Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Daylily, Another Unexpected Edible

        I completely forgot about daylilies when I was planning the Children's Garden. They are a low maintenance perennial with grassblade-like foliage and pretty flowers.  They come to us from China, and have naturalized all across the country.  I've known for decades that you can eat the tubers raw in salads, boiled like potatoes, or creamed. I wasn't aware that the tubers can cause digestive problems and flatulence. The young leaves can be eaten too, but again, too many can be toxic. That the buds and flowers are edible is a bonus I learned about only recently. I've found no warnings about toxicity* for these, except to make sure what you pick is organically grown.  Avoid buds and flowers growing along the road.
        Daylilies grow well even in poor soil. They're doing fine in the clay along the road out front. They like both sun and partial shade.  I relocated groupings near the three trees in the Children's Garden and used two or three hundred as a buffer between the hay field and the Apple Guild. They're thriving even though they were moved while in bloom.  I haven't noticed any adverse effect on the daylilies or the other plants I've set around the black locust trees so maybe my hostas dying off wasn't due to toxins from the trees.    
       The flowers would be a pretty decoration for a special event cake.  Or add them to a salad, or dip in an egg batter and fry.  I'll have to keep this in mind to try next year with the grandchildren.     
       I harvested some nearly-ready-to-open buds and boiled them for a few minutes in half water/half butter.  My husband declared the lily population was in trouble--because he liked them.  I thought they needed a little something: a sprinkle of garlic, basil, or parsley, perhaps. But even for me, they were palatable, and I'm a notorious vegetable hater. I found a recipe for Fried Rice with Dayliles that I expect to try next year too.  Unfortunately, Riley isn't particularly fond of fried rice, while I love the stuff. 
       Having missed a plant as obviously suitable for my purposes as the daylily, I'm wondering what other treasures are out there that I haven't considered.

*I've found no mention of toxicity in what are generally called ditch lilies, as pictured above, but some day lilies are toxic. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweet Potato - The Edible Ground Cover

     That's right, the leaves are edible too, as are the growing tips and, of course, the tubers! It's one of the easiest vegetable to grow.  As an added bonus, sweet potato foliage looks like ivy, perfect for even front- yard landscaping.
     Sweet potatoes are not related to the white potato so many of us think of when the word "potato" comes up.  That one is a member of the nightshade family and eating any part of it except the tuber can kill you.  Sweet potatoes are sometimes refered to as yams, but these two plants are also unrelated.  True sweet potatoes a longish, tapering to a point, and generally orange or yellowish is color.  The sweet potato is a spreading vine.  It will tolerate poor soil, but the tuber does best in soils of lighter texture. 
     I can't remember ever having sweet potatoes when I was a kid.  I certainly never served them at my table when my kids were young.  Now I hear that they're so nutritious that we should all be eating them every day.  So says Dr. Oz. I'm not ready to go that far, but his statement did prompt me to try a few recipes.  I found the tuber quite tasty, but Dr. Oz never mentioned the green stuff.  I learned about that from an article by Vernon Lewis in Backwoods Home Magazine (May/June 2011, Issue #129).
     But that came later, after I'd purchased three tubers this past spring and stuck them in jars, held in place with toothpicks. I'd done this before, many, many years ago, but only for the fun of seeing the greenery sprout and grow.  Those results never made it into a pot or the garden.  This time I planted the tubers, the whole things.  They looked like they were doing fine in the veggie garden.  Then my husband pointed out the article in Backwoods Home.  He suggested that my tubers were probably rotting away.  Reluctantly, figuring this was an experiment anyway, I dug them up.  Two had nearly rotted away, but the third, buried less deeply, had not.  They'd all produced healthy plants.
     The lesson here was that partially burying the tuber is one way to create slips.  So says my Master Gardener Core Manual, which I should have checked earlier.  I replanted the larger plants and cut off some smaller slips to put in a jar of water in the windowsill. 
     That's about the time that it occured to me that these vines would work great in some of my landscaping projects, so I purchased three more tubers, cut them into three or four pieces, set them in shallow containers, and am waiting for them to show green.  One source I have says to break the slips off at three to four inches and pot in potting soil (which is different from garden soil). Another says to put six to eight inch slips in a jar with water.  You need to change the water often, but you get to see the roots develop and can tell when the plant is ready to go into the garden. Another disadvantage to this option is that the roots tend to rot if you wait too long.  A week or two is all that adequate root development takes.  I expect at least a dozen slips per tuber.

