Gardening, you heard it from the Doctor!

Written by Plant With Purpose on April 12, 2016 in General


Dr. Doug is a longtime supporter and friend of Plant With Purpose. He is a chiropractor by trade, but neighbors and friends consult him with their gardening questions, recognizing his passion and knack for plant care. April is Garden Month, and we were fortunate to take a tour of “Heaven’s Half Acre” with Dr. Doug himself. We are confident in his botany degree and thoughtful answers to our questions, but it was the sights, smells, and tastes that assured us the doctor knows what he is talking about. 

Firstly, what do you love about gardening?

Nothing makes me happier than witnessing healthy growth in my plants or my patients. I love seeing how plants work together, ecology in the garden. I am constantly thinking of ways to utilize my property in a way that encourages plants to grow to their greatest potential. A perennial joy has been to watch my girls grow up in the garden to be expert fruit pickers. I am still working on their gardening skills.

What innovative ways are you utilizing your home to support your garden?

I have established rainwater catching systems to water half of our hillside. The other half is watered by our washing machine system. The pressure from the water pump allows me to cycle water to the rest of the hillside. Our family washes our clothes in vinegar as opposed to detergent so that the water can be recycled and used in the garden.


I use the different climates on our property to produce a variety of fruits and veggies. With winter sun, our south-facing slope will support tropical species like bananas and avocados, but the same slope would not support a chill-requiring tree. The other side of my house with deep winter shade has created a good climate for our beloved gravenstein apple tree. In my compost I mix leaf matter (from the yard) with kitchen scraps to create “black gold” for next year’s trees.


What is one of your favorite gardening techniques?

A favorite gardening technique is grafting. Neighbors would attest that I have plenty of apple trees, little do they know the different varieties I can grow on each of those trees. My greatest grafting success would be my gravenstein apple. The scion actually came all the way from a tree off of my Swiss grandfather’s homestead farm in Oregon. I used a t-budding technique. I had 6 grafts and one took, it was a great victory. It is a great apple, a family heirloom, and a family favorite.


Can you tell us about one of your recent gardening successes?

Our Venus grapes are prolific and not at all lack luster in taste. I could have never anticipated what an abundance one little twig would produce. After the 1998 El Nino, I had to stump an old tree that just couldn’t make it. I replaced it with a grape and started to let it take over the trellis and the awning above our patio. When we expanded our home in 2005, I told the contractor we needed to build around our grapes. I laugh when expert friends comment on the design of my house approvingly, I don’t tell them that the plans were completely stipulated by the grape. Our vines produce about 50 pounds of fruit a year. We have dried raisins, made grape butter, and produced a few batches of wine. We eat them fresh, freeze them, and give them away. I encourage my girls to put them in basically anything they eat.


What are a few challenges you have experienced in your garden?

At times when I go out in the garden I immediately focus the many things that need to get done, instead of enjoying just “being” there. A garden can so quickly grow out of hand with invasive species. That being said it is a challenge to stay up on everything that needs to get done in a big garden while enjoying it, but day by day it will all get done. My garden is one place that I can experience God’s goodness daily.

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What are your top three tips for someone who is starting their own backyard garden?

  1. The best fertilizer is footsteps! Spend time in your garden. Your plants will thank you.
  2. The health of every plant hinges on how well you prepare its soil.
  3. The biggest mistake you can make in pruning is not to prune!

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Our most recent newsletter focuses on farming as an act of worship. Dr. Doug attests to the connection he feels to our Creator as he tends to His garden. We so enjoyed our morning in the outdoors, and are excited to get our hands in the dirt in our own backyards. Thanks for the tour Dr. Doug!

Join us this April and spend some time in your garden. Time outside has been proven to improve health and mood, and your plants will thank you. To learn more from Dr. Doug check out one of his upcoming workshops at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, California. 

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