Food Forest Floor: Groundcovers ~ Nitrogen Fixers & ‘Weeds’. What goes on the ground under a ‘food forest’? The truth is that the lowest tier of plants should be providing shade just inches above the surface. But when you are just starting a food forest the ground can be fairly bare. Here are some groundcover suggestions that will improve or preserve that top soil until the lush installation takes over. As for planting instructions: for the perennial, nitrogen fixing plants, scratch the surface of the soil with a rake and hand cast the perennial seed. Water to set into the marred ground. Water very lightly every day unless it rains. You could see sprouts within the first week. Watering will increase growth, but you can reduce to “when the ground is dry” once the plant is growing. For the annual ‘weeds’: find them in your favorite deserted lot. Look for pig weed, purslane, knotweed, low mallow. Collect in fall when seed sets in paper bags and spread on ground after winter snow is off. Keep the area mowed using chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, string trimmer or hand mower. Hand pull from immediately around the shrub and tree bases. Leave some groundcover flowers for all-season pollinators. #thegardenisnotclosed
“Food forest” is one of those permaculture terms that always feels like the secret language of only special people with special knowledge. Folks, it’s a windbreak, a privacy hedge, a hedgerow in the oldest sense. But it is a well-thought out windbreak or hedge. One that fits with the terrain, and the human, and the resources. It is truly organic, rising from the environment. Why do I keep the lowest branches and suckers trimmed up? To let the sun in on the lower plants and to be able to see the gliding markings of the local snakes including the rattlers. One moved in about two weeks ago. Almost four feet long, I saw him twice before the field of fire near the cabin was clear to safely move him on to his next incarnation. My knees started to shake ten minutes later, while his head was still moving, looking for a target. Building habitat does not mean pretending to talk to the animals. I love my 6 foot bullsnakes; they supervise me daily as I water in the nursery. Permaculture or “back to the land” does not mean drinking some Earth Mother KoolAid.
I’m posting some short videos on the Tara Farm and Nursery YouTube channel on my “food forests” here in the Great High and Dry Wind Corridor of Central Wyoming. This one is Number 2, so when you are there take a look at the first video as well (Food Forest: Tier One). Number III will be on the groundcover that I use and why. The information can be applied to a city lot, a suburban property or on the rural homestead. #thegardenisnotclosed !! Just ask the snakes….
Sorry it’s been so long! May and June are crazy busy months. But to have those warm winter treats from my own gardens I choose to work hard right now.. After seeing an increase in posts online about “food forests”, and living in The Wind Corridor of the Northern Rockies, I decided to do a series of videos on food forest/ windbreaks / hedgerows. We will look at trees and shrubs that do well in Central Wyoming, what “tiers” are, maintenance and management, and stories of success and failure. Feel free to Message, email or text with questions. Beautiful day; get outside #thegardenisnotclosed !!
#thegardenisnotclosed The Garden Is NOT Closed! Take a look at an easy precipitation harvest setup -rain and/or snowmelt to keep the clay – soil Meditation Garden waking up. My hands are washed but the scars prove my work! Let’s get outside!
All Together Now: Free Remote Consults Beginning March 30
Text, Email or Messenger & Get Discounts
Every spring I get texts (got one today!!), emails and phone calls with questions on plants, gardens, water, soil and design projects.
Starting March 30, 2020 I will be taking questions and brainstorming by text, email, Facebook Messenger or by message from the The Refuge Permaculture Center website (www.tarafarmandnursery.com).
You can attach photos or videos to texts and emails (bigger files are better on emails.)
[“I had leaves! Where did my leaves go??” “Is the ground wet?” “Yes.” “What do you see in the mud?” “Oh. Deer tracks. Never mind. Thanks.” ]
The NEW part is that everyone I work with remotely will also receive a 15% discount on the following:
Plants and Seeds from the Nursery
On Site Consultations
Concept and Design Work
Classes (except for OLLI classes through Casper College)
Full Design and Installation Planning
So any time after 8:00 a.m. on March 30, 2020 reach out! I will answer your question or get back to you for discussion as soon as possible. I will then add your name and contact information to the discount and email list so that you can receive messages about upcoming events.
Visits to The Refuge: Later this summer (depending on the status of my little friends the grasshoppers) I will be opening up for small tours – either individuals or up to five in a group; (hugging or kissing of plants only!!)
