Hey permies, I'm toying with an idea here and hopefully some people can help by firing out some thoughts.
I saw a video from Ross Raddi about growing sugarcane in colder climates. If you want the link, here it is, start at around 4:30 to see what I mean here:
Anyway, something about the video caught my attention. Near the end of it, he mentions that he is growing figs and sugarcane right outside of philly (USDA zone 7 I believe), and he cuts them at the base and lays a tarp over them for the winter. Both of these plants can overwinter this way in cold climates, and grow vigorously enough that they can produce a harvest-able crop, even though they have very little lateral mass to start the year out with.
This leads me to believe that in colder climates, especially in close proximity to a house, one could greatly diversify their food supply by grouping up vigorous tropical and subtropical plants, cutting them near the base in the fall, and covering them with leaves and a tarp over the winter.
So as demonstrated by multiple people including Ross, I already know that figs and sugarcane can be grown in this manner. I hypothesize that papayas might work too, given their quick production and growth. Are there any other plants that can produce in this way?
Hopefully with this method, I can grow some of these tropicals and subtropicals in the ground rather than in pots, which tend to be more temperamental, need indoor winter storage space, more inputs, and attention.
Also, after many years of scrolling through this forum, and with google's search algorithms landing me nowhere with this idea, I have finally made an account here and posted my first thread, I am very excited to communicate with fellow permies.
Moringa! I grew Moringa from seed last year. The trees grew ten feet tall in one season - our long hot summer - then I cut them down to one-foot stumps, wrapped them with burlap and stuck a bucket over them. In spite of this protection the stumps froze to the ground but once the weather warmed they have sprouted and are growing. This Fall I think I will just try piling leaves over them (contained in wire rings).
I think your scheme might work best if you have hot summers. In my limited experience with subtropicals, they only start growing robustly once it gets over 80 F and really take off once the temp hits 90.
David the Good writes and talks about growing tropicals in non-tropical places. His Youtube channel and his book Push the Zone have many helpful tips. http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/
Location: Cincinnati, OH, Zone 6b. Whitefish, MT, Zone 5a
I'm giving longevity spinach (gynura procumbens) a try this year. I got 2 rooted cuttings coming in the mail later this week that I'm going to plant along the south side of my house.
It's supposed to be a great perennial green but it's normally only cold hardy down to USDA zone 9. I'm in zone 8 but I think the area right next to my house on the south side will be equivalent to zone 9. But the plants will likely die back to the ground each winter. I will add some extra mulch to help the plants through the winter.
Since you just harvest the leaves of longevity spinach it really doesn't need to grow a lot to provide a great harvest. My hope is that it can be an easy source of greens in the summer when some of my other greens are spent / going to seed.
Longevity spinach is also supposed to root easily from cuttings so I figure I will take some cuttings at the end of summer and bring them inside as a backup.
Might be a good plant for you to try. There are people on Etsy selling cuttings both rooted and not.
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My figs grow outside with zero tarp, they just self prune. Chicago Hardy Fig is good in Chicago aka zone 6. I have muscadine grape growing on 3ft arbor. Pomegranate too and maypop. I think fuzzy kiwi should work.
I want to try out sugar cane now that you brought it up.
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