Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Natural Gardener

Last month, we went down to Austin for a few days for a mix of reasons--SXSW guitar show, food bank visits, Wheatsville popcorn tofu, etc. We had one entirely free day and no idea what to do with it, so, after a bit of googling, we decided to make our way west of the city to The Natural Gardener. Neither of us had ever heard of it, but we are always up for a trip to a garden center.

For starters, they do have an impressive garden center--beautiful tools, bulk grass and buckwheat seed, loads of harder to find soil amendments, great books and SEEDS. Not only do they carry large lines of Seeds of Change, Renee's Garden and Botanical Interests, they also have a small selection of Kitazawa Seeds. I was on seed overload at the time (another post), so I was really attempting to restrain myself and keep Mason from having a heart attack. I managed to make it out without buying any, but I do regret not picking up a few of the Kitazawa varieties.

all tomatoes

Outside, they have greenhouses and hoop houses filled with all kinds of plants. This photo is just one side of an entire house filled with tomato plants. About half of the varieties were heirlooms.

microbe brewery

compost tea brewer

There is a little cottage they call the Microbe Brewery which houses an amazing 100 gallon worm tea brewer. It wasn't open at the time, but I did manage to get a blurry photo of the set up inside. We're going to work on the plans for something similar (but smaller) this summer and hope to have it in operation by next year. For now, we're just using a five gallon bucket and a cheap air stone.

raised beds

square foot gardening demo

lettuce bed

huge chard

low tunnels

They have a great demo garden with lots of little raised beds and square foot gardening info. The chard was already huge! It looked like they were using a lot of low tunnels and floating row covers, and it was definitely working for them. The gardens looked great.


Oh, and did I mention that they have DONKEYS? Yeah. I couldn't get close enough for a photo, but they have two adorable miniature donkeys that made us want donkeys even more (if that was even possible). They also have goats and chickens in nice little pens/coops in the middle of the gardens. And cats lazing around on doorsteps and tables. Basically, it's perfect.

we want a tipi now

Also, a tipi. We looked into getting a tipi or yurt when we lived on five acres several years ago. I'd still like to have one some day. This one was a great size.


The landscaping is really beautiful. It's much more wild and rambling than most garden centers would ever allow, which we both loved. I think that I read that they have about 4 acres. It was amazing to see all that they've been able to do on that amount of land while still making it seem manageable and attainable. All in all, we spent about 5 hours wandering around. We ended up with several of the ingredients we needed to mix up organic fertilizer, a 25lb bag of worm castings, 100' of bird netting, a bag of buckwheat seed that is already coming up in a few beds for a quick cover crop, a small succulent for the cat to rub her face on, and a little epazote plant just in case mine doesn't come back this year.


  1. Glad you made it to Austin. The Natural Gardener is our favorite garden center. We buy all of our seeds and plants from them. And the donkeys are great.

  2. I worked there last spring. I learned and taught a ton - it really is a great place to mingle with gardeners of all experience, and of course a source for some good plants. Glad you enjoyed it!