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Grazing Thru The Edible Landscape

The July Master Gardener meeting was a tasty success – a wonderful, informative speaker on our favorite topic – food!   …Well, to be more precise, the topic was about how to incorporate food plants into our landscapes.  Cheryl Beesley, a master gardener, horticulturalist, and landscape designer with an emphasis on edible landscapes was gracious, entertaining and educational.
Before the meeting and her talk, we gathered to graze in Raincatcher’s own edible landscape. Culinary creations from our own fruits, vegetables and herbs were offered and gobbled up.

Our culinary team showing off our tasty treats!

Through the garden gate – a glimpse of the landscape.

Starla with a photo-retrospective of our journey from old playground to new edible landscape.

Our guests enjoying the tasting; that’s the hugelkultur in the foreground.

Three of our planting scenes: our southern border lined with okra, our ‘rock garden’ with herbs, and the transformed swingset, now home to peppers and cucumbers.

Abbe sharing the chilled tomato-basil soup served in mini-tomato cups. Recipes coming!

Lisa with glazed lemon zucchini bread.

Lavender shortbread cookies – yum!

Passion fruit and tarragon truffles by Ana made with plants from our edible landscape.

Annette and Starla’s friend, Marsha Adams, enjoying a seat in the shade.

Cynthia Jones with our speaker, Cheryl Beesley and her husband, James.

Written by: The Edible Garden Team and Lisa Centala

Pictures by Starla Willis

Bye-bye Parsley, Thanks for the Greens!

We pulled up our beautiful, gorgeous, healthy, vibrant parsley today.  Why would we do this to our stunning, laugh-at-freeze-and-drought plant?  Because we are creating a landscape, not just a garden, and one of the tenants of landscape design is repetition.  A standard front-yard landscape may have only three different types of plants, but they may be used over and over in different areas of the yard.  With an edible landscape, we usually want to eat more than three different types of plants, so we find ways to modify the rules of landscape design.

 In this case, our parsley was living in a low wooden bed underneath the old swingset. Along the length of the swingset are four other low wooden beds, and for this season, they’ve been planted with peppers – five peppers per bed.  Four beds of peppers with one bed half full of parsley looks, well, odd. So we removed the parsley, added five more peppers, and created repetition – and cohesion – under the swingset.

Don’t cry too much for the parsley, though.  Big, green, vibrant and fragrant, it went home with our volunteers to be made into tasty morsels.  Do you have some parsley in your yard or garden? (Or local grocery?) Consider using some to make:

  • pesto – substitute it for the basil
  • tabbouleh – a wonderful summertime salad made with bulgur
  • chimichurri with it – an  Argentinian sauce for grilled foods
  • fry up sprigs – your choice if you want to dip them in a light batter first
  • ravioli – chop it up, mix with some ricotta and egg, salt and pepper, and fill ravioli with it
  • toss it into your next omelet or frittata
  • vinaigrette (or make a green goddess dressing)
  • how about a cream of parsley soup?  or in a falafel?
  • add it in to your regular salad, potato salad, meatballs, you can stick some practically anywhere you want a little – or a lot – of green

One last note:  There are three cultivars of parsley – curly, flat-leaf, and root.  All are biennials in our temperate climate, and this was the second year for this parsley plant.  The cultivar we were growing was the curly variety. The root variety will create a nice, edible taproot you can eat raw like a carrot, or cook like a turnip.  Look to central and eastern European dishes to see it featured. Flat-leaf is more commonly listed in today’s Western recipes, but curly and flat leaf can be used interchangeably.  Middle Eastern recipes are more likely to use the curly variety. Most people think flat-leaf is more flavorful, but if you grow your own, you’ll see that there’s plenty of flavor in the curly variety as well.

So, bye-bye parsley, and bon appetit stomach!

Lisa Centala and Edible Landscape team

Save these dates June 26 and 28th. 

The Peach Fever lunch on June 26 is sold out but class is open!

