Hello! My name is Kadin Bertucci, a Sustainability Intern at the Valle Crucis Lavender House. I am a 21-year-old rising Senior at Appalachian State University, and I'll spend the summer of 2023 learning about permaculture, ecosystem services, and local ecology. This is my first blog to share some of what I've learned so far. In this blog, I'll cover the topics of balance in your garden, the importance of plant identification, and why the Lavender House practices no-till farming. If these topics sound interesting to you, keep reading!
1. Striking Balance Between Tamed and Untamed Nature
I have found that there are many beautiful things in this world. Untouched woodlands thriving with life, large cities full of man-made wonders, and hiking trails that allow us a glimpse of nature are just a few of my favorite things. Of this small list, hiking trails are best able to represent balance. Nature is allotted her domain to exist relatively untouched while we humans claim a small three-foot wide path to view her from all angles. I am learning about this balance at the Lavender House in order to use and preserve the integrity of the land. I hope these tips I have learned will allow you to work with the natural beauty of your land, too.
In order to lessen the burden of weekly yard work, one might consider allowing sections of their yard to be reclaimed by mother nature. When we allow nature to function without human interference, beauty truly begins to emerge. Native grasses and plants can be allowed to prosper and flower. This prompts bees and insects to take refuge as well as birds to keep their populations in check. Say you decide to let small sections of your yard be reclaimed by nature. A few weeks go by and you'll be able to witness the circle of life within your own backyard!
Don’t believe me? Come visit the Lavender House and behold our beautiful waterways lined with natural grasses and flowers. They help perform ecosystem services like cleansing our groundwater and improving soil quality. To allow chaos into your yard may seem like a scary thought, but a tame yard with no native species of plants or animals is much more scary. Chaos is the Law of nature. Order is the dream of man.
2. Plant Identification
Being able to identify the plants growing in your garden will allow you to find uses for them beyond being nuisances that seem to exist solely to make your back hurt. The term ‘weed’ is a label that we often slap on anything and everything that grows where we do not want it to.
Jewelweed, for example, is a beautiful plant that neutralizes the oils of poison ivy. By allowing nature to take over sections of your yard, you might be lucky enough to have Jewelweed appear.
Yellow Dock is also a large leaf plant that can quickly begin to take up space in your garden. Rather than pulling it as a juvenile, you should consider waiting until just before it goes to seed to chop and drop it. Yes, I said chop and drop. This is when you keep the biomass of the plant on the surface of your soil so that as it decomposes to add nutrients directly to your soil. You also get the added benefit of aerated soil as Yellow dock sends deep taproots out in search for water and nutrients. Less work for you and your plants! Everything has a purpose in nature, and to simply label your problems as a back-breaking weed is a little unfair.
To further my limited knowledge of natural ecology, I have begun drawing planets in order to observe their unique qualities. This allows me to quickly identify plants when my knees are in the dirt and my hands are pulling weeds. I am reluctantly sharing my first attempt at a detailed plant drawing below to hopefully motivate you to give it a shot as well!
3. No-till Farming
No-till farming is exactly what it sounds like, but It is a practice that is seldom used in modern farming. I had never witnessed no-till farming until I arrived at the Lavender House. One is able to view this type of farming in the Lavender House’s raised garden beds, raised lavender beds, as well as in the lavender swales and Sunset Garden. This style of soil preservation allows for quality aeration making it easier for plant roots to reach deep into the soil. Another important aspect of no-till farming is the abundant biosphere that is preserved from season to season. When I spend time weeding in our raised beds I often find roly polys, worms, spiders, and many other creatures whose names I do not yet know. They have found a happy home in these raised beds where they help to maintain soil quality and pest control. To till would be to destroy these lovely little dirt dweller’s hard work and homes!
This is but a fraction of what I have learned at the Lavender House and I can’t wait to share more with you. If you found these topics interesting, keep coming back so we can learn together!