It's been a long, hot summer here in the Midwest, but even hotter is our big permaculture giveaway. We gifted seven permaculture books and 3 decks of permaculture playing cards to 10 lucky Brunette Gardens readers. Our winners range across the U.S., gardening in a variety of climates, and they're an illustrious lot! We're thrilled to know we had a hand in fostering this community of enthusiastic, knowledgable plant people.
I've been a Substack reader for more than a year now, as some of my most trusted independent voices have migrated to the writer-friendly platform. There I've subscribed to their weekly missives, which I can opt to read either via the Substack mobile app or as an email newsletter, like the one I send to Brunette Gardens readers. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. There are no ads to vie for my attention, and the writers can relax and go about the business of writing, following their own innate sense of what we readers want.
If you're a fellow St. Louisan, you're probably still trying to dry your webbed feet. If not, you likely saw it on the news: Last week's rainfall broke a more than 100-year record, causing flash floods across the region. The previous high-water mark dated to 1915, when remnants of a hurricane off Galveston, TX, dumped 6.85 inches here in the Lou. That record was obliterated last week, with totals of 8.64 inches recorded at Lambert Airport.
I enjoyed a moment in the Shutterbee spotlight in the latest issue of the group's bulletin. They're talking about the plug I gave to the bee research program in that national Wild Ones magazine article on the garden. I was only too happy to do it, as Shutterbee has enabled me to connect in meaningful ways with the life our garden supports, and it's also been a valuable source of lifelong learning for me. While my school days are long in the past, my mind continues to stay curious and crave new information. Shutterbee really fits the bill; some days I happily fall asleep with images of bees in my mind.
What if you could plant a root in the ground, kind of ignore it, and get tasty spears of green goodness from it for years afterward? Well, you can. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, which means it comes back every year on its own. Once established, an asparagus bed will send up fresh, nutrient-packed shoots with very little work on your part. It's the ideal situation for a lazy gardener!
During one of our Wild Ones garden tours in June, we demonstrated our solar oven, the Sun Oven. But since the tour was only about an hour or so long, folks didn't get to see the finished product, a cooked pot of rice. So I thought I'd show the results here.
This is our third year trying earnestly to grow as much food as we can, and it's been our best year yet. Anthony and I have both made a metric ton of mistakes, but we've learned from them. We experiment, measure the results, and change the approach if needed. Now, three years into this food garden thing, we're really starting to get somewhere. Case in point: We've been eating food from the garden nearly every day since the beginning of April 2022. I keep a food journal, and in it I note whether each meal included food from the garden. So 'G' if one meal contained garden food, 2G for two, and 3G if all three meals contained garden produce. Most days since April have clocked in at 2 and 3G's. Speaking of G's, if this spring had a garden star, it would be the greens.
Last month we hosted a Wild Ones membership tour, with around 50-70 people total visiting our garden across two tour dates. They asked a lot of great questions, and many of those questions centered around our decision to go lawn-free throughout the entire backyard, which comprises the majority of our 1/4-acre. Since going lawn-free is central to our design, and it's part of the reason we achieved platinum status in the St. Louis Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home program in just three years, many were intrigued. I think it's worthy of a treatment here on the blog, so I'll run through a list of Frequently Asked Questions about lawn-free living.
Our garden was featured in the summer 2022 issue of the national publication Wild Ones Journal. Wild Ones features a member garden in each issue, and we were honored to be chosen for this summer's issue. Editor Barbara A. Schmitz interviewed both Anthony and me over the phone, and I provided photos to illustrate the piece. It was a real treat to talk with Barbara, who asked good questions and gave the garden its due, in spades.
I'm so full of enthusiasm for the two beautiful herbs above that I hardly know how to start talking about them. They tick just about every box on the list! What are they? American mountain mint, or Pycnanthemum pilosum (above left) Anise hyssop, or Agastache foeniculum (above right) Regular readers of this blog know I've talked previously about "stacked functions," which is a permaculture term for a plant with multiple (or stacked) uses, ranging from replenishing your garden soil to serving as your next meal. Both mint and hyssop excel in this area. But even if you're not into that permie stuff, you should know that these plants are the gifts that keep on giving... and giving. Let me break it down for you.