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how do you make your garden more resilient?

 
steward
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It's been a crazy year in the US for gardening. Places that don't get much rain are getting drenched. Places that are usually mild (like where I am) have record high temperatures (113+F or 40+C). It's crazy. Lot's of my neighbor's chickens and animals died, lots had their plants bolt or die all together. Many lost entire crops.

Sometimes, weather doesn't even play a roll. Sometimes, the year is crazy because life happens. You have a new baby, you get sick, you break your leg, you have to work overtime. There's ways to make you garden more resilient against those times, too!

On permies, we're about solutions, so this thread is about what we can do in our own gardens to make them more resilient!

Here's what first comes to my mind:

    ~ Plant perennials! These have more developed root structures and can weather more extreme weather better.

    ~ Plant in lots of different microclimates if you have them (and make those microclimates if you don't! Hugelkulture, is a great way, so are making arbors and planting tree for shade, creating a forest garden for a milder/shady climate, or making stone walls for warmer areas). I usually have snap peas all through August, when the leaves turn yellow. The heat wave turned almost all of mine yellow at the end of June. BUT, I had a weird little garden in the shade that I didn't think would do too well. Well, that garden is the only one still making peas!

    ~ Plant from seed when you can. I planted some of my tomatoes and squash under cloches. These are doing FAR BETTER than the ones I bought as transplants.

    ~ Create your own landraces! Save seeds from the plants that did the best, and plant those next year. Add diversity to your landrace so that there's genetic diversity to cope with what happens in that particular year. If you aren't up to seed saving yet, buy landraces from seed breeder or buy a few different varieties of the same plant (three types of peas, rainbow carrot mixes, etc)

    ~ Plant lots of different types of plants. Plant stuff that traditionally does well in your area, as well as stuff that does well in places a little wetter or hotter or colder or drier than your area.  That way, if you have a hot/dry year, you'll have a bumper crop from the plants that do well in that area (for me, that's cherries, peaches, mulberries, and squash), and if you have a cooler/wetter year, you'll have a bumper crop from stuff that thrives in those conditions (for me, that's blueberries, peas, kale, etc). Diversify what you're growing!

    ~ Plant low-maintenance, high-calorie stuff. For me, that's potatoes. All I've done for my potatoes is throw them on the ground and and cover them with grass clippings and duck bedding. They look fantastic and the heat didn't affect them. This freed me up to spend more time on the plants that need more help. If they don't do well, they at least didn't take a lot of my time.


I've gotta run! I hope to return to this thread with more resources for books and related threads. I know I'm missing a lot! If you find good resources, I'll add them to this first post!

Resources

Landrace Gardening:


Dealing with extreme weather:


Creating Microclimates:


General Resiliency:


Please share your tips for making a more resilient garden that can weather extreme times!
 
pioneer
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Location: North Texas, Zone 8a, Black Clay
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With perennials I look for varieties that are hardy to a few zones lower than mine.
For annuals I plant early (2-3 weeks before the last frost date) to select for cold/frost tolerance.
I plant outside of recommended planting times. I don't baby anything I grow, I torture it and whatever survives is what I continue to grow.
Many complain about the chaotic weather of Texas, I feel lucky to have such a wide range of natural selection pressure.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I went out and took some pictures of of my garden to show some of the things I did this year that worked out.
20210711_131852-1-.jpg
Squash I started for seed under cloches. They haven't needed any water since they sprouted. The loved the hot weather. The peas did not
Squash I started for seed under cloches. They haven't needed any water since they sprouted. The loved the hot weather. The peas did not
20210711_131941-1-.jpg
Peas planted down in the shade. They're doing great...and so are a lot of edible weeds.
Peas planted down in the shade. They're doing great...and so are a lot of edible weeds.
20210711_132044-1-.jpg
Potatoes that sprouted in a garden bed. I threw them at the edge of my woods and put grass clippings over them. Never once watered them.
Potatoes that sprouted in a garden bed. I threw them at the edge of my woods and put grass clippings over them. Never once watered them.
 
pollinator
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Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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J Youngman wrote:With perennials I look for varieties that are hardy to a few zones lower than mine.
For annuals I plant early (2-3 weeks before the last frost date) to select for cold/frost tolerance.
I plant outside of recommended planting times. I don't baby anything I grow, I torture it and whatever survives is what I continue to grow.



