Posts Tagged ‘Edible Front Yard’

Garden Firsts: Columbine, Iris, Sea Kale, Rhododendron, Roses, and the Portable 2017 Garden

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Stunning columbines this year! It is crazy windy today, so some of these photos aren’t as clear as I’d like. Too pretty to keep to myself, though. 🙂

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Flowering sea kale, is an edible perennial that looks good all season. Even better, you can eat every single part from roots to shoots to leaves to buds to flowers:

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The first of many varieties of irises bloomed today:

This scabrosa rose makes huge hips, but the bees and I love the flowers, too:

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Ever since I was a child, rhododendrons have bloomed on my birthday. This one came a few days early, right behind a pink geranium I’ve overwintered since our time in Madison:

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I’m loving this rag tag, makeshift backdoor planter. I just stuck these pots outside to get them out of the way while moving plants as I made way for those from the blue house. This pineapple sage, red geranium, mystery plant, and ivy seem so happy and spontaneously coordinated, though, that I left them on concrete blocks I needed to move out of the garage anyway:

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Speaking of rag tag, this year’s annuals are very portable. Here’s my non-perennial and perennial cuttings garden, potted up and ready for a late June transplant to our new location:

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So far so good. I needed to empty our Garden Tower for easier moving, and I didn’t want to waste the soil. Ideally, containers begin with fresh soil, but I mixed in Epsom salts and worm castings to add nutrients. Once we arrive at the new spot, I’ll transplant these into 20 gallon fabric bags I bought for tender fruit and berry bushes. It will be a gradual shift to the permanent raised beds, but I got these huge, handled garden bags on a super discount. They and a strawberry filled Garden Tower will allow me to have a productive garden even as I observe the yard for more permanent hardscaping and planting.

At first, I thought I might skip gardening altogether this year, but I just can’t bring myself to do that! I’ve got big plans for edible perennials in our new front yard, and the backyard will have raised beds and container fruit trees and berry bushes. Rather than rush something permanent, I decided to compromise — give myself a fully productive garden in a very small space while I allow the land, shadows and microclimates to inform what happens longer term.

Updates to come …

17(ish) tips for Edible Activists

This list comes from the good folks at the Incredible Edible City of Todmorden in England. I think they’re great tips, but please ignore the “Magic is not possible” statement, as that’s already been proven false.

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What?! You haven’t heard of Todmorden? Watch and be inspired by something “anybody can do, anywhere.”

Like what you see? This list helps you replicate it in your locale.

Late Afternoon in the Garden

This is one of my favorite times of the day in the gardens — not due to the temperature, but due to the quality of light. I love how it seems to stream from heaven over all the flowers. Too pretty to keep to myself:

back gardens 7-13

back beds 7-13

bed bed 7-13

tomatoes, pumkins, gourds and melons

more maters 7-13

purple coneflower with lavender in back 7-13

white lilies

front herb bed 7-13

scarlet runners

sunnies

front flowers 7-13

looking over the back beds 7-13

Blessed Be!

Mini-Food Forest in Denver, Colorado

In case you, like me, are dreaming of sunnier, warmer days:

Lasagna Gardening and Fall Garden Update

It’s that time again! Most people think of Autumn as the time that gardening goes to sleep, but did you know that Fall offers a fantastic time to let Nature do (some of) next year’s garden prep for you? If this year’s fresh produce has ever had you vowing to start a garden next Spring, only to feel the enthusiasm wane when next year rolls around, now is a perfect time to lasagna garden — also known as sheet mulch. Instead of hauling away your leaves now, and then constructing a raised bed and buying expensive soil to fill it in a rush next Spring, you can use Fall’s bounty of leaves and yard waste to begin preparing and fertilizing next year’s garden.

It’s actually very easy! Just lay down a several layers of newspaper or one layer of thick cardboard over whatever area of lawn you’d like to turn into garden. If you’re using newspaper, pick a non-windy day, or make sure you have something to weight down the papers. Otherwise, you’ll just make a mess. 🙂 On top of the newspaper/cardboard, start layering up natural waste: leaves, straw, unfinished compost (i.e., whatever fresh kitchen scraps or compost that hasn’t had time to rot down yet). Mix that up with some peat moss and some kind of minerals (rock dust, vermiculite, etc.), or just keep layering organic matter. Then top it off with some kind of untreated mulch. Surprise, surprise, I’m using wood mulch, as inspired by the film, Back to Eden:

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Believe it or not, that’s my fifth(!) pile of wood mulch since April, and I’ve already moved half of it before taking this photo. I’ve been so happy with the wood mulch’s ability to retain water and keep weeds at bay. I’ve only watered our front herb and flower garden twice this year:

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When you layer several inches or more of wood mulch on top of a lasagna garden, then everything rots down over the winter, enriching the soil. When I recently divided some of the creeping thyme out front, I found five earthworms within about four square inches of surface soil. Every time I move anything around in this wood mulched area, I find earthworms, a true sign of healthy soil, and I didn’t even lasagna garden the herb bed! I just put a layer of mulch on top of our landlord’s layer of mulch from last year. Nature did the rest. Since herbs prefer poor soil, I didn’t want to waste my time making it too rich with amendments. If you want to grow a decorative and culinary herb garden, laying down some wood mulch this Fall will get your plot ready for next Spring’s seeds or transplants.

I share many of my crazy gardening projects on this blog, because people keep telling me they enjoy the Mad Scientist Gardening experiments, but I do want to note that you can have a fantastic garden without the level of work I’ve put into our yard. We just moved into a place with a tremendously ugly, damaged, weedy, sad, neglected yard — a yard we eagerly accepted because our landlord gave us permission to do whatever we wanted with it. For me, this yard has represented a blank canvas to turn something completely overgrown and forgotten into something gorgeous and functional. It’s a creative outlet much like painting the discarded doors into potent portals. I “paint” with flowers and use plants as form, with food as the function and intention. But anyone can garden in any setting, whether on a small patio in containers, a sunny backyard plot, or turning your front yard into edible landscaping. Lasagna gardening or sheet mulching just represents one more way of enriching the soil to ensure success.

front yard

This latest batch of mulch has gone towards lasagna gardening/mulching out a huge swath of front yard, turning it into four beds with a circular path and three side paths for easy plant access. I love the energy going around the circle with my cart full of mulch! It’s quite fun and a big contrast to the straight lines and rougher look of the rest of our street. This last load included two different types of trees, so I decided to use the lighter, harder wood for the paths, and then the darker, softer wood for the top lasagna layers. I’ve planted mums at the edges of each path so that I remember the boundaries next Spring in the event that everything sinks down over the Winter.

I’ve had so much fun rereading “Edible Front Yard” now that I know something about gardening! I first read that book from the Madison Public Library back when I didn’t know anything about planting zones, soil building or microclimates. It makes sooo much more sense now, and I actually recognize many of the edible ornamentals she mentions. It’s fun to imagine how different shapes, heights and colors will combine in each of the four beds in order to create a burst of beauty that also just happens to be edible.

I didn’t get my intended roses and fruit trees planted this Fall; that will need to happen next Spring, as I’ve run out of time for the tasks I’ve already begun. I still have five raspberry bushes/canes to plant out back. Poor things, they’ve sat in pots for two seasons! Speaking of seasons, I’ve also enjoyed figuring out how to bring hints of color and beauty to the yard year round. I found Goshen quite grim last Winter, especially our street, so this year I’ve prioritized delighting my senses even in the middle of December, January and February.

Again, you can have a fabulous garden without needing to figure out all these angles. Moving into this refurbished cottage with the blank slate lawn in a forgotten corridor of Goshen was quite the artistic challenge. I’ve chosen to explode creativity all over the yard, because we’ve had nothing to lose. A more normal setup might just require a bit of creativity to keep a small front yard plot looking good enough for an HOA. I, on the other hand, am in process of shifting a mixed industrial neighborhood plot (formerly the most neglected in the entire neighborhood) into a magical faery paradise. It’s happening, and it’s what I feel called to do … but I don’t want to intimidate people with the level of work I’ve expended. Any efforts to grow even some of your own food and to beautify the world even just a tiny bit have positive ripple effects in your life and in the world. I just enjoy a challenge. 🙂

winter Guarden

Thus, we have another Fall/Winter “Guarden” crop coming in, which will soon be covered by a cold frame. Planting these babies in early August resulted in lots of greens and root crops coming in now.

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I finally cleared out the cherry tomato plant from the InstaBed, a plant that had spread to three beds and my asparagus! I forgot we even had a gnome beneath all that fruit and foliage.

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We’ve also got some HUGE chard these days. Massive leaves.

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You can see I still have a few “starts” to transplant. It might be too late, but no sign of frost quite yet.