Right to left: whole sweet potato, two-inch slices, in shallow pan with water, in jar with water, ready to plant.
     As for eating, the leaves and vine tips are edible any time.  Cook like spinach or use in recipes like you would spinach. Cutting the plant back keeps the foliage within whatever bounds you've set and encourages branching and fuller foiliage.  The tubers are edible even when they look like little more than thick orange roots.  For the best flavor, dig and eat when they reach five to six inches with a two-inch diameter.  They can reach a foot in length, but may be stringy.  Lewis's article has much more information and some cooking suggestions.
     I've already planted several vines in the Apple Guild and a few in the front-yard Evergreen Garden.  Both locations could use more.  Not only do they look great, but their lush foliage acts as a living mulch, overpowering most weeds.  For fuller foliage at the expense of tubers, add nitrogen to the soil. Some folks might consider it a drawback that pieces of vine or tuber left in the soil may produce another crop.  I'll reserve judgement on this; it could be a blessing in my edible landscape application.
Notes from later: The second trio of sweet potatoes I bought to grow more slips were dead when I purchased them but that is something you can't tell by looking at them. It comes from storing them under refrigeration. These are a warm weather crop and they don't do well in the cold, even after harvest.They rotted without producing slips.
     Peeling sweet potatoes is easier if you partially cook them before peeling, then finish preparing them. Our favorite recipe calls for sauteeing them in butter with a little brown sugar until tender, but they can be mashed like potatoes, baked in a variety of ways, or made into pie.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Strawberry Ground cover for Front-Yard Evergreen Garden

     Yesterday, I stopped by Wildtype Design, Native Plants & Seeds, Ltd. to snap a picture of the owner’s front yard for this blog. I thought I’d be there for a minute and gone without anyone being the wiser, but I got caught in the act. Naturally, I took the opportunity to ask some questions about the owner’s take on lawnless yards. 
Front-yard ground cover: wild strawberries and common cinquefoil
     When I first saw this yard, I assumed it was covered exclusively with wild strawberries. Actually, the ground cover is a combination of wild strawberries and common cinquefoil. Why both? For diversity. One may do very well in one area while the other shines elsewhere, but they look so much alike that the ground cover appears homogeneous. You can throw in other ground covers for more diversity, like Virginia creeper or sweet potatoes.
     How would my evergreens fit into this? Like meat in soup, the ‘soup’ being the basic ground cover of strawberries and cinquefoil.
     I found all this so inspiring that I left Wildtype with lots of...ah...soup.

                                                    The Evergreen Garden

Front Yard viewed from porch.  Evergreen garden is in background.

     The initial purpose of the evergreen garden was to provide a sight and sound screen for our front yard. It’ll be years before it matures enough to provide either of these functions. In the meantime, I’ve grown to hate mowing around all those trees and shrubs!
     When I first started this project four years ago, I intended to widen the mulched area around each plant as it grew, until the entire area was grass-free and neatly mulched. There are over thirty plants. That’s a lot of digging out every year. So I tried suffocating the grass with pool liner left over from the waterfall. I don’t have enough of this heavy plastic to cover the entire area. It had to be moved periodically and the grass underneath has proved surprisingly resilient. All this was taking too long, and this spring we had a windstorm that wrapped the heavy plastic around my Weeping Alaskan Cedar and nearly tore it out of the ground. I gave up and used a herbicide. That left me with an expanse of dead grass begging for mulch, or something.
     The something will be strawberries and cinquefoil, with, just maybe, some sweet potato vines. When I was putting the plants from Wildtype out this morning, it looked to me like I’d have enough to extend the ground cover right down to the road and eliminate the need to mow the drainage ditch bank! While I’m at it, I think I’ll take the south edge of the garden right up to the driveway and get rid of another area that’s awkward to mow. Then there’s that oh-so-esthetically pleasing curve in the north west corner. Too much trouble to mow; it’s soon to be history.
     Okay, I’m getting a little carried away. But I really do find this exciting.
     I want to remove the daffodils from between the evergreens and the ditch. My spouse remarked that we can hardly see them from the house now that the shrubs are getting larger. I’ll relocate them along the garden’s western edge as a grass inhibitor. That’ll be a bright line of color come spring. I’ll try not to dwell on the fact that there are probably a thousand or more bulbs out there lying in wait.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oak Park Front-Yard Vegetable Garden Challenge

