From Gardener to Farmdener


| 2/7/2013 2:50:24 PM


Tags: organic gardening, market gardening, tropical plants, grow it blog, mother earth news, lee reich,

I’d like to introduce the words farmden and farmdener into the English language. I wonder if there are any other farmdeners out there. And just what is a farmden? It’s more than a garden, less than a farm. That’s my definition, but it also could be described as a site with more plants and/or land than one person can care for sanely. A gardener and garden gone wild, out of control.Lee Reich garden 

You might sense that I speak from personal experience. I am. My garden started innocently enough: A 30- by 40-foot patch of vegetables, a few apple trees, some flowers, and lawn. That was 25 years ago, and in the intervening period, the lawn has grown smaller, the vegetable garden has doubled in size, and the fruit plantings have gone over the top.

Originally, I had less than acreage – 72 hundredths of an acre to be exact. But over the course of 15 years, I did manage to put my fingers onto almost every square foot of that non-acre. Squeezed into that area were 40 varieties of gooseberries, a dozen varieties of apples, a half dozen varieties of grapes, red currants, white currants, black currants, raspberries, mulberries: you get the picture. All that, in addition to my vegetables, flowers, and some shrubbery. But I was still not a farmdener, and my property was not a farmden.

That transition occurred with the purchase of a fertile acre-and-a-half field bordering the south boundary of my property. With that purchase, I expanded my plantings, rationalizing that because I write about gardening for magazines, for Associated Press, and on this blog, I should test and grow a lot of what I write about. So instead of 2 hardy kiwifruit vines such as any normal gardener might grow, I planted 20 vines of varying hardy kiwifruit vines of a few species and varieties. Instead of 2 pawpaw trees, à la normal gardener, I planted 20 pawpaw trees of varying species and varieties. And how about another dozen apple trees? And chestnuts, filberts, pine nuts (Pinus koreansis is hardy here in New York’s Hudson Valley). Again, you get the picture. 

Lee Reich garden2But no, I wasn’t finished. There was always one more plant needing a home, one more piece of ground hungry for a plant. Why not create another vegetable garden; after all, I had just gotten married, that made another mouth to feed, and why buy vegetables when you have enough land to grow them? And what about winter? A greenhouse full of salad and cooking greens solved that problem, and provided figs in summer and early and late season cucumbers. I like crown imperial flowers and learned the quirks of propagating them – pack pieces of bulb scales in moist potting soil and subject them to a few months of warm temperatures, then a few weeks of cool temperatures, pot up, plant out. Soon I had not a crown imperial or two such as you might find in most gardens, but well over a dozen of them, and more still coming on. 

You might imagine that, despite my plantings, my lawn still grew bigger with that increased acreage. Not so. Most of the acre and a half, except what was devoted to new plantings, became a hayfield that I mowed and helped feed my compost pile. A bit of rationality prompted me to graduate from scything to a small farm tractor for brush hogging that field. (Tennis elbow, the result of excessive scything, also helped with that decision.)


jeff and rebecca
2/22/2013 1:24:53 PM

What a great article! And--I'll be adding the new terms (farmender, farmden) to my vocabulary! :)


troy connor
2/21/2013 3:41:49 AM

Good evening all ! newbie here. with a kind of crazy question can you use rain water that runs off of a corrigated tin roof to water your plants ? I heard that some lady tried it and all her plants died


kimberly estep
2/8/2013 8:31:08 PM

Your farmden is beautiful, Mr. Reich! How do you form such perfectly shaped and edged beds, especially the one in the top photo?




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