Stacking Functions Garden

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Garden plan 2011 – detailed

A few weeks ago I shared a generic plan for my garden, but here’s my very detailed one.  Click to enlarge:

Why do this?  Simple: so I’ll know how many plants to start from seed and how many to plan on buying.  It also ensures that I’m creating solid companion planting schemes; I consulted my Companion Planting book while coming up with this plan.

I’m growing quite a variety of veggies and herbs this year, huh?!  Hopefully I am not being too optimistic about how many plants I can crowd into the garden. I will post an updated version of this diagram after we plant, so we can compare my current snow-covered veggie lust with the cold reality of planting day.  In May.  Will spring ever get here?


A complete takedown of the USDA guidelines

Interested in nutrition, and the new USDA dietary guidelines?  This is a must-read, study-by-study breakdown of the new eating rules the USDA has decided are good for us.  Here’s a quote that spoke to me:

A recent Dutch study showed that full-fat fermented dairy was inversely associated with death from all causes and death from stroke. A large study of Australians, published in 2010, showed that full-fat dairy appears protective against cardiovascular death. Yet another study, this one from 2005, showed a significant inverse association between full-fat dairy consumption and colorectal cancer. Another study still linked vitamin K2 from full-fat cheeses to reduced risk of death from all causes, as well as a reduction in aortic calcification. And a review from 2009, examining 10 different dairy studies, noted that some types of saturated dairy fat have a neutral effect on LDL, and full-fat cheese—compared to other dairy products—seems to have the strongest inverse relationship with heart disease.

And that’s just the section on whether fat-free/lowfat dairy products are your best choice.  Read the whole thing; it’s spectacular. (via Michael Pollan)


Fruits and vegetables for part-shade

(alpine strawberry, a superstar of permaculture gardens)

Yes, there are SOME edibles that do just fine with part shade.  Please note: when I say “edibles” and “part-shade” in the same sentence, I mean that the area still gets a solid 4-6 hours of sunlight a day — for really deep shade, you’ll have to be a little more creative about your definition of “edible.”

Fruits (all of these are perennials):
Cranberries (warning: requires acid soil)
Alpine strawberries
Serviceberries (also called Juneberries)

Notes about fruits:
I planted 40 alpine strawberry plants as well as a currant bush in May ’10.  The alpine strawberries were wonderful, and fruited in a few different light scenarios.  The plants get to be about 6″ tall, so they work great as a border.  I’ve heard that they are difficult to start from seed, so I purchased mine at the Friends School Plant Sale.  They were very inexpensive.  I’ve also read that they will not set fruit in deep shade, so be aware of the note above.

I also planted lingonberries, but I think I will have to move them to a full-sun area, if they even survived the winter.  They looked pathetic the whole year.  My dreams of lingonberry pancakes may not ever come true, alas.

The currant did all right, though it stayed quite small, which is another good thing to note: in part shade, bush-type plants will not reach the size listed on their plant tags, so don’t worry if they are slightly more crowded than indicated.

Vegetables that can thrive in part-shade (aim for 4-6 hours of sunlight):
Sorrel (a perennial green)
Swiss Chard

Vegetables that can tolerate light shade (aim for 6-8 hours of sunlight):
Winter squash

Notes about vegetables:
I got this list from a fellow Master Gardener.  I’m a little skeptical, especially about the root crops like carrots, beets, and turnips.  Greens work great in part-shade, though; it keeps them from bolting too fast.  I will consult this list when I add new raised beds in my partially-shaded back yard this spring and record how it goes.

UDPATE, April 19, 2013: I’ve separated the list above into two categories. Really, I’ve realized that only greens can tolerate a low level of sunlight. Root vegetables need a solid 6 hours.

Parsley (curly- and flat-leaf varieties)
Fennel (bulbs will be very small)
Lemon balm

My cilantro, parsley, fennel and dill have all been re-seeding themselves and coming back, all over the yard, in several different lighting situations.  I have so much parsley that I actually use it in place of lettuce sometimes.

Mint can be rather invasive so planting it in heavy shade helps control it.  We planted mint in a VERY shady spot last year and it did very well.  I plan to expand that operation this year.

Deep shade edibles:

I’ve not tried mushrooms or ramps, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

This is by no means a complete list.  Anyone have anything else to add?

Update, 2/21/2011: Edible Hostas?  Interesting idea, Renee!

