Tag Archives: garden growing

How to build soil while making new friends . . .

Scavaging for the GANG garden — this morning, grass clippings!

Lots of them. A whole truckfull. From Indiana University groundskeepers. Whew!

The two IU groundskeepers, Shadow, and Jim, my housemate, who directed where to put the clippings.

I consider this a real coup . . .

Shadow and were out on one of our usual morning walks, this one into a big grassy area north of campus. Once again, no chemtrails above. A good omen.

Came upon these two men, both dear hearts, forking grass clippings into a white truck with the IU decal on the door. Would they mind taking this load of grass clippings to theGreen Acres Neighborhood Garden? It’s nearby.

“Well, I dunno. We’d have to ask the boss.”

After a bit more hemming and hawing, and me begging and scraping in front of them, Shadow dancing around their feet, one of them sauntered over to the truck cab and pulled out his walky-talky.

The boss: “Nearby?  I see no problem with that.”

Shadow and I ran home to be on the street in front when they arrived. Got here just in the nick of  time. Jim, the young permaculturist and Goddard student who lives with me, directed them to dump the pile just in front of flower gardens at my house, since he’s working on a project for a sweet little gate for the garden itself (next door),

Finally, we’re going to get an obvious gate into the garden. As it is now, people don’t even know the gate is there unless they are already familiar with it. Jim is working to create two little raised garden beds here, on the outside, before creating a more obviously welcoming gate. All these projects take time. As the founder and organizer — and elder — I sit back and watch young permies do their thing, utilizing the permaculture principles we all learned in the two-week-long permaculture design class.

and didn’t want that area disturbed. Told me he’d clean the whole mess up.


This is not the first time I’ve scavenged for materials for the GANG. Not the first time our morning walks have yielded riches. Most of these unexpected finds come from where neighbors pile what they don’t want for the city to take away. But not all.

A few years ago I spotted bamboo growing a few blocks away (for temporary garden structures; now we have our own bamboo patch to harvest). I went up to the door and asked the renters if they would ask the owner if we could cut part of it. YES!

Old carpet (for garden aisles,

then covered with woodchips (donated, when I ask, by the city of Bloomington, or by men cutting down nearby trees),

Here’s one of our aisles, carpet laid down and partially covered with wood chips (I’ve put a call into the city for more . . .). Notice the Garden Tower to the right (www.gardentowerproject.com). We’ve found that aisles treated this way discourage weeds for about three years in this climate, and then need to be replaced.

leaves from nearby neighbors each fall, a tree trunk downed by a windstorm and dragged from next door (for a hugelculture bed).

Image thanks to permaculture institute of Australia. A log can go in as the base of these type of beds, and then disintegrates slowly.

Cardboard too, once in a while. I see it piled flat on the curb, and, like the carpet, load it into the back of the Prius. All of this stuff, flotsam and jetsam of the suburban landscape, for the lasagna beds, to mulch them and keep building soil.

For now, Jim says he’d like to mix this load of grass in with our compost piles, some of which are mostly carbon (sticks) and in need of nitrogen.

Ommigod. FRUIT!

So. We spent a wonderful afternoon on Sunday’s Earth Day weeding and mulching. Alexandra will write up a fuller post on it, but here’s a great shot of the workers working,

and another shot of strawberry/blackberry bed fully mulched.

But today I want to talk about fruit. FRUIT. We got some! Not just grapes and berries (which came on strong the second year, not so great the third year, and this fourth year, are again strong — thanks to addition of rock dust),

Grapes, so tiny! This cluster is about the size of one of the digits on my little finger.

Blackberry buds. Can you see 'em?

Strawberries, still whitish, but large! (Only the second year for the strawberries)

but peaches, apples and pears!

I had noticed that these little trees, after four years, finally had some flowers on them this spring, but not until today did I actually notice that they now have fruit!

Me, with apples. (I THINK they're apples!)

Peaches. (They're fuzzy.)

Pear. (I think it's the only one on the tree!)

