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Developing and tending to our little urban garden has been kind of our homeowner obsession since the day we moved into our 1929 brick four square almost exactly four years ago. We've made barely any structural or major updates to the interior of our house (although we continue to dream of a kitchen big enough that we can both actually cook in it at the same time...), but our backyard garden has been in constant shapeshifting mode since day one. We made space for a large organic garden and two large raised beds immediately after moving in, and this year is the first year we really went all in and landscaped/hardscaped the the bejesus out of it. Greg and I both have undergraduate degrees in landscape design and horticulture (respectively), so we totally know what to do and how to do it...we just had to make a plan that reflected what we both wanted, while allowing each of us some creative flexibility in terms of our tastes. He likes the symmetrical, straight line well tended shade garden. I like the wild and weedy english country garden vibe. 

C'est la vie.  

Above all, we like working together and making new things, especially in the garden. We love gardening. We love eating lots of veggies. We like sharing lots of veggies. We like having a big crazy garden that we can escape to at the end of the day - it's our garden therapy. Gromit also likes chasing rabbits, trying to catch the neighboring honey bees (unsuccessfully) and jamming her face in the open morning squash blossoms. Even in a city, we make time and space for creating a living habitat that nourishes us (and our fur creatures) - body and soul. 

Rainbow chard, grown from seed (our favorite green!!). We purchased almost all of our seeds this year from High Mowing Organic Seeds

Newly planed red cedar raised beds that Greg salvaged from a job and planed in the backyard. They're absolutely beautiful, and red cedar lasts forever. This cozy bed houses our climbing cucumber plants, some squashes & zucchini's. 

     

Let's just give compost a minute to shine while we're here. Our garden would be nothing without good compost, and we devote an unapologetically large amount of time to making sure we've got good stuff going in all the time. We compost almost everything after meals and meal prep (except meats) and even bring home extra compost from the juice bar at Ellwood Thompsons. We dumpster dived a large barrel a year ago, cleaned it out, painted it black and turned it into a rotating composter that just eats compost. It's SO HAPPY. We add to it daily and give it a good spin. Egg shells, greens, fruits, leftovers in the fridge, flowers that are past their prime....we compost almost everything. This years compost will be going in the garden for next year, and so on and so on. I'm a firm believer that how we tend our garden soil is reflective in how we tend to our gut microbiome (and you can read my previous post about that here). 

We tried our hand at laying stone for a walkway from the shade garden into the veggie garden and it turned out pretty freakin' awesome. (Props goes to Greg for most of that task.) We surrounded it with yellow creeping jenny and... purple succulently plants that we can't for the life of us remember their name ...

First rhubarb harvest - pickled and saved for this delicious post!

Spaghetti Squash...April to June

     

Dill & Snap Peas!

Yellow Squash and Rainbow Chard in Late May

     

Beets for days....Beet greens are one of our favorites too! Sautéed up in lots of garlic, olive oil, and extra fresh dill. 

Cucumber hide and seek :)

#myotherhouseisagreenhouse Look at those tomatoes! ALSO - you can't see it but Greg installed an underground irrigation system (!!). There are 5 zones, covering the entire large tomato/beet/blueberry/basil bed (below) and the 2 raised beds for the chard, squashes, cucumbers, zucchini's, and green onions. He was on a roll, and installed an irrigation system for all the potted plants we have on the front porch too (that man literally can't sit still). This may sound like an extravagance (and...it kinda is), but in our case it's a total necessity. We're in Richmond, VA. The mosquitoes have been SO BAD the last 2 years we basically had to abandon our garden mid season because we couldn't stay outside long enough to water it. Never again. 

Gromit has a new food obsession: snap peas. A+ for dog treats. 

Along this side of the garden (deemed "Lindsay's side") will eventually grow up to be the wildflower and herb garden. We have a neighboring bee colony so I wanted to plant loads of pollinator plants to keep the bees extra happy. I packed it with yarrow, sunflowers, echinacea, Russian sage, joe pye weed, bee balm, ornamental sage, Black Eyed Susan's, St. Johns Wort, a new little fig tree and our rhubarb patch. 

