joanna Powell

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since Jan 14, 2017
I'm an urban organic gardener who built raised beds on the vacant lot next to her house when she found out that the former house had been bulldozed into its basement. I like to grow non-fussy heirloom plants I can't find at the Farmer's Mkt. I grow enough for me, the squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, and the occasional 2 legged critters who keep stealing my red tomatoes...
Detroit, MICH zone 5b -6 United States
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Recent posts by joanna Powell

Hi. I had cut down a sapling:  4 more grew from the stump.  I dug up another 18 inch tall sapling in October and I'll know in the next few weeks if there are any more progeny.  Maybe you could try applying vinegar and rock salt in the cuts on the trunk.  I'm applying an herbicide, because pruning it just seems to encourage new growth.  I'm planning on cutting it down and grinding up the stumps in late Fall after the herbicide does the job.  Good luck to you dealing with Tree of Heaven in your valley.
8 months ago
To S. Bard

You might have an invasion of "Tree of Heaven" You have to kill the roots, not just dig them up as it likes to form colonies and crowd everything else around it out. The leaves and trunk also have a acrid foul stink (my opinion).

Here's a video on how to kill it
8 months ago
I live in Detroit, MI. I bought a fixer- upper house adjacent to a vacant lot.  The other 2 houses next to the vacant lot were bulldozed into their basements and I bought those lots two.  At the time, it was legal to bulldoze a house into its basement and cover everything with fill dirt.  This was 2001.  I didn't know anything about restoring land let alone nasty fill dirt where dandelions wouldn't grow. I was also spending most of my available money on fixing up the house 'cause I moved in with no windows, no doors, no furnace, no plumbing, etc... long story.

Anyway, I read that white clover seed might enrich the soil over time.  So I bought 5 lbs and spread it out by hand over three 40' X 125' city lots.  Somehow that clover took root in patches, died, and new clover took root in the new organic matter.

By the next year, the clover patches were widening and  filing in.  I grew a few vegetables in containers cause when I tried to dig into the soil, after 4 inches, I hit clay, bricks and other debris.  The soil tested fine, but it was full of bulldozed junk.

By the 2nd year, I decided to build keyhole beds.  That worked really well and my love of organic gardening began.  I currently only have raised beds for any type of gardening here: vegetables, fruit bearing shrubs, 4 fruit trees, and hardy kiwi vines.  The lawn/field is lush with all kinds of grasses, clovers, and even some mullein.  I always dread April/May because I have to pay a contractor to mow it every 2 weeks!  But by focusing on mowing over clover and leaving it in place as a mulch, the land has come back.  I've notice 4 types of bumblebees, dragonflies after the Summer rains, and lots of moths and butterflies.

Wood chips are good for paths and will still build the soil underneath them.  I also get spent mushroom "cubes" a local grower, and hops waste from a local brewer to help build my soil in the raised beds.  Since you have 5 acres, you might be able to get truckloads of veggie waste to spread where you need it mixed with a few yards of topsoil.   Alfalfa has 5' deep roots.  That and peas are a good grow-then-cut cover crop. One year I mixed 50gallons of horse manure with wood chips and grass clippings for an interesting 1 cubic yard compost pile.  It worked in under 4 months but stank!  Hope this helps.
10 months ago
I planted a "Stanley" plum last year that was really as sweet as a prune when perfectly ripe.  Great aroma, juicy, but way too sweet for fresh eating.  (It could just be me as I like a little tang in my sweet) It is self-fertile and has survived 2 winters.  I know the squirrels love the plums but I gotta find ways to use them as I thought it was going to be more of a fresh eating plum, not a prune.
10 months ago
I got 2 sticks of tree collards that overwintered well in my livingroom under lights.  The cats nibbled away all the chives to nubs but avoided the mint, oregano, wheatgrass (which was planted for them!) and collards.  I'll try one planted directly in the brassica bed and one in a 5 gallon pot on my porch with the herbs.  I have voracious squirrels and rabbits plus 2 legged varmints aka nosy neighbors that will pick recognizable vegetables so everything is camouflaged as alien plants.  That means no red beefsteak tomatoes that are visible from the sidewalk, etc.

My other new plants this year will be:
Richmond Green Apple cucumber
Purple pole beans or yard long beans
Green Doctor cherry tomatoes
Komatsuna-Asian Mustard spinach that's heat tolerant
Sprouted fingerling potatoes
and possible a Baby Shipova/Mt. Ash tree sapling for the food forest.

I want to lengthen the asparagus bed but when it's in full swing, every other day I'm harvesting 4-6 purple stems that are 1" thick and tender up to 22" long. I seem to be the only person in my circle that really loves it despite the asparagus pee!

