Mary Moss-Sprague

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since Jun 16, 2013
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Recent posts by Mary Moss-Sprague

Hi, Brenda,

Wow, you're really creating some great growing areas--very impressive! Thanks for taking me into the world of hugel beds. We have a perfect spot for one where some tree limbs have been decomposing slowly and it's in a low spot, so I'm going to see how it goes.

Have you ever tried micro-drip irrigation vs. your soaker hose, or in tandem with it? I appreciate not having big puddly areas and others barely moist, which often happens with soaker hoses. So many people are afraid of the drip irrigation, but it's really not rocket science. Plus, the components last for many years and it's a very low-maintenance, easy way to get water to your plants.

7 years ago
Hi, Jane,

Thanks for your post!

As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, I didn't write my book with specifics deliberately tailored for disabled or handicapped people. However, many of my techniques--the 36" raised bed, the containers, dishpans for planters, trellises, etc. could easily be tweaked and modified, I think, to be usable and handy for folks, young or old, who are physically challenged. When implementing any of these methods of growing plants, just measure to find the right height and do some experimenting to see what works well. Perhaps a combination of a large container and a narrow trellis would work out for the youngster you mentioned.

Seniors in my area are enthralled with all of my techniques, and I'm frequently invited to address senior luncheon groups and assisted-living centers that have gardening space. One such center put in all three systems and was able to stock their fresh salad bar all summer with what they grew. The residents there just loved it, and also loved being able to get out and stick their hands in the soil!

Let me know how these things work out for you, and any other techniques you try, okay?

7 years ago
That's similar to what I do with my tomato plants in containers. I stick a tomato cage into the pot and then insert two wooden stakes, one on each side of the cage, inside the pot. Then I tie the stakes directly to the cage. That way, the pot doesn't blow over in our strong westerly winds, and heavy producing plants have plenty of support.

Keep being creative; that's how we make progress!

7 years ago
Hi, Kelly Marie,

Thanks for the message, and I'm sure glad that you are interested in expanding your gardening skills! Let me know what questions you may have.

--Mary
7 years ago
Hi, Xisca,

Thanks for clarifying about the hugel gardens. I spoke to my master gardener colleagues about this at our meeting this morning, and one of them just completed an extensive permaculture course. She described and explained the hugel technique to us all, and I could see the interest was quite intense. (It also rang some bells in the back of my brain, and I realized I'd read about the hugel concept but had forgotten what it was called.) We are talking about creating a teaching module for this technique, just as we hope to present an "introduction to permaculture concepts" class in the near future. We all want to know more, and I advised them to check out this Website with all of the interesting forums and input.

There is so much to learn and do, and so little time--at least, some days it sure feels like that!!

--Mary
7 years ago
Hi, Xisca and Brenda,

Yes, it's unfortunate that we must expend some funds for structuring the garden, but it also is an opportunity to repurpose things as much as possible.

One of my main reasons for constructing the waist-high raised bed was because it actually conserves straw and soil by not allowing either to slough off and just become mulch. That way, I don't have to add as much fresh straw and soil the following year in order to get things growing. There's already a good compost base that encourages deep roots and health plant growth. Also, as I mention, one can use old livestock watering tubs, domestic bathtubs, sinks, and other "containers" just fine, as long as there is adequate drainage. Straw-bale gardening can be done in those, or they can be used for more traditional container gardening. Either way, you save the expense of buying lumber and containers!

Bartering is one of the greatest things humanity ever came up with! One can see this kind of communal cooperation in many animal species, too. The group of master gardeners I'm in at the extension service is really into exchanging plants and materials. All we have to do is put out the word about what we need and someone usually comes through with the desired stuff. The more diverse one's environment (and range of friends and colleagues) is, the more this kind of thing is possible.

One thing I think is crucial, as we all try to transition to a more sustainable environment, whether on a public or private scale, is to always be conscientious but not beat ourselves up if we make a mistake or get stumped. Doing everything perfectly isn't humanly possible, but not trying, even in some small way, is kind of inexcusable . . . establishing a central "clearinghouse," such as this Website offers, is highly laudable and a wonderful way to solve problems!

--Mary
7 years ago
Hi, Brenda and Jen,

I read your posts with feelings of the utmost empathy, and yet I am encouraged that you both are taking proactive approaches to the problems.

While I don't specialize in or focus on gardening for people with disabilities, I tried to keep that reality in mind when I wrote my book. Any time you can get your plants up off the ground, you're moving forward on this issue. Yes, the straw bale "box" can be created in any size, height, general dimensions that work for you. People who do rudimentary carpentry could likely scale the box up or down whichever way is needed. My daughter, who's a woodworking whiz, built her boxes the same height but half of the usual width, as she wanted narrower ones. Other people have built them lower to the ground; some have built them a little higher. There are no absolutes in this--it's whatever works for the individual. One could also build simple platforms from cement blocks and 2 x 4's to hold containerized plants; that would raise them to a level suited best to the gardener's range of motion.

Interesting that you refer to these raised beds as "hugel" gardens; it's a term I've heard but with which I'm not really familiar. So, this site is going to be good for me to enlarge my scope of things--thanks!

--Mary
7 years ago
Hi, Mariamne,

Nah, I still think you're probably more closely related to Laura Ingalls, even "distantly," than I may be. Distant connections count! Interestingly, back in 1985 when I lived in Oregon, I met a chap with that same last name, asked if he was related, and it turned out that Laura's uncle, Hiram Ingalls, was his great-great grandfather! He brought me over some genealogical charts and stuff and it was so fun to realize that this man was actually related to an author and person I admire greatly. This fellow was about my age when we met, and I was chagrined and saddened to learn recently that he has since passed away from cancer.

Have you ever been to Malone, NY and visited the Almanzo Wilder museum there? Part of the original Wilder farm is open to visitors; we went over there and toured the house (amazing how small the rooms are compared to homes now!), the rebuilt barns, etc. Really fun and such a delightfully thrilling sensation to know that we were in the same place where Laura's husband had lived. Also, during one of my jaunts to San Francisco, I made contact with one of the people involved in producing Laura's book, "West From Home." This woman gave me the exact directions to the apartment building where Laura had stayed with their daughter, Rose, during her visit to the International "fair" that was held there in the early 1900's. I found the place, and it was really neat to stand there and, again, know that Laura had walked in this same street.

Ah, well, enough of that! What's your passion in permaculture/gardening?

--Mary
7 years ago
Hi, Marianne,

Thanks for the compliment! I sure enjoy what I do and am glad to hear that it helps others.

--Mary
7 years ago
We used to be even closer; we had a summer "camp" at Three Mile Bay, and used to listen to a radio station from Kingston! Small world, indeed.
7 years ago