Friday, July 10, 2009

Steve's Garden

So, I had tried to do this blog post on our old blog, but it didn't turn out they way I wanted. And, I realized, I shouldn't be the one describing our garden since my only part in it is the eating. I have been getting the gardening itch- yet another thing on my list of things I want to get done when I no longer have a baby attached 24/7!
SOOOOOOOO, I invited Steve to blog. I also made more of the collages on Picasa 3 so that I wouldn't have as many pictures to upload. Click on them to make them bigger. Be sure to leave comments and tell Steve how fabulous his garden is (and his bloggin skills), because then he'll blog more. And he is a much better story teller than me. So it would be a great thing if he did more blogging ;)

So my tech genius wife has totally reprogrammed our blog to bring it to the cutting edge of all bloggyness. I actually like it a lot, because its just one blog for our whole family including the girls and me, which makes a lot more sense than starting a blog for each person in our family. (if it was up to kat we would have 7 or 9 blogs, but don't worry that just aint gonna happen)

As for my garden, its always a work in progress but its come a long way since we moved in about 3 years ago. We had to totally remake whole portions of the yard because they were overgown, cut off from water, filled with bees, etc, you know...the usual. We actually took out three huge eucalyptis trees and a big old shade tree, as well as a ton of ivy that was harboring rats....don't even get me started on the anti-rat campaign of 2006. Long story short, I had a lot of areas that were open for redevelopment and screaming for a drastic makeover.

One of the first things I had to do was figure out how to put in a garden in an area with little or no irrigation. Half the sprinklers in the yard were totally screwed and we were not about to dig up the whole thing and fix up an out of date traditional sprinkler system that promoted non-native water hogging plants. One of my long term goals was to reduce water consumption and promote a beautiful native or native-like garden that fits in a drought prone southern california microclimate. My other major goal was to create a totally organic garden free from nasty chemicals for the sake of the backyard ecosystem, which includes our family and our preschool. We knew we would be eating delicious fruits, vegetables, and herbs from our garden, and hosting a preschool in the same area so the best way to promote health for everything and everyone was to go organic.

I have some organic training from my studies in college and internship in a native restoration project on the UCSB campus so it would be just silly to ditch all my knowledge and experience to take the synthetic way out by spraying chemical crap all over the plants every time a bug looked at me funny. So with this in mind from the start, I planned out the regions of the garden to host fruit trees, herbs, roses, native plants, butterfly and hummingbird plants, and of course our raised beds for vegetables. I put together a plan for mostly hand-watering once a week supplemented with some drip hoses in the vegetable beds and began planting one area at a time.

Lots of digging followed, along with lots of frustration because our garden soil is not soil at all....its equal parts rocks and clay. I realized each hole for each new plant would have to be an afternoon project, not just a half hour of labor like I had expected. Removing rocks became priority number one, then ammending the soil with compost and gypsum to break up the clay became second nature. I had some success with my new plants, quite a few failures, but once I realized I had to really plan for the location, water needs, and aweful soil realities I got a lot more growing quickly.

Once I had some success I was confident that I was ready for my raises beds for vegetables. I bought raw redwood planks, designed the boxes, put it all together and plunked them down in place. I filled them with some nice loam I bought (clay, compost, soil, nitrogen mix) and tons of compost and manure. It was the exact opposite soil of all the surrounding areas and I loved it. That first summer was a bonanza of growth and I was loving every inch of it. I got tomatoes taller than me, zuchhinis for months, carrots, peas, peppers, cucumbers, you name it. This marked my peak of confidence and I knew that the garden would forever be successful while I had my hands on it and in it.

What you see now makes me very happy, but I am always planning for the next steps. I have put in a few new plants every season around the garden, and of course the vegetable beds get totally re-planted every spring and fall. I feel like a few years down the line I will have the plants grown to the sizes I really want them at (like really big dude) and it will be a full garden experience everywhere you look. Of course I have big plans for the future, like full sized orange trees and what the heck am I gonna do with this avocado tree? Its a lot of fun, very rewarding, keeps me busy and connected with nature, is right outside my doorstep, its perfect for a family, its delicious, and its my artform.

I don't get to draw, paint, sculpt, surf, or practice most other art forms I used to practice so gardening has taken the place of those needs. My favorite mediums are now organic vegetables, sages, dwarf citrus trees, and of course clay and rock. I will never have a blank canvas, its an ever evolving art form that looks different every day, and thats just fine by me.

view from our house

click the pictures to read what Steve's been growing

Yay! So hopefully that will be the first of many posts from Steve :)


  1. Great job, Steve (with the blog post and the garden)! What you've done is such an inspiration I hope to create a mini AZ version someday! And Kat - great job with the collages! Love, jackie

  2. I am very very jealous of that garden Steve. I spent a solid weekend sifting rocks out of my garden (someone had once taken medium-sized gravel and covered the dirt... not a natural occurance). I ended up with a 2nd degree burn on my lower back since I didn't realize my shirt had ridden up. I now have giant zucchini, 1 broccoli plant, snow peas and snap peas that I don't really know what to do with (the first one I picked tasted kinda odd, not really sweet) and carrots that look huge until I pull them up... then they're like an inch long. I'm also growing onions that I can smell but haven't tasted yet, my tomatoes haven't bloomed yet and my artichokes will be a year until I get any.

    I'm very impressed with your zen-like approach to gardening, I want the rewards but grumble every step at the work involved. Wish my husband took your perspective :) My avocado, orange and apricot trees require almost no work since they were well established when we moved in.

    My experience with my garden has been a bit more like war than yours sounds like... or at least you're in peace talks now with yours.

  3. The garden looks awesome Steve...can't wait to come eat some of it :) I'm hoping for some of those awesome little limes for my fish tacos and whatever yummy veggies ya got! See you soon!!

  4. Steven, I'm so proud of you and your garden! So glad the courses at UCSB were helpful, takes a lot of the sting out of the tuition payments! J/K, or as you told me, jokes on karen, it looks absolutely beautiful in pics and even better in person, and since we've had the opportunity to eat some of your veggies,lettuce, fuits, etc. I can attest to their wholesome deliciousness. Love you lots, Mom

  5. Hi Steve,
    Love the garden! and accompanying narration, of course. Fruit trees are the gift that just keeps giving! Have you gotten any fruit from the avocado yet? I'm curious how long it takes to reach fruit-bearing maturity. Growing up, we had a young avocado tree but could never get it to produce! Since avos are just about the best fruit around, I'd love to hear how it goes.
    Again, wonderful work and I look forward to the updates!
    All the best,
    Kendra (and Thomas)

  6. So jealous Steve. I've just figured out how to keep my little plants alive. I would lOVE to have a garden like that! It's very impressive!