Cultivate Holistic Gardens: Home, School, Urban Farm

woman stretching in vegetable garden
October launches a new garden season when we get back to digging in. And Central Texas Gardener is right there for you with brand new programs!
Flagstone path patio cute dog Lobo Central Texas Gardener
To celebrate permaculture and organic techniques, we compiled three diverse gardens for you. We open with Jane and John Dromgoole, founders of The Natural Gardener, who tour us through their home garden.
man in greenhouse holding large container plant
Like many of us, John’s early passion germinated with houseplants, including tillandsias (air plants).
Cistern rainwater harvesting metal tank Zen garden John and Jane Dromgoole garden Central Texas Gardener
An organic, gardening trailblazer with long term roots in Austin’s nursery business, in 1993, he purchased eight acres in southwest Austin and opened The Natural Gardener. He and Jane brought their work home with them as they built their house, gardens, and outdoor living retreats.
John Dromgoole and dog Lobo play fetch on partial lawn Central Texas Gardener
John and Jane Dromgoole David Stalker vegetable garden Central Texas Gardener
David Stalker, garden advisor and handyman, joins them among the raised vegetable beds for pro tips about soil, compost, and spacing.
two men at intricate tall stone sculpture in berm garden with succulents and other structural plants
This berm, accented with John’s scavenged rock sculpture, hosts plants that need good drainage.
cozy cabana bamboo pergola with colorful metal garden chairs underneath
They tucked in a cozy cabana overhung with David’s inventive bamboo pergola painted in festive crayon colors.
woman smiling in front of artistic metal gates
“We have our stressful days with traffic and work and then we come home and it’s just nice to be able to decompress and have the beautiful surroundings there. And that’s why the garden is so important,” John said.
man at desk checking out music; many bookcases filled with record albums
Since John’s been spinning tunes and tales on the radio since high school, his passion led him
back to the radio microphone with “Dance Halls and Last Calls” on SUN radio. At home, he auditions selections for upcoming programs when he and Jane aren’t just listening for the pure fun of it.
two smiling women, tomato plants in background
Next, we head to urban farm Este Garden where Anamaria Gutierrez and Lea Scott resurrected the former Eastside Café’s gardens, following the footsteps of its female farmers, especially Dorsey Barger. Currently harvesting for restaurant Suerte, they’ll also supply chefs at the new restaurant, Este, slated for its grand opening on Monday, October 3!
large vegetable gardens along neighborhood street
Already, it’s a favorite neighborhood spot to relax, grab a sensory whiff from fresh herbs, and watch the succession of food growing across the year.
large vegetable gardens with square and rectangular beds; new seedlings coming up among transplants
(other picture)
Since it’s time to seed our cilantro, carrots, radishes, lettuces, cabbages, and Asian greens, get their pro tips for inter-planting, even among summer’s still abundant crops.
small crops seedling in straight rows with large bushy crops on trellises in background
“And right now is the perfect time to seed your carrots. They have been germinating so quick. Pro tip, use some overhead watering after you sow your seeds for a few days. That’s really going to help with your carrot germination,” Anamaria advised.
family coming into garden
Next, meet Caroline Riley and Michael Carberry at Whole Life Learning Center, a school for Pre-K to 8th grades, where permaculture gardens contribute to a holistic education and commitment to live in greater harmony with each other and the planet. From the beginning, they also wanted to bring together community through education for all—children and adults.
woman holding basket
woman harvesting
Caroline’s also an instructor with the Austin Permaculture Guild. “I could distill permaculture into one sentence and oversimplify. I would definitely say it’s sustainable design, and we could take it further and say regenerative design the idea of creating a space that over time is more diverse. We’re creating healthy, diverse ecosystems that are not just for us, they’re for every living creature in the space. And that includes the living soil. We start there and actually value the soil more than anything,” she said.
rose and other plants to school
Their Certified Schoolyard Habitat gardens refresh students and teachers alike, where outdoor observations connect soil to the plants that nourish us and wildlife.
pond to chairs and gardens
At the pond, “[Teachers] bring their science class up there, or maybe a creative writing class, but they’re up there studying aquatic invertebrates and getting them under the microscope,” Michael said.
garden with berms and swales
Since Central Texas quickly swings from dust to deluge, their first task was to manage rainfall runoff. Since water is so very precious, they utilize many rainwater catchment techniques to direct and collect it from impermeable surfaces like the parking lot and building roofs.
woman strolling through newly planted vegetable beds on a slope
They built berms and swales to slow, spread, and sink rainwater. Along with cisterns, they harvest water from the pre-school’s roof, along with gallons of AC condensation piped into a rain garden.
two women at wooden nursery tables with rows of plants
In October 2020, Caroline went for another dream: her own nursery, Cultivate Holistic. She’s in the process of opening a grand new space next door, awaiting all the permit stuff that’s required. For now, they’re freshly stocked with healthy plants—food, herbs, native perennials and more—ready for a new garden home.
woman with harvested herbs jars on shelves
With inimitable energy, she also cultivates and processes herbs into medicinal tinctures and teas for Mutable Earth Botanicals.

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Thank you for stopping by! See you next week, Linda