My poor broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts - they have had a hard time getting started. I found various eggs, a tiny green worm, a little black worm, and an unnamed small bug on one or another of these. Despite my fencing efforts, the chickens taste them routinely. I brought in more herbs, marigolds, and assassin bugs. I picked off slugs and bought Sluggo. I do need to give the Sluggo another couple of days (it keeps raining), but the destruction continues unabated! The kale (treated with mints, basil, and assassin bugs) revived, but the others are pretty chewed up.
Today I took a picture of these very tiny snake-like formations - eggs, I suspect. Attached.
Good points, Sile! I wonder how nature manages it. I suppose by throwing out thousands more seeds than plants eventually needed. If every foxglove seed that one plant dropped germinated and grew up, there would be no other flowers in the garden. No room!
I wonder if this works best for slow-germinating seeds? I am growing ground cherries, which are incredibly slow to get started. I got interested in them because a couple of plants began showing up in my yard year after year. I thought it was a perennial. The seeds require *weeks* of water and light to germinate. You come to believe it’s a failed experiment when the first tiny bit of green emerges. But late in June I can always find a few plants in that spot - they have withstood the chickens, the lawnmower, being stepped on, and so forth before they are big enough to notice.
I confess I have not read all of it, so I'm not certain if your questions are thoroughly covered. But a very good place to start is [url=Dr. Bryant RedHawk%27s Soil Thread]https://permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil[/url]. Dr. RedHawk is an incredible resource, and there are posts on using a microscope to evaluate your soil.
He also kindly answers questions! But the large compendium of knowledge he has already laid out (in language we can understand) is the perfect place to start, continue, and study.
My comfrey plants are in their second year, but they were left in pots too long and remained small last year. Now they are growing bigger, but probably not as big as most second-year plants.
Last year I planted two on the side of the steep slope where I piled old Christmas trees, chicken bedding, and old hay. A third, planted where the soil is exceptionally thin, looks like a first-year but is continuing to grow. Others are planted here and there. I only remove one or two leaves at a time; if they root, yay! If not, I put them tucked under the wood chips near a plant that needs help.
I found a strange pest (?) on one of my plants. Several leaves are curled, a bit of cobweb seems to close them, and inside are eggs(?) that look like black caterpillar poop. I've been taking the affected leaves off and putting them in the trash. The leaf I grabbed today had what seemed to be (maybe) a tiny stink bug sort of creature crawling out of the curl. These things are a mystery to me.
I also have intended to do winter sowing but never seem to remember! Something about spring makes us want to plant seeds!
From what I’ve read, plants that will reseed themselves can and possibly should be sown in fall or winter. Less chance of germinating in October if we wait till February. If I remember correctly, the repeated freezes and that’s prepare some seeds in a way that stratifying in one’s refrigerator really can’t.
If something else is needed for the nitrogen uptake, perhaps fungi could be it. I have purchased mycorrhizal fungi to mix with water, but in some other thread Dr. RedHawk recommended making a mushroom slurry, with fungi (edible or not) in the yard, in the fridge, or wherever in a blender or food processor with water. Maybe that would help, probably won’t hurt.
Before your warning, Eric, I tried to get some root cuttings from my young comfrey. Too young; I didn’t see any roots till I had practically dig up the whole plant. So I started leaf-stem cuttings. They are rooting nicely!
I have steep slopes that are low on soil or (others) grass-covered. I want to put some deep-rooted comfrey on them.
So interesting. When I began reading this thread, I noticed that in the first post all sorts of disasters were mentioned except a pandemic. Now here we are. While our pandemic doesn't, so far, seem to pose a threat to the grid, the possibility of dramatic economic collapse (or near-collapse) is clearly in sight, we had food shortages (and don't forget the toilet paper!) as well as shortages of bleach, alcohol, hand sanitizer, and the like. It's not too great a leap to some additional strains on the system that create a greater need for self-sufficiency. Just ask gardeners (i.e., every permie) who tried to find certain seeds at their usual time, only to find that there had been a run on seeds (and seedlings) this year.
