Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending a long pleasant day at the Houston Arboretum, learning from Joe Blanton, the Adult Programs Director. I am weeks away from finishing my year long course, leading to my certification as a Permaculture Designer. I have enjoyed the program, (run by Urban Harvest) and the friends I have made along the way.
One highlight is when we spent some time observing a small man made pond, and had to list the design errors and solutions to those errors. How delightful to realize that I could identify a number of them, and knew ways to improve the problems with the pond. We've been taking in so much information all year long, it is a little thrilling to then realize it is at the ready for me to use!
In a second pond we enjoyed watching fish, turtles, frogs, and a heron. It was a bit like those magic posters from when I was a kid - the longer you stare, the more you see, until you realize the whole place is humming with life and energy, and you might not have known if you didn't stop to look.
This week my cousin sent me a link to a video where a gardener, who is also an evangelical Christian, starts gardening utilizing a heavy mulch cover, and it completely transforms the health and vitality of his soil (without watering or fertilization!). Watch the video here. At the arboretum, I took interest in the trails that were simply a thick wood chip mulch. I could easily move some top mulch aside to discover moist, rich earth below, even in an area of heavy traffic and no irrigation.
Non-gardening readers, I won't be offended if you all walk away for the rest of this post (she's just talking about dirt?!). Gardening readers, if you just got a little shiver down your spine thinking about gardening without watering or fertilizing, I know!
I really enjoyed getting to see all the native flowering plants and abundant blackberries and mulberries. One of my friends showed me how you can crush the leaf of the cherry laurel and it actually smells like maraschino cherries! The lovely flowers of the dogwood, on the other hand, smelled horrid. You don't have to look hard for a lesson there!
Right next to the nature center are two of the largest crepe myrtles I have ever seen. Can you believe them?
Next week will be my last class, and we'll be working on a nature restoration project, increasing the health of a spring fed creek. They said to come prepared to get muddy, which sounds like my kind of day! Finding Urban Harvest and enrolling in this course has been such a vital part of me feeling like I have a place and something to do here in Houston. If you're local and want to learn more about gardening organically, they have an amazing array of classes!
These days I feel like I just can't get enough time in the garden. In my garden I find quiet within my heart, and my inner world comes into calm and order that I can then carry out into my life. What does the garden do for you?