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
It seems too soon. It still gets dark so early. And with these higher-than-normal temperatures, we know winter weather could descend upon us any day or night. We live in Wyoming. The only way to know the weather is to frequently look out the window. The garden may still look like Autumn. We have been so distracted with so many other things. We have all had moments of anxiety or frustration about income, prices, food, shopping, and health.
I want you to feel more in control, to feel productive, to feel joy, to feel less helpless in this world.
It is as easy as harvesting this fruit, simmering it, adding very little fruit pectin and sugar ~ this fruit ripens on the shrub or vine ~ and covering your pancakes with rhubarb-raspberry preserves, serving homemade grape juice, or elderberry syrup spiced with turmeric or cinnamon for common colds and flu.
All of the varieties of plants listed here have been grown at The Refuge Permaculture Center for at least ten years. They have proven hardy in both drought and Arctic cold, in salty clay and deep sand. They are long term low maintenance.
The plants sold from the Refuge Nursery here are of two kinds: plants grown from seed, cuttings or root starts from plants established here at The Refuge, and bare root stock from long-time primary suppliers. In both cases the varieties are proven and highly productive. I add varieties to increase successful pollination. As with all nurseries, the available plants are a little different every year, especially as I start new babies every spring.
In this season I have Gift Certificates available for Refuge Plants, Garden Visits and Permaculture Design and Plans.
Gift Certificates: If you buy a Certificate for plants in the Spring you choose the amount you wish to give.
Garden Visit Certificate: $50.00 ~ I really enjoy meeting with people who love their gardens and landscapes. I love brain-storming ideas, offering suggestions and resources, and problem-solving. These visits are scheduled for an hour but we generally spend more time.
$100.00 Garden Visit Certificate ~ This Certificate includes a written brief of the visit with suggestions and resources. This Certificate includes the 10% discount on plants from The Refuge Nursery.
Garden / Landscape Permaculture Evaluation: $ 200.00 This includes two onsite visits and a written report. A 10% discount on plants from The Refuge Nursery is included with this Certificate.
Permaculture Design or Plan: $400.00 Certificate. This Certificate includes four site visits, landscape or garden evaluation, design concept, implementation plan and 20% discount on plants purchased from The Refuge Nursery.
Tara Farm and Nursery Plants for 2022:
Folks with Gift Certificates will be invited to come to The Refuge west of Casper to select their plants when everything is awake, happy and healthy. The following plants may be available for purchase with the Gift Certificates by the end of June. As with every year, the weather and Mother Nature have a lot to do with what plants will be available.
Fruit Shrubs: Add these to that windbreak or privacy hedge to begin to create your own Food Forest.
Western Wild Rose, Chokecherry, Elderberry, Red Raspberry, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Currants (Red, Pink and Black), Gooseberry, Grape Vine
Flowers and Grasses: These plants are usually available the end of July, adding some color just before fall and producing seeds to build your “Native Prairie” example garden or to fill in a former lawn area.
Rocky Mountain Penstemon (excellent for rock gardens), Prairie Coneflower ( Yellow, Yellow/Orange, Burgundy), Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), Blue Spirea (very good for late season pollinators), Big Blue Stem Native Bunchgrass (Ornamental), Prairie Drop Seed Native Bunchgrass (Ornamental)
One Gallon Pot: $8.00 / Two Gallon Pot: $15.00 / Five Gallon Pot $24.50
Special Orders for Spring 2022:
Special Orders can be made now through March. For bare root stock or established young plants, a deposit of 50% of the order is required to hold the plants. I deliver plants when I know that they have come out of dormancy healthy and happy.
Asparagus Roots (5 / Bundle), Rhubarb Crown, Grape Vines, Gooseberry, Raspberry, Elderberry (two varieties are recommended for best pollination; I offer a discount on two or more plants ordered)
To buy Certificates or reserve your Special Order plants contact me:
Call or text to 307.262.8043
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Please enjoy the season, dream your garden, collect recipes and seeds and pictures.
Stay safe and well and I will see you here and in your gardens in Spring 2022 ~ Laurel
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.
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…..
Science and pseudo-science (#horticulture, #agriculture, soils, #geomorphology, #permaculture ) is a subject I love to rant about, but let’s bring it down to the practical applications. All science begins with observation; all observation is colored by physical ability, physical setting, layer upon layer of variables, perception, interpretation and above all else the pending question. Hypothesis not null hypothesis, trust me. Spring 2019 will bring practical application of observations into the classroom. Bring a Beginner’s Mind … as best you can…
OLLI Program at Casper College:
Saturday April 6, 2019 9am – 4pm Dirt to Earth: Permaculture Soil Improvement
Saturday April 27, 2019 9am – 4pm Oh, The Water: Permaculture Garden Water Management
Saturday May 4, 2019 9am – 4pm A Rose Is Not Always A Rose: Permaculture Garden Plants
For more information on the OLLI Program and/ or on these classes please contact Vicki Pollock 307.268.2097
And By Special Request: Permaculture Landscape / Garden Design will be offered at the Fort Caspar Museum Classroom this Spring (date to be determined). This one-day class will cover organization of observations, resources, plants and your goals for your landscape or garden. I have had many requests for this course outside of the OLLI program offerings. I am negotiating a date and sponsor for this class. Minimum number of students is eight. An additional meeting of the class at The Refuge will be scheduled. Tuition: $50.00 To reserve a space please send text, email or leave voicemail. 307.262.8043 / email@example.com
More than half the time we do not realize everything we have seen. Filters are mind over matter. Recall and increase the success of your earthwork. Dig in.