About The Garden Lady

The Garden Lady of Georgia Blog

Welcome to the adventures here at Hillside Gardens in Auburn, Ga. We are a demonstration garden on .7 acres, with 80 beds on a terraced hillside. Here we teach classes at Mothers School of Self-Reliance – our educational program – in all aspects of edible gardening including herbs, fruit trees and bushes, annual crops and just a bunch of neat stuff. We seed save, propagate our own plants, preserve our bounty in a number of ways, make our own herbal remedies, and culinary delights like herbal vinegars, jams, & spices. We’re always looking for what grows here in our Georgia clay base, with lovely composted and “sheet mulched” soil – a combination of Permaculture soil building technique, Korean Natural Farming with bio-char and “Lasagna Gardening” type techniques layering organic and inorganic material.

Class on seed propagation for spring - Demonstrating small greenhouse for winter sowing.

Class on seed propagation for spring – Demonstrating small greenhouse for winter sowing.

We are surrounded by the most amazing bio-diverse variety of native plants for wild crafting medicinal herbs and edibles – foraging and preserving all manner of herbs, bushes, trees, mushrooms, roots and vines which are useful and important. We are learning Chinese herbal medicine because the wild plants which are the basis for that subject grow wild here, only in more diversity than found in China. And we do herb walks to bring up awareness of what is available here.

Hillside Gardens is just that – garden areas and beds on a very steep hill with terribly hard base soil where all the top soil was removed by the builder and so eroded most weeds couldn’t even survive. Now, 7 years later, we have beautiful rock terraced beds, some wood framed raised beds, lots of container gardening, and ‘Big Green’- a large bed surrounded by green painted double cinder blocks which have been filled with soil that grow flowers and herbs all around the perimeter.

White plastic covers the beds during freezes.

Notice the flowers and herbs growing in the cinder block cells.

About 1/3 of the grounds are in nearly untouched woods where live deer, squirrels, possums and raccoons, along with some beneficial snakes and according to the neighbors a couple of rattlers and copper heads. Luckily we have cats so we rarely see any snakes at all. We have loads of wild crafting space including an oak log that grows reishi mushrooms.

There is an internship program for curious and industrious souls who want to learn how to grow their own food and herbs first hand. We do regular workshops all year around on not only gardening but medicinal herbs and home remedies, seed saving, food preservation, and home skills for adults and children.

Bountiful Corn Relish from 2010 Harvest.

Bountiful Corn Relish from 2010 Harvest.

I am a Certified Permaculture Designer having a long history of organic gardening in several growing zones and soil types. I help people grow food at any stage of their gardening evolution from a few containers to full production farms. I’ve started several community gardens, farmers markets, and helped others successfully get started with good designs for sustainable, efficient, beautiful and productive edible environments. I work with other like-minded skilled individuals in teams for larger projects including sustainable architecture, water use, passive, solar and wind energy, applicable black water and grey water solutions, and entire environment management.  Let me know if you need some help with a project.

The adventure of Permaculture Design is that not only do you learn and apply ways of growing stuff without chemicals and with a minimum of energy expenditure (including your own work), but techniques that restore the soil and bring life back to even the most damaged environments. Those techniques can be applied to just vegetables and fruits, or they can reach out to all homesteading activities and full self-sustainability – up to and including going ‘off the grid’ if that is the intention. Permaculture has expanded as a subject into best ways to create groups of people in villages, with their own ways to exchange, raise families, and supply themselves with almost all their needs within the group.

Looking to the future, having a trusted group of like-minded, industrious, knowledgeable friends might be the best insurance in changing times.

This blog is the result of 7 years of learning how to live and garden in NE Georgia in the Piedmont area (foothills) of the Appalachian Mountains. It has been a quest for answers in how to cheerfully and in a positive manner survive our changing climate, difficult growing conditions, incoming environmental challenges, a continuously deteriorating economic structure, food system, and encroaching corporate attacks on our bio-diversity from genetic engineering and increased pollution from chemical factors, loss of bees, particulate metals in the atmosphere from geo-engineering, challenges with our water supply, and other problems which must be met to survive these times. There is something that can be done about any challenge. Start with a smile then get on with it.

