Winter hardy, challenging-soil loving, perennial vegetables that are some of our favorite foods. Perfect for the ground level of your food forest or to mix in easily with a flower garden.
Folks who want food forests in Central Wyoming ask what food perennials can be planted at ground level? These are the two are the best. I have both of these in my Refuge Garden.
The asparagus in my Refuge Garden are the first food to appear, usually in late March, over night. About the same time the ducks start laying… fresh asparagus-duck egg omelette to celebrate spring is amazing. The other amazing thing is that asparagus seems to be perfectly happy in this ancient, clay sea-bottom. That having been said, that clay needs to be kept very wet – by rain, or melting snow or you watering – or the spear tips are damaged and growth is challenged.
Asparagus from seed will take five years to build a root system and then produces tiny little spears for a year or two before you can harvest. Asparagus do not like to be transplanted and will take another few years to recover and produce. Once your roots produce spears at least the size of your little finger you can harvest 50% of the spears. Leave 50% to feed the roots for next season and to produce the beautiful, flowing fern-like leaves and tiny bright orange fruits. The first snow will lay the fronds over and they provide cover for the roots through winter, maintaining some moisture in the soil. Lady bugs love the dropped tiny dry leaf mulch as a nesting and rearing habitat for babies (and their babies are voracious bad-bug eaters!!) My ducks also love to nest under the fronds, blending so well I sometimes don’t even know they are there. But ducks like fresh asparagus too, so they go into the garden only after harvest.
Rhubarb is a vegetable but we tend to treat it like a fruit. I add it to chokecherry juice for jams and jellies. I use it to make a rhubarb liqueur that is stunningly easy to make and so warm and good on a winter night. I harvest about half of the leaves, remove the leaf part (remember that the leaves can be toxic, even leaving rashes on your bare hands), wash the stalk in cold water, slice, bag and freeze for use later. We do have a type of rust that can attack some rhubarb plants turning them bright yellow/red/organge/brown. You would need to remove the whole plant and root and surrounding soil and do not replant rhubarb in that spot. But it would still be a great spot for other plants like raspberry, currant, chokecherry. The rust likes the rhubarb. I have only lost one plant in 20 years to the rust and it came in on the inexpensive rhubarb crown I bought. Lesson Learned: quality = longevity. The crowns I will have this year are disease resistant.
Asparagus Roots 5 to a bundle $12.50 per bundle
Rhubarb Crowns $12.50 per crown
Available in the Caper Wyoming area only. To reserve your roots and crowns contact me for more information by sending a Comment with email or text phone number, or text 307.262.8043 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Order Plant for 2022: Elderberry ** How Do We Love Thee! : Wine, Jams, Pies, Pancake Syrup, and Floral Spring Teas: The flavors and healing properties, the form and texture of the leaves and the fragile umbrellas of white to creamy flowers – I have several plants in my gardens: native North American, Samdal and Samyal varieties. Pollination is best with different types in your food forest or garden.
Wondering about the medicinal qualities of elderberry? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a research study on polyphenols in elderberry at this site:
Be aware: Do not eat elderberries raw. They contain a toxic substance that is neutralized with cooking. This is true of many wild fruits. So before going out to harvest on the mountain or a nearby creek, do a little homework.
In good years you will collect pounds. But a day of rain or severe wind timed just as the flowers are ready will dampen production. (This is why permaculture teaches temporal and spatial planning.) The perfect spot would be an area near the house, or shed or barn, or in among established trees and shrubs, usually on the northeast side, that never has wind, has limited sun and always seems a little damp? Perfect for elderberry. In the wild it lives in the protection and partial shadow of taller, stronger shrubs and trees.
Samdal and Samyal
Five gallon $22.50
Two gallon $17.50
To reserve your plants for Spring 2022 you will need to place a deposit of half the cost
Contact me through Comments here, or Messenger, or Text a message to 307.262.8043
Why Natives? The Wyoming Sunflower
Helianthus maximilani or the Perennial Sunflower will soon be gracing every
open space, every road barrow pit, and my garden. Why my garden?
- Nothing is like the warm, golden color of these natives.
- Fast Food for the Road: The flowers feed late pollinators, preparing them
for migration, hibernation or egg-laying. Seeded flower heads feed migrating
song birds as they head south for winter.
- Disguised: The “flower head” is actually hundreds of tiny flowers. Look
- The Good Bugs: Our native sunflower attracts one very special pollinator:
the bee fly (I love this name ~ Bombyliidae). You’ve seen them. Fuzzy little
flies with a long proboscis that looks like a stinger, but is used to take nectar.
These little insects will fill the centers of the sunflowers, their legs and fuzzy
bodies packed with golden pollen. And here is the ecological role of these
peaceful creatures: The Bomby is able to detect small holes in the soil where
grasshoppers have laid their eggs. The Bomby bee fly hovers over the hole
and drops its own eggs into that hole. The Bomby larva hatch first and
consume the grasshopper eggs. I love native team members. The first and
most important practice in permaculture is observation. Observation is done
to understand and apply what nature has developed over tens of thousands
of years. This reduces waste of resources and introduction of toxins or other
human long-term damage. As practitioners we support, even encourage natural processes. And so every year I collect the native sunflower seeds and
strategically plant them in the gardens near the fruit shrubs, and I offer them
water so that they will grow strong.
- Yummy: Collect the little sunflower heads when they have gone to seed.
Remove the sepals, or leaves, from around the flower head. Brush oil – like
olive flavored with garlic or sesame oil. Bake or grill the entire flower head.
The flower head will soften and then it can be eaten whole.
My cows are less appreciative of the gifts of the sunflower. They simply put the entire flowerhead in their mouth and pull the crunchiness in, crushing the sweet oily goodness.
“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….
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!
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…..