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ECHO – Alternative Gardening Methods

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

With my five daughters at a recent ladies brunch

If you are a woman I hope you had a great Mother’s Day last week, whether you are a biological mother, a mother through love, service, or adoption, or you have children waiting in heaven. I was blessed to grow up with a wonderful godly mother, which is priceless. I’m blessed with a loving mother-in-law and other godly women who have invested in me and in our family. And God has blessed me with six beautiful children here on earth, some through birth and some through adoption, as well as five in heaven. I also enjoy being “mother” to others as opportunities arise; like last week as we cared for two girls for friends of ours. Motherhood is a blessed calling! I hope you don’t mind my proudly showing off the children God has given us, in spite of the many years it seemed like multiple children would never be a reality. I am truly a blessed mother!

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Our six blessings: back - Butterfly (10), Evenstar (18), Blossom (13), Honey Bun (11); front - Farmer Boy (7), Little Bird (8)...matching outfits compliments of a sweet "mother" in our lives

Now down to the business of what we learned on our recent trip to ECHO about gardening in less-than-ideal situations. In many places around the world people are dependent largely on food they can grow, but they have an extreme climate, poor soil or terrain, limited space or time, physical limitations, or few resources available. ECHO is all about helping individuals around the world learn to maximize their time, space, and available resources to produce the most possible nutritious food with the greatest possible efficiency. Sounds like something we can use!

Obviously water is a major component for growing food. On display were several different models of water pumps made from upcycled or easily obtained materials. One pump uses small scoops tied to a cable strung on two old bycicle wheels. Cranking the pipe handle lowers the cups all the way into the shallow well and brings them back up with water. The water dumps into a pipe running to a transparent inverted water jug so you can see the water flow. It must be cranked enthusiastically or the water runs out of the little cups before it gets to the jug. From there the water fills two 55 gallon drums raised high enough to allow gravity to take the water out to the garden when needed. It is amazing!

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Honey Bun cranks the pump made of upcycled materials

Beside that contraption is another treadle-type pump that runs water directly into the garden. This particular garden has little ditches running down the center and around it with gaps at strategic places for water to run into the grow beds. Sandbags are used as “valves” to direct the water flow. How else would you irrigate if you didn’t have access to hoses and much plumbing?

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Farmer Boy takes a turn pumping water into the ditches with the treadle pump

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Sandbags control the flow of water

Companion planting is utilized in various ways. Here an avocado tree is growing on a mound so torrential summer rains won’t “drown” it. The mound is covered with perennial peanut vines which is a nitrogen fixing plant (adds nitrogen to the soil) to feed the tree. The vine also discourages soil erosion.  Too bad it doesn’t produce edible peanuts.

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Perennial peanut is used as a ground cover and nitrogen fix for this avocado tree

A special drip irrigation system is made using a bucket suspended from a tripod. Drip lines run from the bucket and into the garden. Gravity takes water from the bucket to the grow beds. Screen covers the top of the bucket to keep dirt out.

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

An intern fills the bucket drip system with water

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

A simple kitchen garden

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Terraces on a hillside create flat growing areas and prevent soil erosion

Rooftops may be the only space some people have to garden. Roofs can’t generally handle the extra weight of adding much soil so other options are used. Many plants can grow in little soil if they are fed the nutrients they need in other ways. One idea utilizes an inverted bucket filled with water and organic fertilizer. The lid, now at the bottom, has small holes allowing the mixture to escape slowly into the grow bed to feed the plants. Some beds used a little soil and hay, others used cardboard, but my favorite used old carpet (hopefully out-gassed) to wick the water to the plants and hold the moisture. I would have never thought of such a thing for growing food!

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

The inverted bucket slowly releases water and nutrients to the planting medium (such as carpet) in the bed through small holes in the lid

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Plants growing from bags

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Vertical space is utilized by planting in pallets, gradually raising them to an upright position

Elderly or physically impaired people find gardening difficult, but there are ways around that as well. An entire garden is set up on tables, requiring no bending over. It even has a few rabbits in a hutch to provide natural fertilizer.

ECHO   Alternative Gardening MethodsAs mentioned in my previous post, we learned a lot about growing perennials rather than just the annual vegetables many of us are accustomed to in gardening. Perennials are generally planted once and grow for many years, producing for long periods of time. They require less maintanance in the long run, similar to regular landscaping shrubs. Often they are more nutritious than annual vegetables that must be replanted every growing season. Anyone serious about growing their own food should consider investing time and effort into various edible perennials, such as fruit and nut trees, vines and shrubs, and the types of fodder plants mentioned in my last post. Some take more time initially to start bearing, but have longer lasting results.