I just decided this year to quit trying to get things started indoors.  Everything I plant outside, early/ late/ whatever...if it makes it does far better than anything I baby.  I only have two 330 gallon water barrels...other than when things are new babies, no babying is allowed.  Unfortunately, thus may also mean I am done growing cruciferous vegetables cuz I am tired of fighting with the groundhogs.
20210710_193953-2.jpg
Ground hog house
Ground hog house
20210609_080919-2.jpg
Thriving urban garden
Thriving urban garden
 
J Youngman
pioneer
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Cris, What is the thick stemmed plant in the center of your second photo?
 
pollinator
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I also subscribe to the aforementioned torture method.

In addition, I don't water anything. I plant seeds early, when the ground is still moist, or after a rain. That's all they get, so things need to germinate in cold soil or mature quickly to take advantage of a rare, ground wetting summer rain.

I broke my rules this year and watered some okra I planted late. It all fried in the sun or got eaten by earwigs. I should have known better.
 
Cris Fellows
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J Youngman wrote:Cris, What is the thick stemmed plant in the center of your second photo?


Poke is at center, angelica to right, clary sage flowering behind poke.  We use both poke and angelica medicinally and they need zero babying.  Poke packs up and moves wherever it feels like.  Angelica reseeds and mostly stays put.  They are both architecturally beautiful as well. Clary sage is new for us.  I had no idea it grew that large.  I know people use the essential oil medicinally...we don't have or want a still.  Haven't really done deep dive yet into other uses.
 
J Youngman
pioneer
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It's a beautiful plant (as well as your whole garden), I'm not used to seeing the stems so dark, ours are bright orange/red. Maybe just a difference in regional ecotypes.
 
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I'd say, plant lots of different things and plant some crops in sequence; it may have a vulnerable stage and a later planting may do better than the earlier one or vice versa. Mulch heavily to retain moisture and cool soil as well as to suppress weeds (if you live in a chronically wet area this may bring slugs--not a problem for me). Keep records, especially when you do experiments/comparisons whether of variety or of treatment. I make a garden map in late summer each year, and fill in intended crops in pencil as my plan s for the next year come together--the n I replace that with pen when I actually plant. I use colored pencils around the edges of the beds to indicate additives--this is how I figured out that leafmold is a better help than compost for many crops. It also helps me see at a glace where I have had a crop in previous years, especially useful for those prone to disease. I live in WV where we generally have plenty of moisture and plenty of warmth, and a nice long growing season--so disease is my biggest problem (just refraining from spraying poisons and growing a wide variety including flowers, plus unmowed edges and woods around, keeps bugs from being a significant problem).
I like Deppe's books but her problems are rather different than mine, for climate among other reasons. My favorite is Cindy Conner's Grow a Sustainable Diet, because she lives in central Virginia, quite similar in climate to mine, plus her objective is to grow as much as possible of her household's food without draining fertility from some other place, which is the same as mine. I will mention that Deppe's Resilient Gardener takes the approach of choosing a few key crops and ensuring good harvests of those as much as is possible.
 
Posts: 34
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I deal with the Arizona heat by putting tomato cages over sensitive things & covering with lace or sheer curtains. Keeps the birds & bugs off my tomatos too.
Since I'm 73 I only garden in containers....metal trash cans, washing machine tubs, stock waterers, etc. No digging, no weeding.
 
pollinator
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Cris Fellows wrote: Clary sage is new for us.  I had no idea it grew that large.  I know people use the essential oil medicinally...we don't have or want a still.  Haven't really done deep dive yet into other uses.


Clary Sage is high is Omega 3s and can apparently be used as a substitute for chia seeds.  There are a few interesting posts scatted around on permies, mostly from Joseph Lofthouse, about growing and using Clary sage for this purpose.  It sounds like a great candidate for an alternative perennial food crop. When I am settled in my own place again it is one of those crops I hope to landrace for this purpose.

To segue back on topic, the big one I would add to the excellent list from Nicole is creating a forest garden.  Granted, this is not an overnight solution but it is a fantastic way to create an environment that is less effected by radical swings in temperature and conditions.  

The two big names that come to mind are:

In North America, Eric Toensmeier and David Jacke, authors of Edible Forest Gardens Vol 1 and 2

In the UK, Martin Crawford, author of Creating a Forest Garden  

I was really struck by what Nicole said about her neighbours losing chickens and other animals in the heat.  There is also the possibility of keeping animals in the forest garden:

Incorporating Animals in a Forest Garden
 
Sarah Elizabeth
pollinator
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I almost forgot my favourite blog re: keeping chickens, quail and other poultry in a forest garden:

Holistic Hen

PS.  The garden pictures above made my day.  
 
