COWS – Community Orchard of West Seattle

A new kind of cow. My kind of cow. Designed by the amazing Laura Sweany of Terra Flora Farm, it’s a shining example of just how much food and community one gorgeous garden can produce. One amazing thing is it’s newness – it was less than a year old when I visited one cloudy October day. You can see pictures of it on the Community Orchard of West Seattle website before in all it’s sodded glory, and while the team was building it.

Although things have literally blown up for me since the day of my visit I’ve been thinking of this garden non-stop. My own blank slate is frozen solid right now but I’ve been quietly designing it in my mind’s eye. The orchards are taking shape and I have a vision for the children’s garden. The seating areas are obviously laid out but the central garden itself will be something along these lines, connecting them all.

It’s simple to plan, sow and harvest straight row crops in a small space. But once the challenge of producing more and more in the same space wore off, I realized that I was craving something less rigid, less linear, and more free form. More organic, if you will. More this.

This narrow swath of orchard is bursting with edibles and medicinals as well as flowers.

Well-laden arbors cross over gently meandering wood chip paths.

Keyhole plantings house herbs, flowers, and medicinals.

A carpet of strawberries flanks blueberries, currants, gooseberries and fruit trees.

Laura is employing the “Slender Spindle” fruit growing method and thinks she’ll get hundreds of pounds of fruit next year. Tying young branches downward (in the position of heavily laded fruit) tricks them into thinking they are gay divorcees and  suddenly they go to town so to speak. I’m anxious to see how this works next year because it would be a fabulous urban trick!

The fruit trees are underplanted with clover to fix nitrogen.

In Permaculture there are no block plantings. Forget about tracking and rotating crops. Combine things that look pretty together, paying attention to root space and sunlight needs (shortest in front, tallest in back).

These plantings are just as intensively spaced as my old gardening methods.  If you had minimal air flow in your garden this could quickly turn into mildew but COWS is located on a windy hilltop so that’s not an issue there.

This is a garden that will feed your soul as well as your stomach.  This is the garden of my dreams.

7 Responses to COWS – Community Orchard of West Seattle

  1. Really beautiful and the slender spindle trick is very interesting! I have two ultra dwarf apples that could actually produce this coming year but I am going to refrain from letting them for just one more year – so that they will fill out and develop an even stronger support structure before moving into fruit production. Its killing me to wait one more year but honestly the trees will be better for my patience.

    How fun to be looking at a clean slate to build upon. I envy you that because the possibilities are enormous and the process of designing and toying with different options – is really a pleasurable way to pass the dark days of winter.

  2. Annette Cottrell

    Laura I know. I’m scared it’s going to look dumb because all I’ve ever done are rows and I want it to look just as stunning as COWS. I guess it doesn’t have to be perfect the first year, right? xo!

  3. I am so excited to have found you. Beautiful gardens. But you must be on the other side of the world to me. I am sitting in the middle of a snow storm and my gardens are all dormant. We have a small sustainable farm out here on the prairies, life at the moment is condensed down to the barn, the chook house and the house but in the summer it is great! c

  4. Annette Cottrell

    Thanks Cecilia! We are also in the middle of a snowstorm right now. I took those pictures in October but I’ve been too busy to post! My next post will be much colder looking. :) I have barn envy! My goats live in stalls built in the carport. Good airflow though.

  5. These are beautiful pictures and really high-density planting! There is nothing like a garden to create a sense of community. A few years ago when I lived in Monterey, CA, I grew vegetables in three raised beds in the front yard because that was where I had sun. At first I worried that the neighbors would complain that it was unsightly, but pretty soon I had people standing around to look and talk every time I went to my garden. It was great.

  6. Oh boy…. someone else has thought of “horizontaling” or “weeping” fruit tree branches to spread the ‘apex’ growing thingie tissue!! I ‘bent’ some last summer, and now will see where the blossoms are :) I mentioned my brilliant idea to Ciscoe Morris on a radio call some time ago (it works with roses!), but he said I’d just get rocketing water shoots. Well…. I’ll just bend/weigh those down too!! :)

    • Annette Cottrell

      That’s so brilliant of you! I hope you’ll come back and post an update on your fruiting branches. Supposedly they fruit the next year!

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