RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Edible Landscape

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

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!

 

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.

%d bloggers like this: