When you’re standing in Glen Andresen's yard,
you're bound to get buzzed by a bee or two. Glen's care for – and
co-habitation with – bees is an extension of his gardening philosophy.
"Let's work with nature," he says.
you’re standing in Glen Andresen’s yard, you’re bound to get buzzed by a
bee or two. That’s to be expected, considering the nearby ceanothus and
other plants that attract these feared and revered pollinators. But the
more obvious reason is the dozen or so hives situated around his
mulched garden beds.
“Glen,” his wife, Ann Sihler, calls as he hunkers over a bed of newly
sprouted beets, separating clusters and re-planting singles. “You just
got a call about a swarm. It’s in Northwest. It’s been there about an
hour.” It’s not the first call about a swarm. He’s tended to about eight
in the last week, four on Thursday alone.
Glen’s care for – and co-habitation with – bees is an extension of
his gardening philosophy. “Let’s work with nature,” he says. “Let nature
do the gardening for us whether that’s soil fertility or pest control
Pollination? Buzz. Check. Soil fertility? Glen hasn’t tilled his soil
in 15 years, instead cultivating the rich, airy humus through cover
cropping with nitrogen fixers like fava beans and crimson clover, and
top-mulching. It’s good, organic dirt that yields a vibrant, healthy
garden of edibles, including rhubarb, berries, and greens, as well as
bee attracters like salvia and fall-blooming asters, which, when in
bloom, spray a pastel stripe below the trellised apples – Liberty,
Hudson’s Golden Gem, and other varieties.
The trellised apples, along with some pears, frame Glen’s garden,
which occupies the front and side yard of the corner lot in Northeast
Portland that he’s called home for 24 years. Beyond the trellis, the
parking strip is also a vegetable bed, dwarfed by a sequoia Glen planted
23 years ago. Glen noticed that after he put in the sidewalk bed, now
growing a healthy crop of volunteer potatoes, similar beds of edibles
started popping up along his street, many incorporating his growing
practices, like the tomato cages he uses and his ritual of mulching the
beds in the fall.
It’s just one of the community benefits of gardening – the ripple
effect. When Glen puts bags on his apples to protect them from worms, he
says the neighbors want to know, “What are the bags for?” They stop and
talk; they learn.
“People don’t want to use chemicals. They just don’t know how not
to,” Glen says with a cursory look into a couple of hives. ”It’s easier
to garden when you plant more flowers.”
Raised in Junction City, Glen completed a bachelor’s degree in
economics in Eastern Oregon. Soon after, Glen ended up in the Portland
region to earn an Associate degree in jazz piano from Mt. Hood Community
College. Since then, he’s cobbled together a living of garden
instruction, bee and honey work, music (trombone and electric bass) and a
little close-to-home property management – he owns two houses within a
stone’s throw of his own, and grows more food in the backyard in one of
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