Danny Smithers

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since Nov 03, 2013
Florissant, CO
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Recent posts by Danny Smithers

I definitely appreciate the thoughts. Ill let you know how the process goes. It'll be a few years in the making anyway. The "lupinis" I'll have to see about, but I know they are popular in italy, so if I don't dig 'em hopefully I can find a market for them.

Planting soon.
Thanks all
1 year ago
This response was for joseph mostly, Jordan must have posted while I was typing. But that is great info, thanks jordan

Ya I suppose I could cook some of the seeds to try them out. Even if that is not an option, I still can use them as a cut flower yield as I mentioned above.  If I could get that type of sunchoke agression in my mountain soil with 12 ft bionmass, that would be great. The bimass is needed all over. I never plan to eradicate them, just thin them to plant into those patches (which are only about 2 feet wide). After a year of planting, I would let the sunchokes take over the patch again with the tubers I will definitely miss.
  Depending on the solar aspect of the contours on which I plant them I'll plant either shade crops or full sun crops. I'm definitely keeping the shade they will cast in mind. Plus if I cut them half way through the season if they are too unwieldy, I score more biomass mulch to spread around.

Are you saying that if I harvest a 10'x2' patch of tubers in a given spring, that I would be unable to plant in that space? After one year of planting annuals there, I would plan to let the tubers take back over. Is this not possible in your opinion? My soil is very shallow and lacking in needed structure so I'm guessing it will not be as unruly as it is in your garden, this is montane ponderosa pine ecosystem at 8400 feet above sea level with 6"-2' of soil on top of rock mostly. Frankly if any useful plant grew really agressively up here, I would consider it a big win. But I do plan to contain it between 6' wide paths in case that's a possibility.

I know I would miss some, but that's part of the plan. I see your point, but much of what you said is why I want to use this plant. It doesn't seem like it would be an impossibility. Is that what you are saying?
1 year ago
That's sounds like a great technique to try as well. I'll definitely give that a go as part of the experiment. Thanks David
1 year ago
PerhAps cover crop is not the best term for this then. You can read the beginning of this thread to see how I plan to work within the sunchoke roots. I plan to  harvest patches of the sunchokes on a rotational basis and then plant annuals in to those harvested patches...  And then let thet the sunchokes and lupine move back in. Or potentially drop cardboard on top of some patches of the sunchokes, cut holes in the cardboard and plant into those holes. My hope is to have an ongoing perennial soil building combination that also produces a yield. I understand they are agressively and tough to get rid d of completely, but that's not what I'm intending to do. I want agressive, that's why I chose them. I'll be restricting their growth with wide pathways so if they are too much to deal with, I've got a barrier.

Lupines are considered a short-lived perennial, based on what I've read. I'm sure various factors could gave caused them not to return in your case. As for the flavor, I'll find out. Some lupines are bitter and toxic while some are not. Hopefully the seeds I got were actually sweet ones as advertised. But maybe not.
1 year ago
Lupine is a legume actually, that's why I chose it as part of this part of this mix. I'm hoping it'll be enough for the nitrogen fixation. But I'll be trying a few different mixes as well. I'm trying to do everything as simply as possible to create a perennial regenerative mix. I'm thinking the biomass of the sunchokes above and below with the lupines nitrogen will do it.
1 year ago
Thanks for the thoughts Eric. If I had the resources I would go much larger with the experiment. But it looks like about a swales worth of planting g is what I can try out this year. Ill dig swales all day long, but I don't want to expose all that soil before I have something to plant in it. I may just try a blend of other cover crop seedmixes throughout our land that see what might take with our water situation using the list above. I definitely see your point with the straw slowly building but I'm kinda hoping if I kick in the composting process with some blood meal, I'll be able to get a quicker return. The wine cap experiment will have to wait a couple years for the for the chokes to establish. But if that works it may also be a great regenerative rotational perennial/mushroom system.

I essentially have plans to build soil wherever I can and the strongest growing areas will become home to future food forest planting while the "fertility strips" will be mixed with annual production among the various food forest planting. It's a vision that blends forest gardening with food forests throughout the property.

I also have flattish rock outcroppings that I want to experiment with by jackhammering wicking beds into those outcroppings... Going for the holy Grail of a garden bed that has enough surfacewater catchment and retainment to never water in the Rocky mountains. But that will be for another post. I'll have the jackhammer soon to try that one out. If it works it could really be a game changer for us arid rockdwellers.