 

Hugelkulturs and Tomatoes

This is a 4 minute video, taken in April, full of info about the origins and natural habits of tomatoes and the composition of a hugelkultur. Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound. Jeff Raska teaches us from our edible garden:

June update on tomatoes: It’s’s all in how you look at it.
We put leggy plants in late for our season, the hugelkultur soil is still very new (and we’re discovering that the angle of the hill is a bit steep in places). Add to that strong winds breaking the branches in some cases, and squirrels running around, breaking branches, digging, and harvesting the green fruit, and you don’t have a picture-perfect, ready for the cover of a glossy magazine hugelkultur.

Having said that, there are a couple of plants that seem to be thriving…

From The Edible Garden Team

Lisa Centala

Wonders of the Garden

Is it true that sometimes good things come in small packages? In this case, yes, except for me it was a box. Waiting on my doorstep was the package clearly marked ‘Please protect from freeze and extreme heat’. With the thermometer quickly climbing to the 100+ mark, heat was the main concern of this precious piece of cargo. Why all the fuss?

In March of this year our Raincatcher’s edible landscape team had just started to install the first green material for our newly redesigned garden. Converting the church’s abandoned children’s playground into a place of tranquility and sensual delight was a challenging task.

It had already been determined that one specific area, a 12’ square to be exact, would be anchored by a stately bay laurel. Surrounding it in grand Victorian style, would be those aromatic jewels of the garden, the fragrantly pleasurable scented geraniums.

Numerous trips to our local garden centers yielded a disappointingly small number, 4 chocolate scented and 8 nutmeg. Call, after call resulted in the same answer; “No”, we don’t have any old-fashioned rose scented geraniums this year. Finally, after one month of searching, the answer we had hoped for came from an internet supplier. “Yes”, we only have 8 left and this is the last of the crop. “I’ll take them”, was my immediate answer!

Carefully opening the box and sifting through layers of slightly dampened newspapers, my eye caught the tip of a jagged little leaf peaking through. And then, there they were in all their Victorian glory, 8 beautiful…happy and ready to be planted in our garden…’Old-Fashioned Rose’ Scented Geraniums. After a moment of delicately crushing and bruising the leaves, my head was filled with their heavenly scent. Yes, of course, it was worth the wait. And, we promise next month to share photos of their progress along with a few recipes using the leaves in some of our favorite baked goodies.  

Scented geraniums to be planted in the edible landscape at The Raincatcher’s Garden.

Note: If you happen to notice more than 8 plants, SURPRISE, I couldn’t resist the temptation when the lady from Georgia taking my order said that she also had 4 peach scented geraniums available. Rubbing their fuzzy little leaves in between my fingers, I caught the gentle scent of a fresh Texas peach. For me, it was a moment of pure summer bliss.

After a night at my house, our precious cargo will go to its new home; the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. Please visit us at 11001 Midway Road. We’re in the garden every Tuesday from 9:00 – 12:00noon tending to our babies.

Linda Alexander

Two events coming up at Raincatcher’s:

Peach Fever-June 26

Edible Landscaping Lecture and nibbles from the edible  garden-June 28

Harvest It and They Will (be) Come(ly)

One of the concerns about edible landscaping is that if you eat your edibles, you’ll lose your landscape!  That’s a valid concern.  So here at the Edible Landscape of Raincatcher’s garden, we have pictorial proof to poof away your fears!  We planted our circle of greens in our shade bed about two months ago from 6-inch transplants.  The bunnies in our neighborhood really liked the swiss chard, so we added a little fence to discourage their visits.

Our bed of greens this morning when we arrived.  Full and lush and beautiful.  Can’t you see that gracing your front yard?

Our bed of greens this morning when we arrived.  No, wait!  This is After we harvested from it.  Can you tell the difference?  Maybe it looks even a little more neat and tidy.  I guess maybe we didn’t harvest too much from it.

Our harvest.  Really!  How many people could you feed with all these lovely greens?  We’ve got kale, mustard greens, French sorrel,  parsley and spinach and we can use them raw in a salad or steamed, tossed in a little cream sauce over pasta, or chopped up and thrown into a soup.  If you like a little challenge, how about juicing them and using the juice to make a green pasta?  Or chopping  and mixing with bread dough for rolls?  If this was in your yard, you could harvest a little every day and no one would know you’ve been eating your landscape.