Nicole Alderman
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Sarah Elizabeth wrote:
I was really struck by what Nicole said about her neighbours losing chickens and other animals in the heat.  There is also the possibility of keeping animals in the forest garden:

Incorporating Animals in a Forest Garden



Yes! Had my chickens hunkering down in a little shady depression under blackberries, and my ducks/geese were tucked into the woods under a Big Leaf Maple and hazelnut tree. I made sure both animals had nice cool water, and they all made it through. I don't think they would have if I'd kept them in a barn that was in the sun, or out in the middle of a field without shade. The forest microclimate was quite a bit cooler than in the sun, where it was just too hot to be for more than a minute. (I was literally drenched in sweat after a minute out in that heat, and it took me half an hour in front of the AC unit drinking water to cool down)

A lot of local people put their animals in their hot (though shady) sheds, or might not have any real shade. A forest microclimate is so important to keeping things more mild!
 
pollinator
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Location: Central TX, Zone 8b, multi-generational suburban homestead
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Mary Cook wrote:Mulch heavily to retain moisture and cool soil as well as to suppress weeds (if you live in a chronically wet area this may bring slugs--not a problem for me).



You say slugs are not a problem for you, but isn’t this thread about problems arising that may not be typical for your area?

I live in Texas and thought slugs were not a problem but they’ve been a killer problem this year! Lol

On the other hand, I love that i haven’t had to water but maybe once this summer
 
Nicole Alderman
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The solution to slugs is ducks! At least for me. As long as I let them forage around my garden beds, they keep the slugs in check, and then I have a garden. Without ducks, I have to use insane amounts of Sluggo just to have anything grow. Ducks don't need too much water, either. Just a pail to dunk their heads in, and a small tray they can splash in. I move their water from fruit tree to fruit tree, and dump it at the base of the tree, watering the tree and adding the nutrients there.

I also find the duck bedding invaluable for making gardens. Pine shavings for bedding is one of the few inputs I bring into my property.
 
Sarah Elizabeth
pollinator
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Nicole Alderman wrote: The forest microclimate was quite a bit cooler than in the sun, where it was just too hot to be for more than a minute. (I was literally drenched in sweat after a minute out in that heat, and it took me half an hour in front of the AC unit drinking water to cool down)

A lot of local people put their animals in their hot (though shady) sheds, or might not have any real shade. A forest microclimate is so important to keeping things more mild!



That sounds really hot. It must have been a huge shock for everyone in your area. Funny how a huge percentage of our permaculture designs only come into its own less than 5% of the time.  It shows what a resilient set up you must have. It is good to hear how well the forest microclimate worked - particularly compared to a barn set up.

We have had the opposite problem this summer: cold.

Last week, the high temperature here was.....59 F or 15 C.  Yep, that's right. I am wearing a thermal vest in mid July.  I have six chickens that are five weeks old which I hatched in the incubator in June. I had a fairly reasonable expectation that I could manage the chicks with limited energy inputs at this time of year but not this year. We managed to construct a little greenhouse for them to use in the day but it is still not warm enough for them right now without a fan heater. The brooder (where they are at night) is basically off grid and I have been using milk jugs of hot water wrapped in towels to keep them warm. It has worked but it has been hard work.

This brings me to another aspect of garden resilience. What happens if you have to move and start again? This is what has happened to me for reasons beyond my control.  I'm also thinking of people like Carol Deppe losing her rented growing space or Juliette de Bairacli-Levy (the herbalist) who had a total of thirteen gardens over her lifetime as she lived in many different countries and climates.

I am now in a new area but not yet in my own home or on my own land.  Most important for me was to save all my own seeds from the annual and perennial plants and trees I have grown along the way.  I started doing this way before I knew I would have to move and am so glad I did.  The second thing I have discovered is that I could use my time productively to increase my knowledge. I am now planning more of my own landrace crops and have refined my list of basic crops (Like Nicole has done with potatoes).

It is also possible to grow more than I thought in pots and mini portable raised beds.  This has been helpful through a period of serious ill heath and when I am settled again I will continue to have stuff in pots no matter how big my garden as I found I could easily tend them and get produce from them even when I was very ill. They can also be brought inside in a pinch if the weather is too cold or they need to be within easy reach.        
 
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