ngakmafaery: (Default)
[personal profile] ngakmafaery looks like we are going to be moving to a condo place, through various means and ways, and they have the standard anti-life position of 'no feeding wild animals, including birds, and only one hanging plant and that can only be up part of a year and no vine plants except up to three tomato plants under specific conditions, and everything has to be covered in the (poisonous, probably mafia-supplied) mulch' you guys have any links or resources about condo associations who made a graceful shift to 'victory gardens' or 'organic community gardens' or anything else, especially in the wake of lots of hurricane destruction? This place is in New Jersey, and there are a lot of these condo associations, many for seniors and many not, and I am just trying to find good support for condo associations that have made some sort of allowance for organic gardening, or gardening of food within some small private or larger community area, since it is terrible to me that the pollution and waste of space to grow good things goes on...circumstances dictate that we move there pretty much, so I want to make it better than when we get there...I already plan to use the garage for everything from a compost drum to maybe growing mushroom to drying clothes, but am unsure if all that will make weird excessive moisture or not work at different times of year or not...I have not even been to this place yet, but have read the rules, and they are tough. Thanks for any good ideas! I may crosspost this somewhat...
loligo: cheering crayfish! (crayfish)
[personal profile] loligo
Have any of you ever grown edible mushrooms on logs or mulch? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences! I've just started this experiment myself.

Last spring we had a terrifying, destructive storm in our region that brought down huge trees everywhere, including in my yard. I had fantasies of growing all kinds of mushrooms on the resulting logs, but it took us so long just to clear the debris (with two little kids under foot all the time) that we just didn't have the energy to deal with it until the wood had already been sitting around dead for too long. But there was one alder growing near our mini swamp that only came halfway down. It clung to life for another year and a half, but finally crashed down all the way just recently, so I was *not* going to miss this chance.

I ordered thimble spawn of Double Jewel shiitake from Field & Forest Products. Not that many places seem to offer spawn in thimble form -- it's sawdust and spawn formed into a plug and capped with a thin layer of styrofoam, eliminating the necessity for melted wax to seal each plug. Yeah, not as sustainable as wax, but given that the aforementioned little kids were going to be helping with this project, I wanted to keep scalding wax out of it if possible.

We drilled and plugged three big logs today, and we've only used about a quarter of the sheet of plugs. This is going to be a bigger project than I realized!

For fun, I also ordered some Wine Cap Stropharia spawn, which can be grown on straw or wood chip mulch. I made a bed of straw for it at the foot of my magnolia tree. Supposedly after the fruiting is spent, you can move shovelfulls of the bed around to new spots and colonize your whole garden. I've never seen these offered in stores, so I have no idea if the taste is all that great, but the idea is fun, anyway.

I'll let you all know how things go!
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
Alas, I wish I could give a better report of this perennial root vegetable, but in three years of growing it, I have only been able to harvest one tiny tuber. For a really useful write-up of this veggie, check out this post at Homegrown Evolution. I guess my post should be taken as a checklist of how *not* to grow Chinese artichokes!

The spot they're growing in is in part shade. We have very heavy clay soil, and I sheet-mulched the heck out of it three years ago when I first planted stuff in that bed, but I think the native clay has succeeded in incorporating most of the mulch by now without much change in its essential clay-ness. We had a bad summer of drought this year. I figured that after 24 hours of rain, the ground might be soft enough now to dig, but getting the fork in there was like trying to ram it into concrete. So, dried-out clay = a big no-no for S. affinis. People who grow it in sandy soil or on pond margins report it as being downright invasive. My plant only expanded to a 2 sq ft patch in three years.

The one tiny tuber was harvested accidentally this spring while I was weeding in that bed. It popped right out, so I washed it off and ate it. Other people have described them as sweet, nutty, or minty -- I would have to describe that tuber as bland. Seriously, it was like water. I thought maybe they would have more flavor by this fall... but fall is here, and there are no tubers! I can't find a one.

Wish me better luck with my Jerusalem artichokes. This is my first year growing those -- the plants look huge and healthy, but who knows what's going on below....
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
Goumi is a fruiting shrub that gets praised a lot in permaculture literature because it is so multi-purpose: it is a nitrogen fixer, it will fruit in part shade, and it is nutritious and (supposedly) tasty.

