Posts Tagged ‘Edible Landscaping’

Edible Flowers

I just got a newsletter update from the Phoenix-based Agriscaping with Justin Rohner. We have snow on the ground here in Indiana, and I know much of the East Coast is undergoing “Snowmageddon.” Who doesn’t like flowers, though? If you live in a warmer climate zone, you can grow these now. If you’re shivering inside, you can start planning for spring or just enjoy the virtual blooms:

Lilies, Glads, Sunflowers and the Backyard Forest Garden

Mid-July has brought an explosion of white and color in the backyard (and front yard) forest garden. People keep asking about these white lilies — some of them taller than David — so I thought I’d share some of the abundance and beauty:

A peek at the edible ornamental backyard forest garden with black lace elderberry to the left, various currants and jostaberries to the right of the path, plus a potted lemon tree, and off frame to the right, hazelnut, aronia berry and apples:

backyard forest garden

You can see more of the raised beds that allow abundant growth over a yard full of juglone containing black walnut stumps. The beds are so full that you can’t really see the three beds of triple-tiered produce behind these green zebra tomatoes, bush basil, shiso, egglant, asparagus, beans, chard, and marigolds, but they’re spilling over with a mystery melon, tomatoes, Thai basil, cabbage and more:

The front yard has gone full on sunflower, gladiolus and lilies, so large that you can barely see the cherry and pear trees, blueberry bushes, hazelnuts, kale and kalette behind them:

front yard sunflowers and lilies

The bees are very happy here, too, with skirret, chives, borage, calendula, black eyed Susan’s, zinnias and elecampane:

nectary

It’s difficult to believe or convey just how non-magical this yard originally felt and looked. Yes, it does take work to maintain, but I actually spend far, far less time in the yard than I did for the first two years of living here. This year, I have spent more time harvesting than anything else: black and red raspberries, blueberries, currants, aronia berries, strawberries, sea kale, lettuce, herbs, asparagus, peas, green beans, pears, sour cherries, tomatoes, basil, garlic, onions, cucumbers, parsnips, cabbage, eggplant, flowers for bouquets and loads and loads and loads of greens!

We eat well, and many of the trees and shrubs have only just begun to produce. We look forward to the extra thirteen asparagus plants I’ve added to the blue house yard, along with more fruit and nut trees and shrubs.

Anyone can add food to their landscape! You don’t need 1/3 of an acre like we have here (minus the houses and garages). Espaliered fruit trees take very little room along a fence. Fruit and nut shrubs and trees can take the place of more traditional ornamentals. Special colors of vegetable plants make them look unrecognizable as food plants, blending into more traditional flower beds. You can use raised beds, plant in the ground, a Garden Tower, “big bag beds,” or any and all combinations of these to fit your space, time and budget. Too much shade? Grow currants. They produce buckets full even in deep shade. No room? Experiment with vertical gardening through trellises, teepees and tiered raised beds.

For me it’s not just about the food. It’s about bringing beauty and nature to an otherwise industrial, impoverished and forlorn spot of earth. Birds, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and all manner of insects abound in our yards, delighting the eyes and senses … and most importantly, the heart and soul. In a world of chaos, gardens offer a chance to bring peace, abundance and delight, along with grounding and natural anti-depressants. As David likes to say, what’s not to love?

If you missed spring and summer produce, it’s not too late to plant for fall. Look into cool season crops like kale, brassicas, Lucullus chard, beets, carrots, daikon radishes, and even very short season warm weather veggies. Check your seed packs for days to harvest and subtract from your average first frost date to see if you can still get a harvest!

Wishing you and yours abundance and joy.

 

Garden Update: Signs of Summer

I haven’t posted garden photos in awhile, and people have asked for an update. Today marked the first sunflower of 2016:

First sunflower of 2016

I’ve taken other photos in the past few days to give a sense of life in that middle period when few things bloom. Thankfully, in our yard, we still have signs of growth and color:

roses

These roses are slightly past their prime, but will bloom all summer with almost no work at all. Called Robinhood Roses, these lovelies are salt tolerant, drought tolerant, and don’t even require deadheading. Quite the change from the original weedy patch in the front easement!

The Garden Tower 2 has really started to take off. We’ve already harvested some green beans and kale, and I’ve got lettuce started from seed to benefit from increased shade once the older plants grow in:

Garden Tower 2Bean tower

I haven’t had the best luck with pole beans or soy beans this year, mostly due to critters, but this bean tower has managed to beat the bunnies’ munchies, along with marigolds, nasturtium, chard, and kale.

All the three-tiered beds are planted with polycultures. In this one below, you can see Thai and purple basils, bok choy, a volunteer tomato, various peppers, calendula, chives, marigolds, beets, and a volunteer watermelon. In the background is a hearty rhubarb and vigorous grape vine. You can just see the rocks of the herb spiral behind the picnic table, centered in what will eventually become the asparagus circle:

Raised bed

In the blue house yard, just planted last fall and this year, you can see that the tree stump turned herb spiral has begun to fill in. Those herbs need lots of nitrogen rich compost since the tree continues to rob nitrogen from the soil, but eventually, it will function as a nice, rich hugelculture bed, not to mention eyesore turned focal point. Behind the herb spiral, you can see paw paw trees, asparagus, geraniums and hollyhocks. To the sides of the herb spiral, we have also have 10 asparagus beginning to grow in. (Actually, 9. The squirrels got one, which will need a replacement.)

By next year, faeries willing, we should have 16 asparagus plants getting ready to produce. I wasn’t sure about planting so much asparagus, but after our two older ones started producing this year, David and I went gaga for grilled asparagus! We also fell in love with a nettle, zucchini and asparagus “lasagna” topped with shredded raw goat cheese after baking. Oh, my goodness: gluten free heaven! So many things taste unbelievably different when you grow them yourself, and our friend Jon keeps us well supplied with nettles. Anyway, the herb spiral, one of the paw paws and friends:

herb spiral

We’ve had a sort of mini-drought this year, which has delayed growth until the more recent rains of the past few days. Thankfully, between soaker hoses, tree rings and hand watering, I’ve managed to keep most of the new perennials, fruit and nut trees in good shape, minus that one asparagus and some geraniums.

I created a new “community” on the front easement in between the two houses. This one features a dwarf Reliance peach tree, three Hansen cherry bushes, a red twig dogwood, ground juniper, foxglove, comfrey, campanula, petunias, and aster. The second most recent community — or guild, as the permaculture folks call it — sits outside the south window of my writing office near the north side of our garage and includes one of the nine hazel trees, surrounded by alpine strawberries, hostas, primrose, nasturtium, comfrey, a gooseberry bush, kale (far away from the tree roots), kalette (a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts, courtesy of reader Karen),  calendula, and one of the three zepherine roses on these properties. Those new communities are so fledgling that photos don’t show much, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!

One particular joy comes from the day lilies I planted last year (also courtesy of Karen — thank you!!) by our back door, where David can see his favorite orange blooms on the way in and out each day. Did you know that every single part of day lilies is edible? Quite the versatile plant! I’ve not actually tried any parts, but according to Backyard Foraging, day lilies are one of the top edible ornamentals. I’ll leave you with some rain barrel and day lily cheer, in company of our mulberry tree, various mints, lamb’s ears, black lace elderberry and a bee-friendly shade flower mix:

Day lilies

Happy Growing!

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.

😉

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.

Garden Update ~ Sunflowers, Sun Oven Brownies, and Sunny, Oh, My!

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: despite all the lovely photos I’m about to share, the coolest thing to come out of the yard this past week was … Sun Oven brownies! Gluten-free vegan, moist, filled with chia and black bean goodness, melt in your mouth delicious Sun Oven brownies, to be more specific.

sun oven brownies

Even better? I made them for our friend Sunny’s (of Sunny’s Korean Restaurant in Mishawaka) Fourth of July potluck, which was an amazing mix of people Sunny has met over the years, mostly through her restaurant. We love her, and apparently, a ton of other people feel exactly the same way. She has possibly moved more concrete and rocks by herself than I have in order to create a backyard garden sanctuary, but she’s got chickens, so she wins the prize. Or at least some eggs. 🙂 Anyway, we had a great time, and the brownies were a hit. They tasted way better than when I baked them indoors for the Faery Workshop. Note to self: the Sun Oven makes everything better!

Speaking of sun, today, our first sunflower of the year opened:

It's a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

It’s a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

Things are blooming like crazy:

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

Carrots gone wild. The level of “good bug” activity in this bed alone is off the charts. It’s like mini-Manhattan for umbrel lovers.

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan's

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan’s

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out -- shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out — shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

cukes going up AND down the trellis

cukes going up AND down the trellis

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas ... tasty, but tedious!

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas … tasty, but tedious!

potatoes still looking good in their bags -- one of this year's experiments

potatoes still looking good in their bags — one of this year’s experiments

south side of that same trellis

south side of that same trellis

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw's bowing over and out (of the bed)

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw’s bowing over and out (of the bed)

The front yard's so lush now. This view's from the driveway.

The front yard’s so lush now. This view’s from the driveway.

Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement regarding the blue house. More to come after my PA trip.

Cheers and happy harvesting!

