Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring in our permaculture garden

My husband taking a break after building 10 garden boxes. 
Horseradish peaking out
Rhubarb peaking out
     Gardening can be made much easier by first studying your growing area. Now I consider myself more of a accidental gardener or maybe a more intuitive gardener if you will. I am not found of measuring soil moisture, nutrient content or ph level. I just don't think God meant for it to be that difficult to grow food.  I do however look at the area and become aware of what likes to grow in the soil naturally because this can tell you the same things all those tests can tell you without having to decipher the numbers. So how does this all apply to the kind of garden we are putting in.... a food forest hybrid garden? Well as I talked to the lady at our local ag center she was surprised by what we were doing. She asked why we wanted to do a permaculture garden, saying "that is unique." I explained that it just seemed natural to set-up a system of growing that the perennials, fruit bushes and fruit trees help each other to gain the nutrients they need and help to make them better able to fight off disease and insects. She had her doubts that I can produce enough food to do a small CSA.... so I take that as a challenge not just to prove her wrong and grow lots of food but also to educate others on the benefits all around to a food forest garden. More bees, butterflies, birds, no chemicals, flowers, less weeding, etc. 

So what is in the garden and what will go in the garden as the season progresses? 

    We put in 10 raised beds for annuals that don't need permanent planting, can be rotated through the years, need some trellising, and can be successionally planted. I didn't make them deeper because the soil underneath is really good. Using raised beds for annuals keeps the ground looser because your not walking in the bed and you don't need to buy a tiller. I also don't like using heavy equipment when I can use a hand tool or an animal to do the work for me. 
    The fencing is almost done. That is to keep my dogs and the large population of deer out of the main garden. There will be more trees and bushes outside the fence but they will be more deer and dog resistant. Some will be to give the wildlife something to share as well. Some plant/trees for outside the garden are elder berry, paw paw trees, redbud trees, wet area wildflowers for near our creek, nanking cherries, lavender bed, a perennial flower bed, hazelnut bushes(closer to the house), jerusalem artichokes, ground nuts, and in front of the house a small culinary herb garden. 
    Our soil is rich from being in the flood plane of the Schuylkill river. That sounds great but it makes for some challenges with plants that prefer poorer dryer soil like lavender and some Mediterranean herbs. We will be planting the lavender bed on a hill with good drainage, sand added and marble chips to help reflect the suns warm rays. We also picked 2 kinds that do well in our northern climate; Hidcote and Grosso. I will be using them for making herbal salves, lavender water, sachets, and bundles to sell. We won't be growing enough at this time to consider making our own essential oil.
    The plants and trees that were in the garden area have been pruned. The perennial bed that grows asparagus, horseradish, garlic and rhubarb has been cleaned up for spring. To that we will add Good King Henry a perennial spinach, Lovage(celery like), and more walking onions. In between the rows I will plant parsley to help with the health of all the plants. We may need to add more asparagus to the bed too. I will add purple asparagus to the empty spots. Around the perimeter we have 2 nectarines, 2 pears, a willow tree, and 2 hollies. We will add 4 apples trees, 2 crab apple trees, 2 peach, 1 apricot, 1 plum, clove currants, gooseberry, honey berries, raspberries and in one corner a three sister area(corn, squash and dry pole beans). Under fruit trees and berry bushes we will plant perennial herbs and plants. We ordered 75 alpine strawberries, assorted herbs like thyme, chives, borage, lemon balm, meadow mint, and comfrey. 
    There is some shade in the garden which I am hoping will provide us with some gourmet mushrooms too. Only time will tell what we will continue to grow. Also as the fruit trees grow and give more shade we will have to add a different set of plants to the mix. 
    Eventually in the actual forest we will plant ramps, goldenseal, wintergreen, ferns and some hardwood trees. They may not all take but we are going to try. 

So this may seem overwhelming to some but I challenge you to try a few edible perennials around your home. Maybe even a fruit tree and some berry bushes. It is fun to experiment and see what grows. 

Happy spring everyone!