I planted one a couple years ago, and finally had some fruit this spring. Here are my impressions:

(1) The frequent comparisons to pie cherries are somewhat on target. The goumi berries lack that ineffable cherry-ness, but they have the same basic balance of sweet and tart that pie cherries do. They last on the bush for a long time (many people report problems with robins stealing all their crop, but mine were left alone) and they keep getting sweeter the longer they stay there. My kids refused to eat them, saying that they were too sour, and I have NO IDEA what they're talking about. My kids will eat red currants right off the bush, and to me the taste of the goumis was far milder than red currants. But whatever, kids -- more for me! I found them to be a very enjoyable nibble.

(2) The seeds are large, relative to the fruit size. There's a single seed in every berry. Many sources say that the seeds are edible, but I found them a bit too tough and chewy for my taste, so I prefer to spit them out. Supposedly if you make goumi raisins, the seeds are less noticeable.

(3) They are fiddly to harvest and clean. The berries hold fast to the branches, the stems come off with the berries, and the dried blooms often clings to the ends. I put a bunch in the fridge without picking the stems and blooms off, and several days later the blooms had gotten all moldy and I had to pitch the whole mess. I think the berries would have kept much better if I'd picked all that off. Consequently, I did not get to try cooking them, but I suspect they would make good jelly.

(4) The bush is problem free, as far as I can tell, and I live in an area afflicted with many fungal diseases. Practically everything in my yard has some sort of scab or blight or rust on it by midsummer, while the goumi looks fresh and clean. It grows quickly, the flowers are pretty and fragrant, and it really does fruit in part shade, as advertised.

So, in my experience the fruit quality is not so high that I would say "OMG you should plant it no matter what!" but if the plant's other benefits would be useful for you, then it's definitely worth your time.
loligo: (organize)
[personal profile] loligo
Another gardening forum that I'm part of regularly holds mystery plant swaps, and I've never participated, because a lot of the plants I focus on are not of interest to your typical gardener: they're not showy enough, they're a little too "vigorous" (i.e. try to take over your garden *g*), etc. But then I thought, "Hey, I know a whole community of people who are interested in these same sorts of plants!"

Might there be interest in a mystery plant swap here? I know that trying to send live plant material over national borders is typically a bad idea, so we'd need to gauge interest separately for each country (can EU members ship plants to each other's countries without inspections or expensive certificates?). As far as I know, international shipping of seeds is permitted, though, so an international seed swap would be another possibility.

The way I've typically seen these swaps run is you pick a minimum number of plants to send, something like 3 or 5, and participants post a wish list and a DO NOT WANT list. If you have something on your swap partner's wish list, great, but any plant that's not on their "No" list or their state's Noxious Plant list is okay to send.

FYI, for folks who are new to permaculture, some of the plant categories of interest include: edible plants, nitrogen fixers, ground covers, plants that attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, medicinal herbs, and other such useful things.

So, what do you think? If you might be interested, post what country you're in, whether you'd be interested in a National Plant Swap, International Seed Swap, or both, and what you think the minimum number of plants/seeds should be. Spread the word, and we'll see what shapes up!

Garlic WIN

Apr. 15th, 2010 05:45 pm
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
A couple of years back, I planted some wild garlic round the base of an apple tree in a very dim and dingy corner.

Today (after a long period in which my garden was horribly neglected) I looked round and realized that the corner is full of wild garlic.

Apparently, like mint, it's one of those of those plants that will try to stage a coup if you end up in hospital for five months turn your back.

I am rubbing my hands with glee and plotting tasty salads.
sara: S (Default)
[personal profile] sara
An interesting bit from the NYT about "aquaponics" -- I don't think I'm going to give up my garden beds just yet, and I wonder about the electrical power consumption of these sorts of setups, but it's neat to read about nonetheless. I find the integration of the fish particularly intriguing -- we put goldfish in our rainbarrels last year, but I'm not planning on eating those for dinner any time soon.

