Posts Tagged ‘Fall Gardening’

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.

 

Flower Angel

David snapped this photo on his way out of the car at lunch. So sweet! I was just thinking how grateful I am for calendula still blooming in November:

Flower Angel

Planning Next Year’s Harvest ~ Lasagna Gardening How-To

It may not seem like it, but now’s a fabulous time to begin imagining, designing and plotting next year’s garden. As we come into the season of fallen leaves, straw bales, and this summer’s yard waste, a little planning can turn all that free biomass into fertile, no-till soil. As a Mad Scientist Gardener, I’ve tried all sorts of methods, depending on the location and juglone (toxin from black walnut) levels of my soil. The Lasagna Gardening method, also called “sheet mulching” builds rich, deep soil over the winter, so you don’t need to dig in spring.

I love it so much, I’ll be using it to create a horseshoe shaped asparagus bed in the Blue House yard, a perfect edible hideaway for gatherings from spring through fall. I learned yesterday that an 18″ underground electrical line cuts through my would be horseshoe, and asparagus gets dug in deep. This information only solidified my original plan to build the soil up so that I wouldn’t need to dig down. It’s a great way to kill off grass and weeds, too, incorporating them into the overall soil fertility.

For those who find the idea of a no-till garden intriguing, here’s a Mother Earth News full description of how and why to try Lasagna Gardening for next year’s bounty. Enjoy the planning …. and the harvest!

Cultivating Beauty: Fall Garden Photos

Today, my friend Jerry of the Large Truck helped me gather concrete blocks to line our landlord’s garage (a barrier between mulch and siding), straw bales for winterizing beds, rebar for protecting trees with chicken wire, and potting soil for winter sowing herbs. The guy at the concrete pickup commented, “Well, surely, your garden must be just about done, isn’t it? All packed up?” Um, not exactly. I told him I grow all fall and winter, and things were still quite lush, thank you very much. 🙂

As integrated beings who are part of Nature, we can hold, embody and honor all the contrasts, both the flowering abundance and the rotting into compost, which brings forth fertility and life. As one season fades into another, we need not mourn or fear what comes. Death is part of life, and if you keep sowing seeds, then life keeps popping up throughout the year. Today’s misty Northern California weather surrounds the flowers like a soft blanket of autumn beauty. From my heart to yours, enjoy!

Greetings from the front yard

Greetings from the front yard

The central front bed with reblooming snapdragons, mums, zinnias, sea kale and other bee and butterfly havens

The central front bed with reblooming snapdragons, mums, zinnias, sea kale and other bee and butterfly havens

asters, hyssop, lavender, iris, black eyed Susans and more up front

asters, hyssop, lavender, iris, black eyed Susans and more up front

perennial hollyhocks that will bloom each year, along side the newly placed concrete to protect the landlord's garage

perennial hollyhocks that will bloom each year, along side the newly placed concrete to protect the landlord’s garage

alley side grapes, raspberries, with poke poking out in the background

alley side grapes, raspberries, with poke poking out in the background

new alley-side garden bed with concrete liners

new alley-side garden bed with concrete liners

back yard beds

back yard beds

glorious sedum, marigolds, nasturtium and black eyed Susan's with a peek of rose

glorious sedum, marigolds, nasturtium and black eyed Susan’s with a peek of rose

apple tree and friends -- aronia berry, jostaberry, marigolds, strawberries and more

apple tree and friends — aronia berry, jostaberry, marigolds, strawberries and more

cherry tree and friends -- in the spring we'll see flowering chives and daffodils

cherry tree and friends — in the spring we’ll see flowering chives and daffodils

first ripe lemon

first ripe lemon

first ripe fairy tale pumpkin

first ripe fairy tale pumpkin

cosmos and compost --with brassicas

cosmos and compost –with brassicas

nearly finished tomato beds with lavender, daikon radish, marigolds, tomatillos and parsley filling in the blanks

nearly finished tomato beds with lavender, daikon radish, marigolds, tomatillos and parsley filling in the blanks

straw bales ready for putting this bed to bed

straw bales ready for putting this bed to bed

back yard beauty

back yard beauty

Winter Gardening Ideas

Here’s John Kohler, whose garden I have visited and tasted (amazingly yummy inspiration to grow your own food!), giving a tour of his Northern California winter garden. If you live in a cooler climate than Sonoma County, then now would be the time to start growing some of the things he mentions. This video just reminded me to get some miner’s lettuce seeds to plant under trees. $6 /pound or free and reseeding as “weeds”? Um, yum! I’ll take the miner’s lettuce. 🙂 You can also mimic a warmer climate by getting floating row covers and cold frames.

Garden Update: Curcubits, Kale, Cosmos and Flowers Galore!

This has been the week of curcubits (pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, zucchini and serpentine gourd):

The Fairy Tale Pumpkin is turning orange!

The Fairy Tale Pumpkin is turning orange!


Concrete cantaloupe: oops! I didn't see this guy until he'd already wedged himself firmly into the concrete. Some friends suggested we cut a sliver when ripe and then shimmy it out. Tomorrow's fun project. (And yes, that is a perfectly captured fly on the gnome's cheek. LOL, such photographic skill!)

Concrete cantaloupe: oops! I didn’t see this guy until he’d already wedged himself firmly into the concrete. Some friends suggested we cut a sliver when ripe and then shimmy it out. Tomorrow’s fun project. (And yes, that is a perfectly captured fly on the gnome’s cheek. LOL, such photographic skill!)


One morning's partial harvest. We have cantaloupes busting out all over the place. They've been eaten, given away, pickled, frozen, made into cinnamon-camu berry smoothies. All we can say is yum!

One morning’s partial harvest. We have cantaloupes busting out all over the place. They’ve been eaten, given away, pickled, frozen, made into cinnamon-camu berry smoothies. All we can say is yum!


These serpentine gourds taste like a milder version of zucchini. Some have grown nearly 4 feet long! Just a couple shown here with kale for chocolate kale chips. I dried the gourds into savory chips while dehydrating the kale.

These serpentine gourds taste like a milder version of zucchini. Some have grown nearly 4 feet long! Just a couple shown here with kale for chocolate kale chips. I dried the gourds into savory chips while dehydrating the kale.


First ripe watermelon: a Russian variety called Small Shining Light. At first I thought it was just OK. Then I refrigerated it. OMG! Heaven! Also delicious blended with the rind into a refreshing smoothie.

First ripe watermelon: a Russian variety called Small Shining Light. At first I thought it was just OK. Then I refrigerated it. OMG! Heaven! Also delicious blended with the rind into a refreshing smoothie.


This shows the back beds AFTER removing all the cantaloupe vines, which had acquired powdery mildew. The fruits were fine, and truthfully, we were running out of room for the vines anyway.

This shows the back beds AFTER removing all the cantaloupe vines, which had acquired powdery mildew. The fruits were fine, and truthfully, we were running out of room for the vines anyway.


More post-cantaloupe raised beds. You can see fall starting to show a bit, and the cleared areas already have fall crops sown or await garlic planting in a few weeks.

More post-cantaloupe raised beds. You can see fall starting to show a bit, and the cleared areas already have fall crops sown or await garlic planting in a few weeks.


I've been harvesting like crazy from the front yard cottage garden, but you can't even tell.

I’ve been harvesting like crazy from the front yard cottage garden, but you can’t even tell.


The tree collards keep replenishing as soon as I harvest loads of leaves for dehydrating.

The tree collards keep replenishing as soon as I harvest loads of leaves for dehydrating.


Another angle of the front beds. The nasturtiums, kale and sedum are loving the pre-autumnal weather.

Another angle of the front beds. The nasturtiums, kale and sedum are loving the pre-autumnal weather.


So glad I planted multiple varieties of sunflowers. These autumn harvest sunnies bloomed just when the others tanked.

So glad I planted multiple varieties of sunflowers. These autumn harvest sunnies bloomed just when the others tanked.


I don't know if this is normally their season, but the garlic chives decided to bloom.

I don’t know if this is normally their season, but the garlic chives decided to bloom.


I grow two giant pokes as ornamentals and winter bird feeders, along with cosmos and grape in the summer. Yesterday involved major pruning to relocate the gate.

I grow two giant pokes as ornamentals and winter bird feeders, along with cosmos and grape in the summer. Yesterday involved major pruning to relocate the gate.


In addition to the giant poke, the Garden Tower remains a conversation piece. This one has been harvested and replanted in some spots for fall.

In addition to the giant poke, the Garden Tower remains a conversation piece. This one has been harvested and replanted in some spots for fall.

Fall is in the air, but I look forward to the September, October and November blooms: pineapple sage with its gorgeous red flowers, pink asters, another round of echinacea, sedum, unbelievably large marigolds … I don’t even know if I’ll have room for mums this year!

Mount Mulchmore and the Cold Frame “Skirt”

I had finally whittled down our fifth huge pile of wood chips to perhaps one or two afternoons’ work. After a long day of sessions and calls to volunteers for our local food security week events (which have turned into two weeks of events!), I walked outside to get the mail. Dale, the man building our next door neighbors’ two new porches, cracked up as he watched my jaw drop and heard a loud cry escape my throat. This is the scene that greeted me:

Mount Mulchmore: wood ships on the left, shredded leaves on the right

Mount Mulchmore: wood ships on the left, shredded leaves on the right

I really did almost break into tears right then and there, because I had completely forgotten about asking the man who maintains the apartments on the other side of us to dump a huge pile of leaves “anytime this Fall.” Ohhhhh, man! Have I mentioned I’m actually looking forward to Winter? 😉 Anyway, in sighing about this huge pile of extra work to David’s mom, she explained to me that the leaves came from their yard and to “take good care of them.” We joked about her helping me move them, but through the joking I learned that in all seriousness, the guy who maintains the apartments’ yard also maintains David’s parents’ yard, and he specially mulched them for better gardening use. Sure enough, when I returned home and mustered enough courage to inspect the leaves, they were well chopped and already clumped. Since I had just the day prior to delivery said to David, “I really need some leaves for the raised beds!” I can’t complain. “Ask and you shall receive” is seriously evident in my life these days. Almost immediately so.

Yesterday, the “Bed Bed” (a repurposed Sleep Number bed frame) got a couple inches of compost and several inches of leaves:

mulched bed bed

Once I realized that I could use whatever leaves I want now and then bag them up for another round in Spring, I relaxed about the work. It’s windy! Not the best time for figuring out where to put all these leaves. Plus, I have a wood mulch clearance deadline of early next week, so this will work out just fine. Rotted leaves made excellent mulch this Spring, keeping our beds moist and dandelion-free. The plants really love all the nutrients from the leaves as they begin to break down. While cleaning up the Bed Bed, I harvested this giant green onion I had replanted from the store this Summer:

Giant Green Onion and Messa Greens

We had the white part of the onion last night in a homemade spaghetti sauce David made from some Farmers Market peppers, homegrown tomatoes (fresh, dehydrated, frozen puree with oregano), and co-op mushrooms, served over peeled zucchini “fettucini.” Um, wow! David makes the best sauce and soups! (I’m sure all the fresh, local, organic produce doesn’t hurt, either.)

spaghetti

Meanwhile, back in the yard, David was also the master engineer for errant, flying cold frames. Ours is now expertly anchored on all four corners, plus it has a 4-tarp “skirt” to block those nasty drafts that can damage plants even more than snow or frost. Did you know that snow is actually an effective winter mulch for cold hardy plants? “Four-Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman will tell you all about that and more. Anyway, it’s not the prettiest thing we’ve ever seen, but it has stayed in place despite our crazy Northern Indiana gusts:

Cold frame skirt

In the back, you can see a repurposed sheer shower curtain protecting my tree collards until I figure out what to do with them. They were some of our favorite eating this year, but they’re not hardy in Zone 5b unless you can get them buried and majorly mulched. Ours haven’t re-rooted yet, so I’m a bit nervous to smother them. Mr. Gnome kindly oversees the whole shower curtain operation, carrying fire wood just in case those plants need a bit of extra warmth:

Mr. Gnome

Our rosemary also got “fleeced” last night, and it will continue to do so until Yours Truly gets motivated enough to dig it up and pot it inside for the Winter. Poor, non-cold-hardy rosemary. If only you weren’t so pretty and delicious smelling, you wouldn’t need to look so silly:

Rosemary fleece

In the background — above — you can see another raised bed happily leaf mulched. Look at those calendula go!

Calendula flowers, ruby chard, French sorrel, parsley, oregano and kale ... one diverse, happy family

Calendula flowers, ruby chard, French sorrel, parsley, oregano and kale … one diverse, happy family

Inside, I’ve got tarragon and chocolate mint drying alongside a Lone Alaskan Pea Pod! (I planted those too late in the season, in a spot too shaded by my crazy huge lemongrass plant, and I’m sorry to say, I’ve completely neglected watering them for weeks. That we have any peas is a miracle. We have more growing, but I doubt they’ll handle this week’s cold temps.)

Chocolate Mint, Tarragon and the Lone Alaskan Pea

According Eliot Coleman, fresh peas from the garden are enough reason in and of themselves to justify an entire season of gardening. I guess we’ll see about that tonight! Acorn squash, the Lone Alaskan Pea Pod, and a whole messa greens. Mmmmmmm, can’t wait. I do love fresh food and pretty flowers. LOL, can you tell?