From Yard Waste to Garden Bed


Martha stumbles around the edges of her raspberry patch, pointing out the companion plants that bloom at different times during the summer.

What was once a leaf and debris pile accumulated over several years, and what many people around here call a “burn pile,” is now a raspberry patch that I have never watered. So far, even in the extreme heat of the last few weeks, water has not been a problem for the raspberries. I attribute survival not only to the resiliency of raspberries, but also to the rich soil that they were planted in. Even if I wanted to water, the raspberry patch is out of reach of a garden hose. The pile was started while I was still married, and decomposed right along with my marriage.

One of the first things I did in the garden after we separated, was take the raspberries from my vegetable garden area and move them into the burn pile that I had no plans to burn. I didn’t add any amendments to the very black soil underneath the surface of dry leaves.

I compare myself to the all-weather raspberry plant these days. I am resilient too, and my roots run through the fertile soil of nearly six decades of learning.

Martha’s Kitchen Garden – Season One – Spring/Summer 2022 See the full Video Archive

I added some bulbs and starters, while I was at it, which I thinned out from other areas of the garden. I didn’t plan it that way, but they bloom at different times of the summer. Something I didn’t plant, towering above everything else, is Poke Weed, the subject of the song Poke Salad Annie, that my friend Justina told me about. You might eat the leaves from it, if you couldn’t find anything else, but it’s mildly toxic. It’s a native plant, and the berries are not for people, but they are a treat for the birds.

It’s been about two years since the raspberries were transplanted. There are very tall trees shading them from the east in the height of summer. You can see all the stalks are reaching west for the sunlight. We got a modest crop of berries this spring, enough to throw into some smoothies, oatmeal and a few pies, but not enough to make jam or anything. I hope there will be a fall crop from this patch. I haven’t been idle since starting this patch, though. Last year after the fall harvest I took some of the new raspberry stalks coming up and planted them underneath the fruit trees, where I think they will get a bit more sunlight, so I will find out next year how different conditions influence the harvest.

Raspberries spread around underground.
We have to learn what works where we are.

I like watching YouTube videos about gardening, well about anything that I want to learn about, really. Right now I am studying up on what permaculture means and how to apply its lessons to my situation. I got many ideas and lots of information in the last year or so about fruit orchard guilds and the idea of cultivating a food forest, as opposed to an annual garden. Here are a few shows that I find especially informative and helpful:

Martha’s Kitchen Garden – Season One – Spring/Summer 2022 See the full Video Archive

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