So, there has been a great thrust into research looking for solutions to these challenges. Everything we do here at Hillside Gardens boils down to finding truthful and workable SOLUTIONS. This blog is about those findings. We’ll explore every imaginable aspect of living life to the fullest, despite the efforts of those who would have us struggle for existence. It will sometimes stretch your imagination, occasionally be controversial but hopefully make you think and expand your awareness of what is occurring, bringing you practical solutions in a series of articles called “Surviving the Times” which have been written for publication in local newspapers, newsletters and broad mailings across the country.

We’ll discuss the results of trials and pilots here at the Gardens, things newly researched, what works and what doesn’t, some reviews of others’ works and how they apply here, sometimes shared information from other authors/researchers friends of ours, including book suggestions. There will be fact and opinion – labeled as such usually. We really want you to participate and comment on the blog and ask your questions or enter into the blog discussion with your own information.

Also, there will be pictures, events, daily activities when there is time to report them. There will even be some news from our 1700’s re-enacting group. We’ll report the meetings of our Homestead Gathering group, which is now going national. There will be advices, seasonal tips, various offerings of products coming from the garden including a series of small books written to support the classes given here, and hopefully the full length book being written on the subject of gardening in difficult spaces – hillside gardening – a work in progress.

1700's re-enacting - myself and a little friend in full costume.

1700’s re-enacting – myself and a little friend in full costume.

Research, discoveries and a passion for learning are the hallmark activities here and you will have a bird’s eye view of it in this blog.

If you have suggestions of what you would like to see here, please feel free to communicate. This blog is about connectedness. The only way we can face the challenges of today and tomorrow is to connect up, arm ourselves with true and practical knowledge and wisdom, and help each other.  Diann Dirks, Auburn, Ga. 3 Feb 2013

Donations go towards education of Permaculture Design principles, classes teaching people how to grow their own foods, scholarships for classes and workshops, and travel for Permaculture research.
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6 Responses to About The Garden Lady

  1. isabelle says:

    Thank you Diann! I just found you and am so glad to read your ideas and suggestions as I switch over from just using organic techniques to permaculture. It is not easy after 35 yrs. of doing it one way to change over, but I know it will be better for me in the end. I am getting too old for all that hard work.

    • didirks says:

      Glad to have you aboard. If you want to get all I sent out, become a member of the blog. I don’t post often but when I do it’s usually interesting. 🙂 Permaculture is one or ten steps above organic gardening because it is multi-dimentional in comparison but you will still use most of the organic techniques. Join me on face book too as Georgia Gardenlady. Best, Diann

  2. Tim Lovelace says:

    I bought your book last year and now planning a food park in North Florida, Hilliard. I wondered when you have tours of your farm?

    • didirks says:

      How wonderful that you have moved forward with your plans. I don’t have a farm, I have a garden, which is considerable but only on .7 acres. And it isn’t fully utilized yet but getting there. If you wish to come visit come visit here, please contact me on my email address and we’ll talk about timing. didirks@comcast.net You’ll be coming up from Florida. Would you be bringing a group with you? Let me know. Di

    • didirks says:

      How has your food park in No. Florida done? Did you get it in? I don’t have a farm, I have a garden, different game, but I do tours by appointment. When you’re up in NE Georgia, email me at didirks@comcast.net and set up a time.

  3. Just found you on the the new Cottage Industry page on Celia’s KitchensGardens blog. I look forward to reading your posts. I’m also in NE Georgia, in Sautee Nacoochee in White County. Love your reenactment photo! My husband and I use to do French and Indian War and Revolutionary War eras reenactment when we lived in Indiana. Reenactment is of huge interest there.

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