IT'S OUR GARDEN I' By Elizabeth and Crow Miller

Creating Balance And Multi-Purpose Gardens

The longer we garden, the more we come to believe in making Spring Meadow Farm into a well designed, with multi-purpose gardens which some how reflects the whole of Nature's wonderful pattern of interrelationships.

Over 25 years of-being an organic farmer has seemed to open my eyes to more and more of the ways that all plants, insects, birds and animals live together in their habitat, and each phase in my farming life has given me new ways of making our garden beds serve several purposes. We have moved through phases of emphasis on raising organic fruits, herbs, and flowers. On special vegetables, early, summer, fall and even winter greenhouse growing

We, of course, did not have to pass through the chemical phase, because we never wanted to introduce anything that would kill the life in our soil, or that would be injurious to the birds. We have an eye, too, on the safety of the bees, wasps, butterflies and other beneficial insects which aid in pollination and control of pests. For these creatures, we expressly set out honey plants such as: asters, bee balm, snapdragons and borage, etc., and we have interplanted white clover in the many grass walkways that wind through Spring Meadow Farm.

Other creatures inhabit our garden beds, and they are always benign; toads, for instance, and the frogs and fish in our small pond. All these are greatly beneficial in keeping the balance of life in the gardens. And then there are the earthworms who help so much in conditioning the soil, and all the millions of micro-organisms (soil life) beneficial bacteria, molds and fungi, so essential to the health of the soil, and the transformation of nutrients into the state useful to plants.

We plant things which will harmonize together, including the pest-repellent plants and flowers (Companion Planting) to help maintain the harmony and balance. This is the healthiest method of growing you can have, and is at the far extreme from the chemical monoculture, a kind of agriculture that has proven so disastrous because it is unnatural; and acts as a feasting place for pests witch prefers the crop planted.

A well-run garden can also be a private laboratory, where we can experiment with different soils and exposures for growing the same plants to compare results and make plans for the future. You can try out new verities and test the comparative efficiency of standard and experimental ways of treating them. You can propagate and try hybridizing to see whether you can

come up with a new cold-resistant parsley, for instance, or an apple which will flourish with a minimum of cold days for its dormancy period.

A final, and most important, point is that multi-purpose garden can be for beauty, too. They bring relaxation and pleasure, or for the solace of meditation and the quite, endless observation of Nature's continuously changing scenes.

No matter how multiple your intentions, there is no reason why you need to be hit-or-miss in your planting, and put out jumbles of shrubs, flowers, plots and pots. No matter how eager you are to have many different kinds of fruit trees, berry bushes and other useful and ornamental plants, it is still possible to make garden shapes cohere to a well-focused, and well-design plan.

Then both the design and the multiple purposes will give you the fundamental pleasure and satisfaction given to people who have taken the thought and time to plan a garden that both cooperates with, and improves on Nature for the ultimate human ends.

Copyright · 1996 / Crow Miller, Syndication / Garden Philosophy | #5-6 /