The Compass Garden, our story of love...
Compass Gardens and Raised Beds...
Raised bed gardening has always been our choice of garden beds, so
we decided to do something a little different. We created a Compass
Garden which is a series of circular raised beds, with pathways at each
four compass points. The purpose of this was:
to create something unique
to give flow to the garden by using rounded shapes
instead of just straight pathways and beds
to amend the soil in a controlled way
by adding collected grass on top of the raised beds.
and to create mulched pathways for ease of harvest,
weed control and clean garden practices.
for a more personal reason for creating this
Compass Garden, also nicknamed Our Garden of Love,go
A beautiful herbal addition to the companion planted Compass Garden.
Not just another field...
Ed started this garden design idea by picking a good southern sloped
field. In the middle of where he wanted the innermost circle of the
bed. He hammered a wooden stake there and attached & stretched
a rope to reach the diameter of the outermost circle. He hammered wooden
stakes every 15 feet or so to give the general outline of the outer
circle by measuring with his rope. He mowed the grass and weeds to see
if the shape and size pleased him.
Then he attached his rototiller to his handy-dandy Simplicity 7116 garden
tractor and started tilling up the entire area of the circle. Kids
pulled clumps of grass, weeds and rocks out and we were finally left
with a tilled piece of "round ground", perfect for digging into raised
The digging begins...
Starting in March of 2008, myself and our 11 year old, who desperately needed
some "mom time" began this venture with a pointed spade, a
square-headed shovel, two pairs of gloves, and two pairs of hands.
We started on the outer ring, 11 yo digging the grass out in a trench so
the mower could get right up to the trench and hopefully eliminate the
need for grass creeping into the bed as the season progressed.
I started piling the soil out of the first pathway, constructing the
outer raised bed. I'd measure every few feet while digging, with the
shovel handle, which is approx. 3 feet long. I made each bed and each
pathway 3 ft wide. Simple to measure, easy to plant, weed and harvest a
3 foot raised bed. We made open pathways at each compass point, north,
south, east & west to allow for easy entrance & exits
as well as getting a garden tractor & trailer in for maintenance of the
As we dug, we continued to remove clumps of grass and rocks and any other
unwanted debris. Among the treasures found were old horseshoes, some
pottery shards, and an arrowhead. Perfect training ground for amateur
Inspiration in a Compass Garden...
Each ring became more inspiring as we got closer to the center of the
garden. Much conversation was had over the shovelfuls of soil and the
comparison of our lives to the work involved in making a garden which
would produce something good.
Compass Garden theory, pointing the way to True North...
Each day, we'd stand back and survey the work, feeling good about
accomplishing something so promising. Going to bed tired, waking up
sore, hands blistered & calloused but going back out to
continue the necessary work side by side. Fighting the good fight.
As you can see by this picture, not all beds were planted this year. We
mulched with newspaper and then wood chips in the pathways. The beds
are covered with grass cuttings and leaves to decompose for next year's
nutrients. This year they mainly serve as mulch on the beds. The upper
beds were already more fertile because of years of piling grass
clippings, sawdust and other compost materials on the ground which were
Water, sunlight, weed control...
We've been experiencing a drought for the past two years in East Tennessee
and up until this summer of 2008, we had high hopes that our springs
would carry us through. As they started barely trickling by June, we
became quite concerned that water was not as plentiful in these hills
as we'd once thought. Ed has a pump hooked up to our large pond and
tapped into the underground irrigation system. For more on that
project, go to our
July 2008 Compass Garden
Remember, we really didn't expect anything to come out of these raised bed
gardens this year. It was merely an experiment to work out the
logistics of water, plant spacing, mulching technique, and to amend the
soil for next year.So we were pleasantly surprised to see abundant
produce ready for harvest in July. The nasturtiums were especially
prolific. There is a new variety we tried called variegated coral that
is beautiful in salads as well as the garden.
Beautiful coral color and variegated leaf Nasturtium
The taste of a Nasturtium flower has a "peppery" flavor to it, but isn't
hot. A variety of colorful Nasturtium blooms make a beautiful salad
adornment. Nasturtiums provide many benefits to a garden for insect
control and lures beneficial insects and pollinators.
Harvesting Purple Bush Beans
Note the Horseradish and Beans growing together in the first raised bed,
companion planting was researched for this combination. Garlic Chives
and Nasturtiums are also inter-planted here. Further down the row are
Asparagus, Nasturtiums, Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil, Petite Marigold, and
Cilantro, all inter-planted for insect control. It's worked beautifully
in this Compass Garden!
The east quadrant of the Compass Garden
Note the Red Current bush that ended up in one of the rings. We just worked
around it rather than kill or try to re-plant that large bush!
Echinacea, Purple Coneflower and White Coneflower are on the outer
Farmers by trade...
Some of our Master Harvesters, these gals are hard-working organic farmers.
As we look ahead to 2010, we are putting all of our efforts into getting our campground ready for opening this spring.
So we have decided to give the Compass Garden a rest for a year. We will plant cover crops on the non-perennial beds and
use this coming year to add fertility to the soil.
Check out this neat site we found :Self Sufficient Farm Living is about
learning and enjoying American Traditional Skills and Crafts. There is
nothing like the feeling of
self sufficient living
Why pay the high prices of todays economy when you can make or build it
yourself. Learn and Enjoy American Traditional Skills and Crafts.