     Do jail time for planting food? If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware of what’s been happening in Oak Park, Michigan. In a nutshell, the city charged Julie Bass with a misdemeanor because she planted vegetables in her front yard in violation of a city ordinance. She was threatened with jail time. The city has dismissed the charge against her in the face of widespread outrage on her behalf. That’s great!
     Or is it?
     It sounds to me like the city has backed down for now, leaving open the possibility of bringing charges against her later, after things have cooled down, while denying Julie the trial by jury she requested. At the same time, the city is harassing her over a charge of failing to license her dogs. This charge, Julie says, was tacked on to the original misdemeanor citation against her planting vegetables. She claims she got the dog licenses and paid her fine within a week of getting the citation. But the harassment continues; she’s still threatened with jail time of 93 days for failure to license.
     I’m wondering if she can sue the cretins involved for interfering with her civil liberties under the pretense of law.
     All that said, let’s get back to the subject of this blog: getting rid of lawns. Julie deserves a citation all right–of the positive kind. Growing your own food, whether in your back yard, front yard, patio, balcony, or on the roof, is such a basic right that it didn’t occur to our forefathers to include it specifically in the Constitution.
     Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski claimed the Bass garden is "unsuitable" because it’s "uncommon." Contrary to Mr. Rulkowski’s interpretation, these words are not synonyms, but if Mr. Rulkowski wants common, let’s give him common.


     I challenge everyone in Oak Park to plant vegetables in their front yard. Plant one or two veggies or a whole yard full. Have a contest for the most attractive front-yard vegetable garden. How about it, Julie? Do you think the city council could be persuaded to judge such a contest?
     For people used to nothing but grass out front, you may be uncertain as to how to get started with a vegetable garden. Ideally, the first step is to get your soil analyzed. Contact your county extension office to learn how. Most vegetables prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH of six. Your yard would probably benefit from amendments. The extension office should be able to tell you what you need.
     Most vegetables like a full day’s sun. Figure eight hours minimum for those. Determine how many hours of full sun different parts of your yard receive. Measure the areas you want to plant. When you draw up your own garden plan, pay attention to space requirements on seed packets or plant labels of the vegetables you want to use. You’ll want to be able to walk between plants for weeding, harvesting, and admiring.
     Julie Bass went with raised beds surrounded by mulch. I played with the idea of using vegetables more like one might use traditional flowers and shrubs in a yard. This is what I came up with.

     "Up" in my sketch is north, so there’ll be some afternoon shade along the front side of this imaginary house. Nasturtiums, mint, strawberries, and cucumbers all tolerate part shade. Starting to the left, by the driveway, there are chives, sweet basil and lavender. The lavender makes a nice hedge. Tomatoes are in a circular garden defined by rocks or a low fence. South of the tomatoes are some marigolds or nasturtiums. A wide row of carrots looks almost like ferns beside colorful leaf lettuces bordering the sidewalk. 
     Across the sidewalk, there’s cabbage edged with onions, with two more circular gardens. The one closer to the house contains pumpkins or squash, with lots of room to vine. The southern circle contains green peppers. Sweet potatoes fill in as a ground cover around the peppers. Along the east edge are bush beans. Pole beans could be substituted. They are more productive and a bean tepee is a potential play area for children. Depending on what’s in the neighbor’s lot, rhubarb might work behind the beans.
     I’m not suggesting that anyone actually follow this plan for the challenge. It’s just meant to show that raised beds and neat rows are not the only options. The idea is to get rid of the useless lawn in favor of an attractive, productive yard, as well as to demonstrate how effective and attractive a front-yard vegetable garden can be. But if anyone wants to follow the sketch, help yourself.
     Growing your own food, homesteading, becoming self-reliant, aiming for sustainability are all smart choices. Even First Lady Michelle Obama has planted a vegetable garden at the White House! Okay, so that one’s in the back yard, but the point is clear. Growing food is an intelligent option and, oddly enough, even fashionable. Accept this challenge and show those Oak Park bureaucrats that it can also be attractive in a front-yard setting.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Apple Guild Is Coming Up...Sweet Potatoes

     This is the starting photo for my poor, neglected apple orchard. Pretty pathetic. It looked even worse before we pruned the overgrown trees back really drastically in March.

     The few plants I’ve added at this point are hardly noticeable. I tossed in lots of lemon balm to fill some of the empty space. Why lemon balm? Because it was available. Then I added some rhubarb. Bought some hardy kiwi. It’s in there somewhere but needs a fence or trellis to grow on. I discovered some strawberry plants that escaped from my mother-in-law’s garden decades ago and have been hiding in the trees next to the family vegetable garden. I’m curious to see how they’ll do in the guild. Then I stood back and tried to figure out what to do next.
     What I saw was a big, empty canvas to work on. Oddly, I found myself framing the canvas before focusing on the interior. I planted the north edge (left in the photo) with a border of daffodils. The south side has a lot of chives and a few comfrey on the orchard side of a pathway which follows what I expect to be the drip line. On the other side of the path, between the expected drip line and the open field, is a wide planting of day lilies.
     The paths make it clear where it’s safe to walk, give structure to the project and make visualization easier. They also cut down on the area that needs to be planted. Whew!

                                                What Is An Apple Guild?

     As I understand the idea, a guild is a mini ecosystem. The plants support each other, each plant serving more than one purpose. Once established, the whole thing pretty much takes care of itself, a self-sustaining, ecologically friendly solution to managing an orchard. A guild can have any kind of tree as it's centerpiece.
     The challenge is getting the right mix of plants. To attract beneficial insects, some suggested plants are dill, fennel, and bee balm. To attract insect-eating birds, plant salvia nearby, but not directly under the trees. To bring up nutrients from deep in the soil, plant yarrow, chicory, plantain, dandelion, and burdock. I’ve already put in some yarrow. It forces nearby ailing plants to release something that helps them recover their vigor. For living mulch, use comfrey, artichoke, nasturtiums, rhubarb, and clovers. To fix nitrogen choose clovers, alfalfa, lupines, cowpeas, beans, peas, and vetch. Include large rocks or piles of smaller ones to encourage snakes and lizards, which help control rodents. Use spring bulbs, camas, garlic. chives, and comfrey at the drip line to suppress grass.
     Notice how many of the options are edible.
     I’m working on a limited budget, but I refuse to plant plantain, dandelion, or burdock! There are enough of those growing here already. Here’s what I have planted so far: asparagus, borage, daffodils, catnip, chives, comfrey, daisies, day lilies, dill, hardy kiwi, lemon balm, nasturtiums, rhubarb, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and yarrow. Some of these aren’t listed above, but they are what I have–except for the kiwi, which was purchased for the project.
     At first I found the prospect of planting such a large area to be daunting, but marking the pathways was tremendously helpful. I planted a lot of nasturtium seeds and am experimenting with sweet potatoes as a ground cover. It  looks like ivy! And is supposed to be easy to grow. I’ll talk more about that in another blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Children's Theme Gardens

     For the subject of my first blog on better utilizing what is now lawn, I wrote about creating a children’s garden with emphasis on edible plants. Because the grandkids don’t live at my place and the site is so large, I selected the theme and am doing the planting myself. How much better if the garden was inspired by something the children cared a great deal about! Their interest might lead to their actually wanting to participate in the creation and maintenance of their own small garden plot.
     There are many options for a child’s theme garden. If Junior loves pizza, he could grow tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, and oregano. He might plant forget-me-nots at a special spot in the yard in memory of a deceased pet, perhaps with a concrete memorial he made himself. A child who adores cats might manage pussy-toes in a larger garden. She could be in charge of finding homes for extra pussies as the groundcover spreads. A small arrangement of aromatic or tactually pleasing herbs grown in the spokes of a wheel might inspire a young gardener.
     How about a "farm"?: hens and chicks, cock’s comb, lambs’ ear, pussy-toes, goatsbeard, and cowpeas planted with the corn.

                                                                 Hens and chicks          

     A "zoo" is more challenging to get together: zebra grass, tiger lilies, lion’s tail, elephant ear hosta, ostrich fern or ostrich plume astilbe, leopard plant. Enclose this garden with short stakes to suggest a cage; make them big enough and bury them deep enough for kids to walk on.
     My personal favorite is a dragonland theme: snapdragons, dragon’s tongue sedum, (Powis Castle) wormwood (toxic), green dragon (related to jack-in-the-pulpit), dragon’s head, false dragonshead (also called obedient plant, and komodo dragon hosta; include a dragon statue.

Wormwood.  Height about five feet

Dragon's Tongue Sedum in a low-growing juniper

     Set up a mushroom-shaped table and stools surrounded by bunnytails, foxtrot, rattlesnake master, spiderwort, turtlehead, wormwood, woodland star, wood lily (trillium), woodruff, wood daffodil (bellwort) and cranesbill for a woodland theme.
     To attract butterflies: butterfly bush, joe-pye-weed, yarrow, and swamp milkweed. For hummingbirds: cardinal flower, coral bells, foxglove (toxic!), trumpet creeper. For both butterflies and hummingbirds: American columbine, bergamot, hollyhock, purple cornflower. This list is far from complete; many of these plants are invasive and some are toxic, so choose carefully.
     If your children aren’t interested in actual gardening, set up a bean pole teepee in a sunny location. Grow beans, or cucumbers or even watermelons on the teepee. Surround it with cherry tomatoes, carrots, ground cherries and other produce they can pick and eat while they play. This could be a separate play area, or you could center it in your vegetable garden.
     Any one of these options is so much more interesting than watching grass grow---just so you can mow it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Children's Garden

Site of Future Children's Garden

I estimate that by eliminating the need to mow around trees in my yard, I can cut my mowing time in half. By itself, that’s enough incentive to make this particular spot into a kids’ garden. It’s an easy area to watch from the kitchen, and cool because of the trees and lilac bushes. There’s space for a sandbox, a wading pool, and a bench, and lots of potential pathways for chasing games. There's even a tire swing hidden behind the tree on the right.
The photo shows an area of dead grass measuring about 36 feet deep and 30 feet wide. Since I took the picture, I’ve widened the project by another nine feet to the trees’ drip line on the left, so we’re talking 36x39 feet. This does not include the background lilac bushes.
After deciding to do this project, my first task was to inventory plants I have available to use. Naturally, during my research, I discovered many I don’t have but would like.

