Here is some juicy information from Artemisia Academy's Holistic Gardener teacher, Mary Andrews. She talks about her experience as a gardener and homesteader here in Southern California.
Mary obtained a degree in Ornamental Horticulture at Cal Poly. With her husband, they bought 12 acres of raw land, hooked up their own water system and started planting an orchard. When they first purchased their property, it was all cattle fields. Now it is a beautiful orchard with a thriving garden and a hedgerow of native plants.
Mary was inspired to homestead because she was running out of room in her garden town. Working as a sales rep for a perennial nursery, she would always take home samples of different plants. Her obsession bloomed and she wanted a bigger garden. She dreamed of 40 acres, but thankfully her husband was sensible and encouraged her to fence off a 2-acre garden.
She didn't want to go into commercial agriculture, she just wanted to grow enough fruit for herself and her friends. When she has an abundance, she'll also call the local food bank to see if they'd like some fruit. Her garden has blossomed into a community affair, and will even have volunteers come out to help tend the space and donate extra fruit.
She purchased the property in 2002, and now there are over 150 fruit and nut trees. Mary has Walnut trees, Olive trees, Almond trees, Hazelnut trees. Just a cow pasture turned into a beautiful orchard. And then there's Elder Groves, Redwood Groves, and a very wonderful garden.
Much of her inspiration comes from English gardens, which she got to visit in the early 2000's. Tipton Hall is absolutely beautiful and has a great usage of beneficial insects. She zones her land based off which plants need the most tending to, putting plants that need less care, such as Olive trees, farther away. Things that need constant care, such as Roses, will be more accessible.
She's a very seasonal person who loves Spring. I mean, who doesn't love flowers? And in the Fall she'll squirrel away food from all her delicious fruit and nut trees.
Also a researcher and a scientist, Mary will get obsessive over plants, playing around with five trial varieties to see which will do the best. She has some amazing Raspberry and Asparagus patches, which took a lot of learning.
Gophers kept going for her Asparagus plants, and she lost two crops before she realized she needs to keep her Asparagus plants closer by to tend to them more often.
She studied Permaculture as an exchange student in Australia. There, she studies with Dave Holmgren, one of the fathers of Permaculture, along with Bill Mollison of permaculture. That's where she got the idea of this Zone Planting.
While Mary is not a Permaculturist who follows all the rules, she does appreciate their ethics. She likes to take everything with a grain of salt and put a scientific spin on it. Really analyze it.
One big lesson that Mary has learned along the way is to never plant a fruit tree without tasting the fruit. When she started out, she planted a bunch of antique varieties of apples. And she has found some super tasty varieties, and ones that are not so great. But when you you're planting a tree, that's an investment of both money and time. So make sure you like the variety.
Another big lesson is don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't start off with a big space or a million plants, take it step by step as you go. Don't overwhelm yourself with a huge amount of planting, just go slowly.
Also, be careful with what plants you invite into your garden, because some will become rampant weeds. Calendula and Cheeseweed are two culprits, but there are many more. Be careful of plants that are aggressive re-seeders.
If you enjoyed these fun tips from Mary, Artemisia Academy has a Holistic Gardener Course.
Mary will guide you through how to create your own holistic garden without wasting your energy, effort or time. You'll walk away with your own garden plan, with research and feedback tailored to your specific conditions. It's a fun course, please join us!