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Quick Takes With: Fritz Haeg

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Quick Takes With: Fritz Haeg

May 19, 2024

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During the COVID lockdown of 2020, we spotted captivating images on Instagram of life at Salmon Creek Farm that made us want to immediately pack up and take up residence in one of its ramshackle cabins. The commune was founded in 1971 on the Mendocino Coast by a bunch of hippies but by the 1980s, it had run its course. Its reincarnation came about when artist Fritz Haeg scooped up the property in 2014 with the intention of turning it into an arts colony. “I have been consumed by it ever since, establishing the community, cultivating new gardens, and tending to the land,” says Fritz, who, prior to this, was best known for being the mastermind behind Edible Estates, a project that encouraged people to replace their front lawns with edible landscapes. With help from a long list of like-minded artists who don’t mind getting dirty, Fritz has, over the years, restored the off-kilter buildings, cultivated the land to grow fruits and vegetables, and revived the spirit of the original commune. And recently, he announced the founding of non-profit Salmon Creek Arts, which will award annual residency fellowships to artists, allowing them to spend time at the sanctuary.

We are thrilled Fritz is sharing his thoughts here on gardening—including his favorite way to keep weeds at bay, the “tool” he uses every day, and more.

Photography courtesy of Salmon Creek Farm, unless otherwise noted. (For more images, check out Remodelista’s post.)

Above: The hodgepodge dwellings at Salmon Creek Farm are studies in improvisation.

Your first garden memory:

Harvesting string beans and gathering peonies with my mother in our backyard family garden in Minnesota.

Garden-related book you return to time and again:

A used copy of The One-Straw Revolution is \$30 at Biblio.
Above: A used copy of The One-Straw Revolution is $30 at Biblio.

One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. It describes an approach to cultivating that doesn’t fight—but surrenders—to the nature of plants and soil, where for example the dead stalks of one season are left in place to decompose and feed the next seasons.

Instagram account that inspires you:

My friend, artist/photographer Paul Sepuya’s—@misslottiesgarden.

Describe in three words your garden aesthetic.

Above: “This is the first thing you see through our front gates, across the gardens and to the redwoods beyond, framed by a cherry plum tree,” says Fritz.

Structured, wild, free.

Plant that makes you swoon:

Artichoke.

Plant that makes you want to run the other way:

Vinca.

Favorite go-to plant:

Borage.

Unpopular gardening opinion:

Beds are built using the hugelkultur method.
Above: Beds are built using the hugelkultur method.

Let most annuals, set seed, dry up, and remain dead in place, until chopped down for straw mulch.

Hardest gardening lesson you’ve learned:

Don’t plant anything you’re not prepared to take care of.

Gardening or design trend that needs to go:

Above: “We carved these circular terraces at each of the apple and fruit trees in the orchard, first the older trees (around 30) that were planted in the ’70s—and later filled in the gaps with about 45 more. Each circular terrace is cultivated like a little garden around each tree with companion plantings like comfrey, calendula, borage, oregano, sage, chard, chicory, ground cherries, and naturalized annual wild greens.”

Unused lawns.

Favorite gardening hack:

Thick layers of cardboard for weed-block starting new beds.

Favorite way to bring the outdoors in.

Fresh cut anything (flowers, branches, seed heads, fruit) on the table everyday year round.

Favorite hardscaping material:

Brick.

Every garden needs a…

Between two redwoods, a hammock for rest and contemplation.
Above: Between two redwoods, a hammock for rest and contemplation.

A place to sit.

Tool you can’t live without:

Straw hat.

Go-to gardening outfit:

Above: Fritz, rarely seen without his big straw hat. Photograph by Anna Schneider.

I’m a cliché: big straw hat, garden clogs, felco holster, linen work shirt…

Favorite nursery, plant shop, or seed company:

Our Mendocino Winter Abundance Seed and Scion Exchange. It’s an annual gathering of local home gardeners to share seeds, scions, and general information about growing food in our region.

Not-to-be-missed public garden/park/botanical garden:

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

The REAL reason you garden:

A sacred gathering spot at Salmon Creek Farm.
Above: A sacred gathering spot at Salmon Creek Farm.

To create beautiful spaces, cultivate food, care for the land, plus an excuse to spend hours of contemplative time outside with hands in the dirt, alongside friends and my dog Zucca.

Thank you, Fritz! You can follow him on Instagram @salmon_creek_farm.

See also:

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