“What About Classes?”: I am also working on adding narration to some of my PowerPoint presentations and packaging them for viewing online. The cost of access will include the above discounts as well as free remote consults.
“Will You Be At Natrona County Master Gardeners Farmers Market This Year?”: If things continue to go well, I am still hoping to set up a plant sale in town late this summer or early fall (which is still a great time to plant perennial shrubs and grasses.) It may not be at the Ag Ext building, but I will post locations. (Possibly Tractor Supply if public gatherings seem safe by then.)
The Earth Abides, and so will we, with planning, creativity and calm.
Duck egg / asparagus / mushroom / mozzarella scramble last night. It was the last of the 2019 frozen asparagus; the duck eggs were fresh. (I’m getting a dozen every couple days and sharing them with my neighbor.) The ducks are presently cultivating the Meditation Garden, the little vineyard and the the Ribes Patch (gooseberries and currants). I will pull the ducks out in a week or so because with a little bit more moisture the asparagus will start to break through. Ducks spot the tender spears before I do and nibble them right down below the ground surface. Here we take a close look at asparagus – a perennial vegetable that grows really well here, liking alkaline soils, and hates to be moved. Nothing like fresh asparagus! NOTE: I didn’t mention it in the video but don’t blanch the asparagus before you freeze it. That makes it mush when defrosted. Just wash with very cold water, chop into pieces or leave as spears, seal well removing all air from the freezer bag (or use a vacuum process) and get it into the freezer quick. To preserve for a few days use, make a fresh cut at the base of the spear and arrange the spears in a Mason or other jar with cold water, just like a flower arrangement. The spears will continue to “drink” for a day or so. Enjoy!
Between heavy, wet spring snow, monsoonal downpours and temperatures changing 40 degrees in a matter of hours, there are many things to be done outside. This is your Un-COVID source of calming, productive, earthy exercise and information. This was an easy project, although there is a little more securing to be done before the first 125 mph micro-burst comes along. Living a mile high with mountain gaps to intensify storm activity is a real challenge, not to mention the salty, clay soil; quick-draining-drying sand; and mineral heavy ground water. But that is what gets us out there every year: the challenge and the results. Step into the nursery for a look at a simple project that may help to increase productivity through a little inexpensive protection.
Gooseberry fruit only develops on the underside of new wood. Watch those nasty little thorns, please. On branches that are well established and are woody, find potential leaf bud about 1/3 in from the end. Use sharp pruners. Cut at about a 45 degree angle at a point that will encourage the new wood to point up. This makes getting to the fruit – around those thorns! – alot easier. The bushes will be coming out of dormancy very soon now. But PLEEZE do not make yourself crazy by being afraid you are doing it wrong! Animals that browse and break wild gooseberry bushes don’t watch a video on YouTube first. As long as you don’t mow it to the ground, you will both survive. Now, Saturday morning, grab that coffee and enjoy this weather while it lasts … like the next 5 minutes …
In the Great High and Dry of Central Wyoming (USA) one of the first plants to wake up will be the asparagus. Usually in April. it is so difficult to wait until a dozen or so spears poke up through the soil. I only harvest a few of the new spears, and then daily based on how many healthy spears break through. During the season I only harvest half of what is produced. The rest I leave for the fern texture , the flow movement, seed for future plants. The other two plants that wake up about the same time are the currants ( primarily Ribes nigra “Black Currant”) producing shy, light violet, bell-shaped flowers, and Rhubarb, unfurling dark green crinkley leaves. If the weather holds in the 50s for a week or so at this time, the bumble bees will come out of hibernation and shake the currant bushes with the hum of their wings. These early perennial fruits and vegetables can be the only food you will get from your perennial gardens in some years. Farmers Almanac says this year will be wet and cool. If that comes to pass other fruits like chokecherries and first crop of everbearing raspberry may not even show. If a fruit shrub is happy in spring – wet and cool – it often will not produce stress hormones which cause flowers to be produced. Without flowers, no fruit. Let the soil dry out before watering in a wet, cool spring. It is so difficult to wait for all of it, to be patient. I’m trying an heirloom chickpea to make hummus next winter and I cant even start them inside until May … breathe, draw pictures, create plans, be ready. ** Scheduling Garden Consults, Classes and Plant Sales very, very soon…..
“Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.” ~ Rumi
… another fork full, MuMa!! We are still waiting!! Continue reading