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Our Amish paste tomatoes continue to grow and have, more importantly, confirmed to me the suspicion that our ground soil is low in calcium. I had heard that a) lots of dandelion flowers means low calcium soil and b) that tomato plants are excellent indicators of soil health. I did not water these with milk as often as others, because I just wanted to see what happened. Sure enough, the dreaded blossom end rot has struck some of the bigger tomatoes just before they ripen. Blossom end rot is a sign of calcium deficient soil. I’ll add lime and other amendments as I prepare various in ground/trellis beds for next year. Thank you, Nature, for confirming without a soil test. 🙂 I also know that my special, secret soil treatment for organic farms will pay big dividends, since that formula’s loaded with calcium. Yay!

front bed from back

As I walked back around the yard, I caught a glimpse of the front lasagna garden from behind. Just like flower arranging in a vase, I enjoy flower and plant arranging outside in ways that please from all angles. The center bed will change dramatically this weekend as I add a mix of compost and mulch to the flowers. Instead of sunflowers there next year, I plan to have decorative alliums — very Seussian — and zinnias for butterflies, with “Evening Sun” sunflowers on the North side and this year’s Lemon Queen out back. A foretaste of next year’s edible front yard:

Evening Sun image from the seed packet

Evening Sun image from the seed packet

purple opal basil

purple kohlrabi from Seed Savers Exchange

purple kohlrabi from Seed Savers Exchange

scarlet runner beans

scarlet runner beans

cabbage

amaranth

amaranth

And, probably out back:

Mandan Bride Corn

Mandan Bride Corn

Fairy Tale Pumpkins

Fairy Tale Pumpkins

On the front trellis (with the star pictured above):

vining, non-bolting Malabar Spinach

vining, non-bolting Malabar Spinach

Can’t wait for these, some golden fennel and the rest of my medicinal herbs, too. If all goes well, I will have enriched the soil enough and mulched enough to have a relatively low-maintenance and low-water feast for the eyes, nose, mouth and belly.

Happy Gardening!

Wild Foraging and Weeds: Why Wild Things Make My Heart Sing

Anyone who follows me on Facebook, walks in the woods (or anywhere!) with me, peruses titles on my growing stack of library books, or visits our backyard may possibly have noticed a teeny tiny obsession with all things wild. This is not something new, but it has most definitely intensified since October 2010, when I took an Urban Foraging Class on my first visit to Madison. In years past, I delighted in dandelions, lambs quarters, nettles and purslane, with the occasional sorrel mixed in for good measure. My friend Cecilia showed me a wild strawberry bush and fig tree in Petaluma, and we spent some blissful times gorging ourselves on Nature’s bounty. Perhaps it’s the faery in me, but I’ve always loved weeds, especially clover that attracts honey bees and Leprechauns … as well as forget-me-nots and all things foresty.

In addition to the woods, medicinal herbs have also held a space close to my heart, especially since I first began my Medical Intuitive practice while doing an apprentice trade with a Seattle herbalist of 50+ years (no longer practicing). In exchange for me “reading” his clients, he taught me what he knew about Chinese, Ayurvedic and Native American Herbal Remedies. We both learned lots and his clients benefited from our joint efforts. In my pre-“I not only believe in past lives, but I offer past life readings” days, he would assure me that I must have spent many lifetimes working as a healer because I seemed to just “know” all the remedies. I’ve gradually learned more on a conscious level, and I’ve obviously gotten over my reluctance to attribute any past life infiltration of knowledge! Still, one thing I missed in working with him was the experience of actual plants. All the herbs he used arrived as powders. The most I interacted with them was by taking them internally or counting capsules for his clients. I appreciated the ways he helped me heal from my brain injury, along with the training, but part of me longed to connect with the plants themselves.

Fast forward ten years: living in a house in eco-friendly Madison has provided me with a yard, unsprayed bike trails, and a community of people interested in permaculture, organic gardening and wild food foraging. I’ve since attended another urban foraging class, as well as a Wild Edibles Dinner, hosted by Kathleen Wildwood of Wildwood Institute. The gourmet, multi-course meal was foraged and prepared by the owners of Moonwise Herbs, and it truly inspired me with more community, delicious, deeply nourishing food, and a greater appreciation of the abundance all around us.

As a Lazy Raw Foodist and newbie gardener, I love so many things about wild foods! For one thing, they grow without effort. Instead of weeding the garden, watering the soil, and carefully fertilizing seedlings, you can just let the weeds have at it. I find this comforting, as I watch how slowly my cultivated seedlings have sprouted and begun to grow, in vast contrast to the abundance and fast spurts of dandelions, lambs quarters and wild violets. Our backyard came with lots of bulb plants like hostas and lillies, but I’ve also found wood nettles, bee balm, garlic mustard (great for pesto!), what appears to be plantain, clover, creeping Jenny, wild lettuces, a transplanted stinging nettle, ferns (for fiddleheads), various now potted mints, and some possibly edible leeks. We also inherited three raspberry bushes, two elderberry trees, and some burdock from a permaculture enthusiast who needed to trim back her bounty. These all look happy and vibrant among my kale, chard, chives, strawberries, herbs, nasturtiums and marigolds.

