Eugene Cooke: The Edible Garden
We had our first class with Eugene Cooke (urban gardener extraordinaire!) this past Saturday. The class was incredible– his ideas about gardening and urban farming are simple, yet he offers a fresh perspective.
Eugene Cooke talked a lot about how the garden is a living system– because of that it is important to have as many representatives of that system involved in your garden as possible. This means everything from the things you plant, to the people that tend to the garden have an effect on it. “Plants are sensitive to you. [They] respond differently to each living thing,” he explained. He also stressed the importance of re-examining the system that we are living in so we are mindful of what we bring back to the earth.
The first and most important thing for a healthy garden, is healthy soil.
Healthy soil is the foundation of good food. The rich topsoil that is so key to a fruitful garden is lost over time due to wind, erosion, irrigation and many other things. Because of this, it is important to keep replenishing your topsoil. Things like cardboard, newspapers, cotton, leaves, grass clippings and anything else that you can think of that is biodegradable (anything that breaks down in water) and is free of toxins can produce healthy, fertile topsoil.
The next important step in gardening is composting. Did you know that the compost you buy from the store is gassed so that all of the living things it contains are killed? Dead compost is not good for your garden. You want living, breathing compost. You can put life back into this dead matter with earth worms and urinating around your garden. I know, this might sound strange, but urinating around your garden first thing in the morning allows all of the nutrients that your body absorbed to go back into the soil. This will rejuvenate your compost and topsoil.
Things that are good for composting are: vegetable scraps, earth worms (they build tunnels in the soil which allows it to breathe and for water to move within the soil) and minerals, such as zinc, calcium, iron, gold, copper and magnesium. Placing rocks and pebbles in your garden where they can erode will give your soil the minerals that it needs. Another great way to add minerals to your soil is to take sea water and dilute it 20 to 1 or 10 to 1. Healthy soil has 52 minerals in it, the ocean has 90. Adding diluted sea water to your garden will give your fruits and vegetables a rich flavor. When composting, make sure to put in your densest material first adding lighter materials to the top.
Another important rule of (green) thumb, is companion planting. Some plants just don’t get along! Planting a carrots next to dill, or beans next to onions, means on in the pair will suffer. For a chart with which plants are compatible, click here and download this document.
Lastly, make sure to have your garden in a space where you can see it, this way you’ll be reminded that you need to tend to your garden, and you’ll see right away if it isn’t doing well. harvesting your fruits early will trigger them to produce more food!
“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”
– Robert H. Schuller
People who attended our class with Eugene Cooke received $5 admission to this Saturday’s Ecology Center class, which will focus on edible garden design and seed starting!
If you missed out on Eugene Cooke’s class on March 12, fear not. He’ll be back three more times this year!
Saturday, June, 11 :: Building Community with Food
Saturday, September 10 :: Insights from Africa
Saturday, December 10 :: Gardening for Your Karma
“Hold a space of gratitude for what we have– even the challenges we call problems; because it is just encouraging us to grow.” — Eugene Cooke.
Peace Grl Out.