Friday, December 11, 2015

2015 Gardening highlights and Critters

The food forest is our major accomplishment for 2015.

Not only did we get stone fruit trees planted, but I tried a farming method totally new to me called permaculture, specifically using "layers" and "guilds"; and used a planting schedule graciously shared with me by Tim Miller of Millberg farms in Kyle. These methods are intuitive and make so much sense! I'm posting my notes for perma layers and guilds below. Some cold rainy day in January I will amend these charts to reflect the rate of growth we had this year. The peaches were so vigorous they developed greater than 6 feet diameter of growth and even with proper pruning will be like 3 year old trees next year.

The results have been beyond expectations due to a combination of factors, not the least of which is Tu's back breaking efforts to move yards of purchased compost, prepared soil needed to build up enough earth around the bases of the trees, and bales of wheat straw.

We had an enormous amount of rain in May which gave the trees a huge early boost. That rain event caused devastating flooding in the area, but we were spared the worst. Pictures of spring bounty and grateful creatures could fill volumes, but here are a few:
Texas Tree Frog after the rain, on a bucket
Dewberries from under the Creaky Oaks - wild

Daylily and Hyssop in the Celeste Fig Guild 


We had to use saved rain water through July and, when that ran out, the community water to get things through a dry August with no rain. But again in September and October we had plenty enough rain to give another boost to the trees and herbs, even while the hot weather held on.

New fence in February, deep holes drilled
into the rock in March, and sticks in pots

Trees were in the ground by end of March and
eager to leaf out after a few short weeks in April


The sweet potatoes quickly grew in the heat 


Winter crops of lettuce, chard, alyssum, red corn poppy, just set in this week;
plus scattered seed of daikon and dunlap peas over guilds and cereal rye in the walkways. 

We are trying to make soil as quickly as possible with old straw, our sister's bunny droppings, shredded paper from my clinic, and bagged leaves from Kindra's neighborhood. Of course we compost every bit of vegetable matter from the kitchen and garden, including unsalted cooking water. You know you've finally become a real gardener when you look forward to turning the compost piles!

Summer crops were squash (and more squash), sweet potatoes (and more sweet potatoes). Next year we will harvest sweet potatoes much earlier and more often. The tomatoes were doing NOTHING until October, just started to ripen in late November, and we had to cut the vines and bring them in before the first freeze 3 days before Thanksgiving (they are still ripening in the spare room).

It was really warm up until that freeze, which was hard enough it wiped out every tender plant in the ground. Did I mention we had sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving?
The scallop and yellow straight neck quash
performed well for months; but very little zucchini
This was the first day of digging; we had some
as big as soccer balls but they were split.
My favorite are the Georgia Jets!
Sadly we had another bizarre flood event on October 30th, two years to the day. This time Bliss Haven had 16 inches in 8 days (compared to 14 inches in 14 days) but the damage to our road was not as severe as before. Many people suffered damage to homes and property this year with the May and October events.

Too much rain is hard on personal property, but
when we see the wildlife flourishing, it seems to balance out. 


Permaculture Basics

Planting LAYERS around the tree


Year 1
 no canopy
Year 2
3 foot canopy
Year 3
5 foot canopy
Year 4+
10 foot canopy
Trunk
chives
Trunk
chives
Trunk
chives
Trunk
chives
Radius

Radius

Radius

Radius

15 “
Bulbs

15 “
bulbs
15 “
bulbs
15 “
bulbs
24”
Ground Cover
Repellars
24”
Ground cover
Repellars
24”
Ground cover

24”
Ground cover
36” D6’
Feeders

36”
Insectaries
Feeders
36”
Insectaries
Repellars
36”
Ground cover
48”
D8’
Biodrillers

48”
Biodrillers
48”
Insectaries
Feeders
48”
Insectaries
Feeders
60”
D10’
Mulch
Potted plants
60”
Mulch
Potted plants
60”
Mulchers
Biodrillers
60”
Feeders
Mulchers
Biodrillers
72”
D12’
Paths
72”
Paths
Berry canes
Asparagus
Roses
72”
Paths
Perennials
Potted plants
72”
Paths
Perennials
Water features



Bulbs
Ground Cover
Insectaries
Repellers
Feeders
Mulch/Mulchers
Bio Drillers
1.        
Chives
Chives
Allysum
Calendula
Fava beans
Borage
Carrot
2.        
Society Garlic (G)
Nasturtium (G)
Bee Balm
Garlic society
Cereal Rye
Horseradish
Daikon
3.        
Iris (Dutch & Bearded)
Day lily
Chamomile
Herbs
Field peas
Nasturtium
Parsnip
4.        
Amaryllis
Strawberries
Dill
Nasturtium

Wheat straw
Sweet potato
5.        
Crinum Ellen Bosanquet
Sweet potato
Oregano
Lemongrass
Yarrow
Chamomile
Echinacea
6.        
Spider lily (Hymenocallis)

Sage(s)
Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

7.        
Daffodil

Lantana


<Comfrey>




Designing GUILDS by function (and plants that did well this year)

Note: the list below is generic, compiled from multiple sources, not particularly for central Texas. 

No need to grow comfrey here in my opinion, though it's listed on most permaculture sites, and risk it being invasive because the borage does so well all year round, self sowing, blooming and thriving every place it lands. The bees LOVE it! It's even blooming now, in mid December. 

I purchased zinnia seeds and they self sowed twice this year; the second crop was blooming nicely up until the freeze at Thanksgiving. The lemon balm can be invasive here and it doesn't mind either the severe heat or drought as long as it's protected with a little shade on the west, nor the occasional freeze -- it always comes back. So I'm keeping it confined in beds and will be judicious with it in the food forest. 

Dynamic Accumulators (bio drillers): bring sub-surface minerals to plants with shallow roots
Comfrey, horseradish*, borage, chamomile, chives, lemon balm, peppermint, salad burnet

Flowers for cutting, drying, color & tea:
Anise hyssop, calendula, borage, bee balm, zinnia, straw flowers

Beneficial’s for Insects:
Alyssum, alfalfa, anise hyssop, buckwheat, clover, dill, fennel, feverfew, lemon balm, lobelia, nasturtium, parsley, spearmint, yarrow -- and oregano, which is evergreen and unstoppable
The wildflowers are all volunteers. Some old nasturtium seed was still viable.
Plants were large, vigorous and bloomed for many weeks. 

Medicine and Tea:
Artemisia**, echinacea, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, mallow, yarrow

Nitrogen fixers:
Clover, columbine, lupine, alfalfa, fava beans, Siberian pea shrub

Edible ground covers and vines:
Groundnuts, Jerusalem artichokes, strawberries, sorrel, squash, sweet potato

A solitary strawberry. A few survived to now. 

... and then there were herbs!

Two year old common sage in spring time regalia.
We lost the one in the foreground to the effects of May rains,
but the other plant seasoned our Thanksgiving meal.
Tu scored wheat straw bales, the best mulch ever!


Spring dill from saved seed. Always grow extra for these guys and gals!
* Made fresh horseradish-citrus cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving with kumquat from my new little tree and fresh horseradish root. The horseradish roots are not thick, but as promised the plant is a dynamic accumulator and makes lots of living mulch with its leaves. 

** Artemisia, lemon balm, hyssop, and lavender that I'm growing, plus wild harvested spruce, bee balm, and dove weed went into my first home made smudge stick. I rubbed the rest of the artemisia into a loose crumble and blended it into different mixes with frankincense and other resins. Those blends are still aging for incense cones. When I start distilling my own essential oils, gardening and perfume making at Bliss Haven can be from ground to plant to scent. 

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