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Cranberry Hibiscus is a pretty perennial bush with delicious tender leaves...good for salads or garden snacking

For annuals or perennials, most grow beds at ECHO are raised but have no wooden frames. Expensive lumber is not an option for many. It is much easier, less time consuming, and more cost effective to build raised beds or rows simply by mounding the soil and composted additives or layers of organic matter, leaving walkways between.  And of course, this is a no-till method of gardening that does not destroy the living organisms in the soil.  Once the rows are built, they are maintained simply by adding organic matter as necessary between planting seasons.

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Raised rows to control moisture and soil content, using no lumber or tilling

Mulching is a vital part of healthy growing beds.  A thick layer of mulch such as hay, straw, or wood chips (shredded trees and leaves) is always used in growing applications at ECHO. Mulch protects the soil and beds or rows from erosion, feeds the soil as it breaks down, holds moisture in the soil, protects from extreme temperatures, and keeps weeds from growing.

Soon I’ll share some of the simple technologies demonstrated at ECHO built from local or upcycled materials. We’re having so much fun out in the yard trying to apply some of the things we learned, it’s hard to find time to write posts. I’ll try to be back soon!


ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Eco-Kids, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Rock n Share, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Green Thumb Thursday, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Fun Friday, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, Simply Natural Saturday, Great Blog Chain, and Eat Make Grow.

ECHO   Alternative Gardening Methods

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29 Responses to “ECHO – Alternative Gardening Methods”

  1. April says:

    I love this! We live in an area where gardening is difficult due to the climate, wind, soil, etc. We are hoping to start our own garden if we ever get moved into our house, and I’ve been looking for creative ways to do it. I love the pallet idea!

  2. Jill says:

    Thanks for another enjoyable post. If you get to go to ECHO again, or shop on their site, think about getting some of their Seminole Pumpkin seeds. I have grown these for years, and no other variety produces better for me in the hot Florida climate. They are very prolific, so once you grow them, save the seeds and you’ll have them for life :)

    • Rose Petal says:

      Thanks for mentioning the Seminol Pumpkins. I had actually purchased some seeds at a local native plants nursery (not your typical nursery) and have some of them growing for the first time this year. They are growing so fast! I planted some under the windmill to use it as a trellis. What is your experience with them? Do they really keep for a whole year in this Florida heat? Can you use them the same way you use any other kind of pumpkin?

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  4. SheliaD says:

    Thanks for turning me on to ECHO. We started a “garden” last year in our small 20X20 backyard. Herbs mostly. But we moved to a 5 acre property in October and have expanded our garden to include veggies. So I’m thrilled to learn about alternatives to the conventional garden methods.

  5. Very interesting post! I had to pin that pallet container – so innovative!

    Thanks for joining The Creative HomeAcre Blog Hop! Hope you’ll join us again this Sunday!

  6. Oh my gosh I love the vertical beds in pallets, very cool!
    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

  7. What great ideas. And you have a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing on the HomeAcre Hop. Please come back and join us this week:

  8. Jennifer says:

    This was an interesting read… such creative and innovative gardening methods! First time visiting your blog, looking forward to reading more :)

    ¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•`¤… Jennifer
    Jenn’s Random Scraps

  9. Very interesting…lot’s of great techniques here. Thanks for sharing all these ideas. :)

  10. Yolanda says:

    This is so very interesting. All sorts of great ideas. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way!

  11. Wonderful post, I’ve enjoyed reading it very much. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve reposted it at my gallery, “The Blog Post Office”. It’s like a reverse show and tell link up. Please let me know if you are not happy with that, I can always remove it for you. But I’m really hoping you won‘t mind as all the posts will be a gallery of wonderful items.

    Thank you so much, Victoria Lavender

  12. Nana Sue says:

    Love this site, it provides so much information. I am always looking for new ways to plant.

  13. Lovely garden in spite of the hardships! Thanks for sharing at the Shady Porch Rock ‘N Share! Hope to see you again soon! Blessings, D@TheShadyPorch

  14. Wow, what amazing gardens you and your beautiful children visited. So inspiring!

  15. Thanks for sharing at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

  16. Jenny says:

    Thank you for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop! We look forward to having you back again tomorrow: