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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

On May 7th & 8th, I had the opportunity to attend a Forest Gardening workshop with one of my permaculture heroes, Eric Toensmeier, in West Chester, PA. There were so many awesome aspects to the weekend! To minimize driving, I took the train to Paoli, had a beautiful 10 mile bike ride to the workshop location, and met and stayed with some awesome folks through couchsurfing!

The workshop took place at the home of  sustainability educators Alan Wright & Paula Kline, who had hired permaculture designer Aaron Guman to work his permie magic on their property. We spent some time discussing the clients’ needs and Aaron’s design concepts before helping to install some perennial plantings (above).

Mollie Caitlin Brigid communing with cultivated King Stropharia

Special guest lectures included a whip-and-tongue grafting demonstration with Backyard Fruit Growers founder Chris Manning, and mushroom cultivation tutorials with Jared Urchek. Jared came out from Boulder, CO and discussed mushroom life cycles, varieties, and inoculation techniques with woodchips, straw, and logs.

We also broke off into groups to do site assessments throughout the property, later designing polyculture systems for different patches. Here are some general notes taken during the workshop:

Edible Forest Garden (EFG): Edible ecosystem modeled on the forest; perennial & low maintenance, providing ecosystem services & useful products.

By optimizing impact on land, we can work with its desire to become forest. Diverse polycultures minimize pest problems, and can achieve higher yields than annual cultures.

Utilizing Multipurpose Plants

Direct uses:

Edibles:
nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, flowers & flowerbuds, roots, tubers, leaves, shoots, tea & culinary

Other:
firewood, medicine, craft material, income, livestock fodder, honey, cut flowers, charcoal, mushrooms, seed & nursery stock, silkworms

Indirect uses:
Nitrogen fixing plants
insect nectary plants
habitat
mulch
groundcovers
decomposers (i.e. edible mushrooms)

Imitation

Architecture: layers, soil horizon, density, patterns, diversity

Social structure: niches, guilds, communities

Succession: patches, disturbance, non-linear evolution (mimic mid-succession)

Best Forest Gardening Species (N-fix means this species fixes nitrogen):

Tall Trees

walnut/ butternut/ heartnut
pecans/ hickories
oaks
nut pines
black locust (N-fix)
Japanese pagoda tree (N-fix)

Medium Trees

Chinese Chestnut
persimmon
paw-paw
mulberry
mimosa (N-fix)
alder (N-fix)

Small Trees & Shrubs

pears/ Asian pears
sea buckthorn (N-fix)
mayhaw
hazelnuts
native plums
bamboo
Amur Maackia (N-fix)

Shrubs

Amelanchier (serviceberry, juneberry, etc)
fig
Nanking cherry
goumi
bayberry
elderberry (native insectary)
highbush cranberry (viburnum)
Florida star anise
Ribes (currants, gooseberries, jostaberries)
running juneberry
blueberry
raspberry/ blackberry
New Jersey tea (N-fix)
Amorpha (false) Indigo (N-fix)

Vines

grape (fox & muscadine)
kiwi (hardy & arctic)
groundnut (N-fix)
hog peanut (N-fix)
Chinese yam
Hablitzia (climbing spinach)
maypop (native passionflower)

Herbs

jerusalem artichokes
rhubarb
fuki
Turkish rocket
taro
ostrich fern
comfrey
asparagus
giant solomon’s seal
nettle/ wood nettle
baptisia (N-fix)
thermopsis (N-fix)
sea kale
good King Henry
native perennial ground cherry
sweet cicely (insectary)
skirret
mayapple
large-flowered comfrey
ramps
sylvetta arugula
coreopsis (insectary)
Asclepias verticillata (whorled milkweed, insectary)
sorrel
Astragalus glycyphyllos (wild licorice, N-fix)
Chinese artichoke
water celery (insectary)
camas/ quamash (wild hyacinth)

Ground Covers

alpine strawberry
strawberry
foamflower (insectary)
wild ginger
toothwart
violets
prostrate birdsfoot trefoil (N-fix)
green & gold (insectary)
white clover
Waldesteinia (barren strawberry, inedible)
wild geranium (insectary)
fungi

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Yay! Spring and its new beginnings are finally here! Lee and I now have a base in beautiful West Philadelphia, and we’re ready to expand our edible & ornamental gardening services to city dwellers as well as our Bucks County customers. Plus, we’ll be able to do FREE soil testing before April 5, courtesy of Soil Kitchen! So drop us a line and let’s get growing!

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Well, we’re about to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Lunaria farm, which means our blog, and the seasons, have come full circle. Here we are at the end of winter, poised for new beginnings in the coming spring.

Gardeners all over are turning their attention to seeds. Today I attended a seed cleaning workshop at Bartram’s Garden, where we winnowed, threshed, and sifted to prepare packets for distribution. I was lucky enough to bring home some seeds of the unique epazote, a Mexican culinary and medicinal herb.

Lunaria is also offering a variety of seeds saved from last year’s harvest. We have several open-pollinated varieties, including some rare heirlooms, available for purchase online or for pickup in Upper Black Eddy or Philadelphia. Stock up, then refer to our post on seed-starting.

:::HERBS:::

Cilantro/ Coriander
Coriandrum sativum, annual
Direct sow after last frost. Does not transplant well. Will go to seed quickly in hot weather, so sow in successions throughout the season for a continuous supply.

Dill
Anethum graveolens, annual
Direct sow after last frost. Does not transplant well. Will go to seed quickly in hot weather, so sow in successions throughout the season for a continuous supply.

Garlic Chives
Allium tuberosum, perennial
80-90 days, sow indoors or direct sow after last frost
Onion-flavored leaf spears and delicious flowers which bloom late summer.

:::FRUITS & VEGETABLES:::

Melon Hearts of Gold (heirloom)
Cucumis Melo, annual
70-90 days, direct sow after last frost
2-3 lb fruit, personal-size cantaloup with sweet, orange flesh. Suitable for trellising.

Summer Squash Early Prolific Straightneck (heirloom)
Cucurbita pepo, annual
45 days, Direct sow 2-3 weeks after last frost.
Yellow straightneck variety resistant to squash bug. Plants can become too large and less productive with age, so try planting several successions a few weeks apart.

Winter Squash Waltham Butternut (heirloom)
Curcubita pepo, annual
100 days, direct sow 2-3 weeks after last frost
3-6 lb, delicious fruits on strong vines resistant to boring insects. Harvest just before first frost, leaving part of stem attached. Cure in warm area for week – 10 days, then store in dry area at 45 -55 degrees all winter.

Winter Squash Blue Hubbard (heirloom)
Curcubita maxima, annual
110 days, direct sow 2-3 weeks after last frost
Blue-gray skin & orange flesh. Harvest just before first frost, leaving part of stem attached. Cure in warm area for week – 10 days, then store in dry area at 45 -55 degrees all winter.

Winter Squash Red Kuri
Curcubita maxima, annual
80 days, direct sow 2-3 weeks after last frost
Red/ orange skin & orange flesh. Harvest just before first frost, leaving part of stem attached. Cure in warm area for week – 10 days, then store in dry area at 45 -55 degrees all winter.

Corn Blue Dent (heirloom)
Zea mays, annual
90 days, direct sow 1-2 weeks after last frost
Protein-rich variety for cornmeal, reaching 7-8 ft. Plant in blocks rather than rows to ensure good pollination. Harvest when husks are completely dry.

Corn Hooker’s Sweet Indian (heirloom)
Zea mays, annual
80 days, direct sow 1-2 weeks after last frost
4-5′ plants with 5-7″, semi-sweet, purple & white ears. Plant in blocks rather than rows to ensure good pollination. Harvest when silks turn brown. Best when eaten very fresh.

:::FLOWERS:::

Marigold African Crackerjack
Tagetes erecta, annual
Start indoors 4-6 wks before last frost, or direct sow after last frost
Large variety reaching 2-3 ft, with orange & yellow 4″ single and double blooms.

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Corn, beans, and squash effectively comprise the collective staff of life of the New World. These crops were so important and complemented each other so well, that they were known as “The Three Sisters,” with many legends celebrating their sustaining virtues.

A Hokkaido Stella Blue squash grown on a fence.

We try to do these New World native plants justice here at Lunaria, but none more than the winter squash, with whom we have a tasty love affair. I personally got so excited about them that I planted a few seeds on March 1, far before any sane gardener would think about squash. These tender crops are typically direct sown outdoors once the soil has thoroughly warmed up; they don’t like being transplanted. Well, ours were potted up and most were kept alive in sunny windows until last frost, and now they’re threatening to take down the fence of “Gary’s Garden” (named after the groundhog that kept infiltrating its perimeter). We have some ripening sugar pumpkins and stella blue hokkaidos that we expect to be ready in a few weeks. This should perfectly fulfill my intense craving for curried tomato-squash dishes.

Another one of our many experiments this year is corn. I’d always thought it somewhat inefficient, as it takes up a good amount of space relative to its cropping. Then, during my residence at Women’s Studio Workshop, I learned that the husks and stalks can be used to make a gorgeous, pale golden-green paper. Well that was enough to convince me to go ahead and try it. We planted 3 successions to stagger the ripening times, including a succession of transplanted corn. This is another crop that dislikes root disturbance, but we take the word of Elliot Coleman quite seriously, and decided to try it. We were elated with the results, as not a single transplant was lost, and they’re all still going strong.

Our Hooker's sweet corn planting in early July. The upper row was seeded a week earlier, transplanted, then mulched with grass clippings.

With most of our meals being vegetarian, we tend to eat a lot of beans – dry beans, that is. We can’t imagine a world without black bean quesadillas, chickpea hummus, or pinto bean chili. But when it comes to green beans… meh. Most gardeners think we’re crazy – “You don’t like green beans??!” – but we think we’re being quite rational. Besides not appealing to our particular palates, beans will always be produced at a loss for the small farmer. They are tedious to harvest, and they must be picked every day, yet they must be sold at rock-bottom prices to compete with industrial farms. Even our so-loved dry beans are uneconomical to dry, harvest, and shell, when organic dry beans are so readily available now. The main advantage of growing beans is their special characteristic of being nitrogen fixers. The legume family, including beans as well as peas, clover, peanuts, indigo, and lentils, capture the nitrogen from the air and “fix” it in the soil, making this essential nutrient available to other plants.

The Three Sisters planting in early July.

So this year’s garden includes a small amount of beans, a good stand of corn, and hopefully a year’s supply of squash. We’re really excited about a certain portion planted in the traditional, Native American, Three Sisters formation. We chose to plant heirloom varieties that would all be ready to harvest in autumn: blue dent maize for cornmeal, drought-tolerant tepary beans, and several varieties of cucurbits, including pumpkins, winter squash, and moon & stars watermelons.

Lee arranging cardboard around The Three Sisters to thwart weeds until the squash vines fill out. (Photo by Theresa Boles)

Corn is wind-pollinated, its tassels releasing their magic dust to the air to settle on the ear silks below. This fact of life prompts a break from the modern American row system – to ensure that each kernel develops (they are seeds, remember), the corn must be planted in blocks, or in this case, mounds. The first mounds, which are 18 inches across, staggered about 5 feet apart, and amended with aged horse manure, are each planted with 4 corn seeds. Then, when the corn germinates and reaches a height of 4-6 inches, a pole bean seed is planted in the same mound, 3 inches away from each corn seedling. In between the corn and beans, we create squash mounds of the same size, with 3 seeds planted in each.

The effect, once everything grows in, is a mutually-beneficial companion planting. The corn provides something on which the beans can climb. The beans fix nitrogen to provide nutrients to the other crops. The squash sprawls along the ground, suppressing weeds and providing a living mulch to retain soil moisture, while its prickly vines help deter hungry critters. And, come harvest, the delicious crops complement each other nutritionally. It’s hardly surprising that these crops were considered to be special gifts from the Creator. All of this botanical, gastronomic, and divine harmony kind of makes you want to enjoy some succotash while you plan your own Three Sisters garden for next year, doesn’t it?

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Here’s just a glimpse of what’s pickin’ at Lunaria right now, where change is the only constant. The delicious snap peas that started so early are finally winding down in this hot, dry start to summer. The broccoli are plumping out the last of the main florets or sending out their rays of side shoots. We’re starting to get a handful of tomatoes every day, mostly Romas and cherries with the heirlooms not far behind. With the June strawberry season long gone, we’ve stopped pinching the flowers on our first year everbearing varieties so they can focus on fruiting. We planted a few zucchinis only to be met with just as many volunteers, and so starts the season of squash at every meal. The herbs are coming full force; loads of basil, cilantro, chives, parsley, dill infusing the kitchen. Although one of our hens recently molted for 2 weeks (thereby creating feathers instead of eggs), they’re all laying spectacularly once again. and And our standby greens – the kale, chard, lettuce, cabbages – are chugging away through the heat of summer, obliging us with leaves for the taking.

That’s what’s picking, but there’s so much more just focusing on vegetative growth, sending out new stems and leaves and vines every day. Check out what some of the gardens are looking like lately:

The eastern half of the Helen Nast Memorial garden: zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, winter squash, and more.

The sorry-looking slips that arrived in the mail are beginning to look like lush, promising, sweet potato vines.

The mystery brassicas that we thought were broccoli, then maybe cabbage, have revealed themselves as brussels sprouts, to which we say "Yum!"

Our attempt at a sun-trap garden on the shady property: melons & cucumbers on the fence, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, peppers, & ground cherries, undersown with radishes & lettuce.

We've had the delight of bringing in a few of these yellow straightneck "siamese squash."

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It’s our first workshop in Pennsylvania! And what better way to kick off the curriculum than with an organic garden work party! Come learn how to turn your lawn into an thriving, abundant, edible paradise!

Lee has designed a simple raised bed vegetable garden for a woman who was interested in growing her own food. We will be erecting an 8 foot deer fence, as well as a skirt extension to keep groundhogs out, assembling a raised bed, filling it with soil, and planting lots of veggies!

Come learn about organic gardening, lend a hand, eat some food (lunch will be provided at 1:00), bring an instrument, and have fun!

Please RSVP on the Facebook event or email if you’ll be joining us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

@ Dorothy’s House, 1751 East Saw Mill Road, Quakertown, PA map

UPDATE 6/23: Photos!

Before the workday, Lee dropped off the soil on site

The wood was cut to size to create a 3' x 15' box, secured with L-brackets.

We lined the bottom with uncoated cardboard to suppress any grass or weeds.

The box was filled with soil.

Our helpers arrived and began working on the fence while we raked the soil level.

To deter groundhogs, we made a skirt around the perimeter out of a 4' roll of 1"x4" welded wire.

Deer netting was installed overhead and around the perimeter.

We planted seeds and transplants and watered them in.

The final garden, ready to thwart critters and feed a family!

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Great news! Our little corner of Upper Bucks County seems to be beyond the reach of frosty nights until fall. That’s right, our last expected frost date is May 15 around these parts. I might have just jinxed it, but we gotta talk transplanting.

So hopefully all of you have followed the directions in our first post, and now your windowsills and newly-built coldframes are full of little tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, and all those other yummies that would quickly perish in cold weather. If they have at least one set of true leaves, the seedlings are ready for the next stage of life. Here’s what to do with them:

Hardening off seedlings on the porch

Step 1: Hardening Off

If they’ve been started indoors, those seedlings have led a very sheltered life thus far. They’ve never felt a northwestern wind, a driving rain, or the full force of a sunny day. Experiencing all of these new sensations can sometimes be quite a shock. Take care of your young ones and ease them into the elements. You can start indoors by opening the windows or putting a gentle fan on them or even jiggling the table they’re on. This kind of movement will encourage the seedlings to grow the sturdy stems necessary for life in the great outdoors.

A warm, cloudy day is the best time to expose them to the outside world. Place them in the shade, where they’ll be sheltered from strong winds. This first day they should only be out for a few hours. Gradually, over the course of a week, the length of time they’re left outside, as well as their exposure to full sunlight, is increased, until they are macho enough to be out day and night. After acclimating to nighttime temps, they should be ready to go in the ground.

Step 2: Transplanting

So hopefully while the little guys have been hardening off, you’ve been thinking up the best spot for them to live and prepared a bed for them. Depending on the plants’ needs, that might mean loosening the soil or mixing in organic matter, so the roots can start growing deep and strong as soon as they’re put in the ground. To avoid baking your tender transplants, choose a cloudy day or evening. We like to go on transplanting binges before rain, so the roots can get watered in nice and deep.

Hold like so, & tap the pot until the root ball releases

When you’ve figured out the best spot and spacing for the plant, cut a hole with a trowel into the soil, carefully release the seedling from the container, and place it into the earth, disturbing the roots as little as possible. It is well known that tomatoes can be transplanted deeper than the original soil line – they will send out roots at any point on their stem. Some research has shown that peppers and brassicas (cabbage family) can be planted a little deeper, but if in doubt, transplant to the original soil line. Fill in any gaps in the hole and pat the dirt around the roots, making sure the plant isn’t sunken below, or mounded above the soil level. Then, water your transplants deeply, promoting good contact between the roots and soil.

Step 3: Tending the Transplants

Keep your transplants well-watered for the first week or so. This will buffer them against shock and guard against withering in the hot sun. Some plants, like sweet potatoes, benefit greatly from some protection from direct sun at first. One trick is to cut the bottoms off of plastic pots and put them over  the plants for a few days. Let the transplants focus on root development for a couple of weeks before adding any manure or other nitrogenous fertilizer. Then just keep an eye on the weeds and water occasionally, and wait for the harvest!

Red Express cabbages in the great outdoors

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