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Category Archives: Edible Landscaping

The Science Of Decay

What am I ?

 

It appears that the latest visitor to the edible landscape garden is a Brown Shelf Fungus. It was found on one of the logs that has been used as a garden seat. Fungi are many-celled filamentous or singlecelled primitive plants. They lack chlorophyll and must live on decaying plants to get carbohydrates.

The Brown Fungus produces hydrogen peroxide to decompose the cellulose in the wood. Since the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a small molecule, it can move rapidly through the wood. This will mean that the decomposition will not be just surrounding the area of the hyphae or filaments of the fungus. The log will eventually decay and become part of the surrounding soil. 

Mark Jones

Picture by Kim Kirkhart

 

Munching on Lasagna

The Edible Landscape team at Raincatcher’s has been sharing their progress over the past few months. Update #2 follows:

There’s a statistic out there (isn’t there always?!) that states 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken by February. …And since you haven’t seen another blog post from us since the first week of January, we bet you thought we belonged to that 80%, didn’t you?

Happily, that’s not the case, we’re still here. But with the New Year came some new regulations we had to work through which postponed our posts.  Now, we think we’ve gotten them figured out and we hope there will be no more interruptions.  So without further ado, here is our weekly post! 

Munching on Lasagna

In our last post, we showed you a picture of one of our sleeping beauties, a bed quietly growing soil under its blanket of mulch.  We cavalierly referred to it as “sheet mulching” or “lasagna gardening” and left it at that.  We also mentioned having written, but not published, posts of our activities during the past year.

Lucky Reader, this is the week your patience is to be rewarded – with a bonus! Not only are we about to share with you the recipe for a gardener’s lasagna, but since we’ve waited a nearly a year, we’re going to show you the tasty results, too.

So what is a gardener’s lasagna? (It’s also known as sheet mulching, no-dig, and no-till gardening, but we’re using the lasagna term; it sounds so much tastier, and this is an edible landscape after all.)  Unlike its culinary counterpart, it is not made up of layers of pasta, cheese, vegetables/meat and sauce.  But it is made up of layers.  Layers of carbon and nitrogen.  In Compostese (the language of compost), carbon-rich items are ‘brown’ and include leaves, straw, paper, cardboard, (shredded) wood, and other similar materials.  Nitrogen-rich items are ‘green’, and encompass vegetables and fruits, grass clippings, fresh manure, and coffee grounds.

To make lasagna, a cook repeats layers of pasta, sauce and cheese in a casserole until the pan is full. To create a lasagna bed, a gardener repeats two-inch layers of ‘brown’ with two-inch layers of ‘green’ until you have a two-foot-high bed (more or less).  A cook bakes their lasagna in the oven at 350°F for an hour.  They know it’s done because the top is bubbly and a little brown.  A gardener covers their lasagna with a layer of mulch and waits…somewhere between a few months and a year, depending on how hot and wet the weather is (warmer and wetter = faster).  They know it’s done because that two-foot-high bed has dropped to four to six inches, and when they peek under the mulch, they see rich, black soil, ready to feed seeds and seedlings, and build them into big, strong happy plants.

Building the bed

Building the bed

 

And that’s mostly how we’ve created our lasagna beds. We did one more thing to our bed:  before the first layer of compost or mulch went down, we put down a double layer of overlapping cardboard.  (You could use 6-8 sheets of newspaper instead, but the cardboard was free and faster than newspaper.)  Our brown was free shredded tree mulch from tree-trimming companies*, and our green was partly-decomposed compost we had on site.  We managed to get it about 18 inches high before we ran out of materials and muscle.

Newly finished bed

Newly finished bed

 

We built our first lasagna bed last April (2016), and by October, it had dropped to about six inches high and attracted a wayward seed. By December, that little traveler looked like this:

One butternut squash plant

One butternut squash plant

 

 

It lived in the shade of the nearby oak trees, and never got watered by us. But the soil was so rich, it fed our butternut squash plant well.  When we pushed aside the mulch, we saw nice, rich soil (black gold):

Our new soil

Our new soil

 

We’re looking forward to a good year.

That’s all for today – see you next week!

