Returning after a year since last posting to say that our caucasian spinach has grown like crazy this year! In fact I've been preaching to anyone who will listen about what a great example of a perennial plant it is. The season so far in the UK has been wet, cold, miserable and with far less sun than usual. As a result the annual spinach are the several cm of puny growth. The established caucasian spinach, only one year old, is undeterred and we are currently harvesting a bunch of leaves every day for salads.
After my initial doubts about this plant I now can't recommend it highly enough for my region!
Steve Thorn wrote:Hey Al, awesome to hear that you got 9 peaches!
Do you have any photos of the trees?
Thanks Steve, that's helpful. I don't have any pictures to hand but will take some, although we've eaten all the fruit!
Swelling from water makes sense. I'm glad we got any - being in the unpredictable UK climate, where peaches aren't a usual crop, I was really worried when they flowered so early and it was still very cold outside. The flowers were all gone long before it warmed up and I was worried it was too cold/windy for pollinators, but they must have sneaked in at some point!
Anne Pratt wrote:Al, I have read that it is slow the first year.
Thanks, they have got a littler larger but will make sure they aren't so shaded out by squash leaves next year. Hopefully they will have the head start next year they need to climb above whatever else we put in them with there.
I didn't see this mention, but apologies if I missed it. The UK isn't known for growing peaches but we proudly grew 9 peaches on our tree this year! This was the tree's second year in our garden (we didn't grow it from seed), but last year we lost the only tiny fruit we had to leaf curl. This year we removed any sign of leaf curl we saw every day and that did the trick.
Our 'problem', which didn't end up being too much of a problem, was that where the fruit stalk reached the fruit body, cracks were appearing, which were big enough for ants to get into. One fruit had about 10 ants inside when we opened it up, and on another fruit the stone had some mould on it. Because we only had 9 fruits we were picking them all pretty frequently so nothing had a chance to rot, and the ants weren't a problem, but wondered if this is just a peach thing, or if it's an issue that can be dealt with.
Posting here so I can keep track of the information mostly - don't have a success story of my own to add! We planted some in a bed with some courgette* plants. The plan was that the spinach would shoot up at the same time the courgette plants sprawled, so we could maximise the use of vertical space. The problem was, I must have got the timing wrong, because the spinach didn't grow anywhere near as enthusiastically as the squash plants, so they are now cowering slightly under some massive squash leaves! I'm hoping that they will desperately clamber their way past to get some sun - they have grown a little.
Also, doesn't seem to be mentioned here but I think I heard about it from Geoff Lawton on 'The Survival Podcast' - Malabar spinach (Basella alba) - another climbing 'spinach' that grows effectively as a perennial.
*Sorry, just realised that this might not mean anything to many people! It's what we call zucchini in Britain.
I'm in England, so take this for what it is (experience from the other side of the world!). Here, even when we've had what was for us hot and dry summers (a couple of months of virtually no rain) the nettles were one of the plants that didn't seem to wilt very much, at least in a shady woodland environment. In our garden they are also one of the few things we don't water and they are never fussed by that.
Incidentally, as the great article posted above mentions, you can also eat the seed - this could be something you could do as well as harvesting the stems for fibre? A herbalist once told me that the seeds act as a stimulant and a friend of theirs ate some and was up all night, very much alert!
Most people here are at best indifferent to nettles because they're everywhere and, of course, they sting. People find it funny when I say that they are under-valued and that people in other places actually purposefully plant them. Silly because our ancestors used them a lot! Archaeologists think that, because of how incredibly thin some of the nettle fibres they have found are, that much of that work was probably done by children.
The previous residents of here had a ~20cm thick layer of pebbles on our small, shady front garden. There was also a membrane underneath, and when we removed all of this the soil was so compacted that I more or less had to chip it away with a fork. Safe to say it was relatively lifeless. We had some top soil delivered, plante things out and, whilst it's still a work in progress, worms have now been spotted, despite the nearest visible soil being out the back of the house. So, to repeat what the above user said: if you build it they will come!
Thanks, Hamilton - that's a really useful reply. Will most likely remove the bottom layers (well rotted) and use as compost for flower/insectory bed, and follow your advice on mixing the rest with other materials to balance it out.
What is the rough composition of the manure, you mentioned phosphorous; is it high in nitrogen too? (I think I recall this is why balancing out with carbon-heavy paper littler is good).