Pictures to come later this week or perhaps the next.

Thanks again!
1 year ago
So this idea is evolving a bit as I go but I'll update the process. I've ordered a couple pounds of sunchokes and have a pound of sweet lupine seed. I decided to attempt this in a small Swale to start.  I dug the 2 foot wide ditch on contour. Im going to put the sunchokes and the lupine seed at the bottom of the Swale l
Im then going to fill that with about 6 inches of straw. And as you do with straw bale gardening, im going to add some blood meal on top and water it in to get it composting. With the small amount im using it won't get hot enough to cook the seed. The lupine and sunchokes can get then get ahold of the native soilt while enjoying the straw bale benefits to really get established. I understand sunchokes do well in straw. The Swale will fill up with biomass and ultimately turn into a more absorbent terrace over the years filled with well-structured soil. From these "fertility strips" I can use the biomass from The sun chokes and lupine to build more soil outward from the strips.


-Even if the Swale fills up completely, it will dry out relatively quickly in our climate. And I have plans to plant out the berm side as well, but for this thread I want to stay focused on the lupine sunchoke companionship  so please don't remind me that a Swale is a tree system... It catches and spreads water which I believe works in a variety of situations. Not just tree situations.

-Im going to try planting the berm with lupine and the bottom of the Swale with sunchokes on some portions of the experiment. With the lupines deep Taproot I think it could help recirculate some of that water lens built by the Swale.

-instead of harvesting sunchokes to plant out beds, I'll also just drop cardbaord  on top of the sunchokes nd cut holes to plant into. This would really help utilize the sunchokes rhizome as biomass. I think innoculating underneath the cardboard with wine cap mushrooms could turn those roots into another type of yield as well.

I'll post pics and updates when I get planting. The sunchokes are in the mail. Any thoughts or concerns are always welcome.
1 year ago
Thank you so much for the informative soil building suggestions. I've definitely considered many of these. I found it very helpful to have the soil building plants divided up into "Drillers" "Fillers" and "Biomass" it really helps me get my head around what I'm trying to do. I"ll go through all of the plants put forward and add my thoughts, and add a bit of needed clarification about my goal.

I may not have made it totally clear in my initial post,  but within the cover mix I really wanted it to be something that I can plant and walk away from so that I'm still obtaining yield and building soil even if I don't have time to get to a particular portion on on any given year. I frankly have only eaten sunchokes once and they were good, there are a variety of sunchoke preparation strategies that I think I would enjoy. But from a yield perspective they don't seem to be that prolific for online purchasing and I figured I could sell them by the pound online for growing or eating. The lowest I found was $10/pound online and selling them seems like a good option for bringing in some funding for my family and projects--they also seem to sell out later in the season so people are buying them. My precipitation varies greatly from year to year so I am hoping to plant a perennial cover that can handle the drier times as well. The sunchokes are drought tolerant and the lupine has a taproot and is also drought tolerant--plus it also produces an edible lupin bean for animals or people. I got into the lupine idea because of research I found about lupines being grown in rotation with quinoa: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3673854?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. I eventually plan to grow a lot of quinoa because it is well suited for our climate and thought this cover mix would be a good buildup for the eventual quinoa patches.

I'm just going to run through all the perennial ideas that were mentioned and briefly give you my thoughts on them.There are numerous great ideas on this thread for cover crop mixes but I am really focused on the perennial factor and so I won't mention the annuals. I may end up using annuals, but I'm trying to avoid it for this particular system.

Vetch: If the lupine isn't aggressive enough to compete with the sunchokes, this seems like a great second option. It doesn't produce an edible yield like the lupin and subjectively doesn't look as nice, but I do plan on using the lupine flowers as a cut flower income yield as well (I forgot to mention that in my initial post).

Alfalfa: I've considered alfalfa as it is an amazing soil builder, but I had it in my head that it was a heavy water user. But my head was wrong because after looking into that  I'm realizing that it can tolerate dry conditions. I will definitely experiment with it in this blend. I have chickens and will have goats so it could be a very productive output. I will have to compare it to the potential yield of the lupine, but this is definitely back on my list of trial cover blends.

Clover: It doesn't quite produce the biomass that I'm looking for, but will still be worth experimenting with on the outskirts of the trial patches to enliven the soil around those areas.