Lisa Centala

*http://freemulch.abouttrees.com

New Year’s Resolutions

A new year is here, and with it comes hope. All those good intentions come roaring back, ready to improve our lives.  Last year, we began creating an edible landscape in the old, disused playground.  We promised you updates on our activities, and sharing what we learned as we experimented in our new space.  Those posts got written, but never published.

So our resolution for 2017 is to both write and publish our edible landscape adventure (with pictures, of course!)  We’ll aim to do one a week, keeping you informed of our progress, our activities, our successes, our failures, and any lessons we glean from all of it.  …And we’ll probably slip in last year’s posts (as they become seasonally relevant.)

edible-garden-januaryAbove: growing soil!

Right now, we’re growing soil. Aboveground, the garden looks asleep; belowground, many organisms are busy converting multiple layers of compost and mulch into rich soil.  You may have heard of it, it goes by many names:  sheet-mulching and lasagna-gardening are two common ones.  Growing soil doesn’t take much effort from the gardener (other than patience), so while the garden doesn’t need our immediate attention, we are inside, warm and cozy, surrounded by a mountain of catalogs, dreaming up the landscape for the upcoming year.  If you’ve got any suggestions for us, we’d love to hear it!  The only caveat is that the plant must have an edible component.  With all the trees in our landscape, shade-tolerant edibles get bonus points.

That’s all for today – see you next week!

 

The Edible Landscape Series-Learning to Plant Outside the Lines

As we embark on our edible landscaping adventure, we find out how ingrained the old gardening lessons are in our psyche. A great example – and lesson – is in our radish, carrot and onion bed.

When we planted our root crops, we placed each in its own row. Why?  Mostly because we didn’t think about our planting “design” and did what we always did in the past.  Everyone always plants in rows, right?  So we did too:  three rows of radishes (one for each type), then a row of carrots, and finally, to fill out the bed, a few rows of onions.  We placed our plant labels at the end of each row to help us remember what we’d planted, and went on our merry way.

Row Planting- We Might Rethink and Plant Differently Next Time.

Row Planting- We Might Rethink and Plant Differently Next Time.

A few weeks passed; we had unseasonably warm weather coupled with lots of rain. The onions were growing.  We seemed to have a little line of ferns we could attribute to the carrots, and up against the edge, we had three foot high stalks with pretty purple and white flowers on them.  Some (not all) of the radishes had bolted!

And this is the lesson we learned from this bed: plant outside the lines.  If we had sprinkled the radish and carrot seeds throughout the bed, with the onions interplanted, right now the whole bed would look like it was full of tall flowers, with a low fern covering the base, and smooth spikes interspersed for contrast.  Overall, it could have been a much more uniform bed.  Or, if we had known how tall our ferns (carrots) would grow, and if we could have anticipated our radishes bolting (and giving us those beautiful flowers), then we could have used the crops to ‘paint’ the bed:  planting the carrot seeds around the border of the bed, lining the border with the onions, and filling in the center with the radishes.  That’s part of the beauty and fun of landscaping with edibles:  we are encouraged to add an extra dimension to our planting:  we plant not just for the tasty edibles, but with an eye towards their intrinsic beauty.

A few other benefits to planting enough to let some of your harvest bolt:

The radish flowers (of course we tasted them!) taste like mild radishes – so now you have an extra flavor to add to your salad, or to your dishes as a garnish.

Not all the radishes bolted, but if you leave them to bolt (and give you pretty flowers), make sure to plant enough that you can harvest some to eat. We haven’t tasted our bolted radishes yet, but they will probably be woody in texture.

Leaving some of the plants to bolt means you now have another signpost up for the beneficals to come and visit.

Finally, if you let some bolt and eventually go to seed, you’ll have the seeds to plant the following season! However, if you choose to do that, make sure your seeds are heirloom or open-pollinated and not hybrid seeds.  The seeds from a hybrid plant will differ from the parent.  But if you like surprises, go ahead, plant the hybrids and see what you get!

Radish Flowers!

Radish Flowers!

So we’ve learned our lesson: instead of planting an area, we’ll “paint” it:  we’ll think about the shape and height of our final plants, and only plant in rows if we want to see a line in the final picture!

Lila Rose

Pictures by Starla

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