Plus, some little berry buds on some kind of bush, not sure what it is, but it was the very first thing we planted in the very first permaculture workshop that we held, back in 2009, and I had wondered if it would ever produce.


On the other hand, the seedlings are still gathering sun, awaiting transplanting.

I’ve had to cover them one night in the last week, since temps dropped into the mid-30s. But since then they’ve been okay. However, the way they are situated now, they only get sun after 1 p.m. About six hours total a day. Barely enough. And they are pale, need more nitrogen.

So it goes, as the magical GANG garden ramps up its activity, freeing the abundance of Nature year after year, fuller and fuller, as permaculture gardens are designed to be. Eventually, this place should look like a jungle, with stacked stuff to eat everywhere, and a natural magnetic draw for gathering neighbors into community. Blessings!

BTW: the fish are doing swimmingly, despite (because of?) the purgation of twelve days ago. About a dozen in there now, and I’m expecting little ones soon. Frogs are hopping and honking. All is well.

Sprouting Spring

Thursday Alexandra, Sarah and Stephanie had a productive working meeting at the GANG with the help of fellow neighbor José.

Alexandra, Stephanie and Sarah awed by the seedling-baby growth

We were thrilled to see the seedling so bountiful… but wanted to thin out some of the ones that really sprouted up, like the cilantro and basil, so we cleaned out some potters with herbs and re-planted the little plantlings. We also put some into the garden tower (more on that to follow!) With the recent frost warning, Ann had been taking the plants in overnight, so they are still alive and kicking. Now, we have been covering them with plastic overnight to keep them safe.

Happy gardener weeding the bed for the arugula.

Then we decided the pouty, wilty arugula was ready for a re-planting, having outgrown its little container. So Alexandra and José weeded out a bed in the garden,

Doing the dirty work... José with the bucket of manure

then José got a giant bucket of manure

and together we spread the nice, mulched horse manure over the bed.

Spreading the love...

Stephanie went to check how far apart to plant the arugula (about 6 inches) and together with Sarah, we re-planted the arugula plants in this bed.

Planting the arugula.

Sarah also had fun planting and trimming the Garden Tower.

Sarah planting herbs and arugula in the Garden Tower.

Stephanie added some amendments to the raspberry bush, from a mixture of liquid fertilizer (all natural, of course).

We hope these changes make the plants happy!

We made a final circuit around the garden, and Stephanie showed us the successful results of our de-weeding experiment:

Clear boundaries from where plastic was pulled up - no weeds underneath! It worked! A quick, easy, and efficient way to weed large spaces.

in March, we had put black plastic over a bed with a lot of weeds and clover that needed to be er one bed that was completely covered in clover and weeds that needed to removed before planting there. The black plastic, held down by rocks to keep down, would kill the weeds (with the help of the sun!) to free us of weeding. Stephanie lifted up the black plastic, and we could see the effect! Here you can see, too, the clear line where the plastic left off, and how nice and weed-free the soil is underneath the plastic! We left the plastic on, and will remove it when we are ready to plant.

Until next time, GANG!

Seedlings in, seedlings out, seedlings in and out, in and out . . .

This strange spring had us setting seeds in pots way earlier than usual. At first, it was no big deal, since they were in a winter greenhouse that has lots of sunlight — until, that is, the leaves come out on the trees. Which they did, again, way early.

So Stephanie and Sarah and Alexandra carried all the little seedling trays to the porch, where they’d still get sun. And that worked fine too, until it got colder at night, and started to damage the little squash seedlings.

So I put a sheet over all of them for a couple of nights. And then Stephanie told me to put plastic over them instead (to keep the heat in — DUH! Right!), and that worked okay last night.

But tonight, grrr.  . . it’s already cold and is set to go down to mid-30s. So . . . I put the plastic down on my living room floor and carried them all inside just now. That’s fifteen trips. Then fifteen trips back outside tomorrow. And probably tomorrow night as well. That’s 60 trips altogether in and out during this very strange spring which has us all either scratching our heads or highly aware of global warming/weirding.