By: Terry Chamberlin.
Where the West is Fun, the theme of this year’s San Diego County Fair, evokes images of cowboys, rowdy saloons, and backcountry adventures. While there will be plenty of similar thrills at the fair, the SDHS garden design team for the fair’s Garden Show exhibit aims to educate the public about urban homesteading. Urban homesteading is a modern gardening movement which echoes the farming techniques of early pioneer homesteaders who flocked to the prairie and further west after the Homestead Act of 1862. Moving to these unsettled lands presented a number of challenges, including the need to use sustainable practices to provide the basic necessities of life.
Creating an Urban Homestead Garden
To address the fair’s western theme, SDHS garden exhibit designers Terry Chamberlin, Mannah Gbeh, Greg Hunter, Jason Showalter and Karen Krugman have created a modern urban homesteading garden with a rustic touch. A raised vegetable bed will demonstrates the principle of the Three Sisters Garden. According to Iroquois legend, the three sisters, corn, beans, and squash, are the physical and spiritual sustainers of life. Iroquois women mixed these crops, planting Corn (the oldest Sister) in a hill mound, surrounding the growing corn with beans, which contribute nitrogen to the soil, and using the cornstalks as bean poles. Between the rows of hill mounds, squash was planted to shade the ground, maintain soil moisture, and discourage weed growth.
The garden design will include California natives, pollinator-friendly flowers and herbs, as well as a selection of fruit trees and wooden structures sourced for free from old, weathered cedar fencing that was destined for the dump. Chickens and a beehive box will round out the display of urban homesteading agriculture practices, and a garden bed will highlight old roses that pioneering homesteaders may have brought with them to their new homes. We could not have done all this without help from some SDHS sponsors. Su Kraus, from Moosa Creek Nursery, identified California Native plant options that would be in bloom during the spring and summer. Evergreen Nursery, is loaning large trees for the garden and will deliver and pick them up at no charge. Please join us in thanking them.