There’s going to be a talk on Edible Landscaping at 11001 Midway Road on Thursday, June 28 at the June Master Gardener meeting. Lecture starts at noon.  Come join us and see our edible landscape in person.  Or stop by any Tuesday morning, we’ll be out there, harvesting our greens.

“This post comes from The  Edible Landscape team at Raincatcher’s,
Lisa Centala
Pictures by Starla Willis

Orphaned No More – Our Incredible Edible Landscape Project

Here at Raincatcher’s, we have a wide variety of demonstration gardens spread all around: we have an orchard, raised vegetable beds, ornamental trees, five types of turf, butterfly gardens, compost demonstrations and even a mixed ornamental bed in the courtyard. But there is one, last, orphaned space; it’s known as the old playground, and in some ways, it’s the church’s secondary entrance.  Which means it’s a very visible space that most people walk past and all cars drive by.  Wrapped in cyclone fencing, the playground was deemed ‘unsafe’ by regulatory agencies, and had been sitting unused when we moved to the church from Joe Field, the location of our previous garden.  We initially used the old playground as storage for all the plants, soil, and other large objects we brought over during our move. Then we disassembled the playground equipment and put it aside, in case we might be able to use it for another purpose.

Playground "Before" Transformation

Playground “Before” Transformation

A year has gone by. The gardens have been installed.  The plants, soil, and other large objects have been moved into their new homes, and it became clear that the playground parts were not going to be needed.  We removed them, and what was left inside the cyclone fence was a greenhouse, the air conditioning mechanism for the church, a couple of compost bins, a chicken coop, mature trees, and the frame for the old swing set.  When you step back from that, you realize that the space is reminiscent of what most homeowners have in their own yards:  some nice things, some not so nice things, a fair amount of shade, some sun.

What it’s inspired us to do is play. (The space was a playground, after all!)  We’re going to be experimenting in this, last, garden, but we’ll be experimenting with a purpose.  Over the next year(s?), we’ll be installing an edible landscape in this space, this crowded, pre-owned space with some sun and a fair amount of shade.  We’ll be designing around our obstacles, turning them into features, and we’ll make the shade our ally instead of our adversary.  We’ll be showing off all sorts of different techniques from hugelkultur to vertical gardening to straw bales to edible flower beds.  Some will be raised, some will be inground; everything will be edible.  There will be some new crops, variations on common crops, and some old crops with new parts to eat.  And so in addition to growing these foods, we’ll also show you how to prepare and eat them.

Why are we going to do this? Because this space has so many similarities to the average homeowner’s yard, it’s a perfect teaching and demonstration tool, and teaching is our mission.  Why do it as an all-edible landscape?  Because there are many examples of ornamental landscaping, and plenty of examples of edible gardening, but there are not as many of edible landscaping.  We’re doing this because people are becoming interested in growing at least some of their food, but are often concerned that it won’t look good, or they can’t because they have too much shade.  This old playground gives us the opportunity to show everyone how they can create a beautiful landscape with edibles.

How are we going to do this? We’re going to do this in stages.  First, we’re going to start with the hardscape.  One of the biggest concerns people have about landscaping with edibles is the aesthetics – whether it’s an overgrown tomato plant, or the fallow season (too hot, too cold to grow edibles) for their climate.  To have a beautiful edible landscape, the first thing you need to do is make sure the landscape looks good before any plants are planted.  Plants (crops) are the ornamentation on top of a good looking base structure, your hardscape.  After all, there will be times when you may not have plants in your landscape; you might have had a crop failure, or have just harvested dinner!

In our next post, we’ll talk about hardscape ‘rules’, and show you how we’ll be incorporating them into our landscape.

Come along and follow our adventures – celebrate with our successes, and learn from our failures!

The Incredible Edible Landscape Team

Lila Rose

Picture by Starla

Note: Lila Rose will be speaking at the Whole Foods at Preston Forest soon about Edible Landscaping. Will add date to this post, so check back with us.

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