Some Plants To Consider For Children’s Garden

Plant name                Type*     Light**   Spacing       Height         Comment

Asparagus                    P         FS              8"            2-4ft            attractive ferns, crowding like this will not produce good table crop
Basil                            A         S, NS         8"            18"              culinary & medicinal uses (C&M)
Bergamot                     P         PS to S      18"           2-3 ft           attracts bees, mulch, divide every
    (Bee balm)                                                                                3 years
Calendula                     A         S              12-18"      12-20"         deadhead, decorative, eidible flowers, C&M
Catnip                          P       FS to LS     12"           18"-3ft         attracts bees (and cats), medicinal uses
Chamomile    can be A or P   FS              varies        8"-2 ft          activate compost decomp., revives
                                                                                                    nearby plants, medicinal uses
Chives                         P        S, PS          9"             8"-3ft           repels rabbits, C&M
Columbine                   P        PS              12"           2-3 ft           cut stems after flowering
Comfrey                      P        FS              2 ft           3-4 ft           difficult to get rid of, C&M
Cowslips                     P        LS- S          6"            5-9"             C&M
Creeping thyme    Evergreen  FS-varies     varies      less than 12" ground cover, takes some foot traffic, the variety I have does well in shade
Dill                              A       FS               9-12"       2-5 ft            Do not grow near fennel, C&M
Fennel                         A       FS               20"          7 ft                ok in shade but seeds won’t ripen, C&M
Forget-me-nots           P        S-LS           6"            12"                good with spring bulbs
Hens and Chicks         P        S                 9"            2-3"              some sources identify this as Houseleek which has medicinal uses
Hosta                          P       Shade          12"          varies            almost carefree, but deer like it, divide every four years or so
Lavender                    P        FS             18"-2 ft     18"-3ft           for hedges, 12 inches, C&M
Lawn daisy                 P        PS-S           ?              3-6"              Bellis perennis, attracts bees and butterflies, C&M
Lemon balm               P        S-NS         2 ft            3 ft                C&M
Mullein                  Biennial   S                2 ft            7 ft                decorative, attracts bees; flowers, leaves and stems all have uses
Nasturtium                 A       FS-PS        8"              varies            Prefers poor soil; leaves, flowers, and seeds are edible, attracts beneficial insects; capers from buds and seed
Parsley                 Biennial   S-LS           9"             15"                C&M
Primrose                    P       S-LS           6"             3-6"               edible flower, medicinal uses
Pussy toes                 P        Shade         6"             1-2"                native plant, fun name, ground cover
Sweet cicely              P        LS             2ft             3ft                   fernlike, C&M, buy plants, not seeds
Sweet woodruff         P        S               6-9"          12"                  ground cover, C&M
Sunflower                  A       FS             12-18"       3-10ft             plant in rectangle to create enclosed play area, C&M
Violet                        P        LS, NS      4-5"          4-6"                can be invasive, edible flower, C&M Wild strawberry        P       S or Shade  12"            10"                  good ground cover, C&M
Yarrow                     P       LS - S         12"           1 - 3ft              invasive, C&M, speeds composting, "helps" nearby plants

Whew. Sure hope this copies to the blog without messing up the columns!
My source for a lot of this information is The Complete Book of Herbs, A Practical Guild to Growing & Using Herbs, by Lesley Bremness. I love this book.
You may have noticed that many of these plants are herbs.  I like the idea of a garden where the kids can discover edible treasures.
Because so much of this Children’s Garden site is shaded, I’m a bit limited on what I can actually use. I’ll try catnip, chives, comfrey, creeping thyme, fennel, hens and chicks, hosta, lavender, lawn daisies, lemon balm, mullein, nasturtiums, parsley, pussy toes, primrose, sweet woodruff, sunflowers, and violets. Edging the garden with spring bulbs and comfrey is supposed to create a barrier to grass. I have LOTS of daffodil bulbs so I’ll try this here as well as in the apple guild. I’m saving my limited supply of forget-me-nots for the moon garden and the wild strawberries for the evergreen garden. I’ll probably put yarrow in the apple guild even thought it is invasive. I want sweet cicely, but no one at the garden stores I’ve checked has heard of it. I’m also seriously considering three Red Lake Currant bushes for the Children’s Garden, but I can’t get those until spring. Meanwhile, I should be preparing the soil to receive them.
I might have a problem with the currants. And other plants too, for that matter. Several years ago, I planted hosta around these black locust trees. Hosta are supposed to be nearly indestructible, but most of them died. The ones remaining are stunted. I’m afraid the locusts might be producing some sort of inhibitor, like black walnut trees do. I’ll be experimenting with other plants to see what will survive. I’m counting on the creeping thyme to fill in around the bench and sandbox.
Sure wish I could twitch my nose and make this happen. I’m so eager to see how it all turns out! I’ll simply have to be patient–and work on multiple projects to keep from stressing about any one. I promise to take pictures. Truthfully, I couldn’t wait to start planting. The tree on the right is surrounded by lemon balm, chives, parsley, catnip, violets, and creeping thyme. I’ve put in some more hosta to see how they fare. Nasturtiums are, hopefully, quietly germinating around the tree on the right. There’s nothing photo-worthy yet.
I’m torn between working on the moon garden and the apple guild next. But my grandson wants to help build a concrete dragon in the moon garden and he’ll be around only until mid-August. Build the dragon; plant the guild? That might work. This summer is too short!

