” is.

I want to present deep nature gardening in an accurate way, so that people understand the concept and can make an intelligent decision about whether to create such a garden, or hire me to do it.

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What is a deep nature garden?
It’s a bounded slice of managed nature.

It’s a zone of the planet’s surface that is tended by a human and guided skillfully towards greater beauty, diversity, and productiveness.

It’s an ever-changing, evolving work of art.

It is an ongoing expression of an intimate interaction between one or more humans and a well-loved patch of soil.

Want to know more? Read about the principles of deep nature gardening.

If you would like a deep nature garden, I can create one for you or I can teach you how to do it yourself. If this sounds interesting, please get in touch!

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I am happy to announce that with the completion of a certain long-term project in coming weeks there will be a new opening for a regular deep nature garden client (or other interesting commitment!) up to three hours plus per week. This is an exciting opportunity to begin a brand new garden transformation.

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Want to know more? Read about the principles of deep nature gardening. I’m available for long-term garden transformations and in-depth consultations to help you evolve your own deep nature garden.

If a deep nature garden is not quite what you’re looking for, but you’d still like to help support my work, the best way is by spreading the word about what I do. Your kind referrals have always been my lifeblood in this work.

Can you think of anyone in your life that would like to learn more about naturalistic, edible, or artistic gardening? I can give you some business cards, or you can send them to this web site, deepnaturegardens.com.

The new opening in the weekly schedule does not have to be filled by a deep nature garden. It could be an eco-farm greenhouse or an enclosed aquaculture / crop ecosystem. There are other possibilities too. For more creative ideas, look in this site’s top bar under the menu called “our offerings.”

140416-0553Anyone who refers someone who signs up for regular visits or any other paid offering will receive their choice of:

    • dinner with me at an <insert ethnicity> restaurant
    • one hour of garden consultation, in person or on the phone
    • three hours of hands-dirty gardening
    • five eco-packs from our current collection

I’m activating the deep nature referral network… who will turn up the next lead?

Thanks in advance to all the great fans of deep nature gardening! What a cool way to serve the world.

Nick Turner

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

121207-0704

You may recall Elizabeth’s new ecogarden with the redwood rounds, the beehives, and the chickens.

These days we are calling them deep nature gardens, but the project in Elizabeth’s back landscape has continued. There was a break during the summer, partly because this nature garden space is non-irrigated, so not much happens during the dry California summer, and partly because I needed some time to figure out some of the details of the deep nature gardening business.

Changes since our last update include the removal of the walkway made of redwood rounds. Elizabeth sometimes visits the chickens at night, and does not want to risk tripping on the wooden rounds in the dark. Sounds reasonable to me!

Instead, for now we will create a leafy pathway using some of the large fig and persimmon leaves that cover parts of the back yard in autumn. Later we might create a path using crushed shells or small gravel.

Some of the redwood rounds will be used to make pathways into the deeper recesses of the garden.

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Above: During the summer we dug a little rain garden, marked out by the sticks in the photo. A test with a hose spray showed that sure enough, it works! Look at that sweet puddle. To the right of the rain garden is the path to the chicken run, now free of redwood rounds. At the left, under the edge of the fig tree, we have created a low mound using the soil removed from the rain garden. In the foreground is a plum sapling that we want to keep.

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Above: Months have passed, and the rains have come. The rain garden and the low mound have both become covered in a mixed carpet of buttercup oxalis (Oxalis pes-caprae), cutleaf geranium (Geranium dissectum), common chickweed (Stellaria media), and many more kinds of sprouts.

Trees have lost most of their leaves, covering the ground with wonderful-nutrient rich food. In the background, between the rain garden and the persimmon tree, the path to the chicken run is now covered with leaves.

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The lush, green carpet is certainly beautiful, but the highly invasive oxalis is overtopping almost everything else, and if nothing is done it will hamper many interesting kinds of plants that struggle to compete for nutrients and light. So it is now time to do some serious thinning.

The oxalis has deep bulbs, very hard to extract. For this first round of thinning I did not even try to dig down to the bulbs. I simply pulled up everything from the bulb up, by grasping each plant firmly just below the crown with two fingers. If this is done correctly, you end up holding the green plant and a long, tapering, white underground stem. The stem can be as long as a carrot, though it is much thinner. Like all the non-bulb parts of buttercup oxalis, it is edible. Sweet and tangy!

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I worked in a patchwork pattern, focusing especially on the low bank, where some pretty rocks were added during a non-photo visit while it was still summer. I’ve also cleared out part of the basin of the rain garden, leaving behind a few patches for artistic balance.

Because the bulbs are still underground, many of these buttercup oxalis plants will grow back. The new growth will be flatter to the ground, smaller, and easier to pull out. There may be two or even three of these re-sprouts from each bulb, but eventually the bulbs will become exhausted and die.

What about the rest of the oxalis-dominated area? The plan is to continue working in patchwork patterns, clearing one area and then another, always leaving behind any interesting plants that managed to sprout between the oxalis. Discovered in the above clearing operation: miner’s lettuce, groundsel, scarlet pimpernel, and many small sprouts I did not recognize.

Am I worried that the sorrel and other fast-growing plants will get ahead of me? Nope, as long as I keep coming back I can move faster than they can. Look how much I was able to clear in just two hours or so, then consider that it took nature more than three months to grow that carpet of green.

The fig tree in the background above has been pruned so that it is possible to walk underneath — but please, let’s stay on the redwood rounds!

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Above: A closer view of the rain garden and the bank, with a row of rocks holding it up. At the right, redwood rounds lead behind the bank. At the far right, the edge of the leaf-litter zone under the fig tree.

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Last, this view of the far east corner, under the newly pruned fig tree. Big, floppy fig leaves cover the ground, partly smothering the oxalis and other plants trying to grow there. Lots more wait to fall. This is good, we want to create a nice deep layer back there. Any leaves that land on the rain garden or bank will be tossed into the east corner to make it even deeper.

Also in this zone are some irises that need pruning, some old, tangled roses that need shaping, and a very out-of-place palm sapling. That one might have to go. Eventually, it would be nice to add some native shade-loving shrubbery.

It was nice to get back to work in this happy little garden space. Stay tuned for more updates!