Roots--Daikon/Turnip etc.: I may end up using these with the rape for the first year or two if it seems like I need to. I'll probably do a variety of annuals in the beginning but I really wanted to focus on those crops that would have staying power over the long term so if I set it and forget it, they keep building soil and biomass. After I establish, I want the main plants to keep doing their thing if I'm not able to get to them in a particular year.

Thanks again for all the great info! As I go through this process I'll keep posting updates and progress on this thread so everyone can see how it turns out if you are interested.

1 year ago
Vetch was on list to try out with the blend, I'll definitely give that a go. I was planning on pulling out tubers in small patches so I could plant other crops. I of course would miss some of those tubers and could hand pick any remainders in those patches as they put up stems. If the sunchokes don't require mulch I have endless places to use that foilage as mulch as mulch so that would be a nice bonus. If the sunchokes overtake the lupine too much I can thin their tubers if need be. Biomass is my main focus so there is no way I can get too much. My other experiment is planting productive crops on the south edge of the sunchokes for hail protection. We get intense and heavy sun, but hail storms come around and im thinking the overgrown sunchoke stems can help protect some from the hail. I will definitely try this in any amount I can afford. If the sunchokes grow as agressively as everyone thinks up here, I will be exstatic.
1 year ago
It's been awhile since I've posted on here... But I have an untested concept (as far as I know) I want to try and am looking for any experienced folks with sunchokes and sweet lupine. I live in Colorado at 8000 feet, I have 9 acres of   land to work with of mostly low-quality soil though it is well-drained and varies in quality throughout. I am looking for productive low-input ways to start building soil life and quality. I will be building dry-stacked raised beds for some of our production--we have plenty of rocks. But I am trying to come up with a system that I can implement on large portions of the land that will be low-work, semi-productive and bring the soil to a higher level of quality. So I thought about planting sunchokes and sweet lupines together as a cover crop. The sunchokes will help break up and improve the soil and the sweet lupine (legume) will add nitrogen. I've decided on these two because of their vigor, perennial nature, useful outputs, aesthetics and heavy biomass production. I understand that sunchokes can be aggressive, but this is precisely why I would like to use them. I will gladly pull useful tubers out of the ground over and over again if they are happy to grow up here.

What I am envisioning is planting the sunchokes and sweet lupine mixed together and let them grow thickly and unabated for at least a year or two. All that biomass from their vegetation would be chopped and dropped right in place. Mulch is a must in this dry-ish climate. Then I would come out in a rotational fashion and interplant crops in the midst of the sunchoke/lupine blend.

So as an example--If I had a 80 foot row of the established sunchoke/lupine blend that runs east to west, I would come out in the spring and harvest the roots from 4-foot stretches of the sunchoke/lupine blend every 20 feet. In that portion of the blend that I harvested I would plant other crops like squash, garlic, quinoa, beets, greens or whatever experimentation proves to favor. I would continue to chop and drop excess biomass from the blend and use it to mulch those other crops as well as directly underneath the blend. The following year I would harvest the roots and plant other crops from different 4-foot stretches of the blend . This way I wouldn't harvest sunchoke and replant it with other crops for at least 3 years from the same 4-foot section. Hypothetically this would allow for ongoing soil improvement and continuous yield. The stretches of sunchokes that were harvested would hopefully have enough time to recolonize the harvested patches before they are disturbed again. Please don't point out that plants don't need to grow in rows as I'm well aware of this fact, I'm describing it this way for simplification. I have a variety of techniques to provide additional hydration to these plants, but for this thought experiment, please assume that the lupine/sunchoke blend will receive enough water.

So my questions are...

1. Does this concept seem at all viable or am I missing a glaring element?

2. There are endless other plants I could put in this blend and I will experiment with many, but do the sunchoke and sweet lupine grow okay together? Has anyone had experience with them specifically as companions?

3. Does anyone know where to get good deals on bulk sunchoke tubers? I am looking to obtain a sizable amount for this experiment but seem to find them for around $10/pound and I would like to kick this trial out with at least 50 pounds and the online prices are a little steep for my budget. Of course I will just try it on a smaller scale if need be, but I want to try this in a variety of conditions on my homestead and I can learn so much more with a good  variety of trial plots.

Thanks for any thoughts on this and happy growing!

1 year ago