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Required Reading: ‘Beyond the Meadows: Portrait of a Natural and Biodiverse Garden by Krautkopf’

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Required Reading: ‘Beyond the Meadows: Portrait of a Natural and Biodiverse Garden by Krautkopf’

April 18, 2024

When my friend and colleague Margot Guralnick and I set out to write The Low-Impact Home, we had many discussions with Remodelista founder Julie Carlson about whether our project would be a beautiful coffee table book or a nuts-and-bolts manual for eco-minded homeowners. What we realized was, we needn’t sacrifice one for the other. Our book would be equal parts inspiration and information.

When I opened up Beyond the Meadows: Portrait of a Natural and Biodiverse Garden by Krautkopf, in bookstores now, I immediately recognized in it the same desire to both inspire and edify. That the book is brimming with gorgeous images isn’t all that surprising given its authors, German homesteaders Susann Probst and Yannic Schon, are professional photographers. What is unexpected, and delightful, is how much they’ve chosen to share about their experience as new homesteaders. The two really get into the weeds, if you will, of how they designed their landscape, cared for their plants, welcomed biodiversity, naturally enriched the soil, and, ultimately, became self-sufficient. Diagrams, before and after shots, and plant lists help tell their gardening journey. And they’re blessedly not shy about revealing their mistakes, either.

Above: Susann and Yannic’s homesteading journey started in 2018, when they moved from Berlin to a small cottage with lots of land in a village in northeastern Germany. It was built as a “settler’s house,” one of many that cropped up post-WWII to encourage people to become more self-sufficient. Their new book, now available in English, documents their experience working the land as new gardeners.

“To be honest, we held back from writing a gardening book for a long time,” Susann tells us. “We felt we were only at the very beginning of the learning process and therefore didn’t feel ready. However, at one point we realized that this gardening journey would never end and that we would constantly be learning new things that would be worth writing about. So there would never be the ‘right’ time to start.” The results are less guidebook and more garden memoir. “We wanted a book full of beauty and inspiration, which would nevertheless contain our knowledge and experiences from the past five years,” she says.

Susann and Yannic’s garden appeared in The Low-Impact Home—Margot and I were enchanted by their property and their commitment to ecology-based gardening—so I read their book with great interest. But even if you don’t know a thing about them and don’t harbor any fantasies about growing your own food, Beyond the Meadows is a must-read. It’s for anyone curious about how to be a better gardener or adopt more planet-friendly approaches—and also for those who simply yearn to slow down and smell the earth.

Here’s a sample of what’s inside.

Photography by Krautkopf, from Beyond the Meadows.

The couple share their mistakes big and small. One of their biggest? They originally sited their kitchen garden between the house and an outbuilding but realized that a sunnier and more convenient location would be next to their greenhouse. So the next year, they started over. Pictured is their new kitchen garden.
Above: The couple share their mistakes big and small. One of their biggest? They originally sited their kitchen garden between the house and an outbuilding but realized that a sunnier and more convenient location would be next to their greenhouse. So the next year, they started over. Pictured is their new kitchen garden.
Each chapter tackles a different area of their property: the front garden, the orchard (they inherited a grove of fruit trees), the small woodland, the wildflower meadow, the cut flower garden, and, of course, the kitchen garden, which gets the biggest chapter. Pictured here is cabbage (Krautkopf, the name of their blog and photography company, is German for cabbage) and other vegetables growing alongside companion plants like marigolds, chamomile, and nasturtiums. &#8\2\20;The combination of different cultures is visually great to look at&#8\230;and has another, much more important added value: planting mixed cultures allows us to protect the soil and prevent diseases,&#8\2\2\1; they write.
Above: Each chapter tackles a different area of their property: the front garden, the orchard (they inherited a grove of fruit trees), the small woodland, the wildflower meadow, the cut flower garden, and, of course, the kitchen garden, which gets the biggest chapter. Pictured here is cabbage (Krautkopf, the name of their blog and photography company, is German for cabbage) and other vegetables growing alongside companion plants like marigolds, chamomile, and nasturtiums. “The combination of different cultures is visually great to look at…and has another, much more important added value: planting mixed cultures allows us to protect the soil and prevent diseases,” they write.
Next to the veggie beds is an area devoted to plants grown for homemade teas: lady’s mantles, white and purple coneflowers, anise hyssop, hollyhock mallow, mint, sage ‘Purple Beauty’, lemon catmint, Hemingway mint, thyme, lavender and lemon balm.
Above: Next to the veggie beds is an area devoted to plants grown for homemade teas: lady’s mantles, white and purple coneflowers, anise hyssop, hollyhock mallow, mint, sage ‘Purple Beauty’, lemon catmint, Hemingway mint, thyme, lavender and lemon balm.
&#8\2\20;Early in the morning, when the sun is still low in the sky, the front garden is enveloped by a magical, soft, warm light,&#8\2\2\1; they write. &#8\2\20;The calyxes and umbels of the perennials also shine particularly intensely at this time of day. It is not difficult to get out of bed before five o’clock in June to partake in this enchanting experience.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “Early in the morning, when the sun is still low in the sky, the front garden is enveloped by a magical, soft, warm light,” they write. “The calyxes and umbels of the perennials also shine particularly intensely at this time of day. It is not difficult to get out of bed before five o’clock in June to partake in this enchanting experience.”
The couple planted a wildflower meadow comprised of 50 percent native grasses and 50 percent wildflowers.
Above: The couple planted a wildflower meadow comprised of 50 percent native grasses and 50 percent wildflowers.
Susann and Yannic strive for &#8\2\20;a sustainable circular economy, which would self-regulate to its own rhythm and, as such, enable a great diversity of creatures to coexist. A food cycle in which each animal species finds its natural prey and contributes to a healthy garden,&#8\2\2\1; they write.
Above: Susann and Yannic strive for “a sustainable circular economy, which would self-regulate to its own rhythm and, as such, enable a great diversity of creatures to coexist. A food cycle in which each animal species finds its natural prey and contributes to a healthy garden,” they write.
Sweet peas, snapdragons, wild carrots, cosmos, mulleins, sunflowers, dahlias, larkspur, cornflowers, rudbeckia, love-in-a-mist, ornamental tobacco, and meadow sage grow in their cut flower garden, which provides them &#8\2\20;with fresh flowers for our home from April until the first frost,&#8\2\2\1; they write. &#8\2\20;And what we do not use for ourselves is handed out in the village or left to flower for the insects—and they are happily welcomed by both.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Sweet peas, snapdragons, wild carrots, cosmos, mulleins, sunflowers, dahlias, larkspur, cornflowers, rudbeckia, love-in-a-mist, ornamental tobacco, and meadow sage grow in their cut flower garden, which provides them “with fresh flowers for our home from April until the first frost,” they write. “And what we do not use for ourselves is handed out in the village or left to flower for the insects—and they are happily welcomed by both.”

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Frequently asked questions

What is the title of the required reading mentioned in the post?

'Beyond the Meadows: Portrait of a Natural and Biodiverse Garden by Krautkopf'

Who are the authors of 'Beyond the Meadows'?

German homesteaders Susann Probst and Yannic Schon

What is the focus of 'Beyond the Meadows'?

Inspiring and informing readers about the gardening journey of the authors as new homesteaders

What is one of the mistakes shared by Susann and Yannic in the book?

Originally siting their kitchen garden in a less sunny and convenient location, which they later corrected

What types of plants are grown in the area devoted to homemade teas?

Lady’s mantles, white and purple coneflowers, anise hyssop, hollyhock mallow, mint, sage 'Purple Beauty', lemon catmint, Hemingway mint, thyme, lavender, and lemon balm

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