Today did bring an opportunity to integrate animals into our local agricultural process, however; my son and I went out in the backyard and turned the compost heap for the first time this year, which is a stinky task for me and a momentous opportunity to munch worms and slugs for the chickens. They have been busily scratching away at the bits of the heap that weren't shoveled back into the bin.
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[personal profile] dancinglights
I suppose this is a de-lurk post. Hello!


On [personal profile] rialian's advice, I requested my winter holiday gift pile contain a second edition of a book I already owned. Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture, Second Edition contains several new and expanded chapters on urban permaculture and working with much smaller suburban and city lots than the previous edition or any other permaculture book I've seen were willing to tackle. As the primary planner and gardener for a tiny rowhouse lot, the new content is extremely relevant to my needs. Skimming through the new content, I've been enthused to find most of Hemenway's observations matching up with my own experience of the past two years here, and to watch him take those observations and run with them.

Many of the book's new observations center around two main points of note in dealing with urban/small-suburban land. The first is the extremes of microclimate created by urban architecture and materials. The second is that the usual urban or crowded suburban property, for all practical purposes, has fewer zones.

My household's property, as I've come to think of it in practical terms, includes zone 1 ( kitchen window, deck, and front step gardens), zone 2 (vegetable garden and under-deck shade garden), and a very small portion of zone 3 (blueberry and raspberry bushes at the forest edge, which is also the edge of our property line). But beyond this property line, as Hemenway notes from his own experience moving into an urban environment, is more of zone 3 and all of zone 4. Neighbors in my rowhouse block and I share vegetables, and some of us even have agreements that one another can pick from our gardens when we are away on vacation and the fruits would be wasted. Raspberry bushes in protected parkland down the street provide fruit once a year for no effort in growing or tending. If any of us have a tree fall, there is the possibility of free mulch. The extended zones are still there; it just requires co-operation with neighbors and the park system to take advantage of them.

Hemenway also notes that urban zones contain different resources than one generally thinks of in permaculture, but they are resources nonetheless. Concrete and brick blocks (jokingly referred to as 'urbanite' rocks) are available; there is garden space in empty plots, and, most peculiarly to the crowded environment, there are often more complex building materials available. In a show of just this, this morning on my way to the office, I managed to flag down a neighbor who has been replacing the old, drafty windows in his home, and had someone doing work outside today. On my way home today, I shall pick up three household windows from which to build cold frames for my vegetable garden, extending my growing season for the cost of some cheap boards, and saving my neighbors a trip to the dump and the cost of wasting windows there. Hopefully, come Spring, I can give them some of the early greens made possible by their trash. Trash to lettuce, the power of community and urban permaculture.
purpletigron: In profile: Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts from Dr Who (Default)
[personal profile] purpletigron
I have started my Autumn digging.

You would have to know that I am very much inclined toward 'no-dig' gardening to realise that this is odd. But I am converting our grassed area into raised growing beds, so I need to dig out all the creeping grass, bindweed, creeping nettles and so forth.

However, there is an added wrinkle. We know that there is some kind of rubble layer about 1 ft below the grass. As far as we can tell, this is because a former owner of the house demolished some kind of brick outhouse with glazed windows and corrugated composite roof.

So, today, I started digging out this layer.

In half an hour, I filled two rubble sacks with an unpleasant mixture of concrete, broken glass, brick fragments and all kinds of other rubbish. This from an area about 2 ft square.

I can see that I will spend all winter digging! But I'm happy to be bringing this patch of ground back into good health.

Has anyone reading experience of a similar situation? I understand that mortar residues can adversely affect plants due to pH changes. Given that I don't believe there are any heavy metal or organic chemical contamination issues, am I likely to get on OK growing on this ground otherwise? I plan to add back lots of municipal composted green waste.
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[personal profile] purpletigron
N has sent me a baby fig tree!

It comes with a closely typed page of instructions. I'm not very good at following such detailed instructions :-)

Has anyone reading successfully had a bush-trained fig (Brown Turkey variety) fruit in a city in the South of England? How did you manage it?
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
So, I promised myself that I was going to focus on useful plants in my garden, rather than wandering off into pure ornamentals, but I kind of fell in love with daylilies over the summer, and now I'm a bit obsessed. Did you know there are over 60,000 registered cultivars? And they're practically unkillable! And they're ridiculously easy to hybridize at home! And they're gorgeous!

