I GARDEN BECAUSE I cannot help myself. For more than 30 years, I have happily done so on a lopsided, rural 2.3-acre piece of land in Zone 5B, where Columbia County, New York, touches the border of Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains and Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills. The other key details, and a slideshow tour:
- I was a weekend gardener for 21 years before moving here fulltime in late 2007. (Hallelujah.)
- I garden without chemicals, meaning no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides–and mostly I don’t really bother with “organic” products, either.
- I proselytize about making a ”365-day garden,” even here where frost stays well into May and can return in late September. The garden center might be shuttered in winter, but the garden never closes. Plant accordingly!
- My garden is not a mere hobby, like bowling. It is a life practice, a window into larger questions of existence (that’s the “woo-woo” part of my company motto, “horticultural how-to and ‘woo woo’”) and a lens into science and nature. It is also my constant companion.
- I often say that we are like an old married couple, the garden and I. We are both showing our age, but are in it till death us do part. (And yes, plants die here, regularly. Oops!)
- Speaking of plants, I have a thing for foliage, even more than flowers. Big foliage, colorful foliage, textural foliage. Bring it on—and bring on the frogs too, another of my obsessions.
- I also have a high color tolerance: brash is beautiful! I am especially mad for the color gold.
- I have been a vegetarian for more than 40 years.
- For 30ish years, I have grown (and put up) a sizeable chunk of my food, but not in any fancy potager; just a block of raised beds built 30-plus years ago, and another block maybe 10 years old.
- Birds taught me to garden—or at least my early love of them did. In hopes of attracting birds early on, with fruit and nectar and shelter, I inadvertently collected some really great plants that we now both enjoy. Almost 70 species of birds visit the garden each year.
- You can visit, too. For 25ish years, except during 2020, the garden has been open a few times each growing season as part of the Garden Conservancy Open Days national program, and for workshops and other special events.
Have a look at some scenes of the place and the creatures I share it with.
Absolutely stunning! I happened upon your book, The Backyard Parables while looking for information on year round gardening. My initial goal was to provide food for the birds all year long. Imagine my delight when I read that you garden on a steep property! I have an acre that is mostly a hill of at least 45-degrees. My question is this: how do you edge your beds so that mowing is not difficult, but also so that they look natural? I do not like sharp edges and I envision the hill having organic curves…none of those awful black plastic edging things. Please help! And thank you for your expertise!! I love your podcast!
I edge by hand with a half-moon edging tool (long-handled tool about waist-high) that cuts a line in the turf and then I crawl around and remove the bits that don’t obey that line. : )
Do you expect to open your garden to visitors at all in 2021? We would love to visit and are fully vaccinated, if that makes a difference.
We have been gardening on a hilltop in Delaware County since 1979. Initially we were weekenders, but the return to NYC became more and more onerous, so we figured out how to live full time in the country by 1981. We have never regretted it.
Hi Alice. Not opening this year, no, unless things really change dramatically with the numbers and if so maybe I will do a last-minute “pop up” in fall spontaneously.