Class Notes from Ceres Community Project, Garden as Medicine Series

Classes Offered by Ceres Community Project
Space still available: Register on-line at

Class #1, April 7, 2012, Right Relationship in the Garden, Taught by Sara McCamant, Ceres Garden Coordinator, West County Seed Bank, iGrow Organizer

Sara’s Garden Principals:

  • Start small
  • Make sure your garden fits your life
  • Grow what you want to eat
  • Don’t stress the plants
  • Soil is ALIVE; feed and care for the soil
  • Spend time in the garden
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Journal

Sara suggested we ask ourselves these questions:

  • What relationship do you want with your garden? What relationship do you have with your garden right now? What do you want it to be?
  • What do you like to do in gardening?
  • How much time do you have to give your garden?
  • What is your comfort level with gardening?

Sara stressed the garden’s relationship with you:

  • Location (Zone 1-meaning easily accessible; where we walk by every day)
  • Ease
  • Integration
  • Meeting your needs
  • Body-physical-tools


  • Sun: Full sun is best, 8-12 hours/day, 6-8 hours = medium, < 6 hours = partial shade
  • Access: Wheelbarrow, truck with compost, etc.
  • Drainage: Not heavy clay or low-lying area
  • Cold: Cold air sinks; if on a slope, plant on top, be aware of first and last frost dates, plant later
  • Water: Be efficient and don’t stress your plants, Water suggestions: tea tape run every day for less time, ¼ “ in-line drip line spaced 6” to 12” (farther for bigger plants), lettuce and kale love overhead watering, tomatoes, squash and eggplant do better on drip, if hand-watering, need to ensure roots are saturated
  • Soil: when growing plants, we are tending the soil. Soil is a living organism that contains air, minerals and organic gardening material (broken down plant material). An example would be the forest, decomposed material, nutrients released, feeds the plants; COMPOST.
  • Sara suggests adding only a couple of inches of compost to existing beds
  • Cover crops are food for the soil: legume family – beans and peas, nitrogen-rich, blood meal, feather meal. Plant the seed and let it grow to the flower stage. The bacteria in the soil absorbs nitrogen to work with the plant’s roots to build nitrogen nodules. Other choices: peas, vech, bell bean, green manure mix @ Harmony Farms; plant in November, encourages beneficial insects, after flowering, wait 3-5 weeks and then turn over, helps to reduce weeds as well

Compost and Mulch

  • Sheet mulching in fall (October), build layers and mulch out grass leaves, plant matter, compost, cardboard in layers and overlap edges so everything below will die, then cover with straw, in the spring, dig holes and matter will be broken down
  • Dig out grass/weeds, dig in compost with fork, helps break it up more, turn it in and break it up, don’t mix straw into it; only lay on top or use wood chips as mulch
  • Rototiller is helpful the first year, not year after year, only certain depth continually and creates a “hard shelf” that make it hard for the roots to go through, use irregularly, not continually
  • Beds should be mulched in winter months because soil does not like to be exposed, cover with straw, the sun dries it out; nature covers itself, rain can compact soil

Pests and Disease

  • Pests are a part of the natural flow, accept them, Sara has a 20% line to share, gophers are a whole other story!
  • Stressed plants increase the chance of being attractive to pests
  • The other side is if plants have too many nutrients and lots of water, attracts pests as well
  • Find the medium place, look at the bigger picture, create a balanced garden, beneficial predators such as wasps, flies and lady bugs, have flowers in your garden, let dill, cilantro, fennel and yarrow flower
  • Use Sluggo (organic) for slugs and snails, can also get ducks!
  • For flea, cucumber beetle, cabbage maggot, use protective covers, agri fabric, can lay right on top
  • White fly and aphids usually come when the plants are ready to die, pull out the plant and plant new ones
  • Can use Safer Soaps, Cayenne Oil Sprays, Organicide Spray, Homemade Soap Spray
  • Pick the predator off, rub them off, beer bath traps for earwigs
  • Gophers: raised beds with hardware cloth or gopher wire, gopher baskets, cat or dog, owl boxes, traps

More about planting transplants versus seeds next class, seed catalogs have great resources re: how to plant, spacing, depth, etc.

About Garden Reflections

A Lover of Nature, Filled with Gratitude for my Husband, Family, Friends, Dog, Gardens and Chickens~
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