So, um, yeah, a bit obsessed. But I'm rationalizing that it's okay to massively expand my daylily collection because they *are* technically edible. In fact, I've eaten the dried flower buds of one of the Chinese varieties, and so have you, probably, if you've ever gotten hot-and-sour soup at a reasonably authentic restaurant.

But I don't know if it's only a few specific varieties that are tasty enough to eat on a regular basis, or if they're all fairly palatable, and I don't know anyone who's tried harvesting them at home. Obviously, I'm not going to spend $100 a plant for the latest fancy varieties and then serve them for dinner. Because (a) I'm not spending that much on a plant unless it grows pure gold apples or something, and (b) why eat the pretty? But, you know, if civilization collapses or something, I'd like to know if I have something truly useful on my hands or not.
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[personal profile] purpletigron



Big Green Gathering instructs legal team to fight injunction

The Big Green Gathering, a five day eco-awareness event is determined to fight for the right to hold its annual event on the Mendip Hills, near Cheddar. The environmental event, which combines practical advice and demonstrations on sustainable lifestyles combined with entertainment powered by the wind, the sun and people is threatened with closure on Monday, 27th July, just thirty-six hours before it opens to the public on Wednesday.

Mendip District Council have applied to the High Court in London for an injunction to stop the Big Green Gathering from going ahead, despite the fact that the Council granted a license for the Big Green Gathering on 30th June, 2009 and a multi-agency meeting was held on 23rd July where last minute details for the event were progressed.
purpletigron: In profile: Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts from Dr Who (Default)
[personal profile] purpletigron
I am lucky in my day job - I am being sent by them to the Big Green Gathering (Cheddar, UK, Wed 29 Jul - Sun 2 Aug 2009) to facilitate a workshop on food security.

There will be lots of permaculture-related activities going on (see such as green living, renewable energy, green enterprise, food and farming - (at least) one of the BGG organisers is a leading UK permaculturist.

Domestic commitments permitting, I am hoping to stay for the full 5 days.

I am also going to do an 'apprentice presentation' on one of the 10 designs for my portfolio for my Diploma in Applied Permaculture (see for what that is).

Any chance of meeting anyone from this group there?
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
I bought one plant from Raintree Nursery five years ago, of the variety 'Profumata di Tortona". For the first two years, it produced tons and tons of runners, but no flowers, so that by the third year I had a decent sized patch of it. The third year, all the plants that were a year or two old bloomed extravagantly, but not a single blossom set fruit!

the whole saga, including taste test )
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
So I added a few new plants to that bed that had the Hidden Gravel Surprise. First off, I discovered that there were roots growing both above and below the gravel layer, so breaking through the gravel beneath each plant as I planted them last year was at least an adequate strategy. But removing the gravel from the new planting holes this year was not easy. Prying out some of the larger rocks turned out to be pretty brutal on the stray roots wandering through the area, plus it totally disarranged the soil profile. In a rock-free bed I would have been able to just nudge the soil and any roots aside and slip the new plant in.

So my conclusion is that if you're going to do all your planting at one time, you can skimp on the effort and just remove the gravel below each plant, but if it's going to be an ongoing project, get ALL the gravel out first!
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
A couple years ago we bought a house that had originally been built by an elderly couple who loved gardening. They laid out flagstone paths and rock-edged beds and made some very nice plantings. But as they got older they had a hard time maintaining their garden, and then they sold the house to a woman who was a total non-gardener. She owned the house for five years, and she said that all the "gardening" she did was paying a mowing service to mow the lawn. They alternately ignored the flower beds or mowed them down to grass height.