I was impressed by Purity Lopez's plans to limit her solar power to specific items (a refrigerator and freezer, for example). That could be a good approach for us. In general, we can keep things cold in the winter (frozen, at least); summer is better for solar power and if that could keep the fridge and freezer running, we would only have to figure out the water situation. We have an unreliable (vernal, more or less) spring on our property, and a public spring less than a half-mile away.
I crave solar, and especially off-grid, but our property doesn't lend itself to solar easily due to combinations of tree shade, roof orientation, and the fact that south is uphill from our property. Also, Vermont - not the sunniest state. But we are building a root cellar, have wood heat (and lots of trees), and are contemplating some sort of independence from our electric water pump so we could access our water.
Ugh, satellite internet. Costs more, does a LOT less.
I see you have really put great effort into researching and putting into place ways to avoid irrigation. As a viewer, I would have found it helpful to know approximately where in the world you are (and I apologize if you mentioned it; it's noisy here). It helps me orient to the issue, understand why there might be annual three-month droughts.
I'm really interested in the hugel paths. Is there a reason not to put the wood under the planting beds? I wondered if the rotten wood became available after your beds were established.
Good stuff! Essential in your climate. My climate usually has plenty of rain (and my land has a spring and vernal stream). But this year it's been dry, with rain clouds dropping 3 minutes of barely drizzling once a week or so. My raised beds are hugel-ish, with a base of rotten wood and rather thin cover of soil and compost. I've done much more watering than usual, to the point where my partner is worried about our well's capacity and we've started bringing water in from a spring about a half-mile away.
I didn't finish the video, but I will. I fear we will need to know more and more about this in the future, as climate change turns what we know about our own gardens upside down.
Ooh! Maybe I'll just mulch my Good King Henry bed and leave it alone! I just want some perennial vegetables. Did I mention trying to grow crambe (sea kale)? I can buy plants next year and propagate from there, though. I put in Jerusalem artichokes already this year, and I've got a perennial spinach that takes a couple years to get going. I'm very much looking forward to your post on cold-tolerant perennial vegetables!
I expanded my garden significantly this year. The raised beds were new last year, filled with rotten wood, bagged compost, leaf mold from the woods, and bagged soil. The beds were built atop a torn-up old lawn, with no topsoil in sight after construction. But the vegetables did well. Having retired last year, and with the pandemic this year, I added a LOT - three more raised beds, making it six, an area of 10-inch deep mulch of wood chips to start a food forest, and planting two mulberry trees, an apple, and a plum that's not going to make it. Blueberries, elderberries (one is dead), and raspberries and blackberries (these are all dead). (It was a bad year for shipping plants! - the delays took just about half of my bare-root fruit plants.)
Maybe I'll dehydrate sliced potatoes if the blues don't seem to want to keep.
My other recent adventures include growing ground cherries from seed to accompany the one or two that come up in the lawn. What wonderful little fruits! I've got ten plants. I've also planted a lot of borage, some comfrey, and a whole lot of flowers.
Thank you so much for your reply. I am formulating other questions!
I love these stories of potatoes growing effortlessly! That has (sort of) been my experience. I ran out of room in the garden (where three potato plants are growing like gangbusters) and put the rest in my brand-new food forest (which has a mulberry tree, a transplanted daylily, failed flower experiments (shade) and 14 potato plants. The deep wood chips stay moist, but the potatoes were planted (with a little compost and soil in each hole) near the edge of the wood chips, so they would actually get some sun. Thus, I've been watering them as it is drier there than deeper in the "forest," which is adjacent to the actual forest.
So, I've put effort into watering. Apparently I forgot where I planted some of them, because after our single rainstorm in the last few weeks, three new plants started emerging! I am going to have a LOT of blue potatoes, chosen for their anthocyanins. Cheaper than blueberries but so nutritious and filling! And apparently effortless to grow, if you get a bit of rain.
Are you still in the question-answering business? I have a couple of questions that keep me wondering.
