Today, you're going to love the enthusiasm and excitement Erin has for sharing her knowledge of love of gardening. And all those sweet little helpers in her garden! It's no wonder she's able to produce all they do with all that knowledge, magic and love.
Welcome to Erin's garden!
Gardener :Erin O'Neill
Garden Location and Zone: Santa Fe, New Mexico Zone 6
Garden Size: Yard is 1/5 acre, But the vegetable patch is about 200 sq ft.
How long have you been gardening?
I have been gardening most of my adult life…I actually began gardening when I lived on a farm school in New Hampshire in High School when I was 15 and it really captured me. I have pursed it deeper and deeper every season for, well I guess that makes it 23 years now, WOW!
Why do you garden?
I garden because I must!! In an ever moving and changing world, I have learned that I can get dizzy with it all, so I hunker down, kneel to the ground, I go towards the steady earth, at her center of gravity, is where I find my own. I wake in the morning eager be outside, to find the subtle or sometimes substantial changes in the green outside my door. All the growth still feels like magic to me, every season a miracle. I don’t really think gardening is a choice for me, but a necessity, it centers me and keeps me sane, nourished on every level. It just makes sense to me in a world that often doesn’t . It is simple, it is intuitive and to me it just feels like what human hands were made to do.
How would you describe your garden?
Well there is ‘My Yard and 'My Garden’. 'My yard' is an ever evolving Permacultural Paradise that my husband started planting years ago when he bought the house. From day one began filling the empty lot 1/5 acre with every edible he could. It is lush and abundant, every edge and boundary lined with vegetation, softening our space from the world with generous, enchanted green. We have over 20 fruit tree squeezed in here, along with tons of flowers, berries and medicinals. A friends son once came over and she told him to go outside to the garden, he came back inside after a short loop around the house confused and said , "mom there are gardens everywhere!” Our house and lot is very small so we spend a lot of time outside. We have created gardens as our living space and added a greenhouse, outdoor kitchen and vegetable plot with a green lawn in it over the years.
'My Garden' on the other hand is a 200 sq ft patch in the back year hemmed in by a picket fence with neat latching gates my husband build for me. This is where I grow the vegetables, because unlike my Permaculturist husband, I wanted order and delineation between the high water vegetables and the low water perennials . 'My garden' is orderly; straight lines of lots of pretty little vegetables. It is not so much a testament to my gardening beliefs or style, but to my deep longing for order in my very chaotic homestead. It’s tidy little rows bring me calm and joy. The symmetrical garden gate and aligned nature of the lay out makes me feel that when all is in disarray, someplace in the world is in order. It is my happy place and I love it so!
Where do you go for gardening inspiration?
Everywhere I can. I love garden tours but in our city there is an old part of town called the east side. I love to go walking there in the summer time and peek over garden gates and abode walls. I often fill my pockets or stroller with seeds and cuttings from garden that are hundreds of years old.( shh don’t tell the gardeners)
What are your favorite gardening books or resources?
AHHH Gardening books… another obsession!! I have a huge book shelf of books solely about gardening and the list of loves is long.. be here are my top five.
Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilerback - This is amazingly in-depth book about vegetable growing that is in-depth yet super easy to read and understand is is a must for the advid vegetable grower.
Winter Harvest Handbook, Four Seasons Harvest, The New Organic Grower by Elliot Coleman- you all know him, he is the master of season extension and very detailed and meticulous.
Gardening at the Dragons Gate by Wendy Johnson- This is a beautiful read and so eloquently speak to a love of gardening and its gifts for us as well as being a very useful garden guide. Not to mention the author herself is a fairy garden grandmother and completely delightful!
The New Seed Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel Very helpful book for those of us who start seeds indoors
Seed to Seed Suzanne Ashworth- a must for seed savers
Enduring Seeds by Gary Paul Nabhan- a southwest ethnobotanist and beautiful writer
What’s your biggest gardening challenge?
Grasshoppers!! And lack of water in the high desert heat of course!
What’s your biggest garden accomplishment?
Hundreds of pounds of vegetable grown each year! I weigh everything I grow.. but have never taken the time to sit down and add up all the numbers, but I know I grow a LOT of food off this tiny plot and not only do I feed my family, but many others as well!
What do you most love to grow?
Tomatoes, basil, spring and fall greens
If you have children, what role do they play in your gardening?
My children are with my all day every day, as all three of them are under 5 years old, so everything I do in the garden, they are by my side. My five year old amazed me this season, as he can transplant and tomato and sow seeds just like I thought him, which is impressive, as I can be very particular about my garden! My children go from riding along in the sling while I garden, to napping under the tomato shade while I pick, to picking right along with me. We make potting mix, sow seeds, transplant together. We harvest, weigh and wash every thing together. The garden is our classroom and we spend a good amount of time in the garden in all seasons….and when the children don’t want to garden, the swing set is right next to it, so we can still keep each other company while we do what we wish.
Can you share one or two of your favorite gardening tips?
I would say to all the southwestern gardeners out there, grow in the shoulder seasons. Spring and fall are cooler and have more moisture than our hot summers. You can grow almost year round with good planning…. the other tip is timing. Succession planting is the best way to maximize you space and efforts. As soon as one thing comes out, another goes in and you can get many crop cycles in one season and thus a steady supply of food from you garden most of the year. Intercropping help with this too, say planting cabbage in between lettuce rows….Lettuce will be harvested in a month and the cabbage will take all summer, so you can sneak in a lettuce crop before the cabbage shades it and waste no space!
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am the mother to three young children and cultivator of a tiny homestead with chicken, bunnies, vegetables and fruit. Though the little ones take up most all my time right now, I am also an artist, teacher and activist. This will be the first year in 10 that I am not employed as a garden manager and teacher of some sort, so this season is the very first my home garden has gotten 100% of my gardening attention and it shows, as gardening success is 75% time and 25% strategy !! My passion is teaching people to grow their own food and empowering people to do so!! Because I am not really out in the world much right now, I love to write about gardening on my blog, that I actually started for my gardening students to follow along with throughout the seasons. You can find my musings at Seedsandstones.wordpress.com
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Thank you, Erin, for sharing your garden!
(If you'd like to share your garden with us this season, send me an email for more details. There's still time before the season wraps up, and we'd love to visit!)