So we have a real wilderness to revitalize! With the first bed that I tackled, I put down like six inches or more of sheet mulch (cardboard, compost, leaf litter, topsoil...) and then when I dug in to plant my plants, I discovered that the original owners had mulched all their beds with ornamental gravel. By the time the garden came into my possession, all that gravel was hidden beneath a half-inch to inch of soil. So I dug it out of each planting hole and did the best I could. But now I can't decide what to do with the other beds. Should I dig out ALL the gravel ahead of time? Or do I only need to remove it in the immediate vicinity of each plant, trusting their roots to grow out either above or below the two-inch layer of gravel, depending on whether it's a deep or shallow-rooted plant?

Some of the gravel is pumice, which might actually help the drainage of my very heavy soil, but some of it is some very smooth, dense rock that I don't know the name of, and the layer is very compacted.

Any thoughts?
purpletigron: In profile: Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts from Dr Who (Default)
[personal profile] purpletigron
I first encountered this self-seeding ('multiplier') biennial allium through the Heritage Seed Library of the HDRA - now known also as Garden Organic:

Babington's leek

You can read more about the Allium ampeloprasum babbingtonii in the excellent Plants for a Future database, which has extensive information about thousands of useful plants which can thrive in temperate climates such as the UK.

Alliums are said to be good companion plants to fruit trees, Solanaceae ('nightshades' - tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc.), brassicas and carrots (e.g. see However, I do not yet have much personal experience of these claims regarding Babington's leek.
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
Now that we're in open beta, it occurs to me that I never really did a formal admin post. I am totally in favor of all members using this community for whatever permaculture-related purposes strike their fancy, with the exception of advertising -- if you want to publicize your permaculture goods or services, please run your post by me first (and I am very unlikely to approve it unless you are a long-time, active member of the community).

Personally, I would love to read about unusual plants that have worked well for people in permaculture plantings, but I don't have much to report along those lines, myself! Intro posts are always encouraged, and requests for advice are totally cool, too.

A thorough, well-organized tag system warms my heart, but my own tagging skills are sadly haphazard. Not that this community is likely to be so high-traffic as to need really hardcore tags, but I would be happy to give admin privileges to someone with obsessive tagging tendencies *g*.
purpletigron: In profile: Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts from Dr Who (Default)
[personal profile] purpletigron
Delighted to see this community already in existence!

I am on my pathway for a Diploma in Applied Permaculture, having completed the 72 Hour Design Course in 2007. I am based in the UK. I would be delighted to attempt to answer any questions which anyone may have about what those training courses offer.

I am vegan, so I am specializing in stock-free permaculture - this means that I do not include captive animals in my designs. Two leading UK vegan permaculturists are Aranya (see and Graham Burnett (see

My favourite permaculture book at this stage of my pathway is Patrick Whitefield's Earth Care Manual ( - focusing on temperature climates, it is the ideal starting place for many questions about creating sustainable human habitats in the UK.
loligo: (anemone)
[personal profile] loligo
This book is like a charming, light-hearted companion to Toensmeier & Jacke's much more hardcore Edible Forest Gardens. It should be of great interest to food geeks as well as plant geeks; I come from a whole family of obsessive foodies and there were a lot of things in here I'd never heard of before. It makes a nice coffee table book, too -- nearly every page has full-color photos.

Just about the only perennial vegetables grown in most American gardens are asparagus and rhubarb, with artichokes, sunchokes, and sorrel trailing way behind. But this book has a hundred more! There are edible plants here for every site -- sun, shade, bogs, deserts, you name it. They were selected based on taste and productivity, with the only requirement being that they're suitable for growing *somewhere* in the United States, even if that somewhere is just a couple square miles of upland Hawaii (a real example -- the basul tree bean).

I was expecting to find crops from Asia and South America that I wasn't familiar with, but what really surprised me were all the traditional European vegetables I'd never heard of before -- vegetables like skirret, sea kale, and Good King Henry, all of which became minor culinary footnotes after the introduction of all those shiny new veggies from the Americas.

I have yet to try growing or eating anything from this book (besides the usual suspects like asparagus, etc.). I actually have pokeweed growing wild all over my property, but since that one's toxic unless you cook it in a couple of changes of water, I haven't worked up the nerve yet. Oh, wait, actually I did plant Chinese artichokes last year (Stachys affinis)... they'll be ready to harvest this fall. I'll let you know how they turn out!