And it begins....

Happy Summer Solstice, ya'll. I'll be continually adding organic gardening posts throughout year - if you have questions or things you'd like to learn more about, leave them below and I'll be sure to touch on them in future posts!

In Mid-August, we enter into one of my favorite times of year. It's that hot and sweltering time here in the south when the air is heavy and stagnant, the humidity is high, and the botanical abundance is so ripe. It's a time of harvesting, sharing and storing as we slowly approach the impending fall. I like to refer to this as a season in itself - Late Summer, the 5th season. Just a few weeks, from mid August to early September, is all that this season requires, and during this time it feels like a huge reflection of my entire year. I get to see the the enormous growth of a garden that I cultivated from tiny seeds full grown veggies. I get to consciously harvest this space teeming with nutrients, transform those foods into a delicious meal, and share it with my family. Everything that was so mindfully cultivated months ago is now, physically, part of my body. And that circle of transformation is truly magical. 

I've been thinking a lot over the past year about things that positively influence our health that we are not necessarily able to quantifiably measure. It's so easy to get bogged down in reviewing lab work, hormone panels, nutrient profiles and measurable data, that we often neglect the more subtle things that profoundly influence the body. I call these "Sensory Nutrients", and over the past 3 years of working with clients I've noticed big shifts once we start to pay attention to things like this and implement them into daily routines. I'm talking about the subtle things that fill up our senses and make us feel blissed out. Things like cuddling with your dog, or kissing the top of your babe's head, or walking barefoot in the garden or forest bathing. Sure, we can probably notice dopamine spikes, a calming of the central nervous system and even decreased blood pressure with all of these things - but they also influence the psyche, and this is an area often overlooked by most people - and it's such an integral part of our health to nurture. 

Nutrition and health is more than just the nutrients and calories that we take in. It's everything that the body experiences - even the smells and sensory emotions that are soaked in from the cultivation process. My absolute favorite part of late summer (or any season, honestly) is the sensory experience of "Petrichor" - the smell of earth after rain. That delicious, grounding and nurturing smell of life from the forest, or from the garden, or even from the hot sticky sidewalks. The rain that cools off the heaviness of the summer air and that makes the soil soft and warm and teeming with little worms and microbes is such a relief. When I take moments to deeply inhale this part of late summer, it feels akin to eating a nourishing bowl of veggies or kitchari. Our brain is wired for bliss, and the moment of that inhale nourishes my body much the same as any nutrient. Connecting to the source is so important, because if we're disconnected from the earth that nourishes us, we certainly won't last long. 

After the rain this past weekend, I waded out into my late summer garden and tore much it apart. The squashes and peppers and greens and cukes and beets have passed their prime and it was time for a clearing. It's a cathartic feeling but a grieving one too. I'll miss seeing my backyard garden flooded with greens and bright green plants. I'll miss the harvesting process and the absolutely wild messiness that happens when I don't bother weeding. But I'll have that sensory emotion of Petrichor throughout every season, and it helps me remember those late summer moments, and look forward to it all over again next year. Go outside during the next rain and take it all in. It's delicious, and one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.  What are some of your favorite sensory nutrients? 

As per usual this time of year, I've been spending morning and afternoon hours in my garden. We start it early, sprouting the seeds indoors or in the cold frames and watch them grow up big and strong in our window sills. We plot out our beds and section off space for all of the "babies" we're making room for (and we always seem to underestimate). We prep and build extra vertical space for the creeping climbing babes that we know will just elbow their way into everyone else's space (I'm eyeing you, spaghetti squash). We unload the compost from the previous year into the sleeping soil and we sometimes till it all up in there until it's good and revived. It's always so satisfying fluffing the warm soil in our hands and mushing it under our feets when it's freshly tilled, teaming with nutrients and the earth worms are gloriously happy. It's ready. 