Hi all. We have a large bin full of cat and dog poo, mixed with recycled paper-based litter. I understand this should be quite a good mix for composting, which has always been our intention. We are now at the stage where the bin is nearly full (some has been rotting for 2 years) and working out where to spread it.
Our problem is that most of what we grow is edible, and since we are aiming to mimic an early forest we are obviously aiming to have a groundcover/herbaceous layer, which raises problems with contamination from the aforementioned compost.
Would a hugel bed be a suitable way to compost this stuff in place? I'm not experienced with hugel beds (hence asking!) but was wondering if wood piled on top of the compost would do a good job of letting it all break down and not contaminating plants?
My favourite resource for foraging has been Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel. There I learnt the valuable lesson that the best way to begin learning plant ID is through families, not species. For example, the mustard family (Brassicaceae) has over 3500 species that are all edible. So, you don't necessarily need to ID right down to the family to know that it's edible. (Obviously the next step is get more specific!)
In terms of location, it's worth thinking about the edge effect. I live in an urban area but we have a decent(ish) amount of woodland, and it's usually the edges of parks, woodlands and small wild areas that have the most diversity in terms of herbs.
Further to my reply from earlier, in this video of Martin Crawford's he gives a brief tour of his site, which is also 2 acres in the UK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa9FHKx6sdM Gives a good idea of how productive it can be.
As someone else looking to do a similar thing in the UK, it's great to see someone else asking similar questions. It's a different situation here to the US, I feel, as land here is dominated by a small group of wealthy farmers and is also very expensive. Look forward to hearing your results!
It would be well worth checking out the work of Robert Hart, and reading Martin Crawford's books as they specifically talk about what is possible in the UK!
s. lowe wrote:For what it's worth, UC Berkeley did a study about urban foraging and after picking leafy greens at various places around the city they found that even leaves from right near very busy roads could be washed with water and safely consumed. Their main advice was to avoid roots and fungi because of accumulation of soil toxins but leaves seemed to only have surface contamination that could be washed off with water
That's really interesting, thanks for posting. So in fact the leaves could be the safest bit after all, and I wonder if the parts with the mucilage content would have any concentration of toxins in them.
But if you time it right, you could harvest seed heads and add that diversity to your property or a pot.
Thanks, I'll go with that. I like the point about gathering seed - in this case it's not necessary as there is plenty of mallow around at other times of year, and tree mallow (Lavatera maritima) growing at home. This wild mallow was more notable for the fact it's survived into mid-winter with a decent amount of vegetation.
Further to some messages above, growing in bales seems like another good use. Presumably even after a growing season there will still be a substantial amount of the bale remaining to use as mulch. I learnt about it from this episode of The Survival Podcast, an interview with Joel Karsten.
Also to second people's suggestions of Ruth Stout, her book 'The No-Work Garden Book' is a fun read.
Apologies for putting this on the 'wilderness' forum but it seemed the best place. Feel free to correct me as I'm new here!
I know that in general foraging near roads is inadvisable for good reasons, in the case of leafy plants whose leaves gather particulates, or through plants/fungi that can (hyper-)accumulate toxins distributed by cars*. However I am wondering to what extent this applies when I am considering parts of the plant that are more internal to the plant.
In particular, there is a healthy mallow plant (probably Malva sylvestris, although I haven't looked closely yet) I pass regularly. It's growing approximately 3m away from a somewhat busy road. If I were to harvest it for its mucilage content, either to use internally or externally, would I be running the same risks as if I were picking leaves from a roadside plant?
Obviously I can do without that one mallow plant, and although I would harvest it if I could, this is more just a situation that has got me thinking more generally...
*This was frustrating a few years ago as I saw some shaggy ink caps on someone's lawn, but couldn't pick as they were near a road and they hyperaccumulate things like lead I believe!
I know some people your way consider it 'invasive' but wasn't autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) originally planted for erosion control? Edible fruit, N-fixing and tolerates less fertile soils. It does apparently spread though so you may not be popular. This is a cultural thing, of course - in the UK we don't have the (perceived) problem so one could plant it without being criticised. If you're after a more definitely shade tolerant plant than E. ebbingei meets the same criteria.
We have quite some success with mud kitchens - we used an old wooden drawer unit before but you could always build one. Recipes can range from purely imaginary 'potions' using whatever can be found in the garden, or more realistically medicinal recipes including certain herbs etc. This can be made into a more educational activity by actually suggesting particular ailments that need remedying, or you can just go for a more artistic bent, decorating with flowers and so on.