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When we started our urban garden in 2013, we didn't start small - we went all in and planted way too much to manage. Admittedly, we were overzealous homeowners. Several landscaping revisions, forlorn tomato plants and abandoned cold frames later, we honed in our expectations and started to make better use of the space to produce only what we really love (and also what the neighbors love...we share a lot come late summer). Even so, that doesn't give us any more hours in the day and there are some weeks when the garden grows a foot higher before we even notice. What we do notice though, is how much of our daily hours are spent working, in front of a computer screen or otherwise not engaged in being outside which is, ultimately, what make us the happiest. That's why we have a garden first and foremost. Our outdoor therapy is unquestionably important to our wellbeing. It also happens to be delicious, and makes city living feel a little more connected to where our food comes from.

When it comes to wellness, it's easy to be almost too conscious about what we're doing right and wrong. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the headlines about diet and nutrition, self care and supplementation, meditation and exercise and setting boundaries and stress management and all. the. things. Most of the clients I see every day don't even know where to start - so they don't. At all. They're at this impasse where listening to their own body just isn't a reasonable option. Regarding nutrition alone there are literally a hundred different guidelines and not a single one is designed just for you. So I have a plan I give out to every single person I see: Just do more. If you're eating only one serving of veggies per day, try to make that two. If you're only eating three different fruits all the time, try to make that four by the end of the month. If you're only drinking 8 ounces of water a day, try to double that by the end of the week. I keep an organic garden because this is my version of "more" for where I am with my health and happiness This is my more time outdoors. My more connection with the earth. My more colorful foods every day. My more time with my husband. My more intake of sensory nutrients. My more gut health focus. My happy place. 

In late summer, the surge of all things abundant and juicy start to slowly wilt and wither away. It's a slow, almost unobservable transition but it starts to happen right around the time I start to slowly come down off of my summer high and let out a deep exhale. Things start to droop and dry out around the same time my energy reserves putter to a slow spin. It's an ideal time to harvest the last of summer's bounty and store away for the fall. It's a quiet time in the garden. A heavy, humid and regenerative time. It's all I want to do to spend an afternoon tearing out tomato plants after a week in my office, tethered to my email and mentally on and engaged. Garden time is like this expansive all encompassing mind pillow that's like, "Hey overworked-cyber-ravaged-hard thinking-sleepy-wired-brain....chill with me a while and lets cover you in microbes to get that computer smell off of ya....". Oh man, it just wraps me up for a few hours and I forget what was on my to-do list altogether. Self care gold. 

Currently, we just planted more beets and chard with a handful of extra squashes and zucchini's and lots of pole beans. I'm in the beginning stages of planning a summer herbal tea garden (sooooo excited about this!) that I'll be sharing more of next year.  We also just put the finishing touches on a hand-built outdoor kitchen in our backyard that truly makes my love of garden to table instantaneous. Moderate self sufficiency is a large enough goal for city living. (That, and perpetual activism these days.) 

Read more: Urban Garden | Spring 

Photos by Renee Byrd, my sister garden fairy angel. 

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? 

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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