When I'm in the garden, prepping, planting, harvesting and crunching on fresh veggies, it's impossible for me not to feel intimately connected to the source that's feeding me, and the relationship between my own body and the soil that nourishes it. At a conference I was attending 2 weeks ago, an analogy was made that our own body needs to be nourished just like our soil. And that really resonated with me. Our microbiota is our terrain, and if we don't tend to it like we would our fertile garden soil, it will produce equally malnourished results. If you don't understand the importance of our gut macrobiota - let me simplify. Our microbiotia is "the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space". It's the probiotics, the bacteria, the bugs, the nutrients, and even yeasts (saccharomyces) that collectively, and ideally harmoniously, make up a huge part of our health and a few pounds in our gut space. 

Findings from the Human Microbiome Project (2008-2013) have made it clear that 90% of the cells in the human body are microbial (!) and that the genetic repertoire of these microbes is at least 150 times greater than that of our human cells. This makes us a walking ecology (much like an old growth forest), nearly 90% bacteria and only 10% cells. Which begs the question - why on earth is the go-to "treatment" now antibiotics that kill off an inordinate number of our microbiota, leaving our body & immune system wide open to disease and imbalance? An estimated 400,000 different microbial species inhabit the human gut. No more than a few 100 of these have been seen on a microscope or been cultured. Collectively, these comprise an essential metabolic and immune organ. All of these critters respond and react to everything going on inside and outside of our body, including our nutritional inputs and nutrients, our external environment / toxins and pollutants, our stress levels (hello, inflammatory cortisol!), drugs we take, alcohol we consume, physical stressors we take on and even emotional joys or traumas we experience. Nothing goes unnoticed by our gut microbiota. 

When the gut microbiota is functioning well (i.e our life is in relative balance), it will support us in abundance and help to prevent chronic and acute illness, just like when our garden soil is healthy, happy and nutrient rich, it will produce amazingly nutritious veggies. If our microbiotia is depleted, strained and damaged, it will lead to an equally depleted and malnourished human. I'm sure you've seen a particularly anemic looking vegetable - weak, flaccid, lacking vibrant color and just infirm. They are a direct reflection of their soil and their growing environment - just like people. We soak up and absorb everything around us, from our soil, our sunlight, our water and our atmosphere. We are no different from the plants and vegetables that require the inputs from the earth to make us strong and vibrant. When we don't have access to these things - we wilt and develop disease as a result. 

Some of the best things we can do to nourish and support our microbiota and the circus of critters living within us is to feed ourselves healthy, whole, colorful and nutrient rich foods. Drinking pure water to stay hydrated (no wilting!). Absorbing plenty of sunlight every day. Moving our body to stay active and flexible (if a plant becomes brittle, it will break too). Making connections and being in community ourselves strengthens our emotional resolve and keeps us diverse. HENCE the connection with probiotics - the probiotics in our gut are likened to the diverse community we keep. Everything on a very small scale has a representation on the larger scale too. Supplementing with probiotics on a daily basis, or better yet eating lots of fermented foods keeps our probiotics replenished and constantly making new friends. Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, pickles, kombucha, yogurt and kefir are all great examples of probiotic rich ferments. No soil can survive without it's bacteria and critters, and no human gut microbiota can function without this diverse ecological community of nutrients, bacteria and probiotic cultures. 

So tending to our own garden should be a priority both individually, and globally. Let's not forget that we are a direct representation of our own terrain, and how we tend to our own soil is reflective in the fruits that we sow. Take grateful advantage of the coming summer bounty, the glowing warm sun and the pure water (should we be so lucky) that hydrates our roots. Take deep breaths to calm the terrain, smile often to recharge our emotional vitality and connect deeply with the community around us to diversify our interdependence. And take a great big bite out of a freshly ripe tomato.  

Photos by the ever lovely, Renee Byrd

HELLO, I’M LINDSAY.
Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.

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