Operation Kitchen Garden, season two begins ….
If Deb Legge’s garden were a definition in an encyclopedia, it would be listed under the meaning of “succession planting.”
Succession planting is when you design systems for planting that make optimum use of space and productivity for the crops.
Everything flows so naturally in her garden. You just know that she knows what she is doing.
When Deb moved into her current Connecticut house 18 years ago, she brought a garden with her.
I wish I had a helicopter to hover over her garden to get a photograph from above because that would be the only way to really, truly convey how efficiently she has used her home’s 1/5 of an acre – or 50’ X 150’ – of outdoor space.
The garden horseshoes her house, with the largest area in the back.
Deb has a beautiful greenhouse, amazing planting space, a birdbath, chicken coup, shed with living room furniture, outdoor hammock, bench, five water barrels (she uses four), numerous watering cans, hoses, composting, plants in the ground and in pots waiting to be planted…. and on and on.
She makes it look both easy and amazingly, impressively intricate.
One of the things I enjoyed most was how the gardening seemed second nature to Deb. Like, to her, it was no big deal.
Something she mentioned which really resonated for me is the idea that if you are going to pay for landscaping why not grow food.
Do you remember when people had gardeners? I think having a crew come in once a week or so to mow your lawn and blow your leaves is really not the same.
In another blog I might explore the impact leaf blowers and gas powered lawn mowers have on our environment. (I have already blog-ranted about them!) And don’t get me started on the use of chemicals on lawns!
Speaking of which, though, Deb does not use any chemicals on her garden. She told me some interesting trivia about this topic….
Here, I will share it with you, of course!
When I asked Deb what she put on her lawn and plants she said that she uses clover seed.
As you might know, clover is a weed which is very healthy for our lawns and other foliage. Actually, I read recently that some people do not consider clover to be a weed – but a lot of people do consider it to be very healthy for pastures, fields, gardens and lawns.
Deb told me that clover used to be in lawn seed mixes until the 60’s, when pesticide companies began their vilification of weeds.
“They’ve done a great job,” said Deb, of the pesticide companies’ smear campaign.
I personally have found that people who are really into gardening typically know that clover is good for lawns though – in spite of what anyone says.
Does Deb have weeds in her garden?
“But, it’s not bad,” she said.
Deb used to be a landscaper. But she gave it up when she got involved with CT NOFA (the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.)
She has been their office manager for five years now – but she still does take care of one property in North Haven – and her own, of course.
I really enjoyed seeing the fruits – and veggies – and herbs – of her labor.
Her years of landscaping and natural lawn care practice have resulted in her knowing when to plant what; how to take care of the plants; which plants should go where to best suit their needs; how to rotate “crops;” and — how to be self-sustaining with her garden.
And, that’s all it really takes to learn these things – time. And it produces dividends of satisfaction and healthy living (the two go together nicely, don’tcha think, like a horse and carriage).
Deb makes her own compost, rotating containers – alternating the three bins year-to-year. She collects water in her water barrels and uses that for her greenhouse and wherever else in the garden it is needed.
Deb insists that she doesn’t do anything fancy. And, I think it is all pretty down-to-earth but her garden is definitely designed – very well.
I don’t want people ever to look at the blogs I do about gardens and think it looks too hard for them. The reason I am doing this is to inspire people. And, one really amazing thing I have learned is that there are a lot of gardeners who want to inspire others as well.
A garden does not have to be fancy or intricate to work. But, it is one area where we can definitely learn from one another.
Here are some of the tidbits I picked up during my visit to Deb’s garden —
1. She typically starts her vegetables in her unheated greenhouse in March.
2. She has lettuce until December and then again in February (it really is a hearty plant that likes the cooler temps!)
3. Hazelnuts are apparently the one nut that grows well in Connecticut. Deb said that they take three years to establish themselves but then they do well. She is testing out this theory as we speak.
4. Blackberries do well in Connecticut, but you have to be careful they do not take over your garden. And, they are a fruit that you can grow organically in Connecticut, too.
5. Deb stores berries for the winter by freezing them flat on a tray, then putting them in a bag and in the freezer.
6. She doesn’t do anything fancy for her composting. “I fill ‘em up, let them rot.” Just the way composting is intended!
7. With succession planting, there is always something in Deb’s garden.
8. She pulls her garlic up in July, but cuts the scapes off earlier, after a week or two, before they flower. That way the energy/growth goes towards the bulb instead of the flower – and the bulb grows bigger than if the scapes remained.
9. She does her freezing, canning and dehydrating in late summer/early fall.
10. Deb’s husband is an IT guy with Sikorsky (Aircraft) but is also a photographer.
11. She makes sure her water barrels are emptied before the mosquitoes can take up residency, about four days, she said.
12. Her shed with the living room furniture, the “sage garden,” is her “favorite place to read.”
13. Deb has lived in New England her whole life – she was born in Rhode Island, grew up in Massachusetts and has been in Connecticut for 30 years. Growing up, she spent summers in New Hampshire with her grandparents and lived in Maine in her early 20’s. The only New England state she has not lived in is Vermont.
14. She got her three chickens from an ad on craigslist and they lay 2 to 3 eggs a day.
15. The work that CT NOFA does has become more important with time. They work hard for an increase in the number of farmers in the state and to encourage their sustainability.
CT NOFA has an organic lawn care accreditation program that looks pretty amazing!
Gardening helps create a sustainable food system.
Welcome to the second season of Operation Kitchen Garden. Here are a few thoughts reprinted from my very first blog for the project after going to a garden, about why I am doing it:
“We have been stuck in artificiality. There is nothing really genuine about the way food has been presented to us in recent years. And I believe that being involved in growing at least some of our own food returns us to an understanding we have known all along. A knowing that has been clouded over. Something that has been inside of us but we have not been manifesting in our daily lives.
I believe that on an intuitive level we have a primal impulse to be involved in our food.
Becoming connected again makes us stronger in mind and spirit because we actualize what we know on that intuitive level.”