*Annual, Perennial, Biennial
**S-sun, NS-noon shade, LS-light shade, PS-part shade, FS-full sun

Monday, July 4, 2011


Hi. My name is Pat Lentz. I once told my son that I can’t change the world, but I can make my little corner of the world a more attractive place, What that boils down to is some pretty intense gardening in the three acres around our very old farm house.,
More years ago than I want to count, I read a magazine article about some Master Gardener’s wonderful vegetable garden. I recall wondering what sort of hoops one had to jump through to become a Master Gardener. The only other thing about that article that stuck in my mind was the author’s claim that you could tell the garden’s keeper was a Master Gardener because the rows were perfectly straight. Even then, my reaction was an inelegant"huh?"
I discovered the "hoops" a few years ago, took the class through the Michigan State Extension Office and put in the required community service hours. So now, as a Master Gardener, I know everything about gardening. Yeah, right. But the classes I’ve taken, the projects I’ve been involved in, and association with other gardeners have opened my eyes to so many gardening possibilities that I’m really excited–and a little overwhelmed,.
And even more contemptuous of that writer’s contention that "perfectly straight" is worth so much praise. Non-traditional gardens rock!
Okay, so I admit that for decades I’ve been a basic, traditional vegetable gardener. Now I’m learning about native plants, fruit guilds, edible landscaping, permaculture, herbs, perennial vegetables, and so much more. But the one thing I definitely can’t get excited about is lawns.
I think of lawns as a convention that crossed the Atlantic with our European forefathers, a conspicuous show of wealth that remains time-consuming and costly in its care. Even before I became a Master Gardener, I was looking for ways to eliminate some of the extensive lawn on this property we inherited. Unfortunately, at the same time, I was cleaning up the yard around the house and creating more lawn.
Our son’s visit this past March was a turning point for me. His visit coincided with my efforts to get my husband to drastically prune back our out-of-control apple trees. His enthusiasm regarding permaculture and fruit guilds inspired us to hack those darn trees way back. Now comes the job of filling in under them with appropriate plants. Then I had a vision of the backyard trees ringed with perennial herbs and flowers, with lawn limited to walkways. I’ve started an evergreen garden in front that I want "mulched" with wild strawberries. My daughter has been advocating for a moon garden. At least the waterfall feature eliminates the need to mow one corner of the yard!
So many opportunities! What fun!
The photo accompanying this first blog is of our backyard, what I’ve been calling the Three-Tree garden, or the Children’s Garden. This will be the subject of my next entry.
I have this tendency to jump right into a project, then regret later that I have no record of what an area looked like before I dug in. I’m embarking on this blog venture in hopes to remedy that. In order to share what I’m attempting with others, maybe I’ll actually take those photos I should have to record progress. Many of the projects I’m planning will be learning experiences for me. I expect to make mistakes; that’s part of the process. I ’m also hoping to connect with others with a interest in turning underused property into productive land. I also know that I’ll digress upon occasion, perhaps sharing the construction of a concrete guard dragon in the moon garden or recipes for some home-grown produce.
I hope you’ll join me.