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Asparagus and Beans – A Winning Combo

July 23rd, 2012

In the past couple years I’ve been reading a lot about permaculture. As a result, I’m always searching for more effective ways to implement it’s ideas into the garden. This spring I was reading a non-permaculture article reading recommended a higher nitrogen fertilizer once harvests stopped and the foliage was allowed to grow.

Instead of adding a high nitrogen fertilizer, I was going to underplant the asparagus with clover. This would both provide nitrogen and protect the soil. Before I got it planted, I ran out of space in the edible garden for my green beans. Off went the lightbulb in my head and I planted them by the asparagus. The asparagus greened up nicely once the beans took root. When the beans are done producing they’ll be pulled and laid around the asparagus to provide an overwintering mulch to protect the soil. If I have comfrey to harvest at that time it’s leaves will be added as well.

I love discovering ways to maximize the small space by layering edibles. An added bonus is saving money by not having to buy a fertilizer. Any time I can keep the circle of the garden closed I’m one happy gardener. Like what goes on my plate, I like knowing exactly where every input in the garden comes from!

If you’re not familiar with permaculture, I’d highly recommend reading about it. Check your local library to see if they have a copy of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. I had our library’s copy so much that I finally just purchased one. Mr Chiots is reading our copy of this book and is loving it (not bad for a guy that’s not really interested in gardening). He’s already talking of implementing the apple guild next spring in Maine. Perhaps I’ll have him write a blog post about it this winter as he’s planning!

Have you ever heard of permaculture? If so, are you implementing any of it’s principles in your garden?

A Native Hawthorn Hedge

January 11th, 2012

“The beautiful Hawthorn, that has now put on
Its summer luxury of snowy wreaths,
Bending its branches in exuberant bloom,
While to the light enamour’d gale it breathes,
Rife as its loveliness, its rare perfume.
Glory of England’s landscape! Favourite tree
Of bard or lover! It flings far and free
Its grateful incense.”

William Howitt (from The Forest Minstrel)

(note – this is not a hawthorne hedge, but I didn’t have a photo)

I’ve mentioned my love of fences before. This past spring I was trying to figure out how to protect my garden from the deer that love my peas, beets, and other delicious homegrown organic vegetables. I would love to have a beautiful cedar fence surrounding the new garden, but I’d have to make it 8-10 ft tall to keep out the deer. Our homeowner’s association doesn’t allow fences over 3 ft tall and they have all kinds of other rules about them. Not to mention fences can be expensive!

After spending a lot of time last winter reading on permaculture, I decided a hedge would be a better option (my favorite book about it is: Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture). Permaculture focuses on using natural, native and beneficial ways to deal with the problems you have. For fencing, hedges are the best option since they can provide habitat for wildlife, food for birds, they help mitigate pollution and are much cheaper than fencing. Not to mention, there are hedging options that can provide you with food too!

After much deliberation, I settled on hawthorne as my hedge plant of choice. Why did I choose this particular plant over other options? The main reason was because it’s native to our area, and whenever possible I like to choose a native because I know they will thrive. Second, it provides lots of habitat and food for the wild birds, which is another one of the things I try to focus on when I choose plants. Thirdly, it’s an edible and medicinal shrub for humans. Here’s a great article at Way of the Wild Heart about the Hawthorne where you’ll find a lot of information about the uses of the hawthorne.

Last summer I planted about 200 hawthorne plants 2 feet apart around part of the new lower garden (my goal is to plant a few hundred more still). This coming spring, I’ll prune them low to the ground so they grow up nice and thick to provide a good fence alternative. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of these plants this past fall. They’re only 2-3 foot tall now and they turned a beautiful shade of orange/red.  A few of them still have a few leaves clinging to their branches. They will be stunning in fall when they’re 8 feet tall in 5 years or so.

Do you have any hedges in your garden? Have you ever considered installing one?

Egyptian Walking Onions

April 4th, 2011

A few years ago, after reading Gaia’s Garden, a book about permaculture, I started adding more perennial vegetables to my edible garden. There are the usual suspects like rhubarb and asparagus, but many people don’t realize you can buy perennial onions and leeks as well.

I planted these Egyptian Walking Onions 2 years ago along with some perennial potato onions (which aren’t technically perennial because you have to dig them up and replant them). They did well last year, I didn’t harvest any because I wanted to let them get established. Last fall I had a few with the little bulblets on the tops of the stalks. This spring they’re looking great. I haven’t harvested any yet, but they’re large enough I could any day (I’m thinking an omelet might be the reason). These photos were taken 2 weeks ago, and the onions are much larger now.

I even noticed that one of them had “walked” into another area of my raised bed. I’ll be moving these little guys soon to another area of the garden. I’m hoping to have a good patch of these in a few years because they make a nice early onion. A perfect way to supplement the few remaining storage onions in the pantry. They certainly are interesting plants to grow.

Do you have any perennial vegetables in your garden?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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