Update 2, 2/21/2011: Nice timing. Emily Tepe, of the U of M Edible Landscaping blog, has just posted links to several University Extension Office publications about how to grow several different fruits, along with recommended cultivars.  Currants/gooseberries | Blueberries


Recipe: Eczema cream

My little guy gets eczema every winter on his cheeks, and I’ve not had a lot of success with various creams from stores, even from the co-op.  Here’s one we’ve been using all winter that actually works, and it’s homemade from stuff I had on hand anyway.  Nice!  I made up the recipe myself, but it was based on information I’ve read in Nourishing Traditions and Herbal Medicine.

Homemade eczema cream
3-4 T. virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil
1 T. olive oil
20 drops lavender essential oil

1. Melt everything together on the stove over very low heat — takes about 5 minutes.  This is the easiest way to incorporate the olive oil with the rock-hard coconut oil.

2. Chill it out in the refrigerator until set.

That’s it!  I added the olive oil to make it a little softer and easier to apply.  If you keep your house very warm in the winter, you might find that it’s too runny with the olive oil in it, so adjust the recipe accordingly.

Update, 2/14/2011: Clarification: I am not claiming that this cream cures eczema, only that it relieves symptoms better than any other I’ve tried.  We still have to apply 1-2 times a day to my son’s cheeks to keep them clear.

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Garden plan 2011: a CSA replacement

Last year, we had a CSA box every week from June-October.  As a result, my 2010 garden focus was growing larger amounts of only a few vegetables in my garden, with the idea that we would eat the CSA produce and preserve the garden produce.  It worked pretty well– we’re still stocked with kraut, pickles, and pickled peppers.  But I get bored easily, so new year, new plan.  We’re cancelling our CSA this year, and we’ll grow a greater variety.  I also have a bunch of old seeds that I’d like to use up.  (Yes, you can re-use old seeds.)

Here’s the tentative plan (click to enlarge):

Once again, I’m hoping to get some trellises built this spring.  We actually have a plan and materials on hand this time, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Also: I’m adding some raised beds/very large containers in the backyard that will likely hold a few more veggies such as chard, radishes, and lettuce, and I also plan to construct a potato tower back there somewhere.  I will post more about the backyard plans later, as they take shape.

New for 2011:

  • I’ve never grown carrots before.  Weird, huh?  The kids will really get a kick out of them.
  • Trying a “garlic border” around each of my plant areas.  Hoping it will keep the cabbage worms away.  (Ha!)
  • Expanding the number of herbal tea plants I grow.  I’ve become really addicted to peppermint, chamomile, and raspberry leaf teas from my yard.
  • The aforementioned potato tower!
  • I will not be growing parsnips.  We’re officially on a break.  (Shocking, yes?)
  • I saved seeds from a promising-looking pumpkin and squash that I picked up at the farmer’s market last fall to use for my one small hill of each.  We’ll see how that goes…
  • I’m starting my few cabbage and celeriac plants indoors.  I tried to do a “scatter planting” of them very early last spring and it didn’t work well at all.  It took them forever to sprout, and by that time the bed was full of weeds.  Just a mess in general, and I never did see a celeriac.  I’d rather set out plants and know what I’m dealing with.  I also had to move the cabbages around a lot as they got bigger.  The whole thing was really kinda dumb — fortunately I did get several nice heads of cabbage out of it in the end.
  • I’ll start a couple of peppers and tomatoes, but I’m going to buy the rest at the annual Friends School Plant sale, since they usually have a really great selection of both and I’m going to it anyway.
  • Speaking of the Friends Sale, I’m hoping to pick up some native plants and start my evil master plan of converting the boulevard on my entire city block to native grasses and wildflowers instead of boring old grass.  Watch out, neighbors.  More on that in a future post as well!

Update, Feb. 4, 2011: Forgot to note that I’m moving my tomato plants to a new spot this year.  I put tomatoes in the same spot for ’09 and ’10, and it was not a good idea.  I got very few tomatoes in ’10.  So I’m trying the pumpkins and winter squash and crossing my fingers that the rabbits will not be interested in them (that area is outside the fence).

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Design with Nature

I just signed up for the Design with Nature conference later this month!  I’m super excited.  I’ve been wanting to learn more about landscaping.  Naturally, I’ll take copious notes and report back to you all what I learn.

The conference is February 26 at the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota.  Read all about it.