Spring Garden Update

I’ve been busy with sessions and super busy in the garden due to a “mistake” by the Arbor Day Foundation. Actually, I suspect it was faery magick, since I’ve been wracking my brain for a non-invasive partial shade friendly garden hedge. Instead of shipping me my mock sweet orange, groundcover juniper and hazelnut shrubs, Arbor Day sent me 30 North Privet hedge shrubs, 2 forsythias and a maple sapling. At first, I felt a little upset, but once I researched North Privet, I began to suspect my faery garden landscaper — seriously, a faery who works out the designs of this place whenever I feel stuck. 😉  I had just asked for some assistance again and whammo! All my prior plant and tree orders suddenly morphed. Anyway, I contacted Arbor Day Foundation, and they said to keep the hedge and that they’d send my correct order soon.

Thank you, but it also meant digging a 24 foot and then another 6 foot trench in which to plant these babies:

North Privet is a non-invasive hybrid species of privet, which can grow 12-15 feet tall, perfect for shielding out the next door apartments.

North Privet is a non-invasive hybrid species of privet, which can grow 12-15 feet tall, perfect for shielding out the next door apartments.

I also planted some on either side of our trellised grape vine in my neverending vertical garden quest to remove the view of the next-nextdoor neighbors’ garage roof. Our immediately nextdoor neighbors asked me to plant the maple in front of the garage for the same reason. We’re all hoping this tree will take off and provide coverage over that eyesore. The nextdoor neighbors also got one transplanted paw paw tree from our yard, and will soon receive the companion pollinator, once I have time to dig and replant. They’re excited for trees!

Given that the hedge and tree transplants occurred in the same week as a rose hedge arrived for the front yard, plus sedum ground cover for near the driveway, last week became a crazed planting frenzy in which phone sessions felt like a heavenly rest from digging. If I had known to prepare the soil in each spot, the digging would have gone faster, but this was hard, weedy ground. I’m still tired! For the first year, we’ll need to keep the hedge low, so it gets bushy, but come next year, I’ll be grateful for all that hard work when the magical cocoon of our yard shields out yet more of the non-magical surroundings.

At least we had some good food from the yard, though. In addition to loads of dandelion roots harvested, cleaned, chopped and frozen in preparation for a big roasting project on a cold day, we’ve got lots of fresh greens and various onions and chives, plus leftover dried tomatoes from last year. Greek salad to the rescue!

Garden fresh (and dried) produce for a Greek salad

Garden fresh (and dried) produce for a Greek salad

On Saturday, we had a brilliantly sunny, warm day as I worked in the garden, visited with our landlord and neighbors and prepped food for our evening Beltane celebration — all at the same time, thanks to the Sun Oven:

sun oven on Beltane

You can see the Sun Oven warming up above, near the newly created brick bed by a trellis that will show off the sweet potatoes, which look like morning glories. (The stone bed has row cover on it, so squirrels don’t dig up my flower transplants.) That Sun Oven rocks! On Saturday, I made moist, delicious falafel patties, as well as quinoa for a wheat free tabouli:

one of three simultaneously cooked trays of Sun Oven falafel

one of three simultaneously cooked trays of Sun Oven falafel

Sun Oven quinoa tastes amazing!

Sun Oven quinoa tastes amazing!

Thankfully, it’s flower season again in our yard, so we had some nice daffodils for the Beltane altar, as well as some bouquets for David’s mom and our friend who just had her baby:

daffodils

We’ve also got some dandy violets in our back”yard” :

dandy violets

Out front, you can see the dwarf Korean lilac getting ready to bloom among friends, along with some newly cut ash logs near the garage, which will eventually house shitake mushroom dowels if they ever arrive. Yes, another plant/tree/shroom shipping mixup. You need to inoculate logs within two weeks of cutting, so I’ll just have to hope the shrooms arrive sometime within that period. Otherwise, I guess it will be hugelkulture time!

lilac, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips

lilac, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips

Our Garden Tower got an early start this year. Instead of plucking out and eating excess seedlings, I put the tiniest ones into the Garden Tower to see if they’d grow. It took awhile for them to establish sizable roots, but they’ve all started growing. I keep them covered at night and during high winds:

zinnias, flamingo and red rhubarb chard, lacinato kale, fava beans, peas, and tiny lettuce sprouts up top

zinnias, flamingo and red rhubarb chard, lacinato kale, fava beans, peas, and tiny lettuce sprouts up top

Mr. Meyer Lemon finally got to go outside, as our frosty nights waned. He likes the sun, but calling him recovered would be quite the optimistic spin. I think he’ll live, though. He just got some amendments of green sand, which supposedly saves everything, as well as comfrey leaves and worm castings.

