047: Frank Holzman on a Spiritual Approach to Gardening
Have you dreamed of starting a community garden in your neighborhood, school, faith community or business? Skip past the common mistakes with guidance from an expert who has been gardening around the world.
Take a spiritual approach:
Embrace everything and treat it as if it's a living organism. Try to coexist with the land, rather than trying to tame it or dominate it.
Healing land: There's no shortage of land that needs remediation. Traveled around the world, working in deserts, mountains, rainforests.
"It wasn't so much that I found it, as much as it found me."
Joan's engineering background taught her to isolate situations and ignore interactions. Gardening teaches you interconnectedness.
Yes, hands on learning is important, but it's nice also to have studied agriculture and horticulture.
Frank grows flowers because they are food for the soul, but they're also a good market item and they attract beneficial insects.
Strive to create a healthy ecosystem. If you're not moving with nature, you're going to move it against it. And you'll never win.
As the garden grows, so does the gardener.
Tips for starting a community gardener:
- Get a commitment that the spot will be available for the long haul, if possible.
- Consider protection from animals to avoid the heartbreak of having your garden destroyed overnight.
- Make sure you have access to sun and water.
- Be prepared to spend time building the soil with compost.
- Have an enthusiastic group of people that can work together.
- Most gardens have one person who is willing and able to do what needs to be done. Be willing to embrace that.
- Look at it as a learning process.
- The garden and the gardener will change and grow together over time.
- Why not do it like you're going to do it for the long term? Do it like you're going to do it once.
- It's gotta be fun.
Living things are like that. If you invest in them, they pay you back. If you invest in the soil, it gets easier because it pays you back.
"The ideas of farming correctly means that it gets easier. Problems are diminished. Yield goes up. Your quality goes up. And your workload goes down." - Frank Holzman
The first few years are the honeymoon. You gotta love it. It's a godawful amount of work.
If you're not doing it well, it will teach out. You can make educated mistakes. You don't have to reinvent the wheel.
How do you improve your soil?
Add compost. It adds the microbial array, including worms that are working round the clock to improve the soil.
Or start a worm bed using California red wigglers.
Live each day as if it's your last, but garden as if you're going to do it forever.
My approach is working with the land is I try to heal the land. But that ain't true. The land heals you.
That's horticulture therapy.
In addition to community gardens and school gardens, consider barrier-free gardens. One example is a project at a VA center so people with disabilities can participate fully. By traditional gardening metrics, the gardens may not appear to be as beautiful or productive, but the people that are able to use them are having fun and that's really important. Even a quadruple amputee at VA is able to participate. He is inspiring and fun to work with.
The paradigm of gardens for healing encompasses healing the land, healing the people.
Gardens also provide a valuable connection with your food.
Organic horticulturist, farmer, researcher, author
- Frank Holzman Blog
- Tierra Sonrisa Garden
- REAP nonprofit
- Studied Agriculture and Horticulture
- Biodynamic & French Intensive methods, Horticultural, Market gardening
- Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Biodynamic Principles and Perspectives
Ready to start a community garden? Look for partners in your area.
Resources in Denver & Colorado:
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