Much happier than my poor tomato plants! Dear me, if I based my gardening experience on the joy of some of the trickier specimens, I’d feel so discouraged that I just might quit. Instead, the weeds provide wonderful greens for smoothies and salads, as well as “proof” that our tiny, unplanned yard can provide abudant produce. If I expand my “garden” outward to include nearby bike paths, I find Juneberry trees, more elderberry, giant dandelions, large burdock and cattails, which I have yet to try. I hear that cattails offer all parts as edibles during various points of the year, but still want some help identifying which parts to harvest when. Our landlord, who lives behind us, also offered his crabapple trees and cherry tree during harvest time. These produce much more than birds and the nearby humans can handle without canning, freezing or dehydrating. Supposedly the crabapples make an excellent cider, and I’m happy to experiment when the time comes.

The Wild Edibles Dinner featured a dessert made from Japanese Knotweed berries, which some of you may recognize as a primary ingredient in Resveratrol supplements. Indeed, David Wolfe has mentioned Japanese Knotweed as a major immune system support for people suffering from Lyme Disease, and I used these to help my ex-husband recover from his Advanced Stage Lyme. There’s a saying among herbalists that Nature provides whatever you need nearby, so I find it interesting that Japanese Knotweed has become a massively invasive species in Wisconsin, where Lyme Disease also runs rampant. I’ve heard the same thing about teasel root growing fast in Oregon and other areas with a LD issue. I don’t have LD, but I must say, that Japanese Knotweed crisp rocked! So much so that I’m going to call the folks trying to eradicate it from a nearby park to see if I can harvest the unsprayed berries.

I love how Nature seems to “know” exactly what issue someone has and synchronously provide just the plants necessary for healing. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I consider humanity to be in a crisis state right now. From government to corporate to environmental abuses to the restriction of all herbs in the EU, we need to wake up and shift! Planet Earth does not require humanity for her survival. In addition to taste and medicinal properties, I love the resilient and unstoppable qualities of weeds. We are what we eat, and we could do much worse than weeds. In fact, weeds balance disturbed or unhealthy ecosystems. Things like dandelion, comfrey and burdock grow extremely deep roots, drawing minerals up to renourish depleted soil. Weeds spring up when the Earth needs healing. By eating more weeds, we can become, on a cellular level, Earth healers. By eating wild things, we become wild, too — more easily able to free ourselves from outmoded societal conditioning that destroys communities and our sense of connection with each other and our environment.

Harvesting local foods frees us from dependence on oil and the transportation system used to bring us the produce we take for granted. It also frees us from having to pay for food. Although I have plenty of money to buy groceries, I recognize BigBanks, BigOil, BigAg and BigPharma as major culprits in all things wrong with our world right now. I would love to live completely outside the system, and I keep researching ways to increase my own independence (and interdependence with more preferable groups). In the meantime, collecting weeds, wild foraging for edibles and seeding easy-to-grow organic plants at home, brings me step-by-step closer to greater harmony with the Earth and my own Nature-loving soul. Learning how to survive on wild items also lets me relax about potential world food shortages caused by poor weather conditions, disasters or disruption of food transportation.

I’m nowhere near my final goals, but I begin each morning marveling at the abundance and beauty all around me. I find it fun. The spunky part of me who’s familiar with Codex Alimentarius and Agenda 21 also gets excited to think of myself like a weed. In a world where governments at best fail to protect their citizens and at worst are actively creating weather, environmental and pharmaceutical conditions to destroy, starve or poison large portions of the population, eating weeds and wild things is my way of celebrating strength and life. Just TRY to eradicate dandelions! Just try to get rid of wild violets and garlic mustard. Even with the most intense chemicals and poor conditions, new ones will no doubt pop up. I have lambsquarters growing in my patio cracks! Feeling that resilience and expansion in myself makes me giggle. I also feel deeply nourished and joyful.

If you decide to forage, I strongly suggest connecting with experienced people in your area. You’ll also want to make sure the no one sprays or pollutes the plants you’d like to eat, and identification does matter. You’ll want to learn the key differences between wild edibles and poisonous lookalikes. If in doubt, don’t eat it! Personally, I find the learning curve exciting. Yes, it takes up a lot of my current time and energy, but I consider the process both recreational and restorative. In a world of change, those who cling to the old may perish, but those who adapt, thrive. I intend to flourish, regardless of circumstances, and I feel ever so grateful for the challenges that brought me more in tune with Earth and some beautiful humans and animals on this planet.