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!
This year marked the first time we've reached for three full harvests throughout the growing season: early spring, peak summer, and late fall.
One of my favorite seasonal tasks when autumn arrives is to rake leaves. In mid-November, thanks to a wild windstorm here in the Pacific Northwest that left us without power for 30 hours, the final batches of leaves descended from the two giant maple trees holding court in our front yard.
We made an unsuccessful attempt to germinate Walla Walla sweets in 2020 - Anthony grew up in 'the city so nice, they named it twice' - but that arid landscape is quite different than our steamy Midwestern climate. I cast around for an onion variety that would work much better here, and you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a variety of perennial onions. Most vegetables, and most onions as well, are annuals, meaning you have to replant them as seeds each year to get a new crop. But perennial onions, also called potato or multiplier onions, are the gift that keeps on giving. You can keep some of the bulbs, replant them each year, and they'll multiply into neat little bunches of more bulbs!
Back in the fall of 2018, we signed up for the St. Louis Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home (BCH) program. A couple of "habitat advisors" came out to survey our garden, and they provided us with a list of recommendations for making it more wildlife- and pollinator-friendly. It was a long list, too: Our one-quarter acre was comprised of nothing but invasive plant species run amok, a huge expanse of turf grass, and a smattering of exotic ornamentals that did little to feed native insects and critters. Everyone agreed there was much work to be done.
I've been tossing around the word 'permaculture' to describe some of the activities Anthony and I are engaged in here on the suburban farmstead. As it's not a mainstream way of gardening (and way of life) yet, I thought it might be helpful to define it.
This past week, I attended Gateway Greening's Community Agriculture Conference. It was entirely virtual and took place in the evening, so I was able to participate around my full days running Brunette Games. I attended most of the conference sessions, only taking a break mid-week. The conference was free, though I did kick them a donation since I get so much out of the group's offerings, and this conference was just one example. Gateway Greening has been so kind as to upload all of the conference videos to YouTube, where you can watch them free until the first day of spring, March 20.
This fall marks three years since we purchased our home - a 1904 World's Fair-era house on 1/4-acre just outside the St. Louis city limits. Those of you who've followed this blog since then - or even before that time - have witnessed a series of trials and triumphs as we've worked incredibly hard and enjoyed the fruits of our labors. While the to-do list continues, and with gardening it seems the work is never done, we feel we've already achieved much toward our vision: a productive, wildlife- and pollinator-friendly garden bursting with native plants, beneficial non-natives, and edibles.
Ah, the Germans, a lovely people with a lovely language. For example, did you know the German word for daisy is "gänseblümchen?" It just rolls off the tongue. The Germans created a method of gardening in which they cultivated plants on top of a constructed mound made up of logs buried in the earth. They call it hügelkultur - literally mound or hill culture. The theory is that as the logs decay, they provide nutrients to the plants growing on top of them. In addition, the mound shape provides a sort of natural rain drainage. Plants on the top that need less water get less, and those nearer the bottom get more water. You can also use the hill shape to vary sunlight. Plants on the sunny side get more light; plants on the opposite side a bit less. Finally, the hill itself is supposed to provide a bit more growing space. Imagine the mound as half of a sphere. If the mound was not there, you would be planting in a circle with an area based on the diameter of the sphere. But with the mound, you have a planting area half the surface of the whole sphere. Assuming a mound with a 10-ft. diameter, you are roughly doubling your growing space (if I did the math correctly).
One of the benefits of removing the turf grass in our entire backyard - which constitutes the majority of the 1/4-acre plot - is that we have a lovely carpet of native violets growing over most of it. I've raved about viola sororia previously on the blog, and the best part is that the violets arrived of their own volition, free of charge. And with them, came edible mushrooms.