In this second part of the spring 2020 food forest walk through we take a look at the back yard and what is growing there. Here you will also see some ideas I’ve put to use such as using logs as path borders and my yard trash cans (mulch bins) that second as a climbing support.
I’m going to start doing walk throughs twice a year, one in spring and another in the fall. In each video I’ll highlight what is new and what has signifigantly changed and also include other completed projects. I’m hoping to have a new garden area created by this fall. Stay safe everyone!
Finally, a property tour! Since spring is here and I’m getting to spend a lot of time at home (thanks to the coronavirus) I’ve finally had an opportunity to do a food forest walk through. This is broken into two parts, the first one is the front yard and includes the chicken coop, the second one is the back of the property. In the video I added annotations of a lot of the plant and tree names in case you can’t hear the audio, please let me know if this makes the video better or if I should leave them out.
The second video needs to be edited but is otherwise ready, I’ll have it posted in a few days. Hope everyone is staying safe!
Recently I got a bunch of free sugar cane cuttings from an ad on Craigslist, while I already have some sugarcane growing it’s nice to have several different varieties. In this video I attempt to get cuttings growing using several different methods and locations.
In summary, the bucket method and in ground had about the same results. There was no success in ground with pieces grown vertically, all that sprouted were horizontal or at about a 45 degree angle.
Every year I like to try a some new plants, in this post I’ll list a few of the ones I’m trying out this year. The ones shown here are just the garden vegetables, herbs and fruits not included.
First though, an update on the aquaponic system. The plants here have exploded in size and became extremely productive. It is actually more productive than the EarthBoxes (see the previous Aquaponics vs EarthBox results) however I stand by my recommendation for EarthBoxes for new gardeners. They are easier and cheaper to get going but I am absolutely going to expand the aquaponic system based on the latest results. Here is a few Roma tomatoes taken from the system this week. This is just one plant:
Over the last couple of years I’ve created a list of the regulars – things that will always be grown at Three Acre Paradise. Here’s a few of them:
Bell – the good old standard for salads and cooking
Banana – nice addition to salads
Habanado – a Habernero without heat, also a good salad addition
Jalapeno – a little heat with a lot of uses
Datil – unique flavor I really like
Thai Hot – good old red pepper, many uses
Habernero – just for fun
Everglades – tiny sweet tomatoes for salads
Tami-G – great snacking grape sized tomato
Roma – all purpose
Bok Choy (green) – great cooked or in salads
Kale – Siberian and Curly – healthy greens for cooking and salad
Malabar Spinach – salad addition, light taste and easy to grow vines
New Zealand Spinach – also great salad addition and ground cover
Swiss Chard – very productive for salads and cooking
Asparagus (going on year 2)
Daikon radish (also for soil building) – large radish with tasty leaves
Garlic – still struggling with these but doing ok so far this year
Onions – Walking, White, Red, Yellow – growing all over
Sweet Potato – two varieties here, worthy of their own post
Turnips – Top White Globe (also for soil building)
Yard beans – these are easy to grow and are ok with the heat
There’s quite a few other things but these have shown to grow well here and are well established. Here’s a few of the new things I’m trying, I’m in no way trying to promote Baker Creek seeds it just so happens they have a lot of what I like:
The Shishito pepper looks like it should do well here and is a sweet pepper despite it’s looks. So far it has sprouted easily from seed and the seedlings look good. I’m constantly on the hunt for easy to grow peppers, for some reason I’ve had a lot of trouble getting Bell peppers to start from seed.
Although I’m already growing Bok Choy this variety will add a lot of color to the garden and eventually our salads. Since the green version does so well I thought this would too, so far it is doing good and I have harvested a few small leaves.
The Chinese Pink celery is also being grown more for it’s color more than anything else, the other Chinese celery (green) I am growing has done well and been productive for over a year. So far so good, it has sprouted but is still very small.
Seeing a theme here yet? This mix was chosen just to get some radish variety in the garden. I’ve been growing Daikon radish for over a year and it’s done great but I don’t always need a radish the size of a bowling pin.
I’ve actually grown this one before, I think it did very well and is an excellent tomato. The reason it’s on the new list is I can’t remember which one it was, I grew several similar varieties (such as Black Krim) so this time I’ll track it better to see if it goes on the permanent list.
All the items listed above I am pretty confident will do well but I haven’t found a good large tomato yet, there are several planted to see how they do. If everything goes to plan the garden will also be relocated this year and will be much larger. I’ll be mixing the aquaponic and EarthBox growing areas together plus will add some other growing methods such as traditional raised beds and adding NFT (nutrient film technique) and wicking beds to the aquaponic system. For all this to happen I have to finish the yard fencing and get the rest of the infrastructure in place (pipes and underground electric).
Coming soon – a video walk through of the property. This may end up as two videos to keep the length down but as soon as the fence is completed I’ll get this done.
Pigeon peas are a great fit at Three Acre Paradise, besides being an edible legume they are a fast growing perennial and can provide quick shade for more delicate plants.
Pigeon peas are a fast growing perennial legume that have many uses in a food forest or permaculture environment. Pigeon peas have been used as a protein rich food source for humans for at least 3,500 years and are popular in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They are also very drought tolerant and can provide a heavy harvest for three to five years.
Food Source: Pigeon peas are protein rich and can be used as a green vegetable pea, dried, or made into flour.
