Life’s Cyclic Dance
A river that rises and falls with the seasons
vibrant, patterned, unending.
Wings lift and release with each breath
as the butterfly becomes the breath of the tree
a bird soars overhead
leaving behind him
that which is in front
remaining in the middle
he is un-phased by the fallen leaf
which feeds the tree
and therefore builds his home in peace.
Continually mimicking the macrocosm allows us to create a thriving microcosm. I mimic my garden beds to the natural forest ecosystem, creating a garden ecosystem that becomes more than the sum of its parts. As Masanobu Fukuoka once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” How we garden reflects our worldview. The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and of acting in the world. Forest gardening gives us visceral experience of ecology in action, teaching us how the planet works and changing our self-perceptions. Forest gardening helps us take our rightful place as part of nature doing nature’s work, rather than as separate entities intervening in and dominating the natural world.
Step 1: To begin a garden bed, first one must observe what already exists.
Survey your site… If you have a large apple tree or nut tree, consider creating a bed surrounding this space, for shade and nutrients are already abundant (biodiversity feeds biodiversity).
As we come upon the depth of winter, it is important that mimics the earth’s natural state… Through embodying the earth, we tune into this frequency; sleeping longer, becoming more introspective, staying home more often, and tuning into the magic and beauty of the season. During the northern hemisphere’s winter, I invite you to more deeply connect with our sacred mother. In order to connect, we must rekindle the eternal flame within us. As the seasons change, so do we. Look within and observe what your inner world is telling the outer world. Let go of what is no longer serving you and save the seeds that glisten with beauty. When we plant seeds for a more intuitive, simpler, and joyous experience internally, we can more easily create that in our outer world.
Step 2: I have found that although it is winter in Oregon, there is time in each day when I can get out in the garden, feel the sun, and fuel life. Once you have found your space, begin outlining the shape of the garden bed with cardboard. Be sure that all spaces in the garden bed can be reached from all angles (for maintenance and harvesting purposes… you never want to step inside the bed …this will pack down the soil and create difficulty in growth).
Place cardboard throughout the space in which you plan to grow. Be sure to remove any plastic tape, colors, or stickers from the cardboard… remember, you will be eating this… The composition of our soil becomes the composition of our food. A few layers of newspaper can serve the same purpose as the cardboard.
The purpose of this cardboard is to suppress the growth of grass, allowing an environment for more productive, nutritious species. Once the cardboard has been set, soak it with water or leave it out overnight and allow the rain to take care of it, saving your water bill and our planet J
As we lay cardboard in the garden to prepare for a clear slate of growth in the spring, humans too spend the winter preparing for clarity and external abundance. Take the time this winter to release anything that isn’t serving you. Dance it out, sing it loud, or paint it on canvas. Just as the grass doesn’t serve a garden bed, though it has been there since we can remember, it is not in our best interest to keep it. Ask yourself how this relates to your inner world. Is there a belief or pattern in your mind that has been there so long you don’t recognize its potency? As you take the time to lay the cardboard, reflect on what you are suffocating, allowing it to go back to the soil and become something more useful this spring.
Step 3: add Nitrogen (manure, compost, dead green material) 2 inches on top of the cardboard
Step 4: add Carbon (spoilt hay, straw, leaves, dead brown material such as wood shavings) 8 inches on top of the nitrogen
Step 4: Compost or good soil – On top of your carbon layer goes a lovely 1- 2 inches of finished compost. If you do not have compost and choose to mine the soil from somewhere else on the property, be sure that there are no grass roots mixed into the soil
Step 5: Carbon icing on your manure cake: Finally, cover your precious, vulnerable dirt or compost with 1 -2 inches of carbon (straw, leaves, sawdust). This layer of mulch will help lock in moisture and protect the sun from taking any nutrients out of your precious planting layer underneath. The mulch will also deter the sprouting of unwanted plants and allow you to favor and establish those you desire in the garden
Step 6: Water! H20! WATER! – this activates the decomposition process and allows each layer to exchange nutrients and begin working towards abundance.
Step 7 (optional): Cover crop
Because I am an overprotective mother to my seedlings, I also decided to cover crop this sheet mulch with a ‘green manure’ or nitrogen fixing crop. I threw down red clover seed all over this new garden area. The clover sprouted within two days and will now happily help break down the material in the bed and continue to fix nitrogen until we are ready to cut it down and plant over it in a couple of weeks. In addition, red clover is wonderful for women … to read more, click here.
Final Notes: It is best to let a sheet mulch sit at least a few weeks before you plant it or even a winter season if you can. Sheet mulch will be a lot more productive in the second and third year than in the first. Try to keep pine, cedar, and walnut from your mulch. They all release chemicals that suppress growth in most other plants. But don’t worry if a little bit sneaks in; it won’t be able to compete with all the other good stuff.