Monday, April 29, 2013

What's in your garden?

 I know I haven't posted in a month but I was very busy planting! I think growing things should be on everyones list to do. Why you ask? Because groceries aren't getting any cheaper, food is getting scarier(do you know what is in your food?) and it is a miracle every time something grows. I like food security so I do what I can here on my little farm.
    Some folks ask how do you decide what to plant?
Well I first look at what my family eats and uses medicianlly. I made a list of all the foods and herbs I can grow here in my climate without a fancy greenhouse. If you don't use herbs yet but would like to try to grow them and learn to use them... here is my list of where I think most families should start.

Family friendly herbs: (Remember to make sure you read the latin names and make sure none of these herbs are hybrids and are being cultivated for just their flowers or size but are the herbs you want to use in your home. To educate yourself about herbs, their uses, recipes and how to grow them try
Lemon Balm
White Sage
Also learn to correctly identify chickweed, plantain, and nettle on your property or at a park. They are great herbs to learn how to use in your home.
    After herbs I make a list of vegetables and fruit we eat. Then decide what I can grow in my area. I also look to see if any of these plants come in a perennial version so I don't have to plant it every year. Some vegetables like spinach, celery, onions, and a few others have a perennial version. When this list is made I then start to find sources for all these goodies(We use Fedco, High Mowing Seeds and Seed Savers for most of our plants and seeds).
   We built raised beds for tender annuals so we won't need a rototiller and they won't get compacted from walking on them. In these boxes we plant peas, onions, carrots, lettuce, radish, beets, bush beans, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, parsnips, and turnips. Annual herbs like cilantro, basil, calendula, nasturtiums and dill get planted with the vegetables we use them with in recipes. Calendula and nasturtiums benefits all plants so they get put everywhere there is open space. We eat the petals and flowers in salads. Square foot gardening is a great way to get the most out of this type of space.
    We do have a perennial bed that we grow rhubarb, horseradish, garlic, walking onions, Good King Henry, sorrel, lovage, parsley, and asparagus in. Next to that we have raspberries in red and black. There is also an area my husband wants to try his hand at the Three Sisters this year. This is an area that he will till and plant with corn, beans and squash interplanted.
   As we cut down old trees and bushes that are starting to die we replant with edible or medicinal trees. We like willow, apple, peach, nectarine, prune plum, pear, apricot, crab apple, elderberry, nanking cherry, hazel nuts, paw paw, witch hazel, blueberry, honeyberry, currants, gooseberry, korean pine, white pine, chestnut, rugosa rose, Slippery Elm, sugar maple, and grapes. Now you may not have room to grow all that but you can pick a few that your family might use.
    One last advice... if you remember me mentioning permaculture in my last post... this is how I fit some of these items together. It is called a guild of plants that are beneficial to each other. Say you have a small crab apple you can tuck in your backyard. Under that tree you could plant chives, a comfrey plant, alpine strawberries and maybe a couple currant bushes all within the drip line of that tree. It uses your space wisely, helps the tree gain nutrients deeper in the ground, helps fight off certain disease of that tree, provides insectary for beneficial bugs and gives a little shade to the other plants. Oh and it looks pretty! Put a little garden bench near there and you are ready to enjoy the beauty.. oh that is a relaxing benefit to you!
    If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me. I love giving advice in this area and helping others get started with a small or larger garden. I don't pretend to know it all about gardening or permaculture.... just enough to make me dangerous or inspiring depending on how you look at it.