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A Garden With a View
Laurisa Rich's Elements of Nature, Timing and Love

By Jani Gardner

A truly down-to-earth organic gardener, Laurisa Rich understands the ebb and flow of seasons, the importance of timing, and the life-giving elements of soil. A well-traveled adventuress, she worked on fishing boats, and tall ships, passed some years in Polynesia, then settled on the island 10 years ago with a yen to grow food to eat.

Her beloved vegetable garden is situated in Chilmark, overlooking rolling hills and waterviews beyond. She understands the true character of each season and how it plays on her unique surroundings. Tim, her husband, the “official fence-mender and rodent dispatcher,” also loves to garden, especially at picking time.

Laurisa works in layers. In fact, her garden was built atop shorn native grasses using the lasagna method, (the layering of organic materials), “nature’s way of making soil.” An avid com-poster, she brews compost tea in rainwater which is gravity fed from her rain barrels to her eel-grass-mulched garden beds. The honey bees from her nearby hives happily pollinate the blossoms as they open.

Extra-ordinarily organized, she rotates her vegetable families throughout the three sections of her ladybug-shaped garden. Last summer the central ‘body’ section grew her root crops: carrots, beets, turnips surrounded by climbing legumes. The south wing nourished various squash varieties to accompany a hardy kiwi vine, while the north wing held her “nightshade patch” of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Her greens are grown in elevated ‘salad bowls’ (1/2 orbs of retired composting balls) rimmed with copper wire to deter the slugs. She has given up on growing the brassica family veggies entirely as the cabbage moths resist her every organic control.

Outside the 8 ft. tall deer fence are numerous varieties of self-sowing daisies, wild blueberries, and an extensive medicinal herb garden to inform her apprenticeship with Island herbalist, Holly Bellebuono.

You can readily sense that the Riches heartfelt approach to gardening. “My Alaskan grandmother, Margaret (whose ashes are within sight and sound) taught me to honor the cycle of life: planting each seed with reverence, supporting and celebrating its growth, and honoring the harvest in nourishing meals.” Then, completing the circle by saving seed and worm composting in winter, Laurisa has raw material for next year’s cycle.