Animal Fodder: The leaves, seeds, pods and the remnants of seed processing are used to feed many kinds of livestock.
Improving Soil: Since they are a legume Pigeon peas provide nitrogen fixing for soil. This can be accomplished by simply pruning the plant and dropping the cuttings on the ground. The deep tap root helps break up hard soils and pull nutrients from deep down and the plant can provide shade and a wind break for smaller plants.
Growing Pigeon Peas
Pigeon pea plants can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 15 and can grow up to 12 feet tall. The plants deep tap root can grow to up to six feet in length which helps the plant to locate water. For the first few months after germination the growth is slow but speeds up as the plant gets established. Most Pigeon pea cultivars are a short day plant blooming when nights are long. For best results start plants directly in ground although they can be started in pots and transplanted later.
Pigeon peas are easily propagated with dried seeds. They are not very picky about planting depth or soil type.
Pigeon Peas at Three Acre Paradise
Currently there is one area where Pigeon peas are growing at Three Acre Paradise. There are two plants that have grown to about ten feet high and wide. There were several other areas where they were planted but they were damaged by animals and did not recover. Next spring I will be starting two new areas and they will be better protected against damage.
The pictures in this post are of the same plants over a several month period.
If you are a regular here at Three Acre Paradise you may notice I’ve removed the “Whats Growing Here” list, this is being replaced with these every other Thursday posts. This will make it a lot easier for me to keep up with the constant changes here. You can view all of the new “Growing Here” posts directly from the menu at the top of the screen. One other change is that all the images I use will be directly from the plants growing here at the time of the post. With that said, here’s all about Comfrey.
Comfrey is an easy to care for perennial plant and is classified as a herb. Comfrey can grow quite tall and prolific, for that reason there are several varieties bred as to not take over your garden area. The main uses for Comfrey is as a medicinal plant and to improve soil but it can also be used as a feed supplement for animals.
The most popular varieties of Comfrey are True Comfrey, Bocking 4, and Bocking 14.
True Comfrey can propagate through seed and can quickly take over a garden area. I don’t have any personal experience with this but from what I have read it is very difficult to control and get rid of.
The Bocking 4 variety has sterile seeds so it will not spread nearly as rapid as the True Comfrey. This variety is most popular as feed for animals.
Bocking 14 is the variety currently growing at Three Acre Paradise. This variety also has sterile seeds and is the most popular for home gardeners. The remainder of this post will refer to the Bocking 14 variety only.
Medicinal: The Comfrey leaf has a long and well documented history of healing wounds and broken bones. Yes, that’s right, when applied to the skin externally it is said to be able to speed up the healing of broken bones. I don’t personally have experience with that but I have used it in two other occasions. The first time was a puncture wound, this was on a knuckle and wouldn’t stop bleeding. It wasn’t deep enough to warrant a medical visit and the wound was clean, I applied a Comfrey leaf to it and the bleeding stopped within about three minutes.
The second time was about a week ago, I got stepped into a red ant mound and ended up with around 5 stings on my ankle. I took a Comfrey leaf, rolled it between my hands to release it’s juices, then used my sock to hold it in place over the stings. After about a half hour I replaced the leaf with a freash one and left that in place for about an hour. The Comfrey removed all evidence of being stung. Typically it would swell up, fill with puss, and itch for a few days, in this case it was done and over with.
Comfrey contains allantoin which is known to aid granulation and cell formation. This is where a lot of its healing power comes from. Comfrey is also used to make creams, oils, and tinctures but should not be taken internally.
Animal Fodder: Comfrey is a fast growing plant that is high in protein and makes an excellent food source for chickens, cows, goats, and pigs. It is best to plant the Comfrey away from where the animals feed and take the leaves to them so they do not decimate the crop.
Building Soil: Comfrey has long tap roots that can bring up minerals from deep in the ground. Some of the ways to use Comfrey are in a chop and drop manner, left to grow around fruit trees, or you can make a compost tea from the leaves. Comfrey is high in potassium which banana plants need in abundance when fruiting, I’m going to plant some around my banana circles this year.
Comfrey is hardy from zones 4 – 9, and will grow in full or partial sun. Comfrey may be started in a pot but for best results should be relocated in the ground as soon as possible due to the deep root system. Comfrey can be grown in hard, compact soils and will help break these up. Plants can get large and should be spaced two feet apart. Comfrey will go dormant in the winter and re-emerge once the weather warms up. Comfrey generally does not have any problems with pests or disease. Soil should be neutral to acidic, range of 6.0 – 7.0 is ideal.
The Bocking 14 variety does not produce viable seeds so propagation is done with root or stem cuttings. It is very easy, just dig up the plant and cut the root into little pieces and plant them. When using small root cuttings it may take two years for the plant to really take off, a transplanted stem will do the same in just one year. If you till an area where Comfrey is growing it will chop the roots into little pieces and you will end up with more plants, the best way to remove it from an area is to pull the plants up whole.
Comfrey at Three Acre Paradise
There are currently three very small patches of Comfrey at Three Acre Paradise (photos in this post), I have recently placed an order for more of the Bocking 14 variety. These will be placed around some of the banana plants to see if it helps with fruit production. I’m also considering planting some True Comfrey in the back of the property that is reserved for wildlife, it can grow unrestrained there and may be beneficial to the local animal population.