First - I planted all blue potatoes. I'm a potato novice, but they are growing quite well. I've bought potatoes (sometimes blue, sometimes mixed) from the supermarket. They've been washed, they are small (one was a "fingerling" collection) and some start to go bad before I can use them all. Is it possible that blue potatoes aren't good keepers? I love the idea of potatoes with anthocynanins.
Second - We are having a very dry summer so far. My husband worries that our well will run dry, so I've tried to be extremely targeted with watering. Almost everything I'm growing is mulched with a generous layer of wood chips, and my raised beds all have rotten wood at their bases. Nonetheless, it's pretty dry. The seedlings I've planted are struggling with pests; the flowers I've put in by seed are nowhere near big enough to attract or repel any bugs. I resorted to buying some potted herbs, marigolds, and mints, and things have improved. I also added some more well-aged goat bedding on top of the mulch. Any thoughts about this rambling non-question?
Third - any idea why we can't germinate Good King Henry? I'm also trying crambe from seed. There are some tiny plants without their first leaves that resulted from really carefully removing the seed covers, stratifying, and careful planting. I am not sure why they don't grow! Maybe bugs eating them, too. I'm going to try to buy a plant or two next year; starting these things is so frustrating. Any perennial vegetables that might start more easily from seed (USDA Zone 5)?
I got the best advice about one aspect of this from another thread (sorry I can't cite it; I read so much on this forum!).
I pull aside my wood chips to plant, which works great for seedlings, peas, beans, and corn. I had trouble with little seeds because the wood chips fall into the row or hole too easily. The advice I got was to add a row or tiny hill of soil (or compost) on top of the wood chips, and plant on that. It needs extra watering help to germinate seeds, but it's worth it. The entire area is already mulched, and if you use potting soil, you don't even have exposed weed seeds. It takes very little soil.
Sorry, Elliot Mason! A longstanding habit after way too much grad school. But observation trumps random articles on the internet, as does actual research. Maybe there is no tar. Maybe it's just high in nitrogen and someone noticed somehow it burned their seedlings!
I referenced an idea from a Mother Earth News article on another thread. Unlikely that it was peer reviewed, in the traditional sense! So, to me, the idea was worth trying, but not worth betting the farm on it.
It's lovely! I can't offer any ideas on the type, but it's beautiful!
I've just started with bare-root mulberry trees. One leafed out right away, and the other just started budding after a few weeks. I thought I found one on our very overgrown hill, but when I came back to look for it I couldn't find it. Are they normally so elusive?
After reading something in the Mother Earth News, I set out to make a non-aerated tea from a few plants (comfrey, clover, lupine, and rose mallow), shaking the container a few times a day (I suppose it is aerated, after a fashion). Sometimes a bit of composted chicken or goat poop, if handy, and some coffee grounds. The recipe I read was for shredded comfrey leaves, grass clippings, dried chicken poop, and a bit of urine.
After the third day, it has a strong scent but it's earthy, not putrid. I started using it as a tonic on plants that weren't doing as well as I wanted. (I'm not sure if I want to get involved with getting the equipment to make compost tea. I need to learn more.)
Then I began reading this thread. It's got me thinking about understanding the soil food web, and returning the best, the essence, of the "weeds" to the soil. My compost-making (like my "tea" brewing) is also fairly haphazard, and the chickens do most of the work. I'm eager to improve my soil, and to find the balance between biodiversity and choked-out, shaded, or overrun vegetables!
I love garlic mustard and wild mustard. These were my first wild greens (no wait, that was dandelion) and garlic mustard is so delicious! And you get to feel virtuous for picking it, as many people hate its invasive nature.
I'm challenging myself next with plantain. We have plenty of it here, but much of what's nearby is practically trampled into the ground or the bugs got there before I did. I'm trying to grow spinach (but it was in the 90s today!), New Zealand spinach, Good King Henry, and one other perennial rocket - but all around are these edibles that don't require planting and nurturing!
I had a spot where nothing grew. On the east side of the house, but shaded by another house close by and a big tree in the neighbor's yard. But no weeds would grow there. I decided it was the perfect place to plant mint. And it was! The mint filled up that side of the house over a period of years, covering the exposed soil. It looked lovely. It didn't spread aggressively where other plants were growing. I moved away. I wonder if that's still true?
For questions like this, I usually turn to google scholar. Better than an ordinary web search, it is limited to scientific papers. The results can be hard to understand if one is outside the field. Without delving into the actual research, I did run a search with the term “toxic secretions” along with the Latin name. You can fiddle with the search terms and narrow the search down to better meet your needs.
In addition to (or instead of) your new electric fence, you might be able to mount game cameras to photograph or videotape the dogs coming on to your property. If those cameras could accidentally capture some of the abusive language, arguments, and complaints about the kids' care for the dogs, that might be useful, too.
I'm so sorry that you folks (and those poor huskies) are enduring this. Plan your media attack carefully; you want to have everything you need in hand, rather than becoming a crank who always has some new complaint. Get it all in order and then choose the best evidence to make your case! A select choice of evidence (with the rest for backup) makes a stronger case than lots and lots of mediocre evidence.
I've started making more comfrey; a novice at propagation should start with something easy, right?
I want to multiply our fruit trees, but I need to learn how to do this, first. What tree can be the base for a cutting from another? Which part is called the scion? A lot to learn. Right now, working on seeds and seedlings!
Random websites (even with good .org or .edu credentials) can include all sorts of opinions based on not-truly-solid research. To find good peer-reviewed research, the best method that’s available to almost all of us (without access to a university library) is scholar.google.com
Google Scholar is far from perfect, and not as comprehensive as a massive university library, but it’s very good.
And post the results here! Always interested in actual facts about comfrey!
Oh, Michelle, I hear you! I moved here two years ago, and last summer was my first. We built three raised beds, and I had no compost, no stored-up fall leaves, nothing. I used rotten wood in the bottom, gathered leaves from the forest floor, and bought compost and "garden soil" to finish. Cost a fortune. This year, we added 3 more. I dragged more rotten wood from the woods, more leaf mold, and added chicken bedding to fill these.
For a way to save money, gardening can sure be expensive! I am promising myself that I'll invest in the equipment I need to start seeds. I told the owner of my local greenhouse that I spent my whole stimulus check down there. Well, a slight exaggeration.
You might want to check out the posts here on Permies.com of Daron Williams. He often posts about plant choices for shade, wet, and other conditions in a food forest. He often refers to a blog post he has written, too, and these are usually packed with information.
All my raised beds are made with rotting wood on the bottom, and the results are good, though not always perfect. Your spongy wood is more rotted than much of mine. I have no source of decent topsoil and limited compost, although what I do have tops off my rotten wood beds.
So glad you’re another convert! Filling raised beds and quickly creating usable soil is difficult, so this is a great resource.
I like the idea of a smallish, fenced area with the beginnings of a food forest in it. Sounds like a mulberry tree (when it gets big enough you'll be sharing the fruit with them), pawpaw, and a few other things with plenty of herbs, daffodils, onion, and garlic all around. Inside the fence the trees can grow big enough to be safe from them, eventually without a fence, I think.
Tj Jefferson, can you say more about narrow paddocks? My chickens are outside all day (except when the terrifying white stuff covers the ground, freaking everyone out) and our only clear danger is hawks, since our coop is more or less Fort Knox. We consider meat birds (not free ranging) but don't want to make them into little targets.
Did you say that the chicken yard is enclosed with 4" hardware cloth? So, if the openings are 4" it's like fencing for larger livestock. I doubt that will keep animals out. You might add the 1/2" HW cloth along the lower part of that fencing. Raccoons like to reach in and pull off the chickens' heads. Charming, eh?
Bird netting could go a long way to deter the birds of prey, but in winter it won't hold up to heavy snow. It droops and tears. But perhaps the hens won't be out in the yard in winter?
Everyone tells us that an electrified perimeter is the way to go, and some barrier from above.