Location: Alburtis, Pennsylvania
Size: 1/4 acres
Gardeners: Eileen Weinsteiger
Gardening to Heal the Environment
I began gardening about 40 years ago. When I first started, I gardened organically. I was never one to use spray. When you spray you create an imbalance. I never used chemical fertilizers, maybe I used manure, but that was about it. The real reason why I became interested in organic gardening was that I had a neighbor from England that introduced me to Organic Magazine. And I realized that it was how I wanted to garden. I never wanted to use any chemicals and wondered why any one would want to use them. They are all so toxic to the earth and people and I do not want to garden like that. That’s how I became involved in organic gardening, and the next thing I knew it was 40 years.
Perhaps 20 years ago I started practicing Natural Agricultural gardening. I met a Shumei representative and we became friends. Initially I thought organic gardening and Natural Agriculture were the same, but as I studied I found there were differences, so I started following the Natural Agriculture practices.
One of the differences is in using NA principles you do not follow a rotation schedule. You plant in the same bed the same crop every year. We do this because we feel that the plant adapts to the soil and the soil to the plant and therefore a stronger plant emerges and better production takes place.
Also we do not use any means to control insects, none whatsoever. Maybe I should back away. Some things that can be used in an organic system we wouldn’t use, but we might erect a floating row cover or barrier. A floating row cover is a summerweight fabric that is used for preventing insect damage in which 80 percent of the light can get through as can water. However, I only use it at certain times. I also use a netting for deer and rabbits. One of the things I did notice that if a plant is stressed it will get more insect damage. So I water my garden with my sprinkling can, it takes about an hour. If I don’t water the plants looked stressed and before you know it there are insects eating away.
We just rely on the soil. Mokichi Okada mentions in his teachings that the forest grows beautifully without any additives and in the garden we try do the same thing. We feel that nature will take care of everything. We do use compost, but we do not use it for fertilizer but to keep the soil moist. The compost is made up from what is on ones property like grass clippings, or anything from your garden, but you cannot bring in other things from other areas unless it too is naturally grown.
For myself, when it comes to equipment, I do not have a lot. I use my trapezoid hoe. I do not need to plow because I have raised beds. Hoeing is a lot of work, but if I keep after it, it is ok. I do have a lawn mower, a rake for leaves and that is about it. I mulch my beds with my grass clippings as much as I can. I do have some critters; however, I would like to attract more bats by putting in bat houses. Bats are a great way to cut down on insects, and I think it is a great way and I would like to get those.
Also we save seed, not to say if you are organic you do not save seed for more organic gardeners are doing so, but following NA principles you try to save as much seed as possible because that seed will be adapting to your specific conditions. Doing so ensures that the plants will be stronger over time and will do better for your specific area.
When it comes to Natural Agriculture gardening I enjoy the tranquility, the loveliness. There is always a surprise waiting for me. Then too I enjoy the different butterflies that I see. I mix a lot of flowers and herbs and today for the first time I saw a zebra swallowtail butterfly, coming to my trees. Humming birds also come to my flowers bringing with them the beauty and the peacefulness that I love.