As snow blankets the ground outside, we are busy creating our vision for spring. As we enter our 3rd year developing our Sophrosyne oasis, we are trying to build and grow with every passing season. Our figs and pomegranates are in the ground, so we can now shift a little attention over to the vegetables, herbs, flowers, and compost.
Our hope this year is to further our hugelkultur beds that line the rows of our orchard. Hugelkultur (German for hill culture) has been used for centuries in Europe. It’s a technique where a mound is created with logs, sticks, grass clippings, straw, and other compostable plant material which will eventually breakdown to enrich the soil. The mounds hold moisture as they build fertility and create heat. They can be used as raised beds for growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We are hoping the mounds provide some warmth for our trees in the winter and this spring we will use them to grow companion plants for the figs and pomegranates — strawberries, nasturtiums, marigolds, zinnias, coreopsis, and herbs like dill, cilantro, parley, and mint.
We’ve also been researching permaculture and biointensive gardening techniques to grow more economically and sustainably, both in terms of maximizing our resources and regenerating healthy soil. Some of our favorite references right now include: “How to Grow More Vegetables (than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine” by John Jeavons; “The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming” by Jean-Martin Fortier; and “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” by Tony Hemenway.
Another new addition will be interspersing flowers into our vegetable garden and orchard. We’ll be trying our hand at dahlias for cut flowers, in addition to nasturtiums, columbine, echinacea, poppies, coleus, cosmos, borage, and sunflowers — for attracting pollinators, repelling unwanted insects, and adding nutrients to the soil.
Stay tuned to see how our farming adventure progresses as the snow melts and the flowers bloom!