Meyer lemon recovering in sun

Out back, I planted seed potatoes in various grow bags. The green ones I ordered last year. The burlap came courtesy of my garden coffee supplier, who owns the Electric Brew in Goshen. He brings me bags and bags of coffee grounds, which provide NPK in a ratio most plants can use right away. You need to mix it in with the soil, though, and acidic plants seem to enjoy the grounds more. They’re pH neutral, but some plants like them better than others. Blueberries and roses especially love them. I’m hoping the burlap bag works well, because I have several more in the garage. I needed to donate a bunch of seed potatoes to Redtail Farm Community Garden, because I over-ordered for the number of bags I had. Oops! Now that I have more bags, I might see if I can find anymore potatoes to plant from around here.

potatoes in bags

Although I tend to have excellent luck growing from seeds, I’m getting more and more interested in perennial vegetables that just pop up without any additional effort after the initial planting. I had ordered a rhubarb, which arrived looking terribly sad and sickly. I planted it in what I now suspect was formerly a black walnut area, and as if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, a bird pooped on it! I tried to flush off the poop, but not before it burned the leaves with its nitrogen. I transplanted that rhubarb elsewhere, gave it all sorts of love and amendments, and it appears to be recovering. As synchronicity would have it, though, my across the alley neighbors offered me a free rhubarb plant on Saturday. I put this beauty under the grape vine trellis, where it will hopefully block out some of the thousands of dandelions trying to get in my garden beds:

rhubarb

I love having perennial vegetables green up in spring! Here’s sea kale leafing out next to Egyptian walking onions, garlic, and some annual cold season cover crop of peas and fava beans for nitrogen fixing:

cover crop and perennials

I just love perennials in general. One time planting, years of enjoyment. After all the hours yanking dandelions the past couple weeks, plus all the dozens of hours and layers of cardboard and wood mulch that proved no match for dandelions, I’m beginning to realize it’s all about out-planting them if I want any kind of diversity in this yard. Some are great, but do we really need ten thousand that each created ten thousand more? Um, no. Here we have rescued trillium with Jack in the Pulpit and fiddlehead ferns just peeking out in the rain:

trillium and ferns

Much, much more to come if my ordered plants ever arrive. An April 20th “ship date” was quite awhile ago, folks. Just sayin’. At least it gave me time to plant that hedge, though! Bonus with the North Privet? It attracts butterflies and birds, and you can form it into a topiary. I saved one for a front yard specimen (OK, saved isn’t the right word. Those things kept multiplying!) just in case David wants to get creative. 😉 Meanwhile, the garden has become its own community with neighbors, landlords, friends and dog walkers all stopping by to chat, admire and inquire. I’ve given free plant starts to people, received free seeds, have been asked to be on two garden tours, and have made new friends and deepened earlier connections.

Plus, it’s great therapy. Whenever I read about another assault on the Earth, I plant more flowers. Today’s Grand Canyon news story resulted in hardy gladiolus. Yesterday’s news brought ground cover day lilies to a backyard stump. The general ugliness of our street has brought an entire ecosystem to our yard and now spilling over into neighbors’ lots. As L.A.’s Ron Finley, the Gangster Gardener says, “Plant some shit!” And so I have … so I will.

Sarah Shah ~ Reclaimed Garden

Here’s a fun, thrifty video for anyone interested in repurposing materials and creating eco-friendly landscaping on the cheap. I’ve had another of those synchronous garden moments in which I put out a call for old concrete slabs to line garden beds like I did in Madison:

Reclaimed concrete edging in our Madison side garden (with newly planted GrowSoxx)

Reclaimed concrete edging in our Madison side garden (with newly planted GrowSoxx)

Just as in Madison, our next door neighbors smashed up their old concrete and left huge, unsightly piles by the curb. Thankfully, this time I have a wheelbarrow! It’s still hard work, but our mulched out front yard beds are beginning to take on an organic shape.

Without any plants yet, the beds look quite grim, so I started searching for the best plants to soften rocky edges. I think lavender and nasturtiums will look nice spilling over the edges, and some colorful creeping thyme can line the edge by the driveway. My search produced the inspiring video below. I thought I’d share here for anyone who’d like to have a garden but believes it would be cost prohibitive. If you don’t want to buy plants, you can cheaply grow them from seed. Begin asking around, too. Last year, I hit the mother lode of free plants on freecycle.org, and Sarah mentions craigslist.com as a great source of free plants:

I will probably need to rearrange some of our concrete slabs after tomorrow’s rain shows me what they look like without the dirt. David also doesn’t want tough edging against the grass or sidewalk, which means I need to find some sort of grass repellant, yet pretty border for the lawn areas. I’m sure some solution will present itself. In the meantime, it feels sooooo good to work outside again!

Cheers!