I tried to grow heirloom San Marzanos and a small type called Piennolo but they didn't thrive in my garden unlike the Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, and Sungold.  So I'm looking for a 2nd sweet cherry tomato like Sungold and a paste that likes Zone 6a 'cause from July-September, I MUST have a weekly Rainbow Caprese salad with at least 5 different size and coloered tomatoes.

10 months ago
I tend to have sinus problem in the Spring so I'm making my own kimchi, and stocking up on Apple Cider Vinegar, pounds of local raw honey, and 3 months of meds in addition to toilet tissue, paper towels, pantry staples such as coffee, sugar, canned milk, wine, tequila,etc.  I like to buy my pet food by the month, so I'll get an extra month just in case.  I was going to plant my sprouting potatoes by the 10th if the weather warms up, followed by cold crop greens.  I always wind up with 3+lbs of sprouted potatoes that I neglected to eat from the 5lbs bag ('cause it's cheaper!).  I usually have meat in the freezer so my biggest problem will be making meals out of what is on hand without eating the same thing every day.  Even crab legs get old by day 4...

I have enough projects between my house built in 1908 and the raised bed food forest garden I began in the vacant lot adjacent to my house to keep me occupied for 2 months if I had to stay away from people. The problem then would be pre-paying the bills unless the government forbids the utility companies to shut-off services for non-payment.  As an educator, I have to be in front of bubonic plague infected munchkins daily so I just stay healthy the best way I can and keep my hands clean.

I will admit to frowning every time someone coughs anywhere near me nowadays...

This is an excellent time to see to practice those "survivalist skills" I've been reading about and to see what works for me and what doesn't!

10 months ago
Hi.  Congrats on your land purchase!

I'm not sure what you want to do with the terracing but here, the state has planted tall shrubs along the freeways to prevent mudslides, and erosion.  There used to be green grass and now you can drive by masses of purple or yellow or pinks flowers depending on the month.

Crimson clover is a deep rooted nitrogen fixer that you could cut and drop.  It also grows about 1.2+meters high so you could leave it there for a bit.  Birch trees are beautiful and can be tapped for sap. I'm looking at a Baby Shipova (Mountain Ash) tree to enrich my clay soil and provide fruit in a few years.

Here's a link to some plants that might be useful
10 months ago

I work as a on call substitute teacher while I'm interviewing for a regular job so I'm used to a bare-bones budget.  We just had 2 two snow days last week, so I might be home another 2 days this week as regular teachers and staff are trying to make up their hours.  It's nice to be able to decide how many days I want to work to cover my bills, but I really need something that full time and more fulfilling than babysitting from 7:40-4pm!

I'm prepping napa cabbage for kim chi today, then sorting seeds to be planted for the cold crops by March 10th.

I also have:
warm weathing seeds to start,
4lbs of potatoes sprouting,
3 bins of fabric lengths (3-5yds each) to be hand-sewn into skirts and tunics,
muslin to be sewn into summer curtains,
a raised bed to be dug up and relocated to a perennial border bed,
an asparagus bed to be weeded,
Forsythia to be dug up
A raspberry bed to dig up and made into an annual veggie bed
a dog yard right behind the house full of "Tree of Heaven" weeds that need to be trimmed, poisoned, and dug up
a re-purposed bedroom vanity that is now a bathroom vanity that needs to be tiled
and lots of piano music to organize.
Oh, and TAXES!!!

This weekend I made 4qts bone broth and taught myself how to bake flatbread from scratch.  Mind you, these are the regular evening/weekend chores...  As a precaution, I'll be stocking up on 3 months of meds, 2 months of pet food, and apple cider vinegar, bleach and pantry stuff this week because if I prepare, I probably won't need it!

A quarantine would be "Oh? More time to do chores? Why don't we try to knit a 5 foot tall fence out of fishing line like that lady did in Scotland! I'm quite good with squares and rectangles."
10 months ago
We have these "islands" in the middle of wide streets in historic neighborhoods.  I live one block away, but often walk my dog to admire the 1890-1940 mansions and gardens.  I've gathered chestnuts, 2 types of large crabapples, and 3 types of regular apples from old trees planted on the islands.  Their historic block club maintains all the trees, even the fruit trees so, you have to be careful in the Spring not to run over pheasant chicks, rabbits, possums and foxes.  I have 4 mulberry trees in my yard that divert birds from my strawberry patch but not the squirrels.  Mulberries are OK, but I prefer raspberries.   Last year I let the wild grape vine grow fruit just to try them out.  Tasty , concord-like flavor but the seeds are too large.
11 months ago
Here's a closeup of the wild grape and kiwi.  They co-exist rather well!
1 year ago