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  • Dana Tutela

Visiting David’s Garden

Updated: Jan 25

enclosed garden on lake

My garden is my sanctuary. It’s where I go to think. It’s where I go to relax. It’s where I go to work out frustrations. Watch out, weeds! It’s my little patch of dirt on this big planet to love and to cultivate and to get grounded. Not surprisingly, my brother is the same way. We have very similar properties: on a lake with acreage, hillsides, wildlife, chickens, dogs, and enclosed gardens. We are also different, though. David is a beekeeper, and I am not (yet). His garden is much larger than mine. His style is less formal, but more in tune with nature. I’ll expand more on that in a minute. He is light years ahead of me with experience and success with growing and harvesting food from his garden. Therefore, I’m going to share with you what I learned from my visit to his garden this past summer. Ready for a garden field trip? Let’s go!

Bees, Bees and More Bees!

David lives in western North Carolina with his wonderful wife, Emily, their two dogs and two cats. He built his enclosed garden over a decade ago because of the deer, just like me. As we walked across the yard to his garden, I noticed his lawn was not just grass anymore. It was mostly clover mixed with wildflowers and grass. It wasn’t a traditional green carpet of grass, but it was stunning and buzzing with life. Stepping carefully through the clover, he requested that I watch out for his honeybees. He actually knows which ones are his (yes, he has favorites!) and which ones are wild. He has several different hives around his property and collects the most amazing honey. He said to me, “Relax your eyes and see the tall flowers that dip; there are bees in those.” I stared blankly across the yard and waited. Dip! A blossom tipped and popped back up after a second. The bee moved on to the next one. Talk about finding peace in the garden! He was speaking my language.

wildflowers in yard


Fertilizer and Nature at Work!

When I first walked into his garden, I felt a little overwhelmed because he has so much growing! Inside mine, I use raised beds that are arranged in a grid. I'm definitely a neat and tidy gardener. David is loose and natural. He grows directly in the ground and separates sections with wire fencing. Once I figured out his system, I could see his imagination at work and years of squeezing in plants. As we picked raspberries, I could see his bees pollinating around us. His chickens scurried about getting bugs and dropped berries. David’s chicken coop is inside his enclosed garden area for added predator protection. They also provide fertilizer and insect control-win win! Speaking of fertilizer, at one point during the pandemic, David had Covid and temporarily lost his sense of smell. He took advantage of this and hauled in a truckload of fertilizer to amend his whole garden. Genius! His garden is thriving because he's figured out how to let nature work in it!

One part that appealed to me was how David grows tomatoes. He showed me how he changed his strategy. Instead of traditional tomato cages, he created almost an espalier system by pushing and pulling stems through the wire fencing. I ended up doing that in my own garden with some volunteer tomatoes that my chickens ‘planted’ under a fenced area, and they did great! I found the clips that I use are still helpful when the tomatoes get heavy, but otherwise the wire fence holds everything upright. (Link to clips on Amazon)

Tomatoes growing on wire fencing

Reflection and Connection!

We slowly worked through his garden chores, chatting about work, our kids and families. Even though our kids are adults now, they still need us old folks for advice and guidance, just like we need ours. It’s still strange being the parents now and tending to gardens and talking about life. It seems like just yesterday we were building forts in the woods and getting the garden hose stuck in the sand pile. (Sorry, Dad). Times change, but our mutual need for digging in the dirt and thriving through a homegrown lifestyle stays constant. If David had red hair, he would definitely be a ginger with roots!


From David's Garden to Dana's!

He came to visit recently and enjoyed studying my garden in return! We even figured out a good location for our future bee hives.

people in kitchen garden

enclosed kitchen garden with black fence

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