Back in 2009 at the white house on the corner, the house crew decided to start a garden. we dug up a patch behind the garage and planted two [eventually 3] types of tomatoes, squash, and various herbs such as mint and thyme. it was just a wee patch, to see how well we could grow our own food.
when the squashes were nearing their maturity, an onslaught of slugs moved in on our precious vine. they destroyed everything that was growing, except for the tomatoes and the mint. we enjoyed the bounty of the surviving plants, but discouraged and defeated, we decided not to start a patch in 2o1o.
this year, the garden started itself.
last autumn, all the plants we tore out were tossed in the scrap pile with a bunch of old rotting wood from ongoing renovations. some of the wood had been there for years, and the bottom of the pile had turned into a nice rich soil.
this spring, while seeking some wood for the fire, i came across what appeared to be a tomato plant growing amongst the weeds in the woodpile. i ripped away all the weeds that were entangled around the plant, and put a broken out milk crate around it so it wouldn't get kicked or stepped on. i also discovered that the bucket the mint started in last year had re-grown itself.
a week or so later i went to check on the tomato plant, and it had easily doubled in size. i wish i would have taken a photo when i found it for comparison, but the growth that had seeded itself was impressive, no less.
after the crate and initial weeding, we did nothing but let it grow. no trimming, no watering, no fertilizing, and certainly no digging. the plant exploded across the wood pile. once it had matured beyond flowering, i discovered that this wasn't only one tomato plant, but two. two entirely different strains in fact, one was the cherry tomato, and the other the more elongated grape tomato!
by the end of the season, our tomato patch was 8 feet across at the widest point, and about 5 or 6 feet deep. the mint once lived on the other side of the yard, but during a dryspell it withered. i moved the bucket over so that it was partially shaded by the tomato bush, and within a week it started to re-grow.
from mid summer well into autumn many dozens of little tomatoes were harvested and enjoyed. even those who claimed to have never liked tomatoes were impressed by the fresh flavour bursting from the home grown bounty.
now well into autumn, the tomato bush has been removed, roughly scattered about the patch where we will start our permaculture test site in the spring. watching the systems of nature take over in the backyard this year was the little bit of inspiration we needed to give food forest design a try.