E. Elkins

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since Dec 31, 2011
North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
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Recent posts by E. Elkins

In this vein, I highly recommend Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation. Wulf focuses on Washington, Adams, Madison, and Jefferson, all four of which were passionate about gardening, and argues persuasively that horticulture greatly informed their politics. Of the four, I really took a liking to Adams -- he clearly enjoyed getting his hands dirty and seemed to be happiest when hard at work on his small farm. By comparison, the slave-owning Jefferson, Madison, and Washington appear, dare I say, downright aristocratic.
6 years ago
My yard is bordered by wooded land, as well, and squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, moles, skunks, possums, raccoons, and deer (did I leave anything out?) definitely do cause me some headaches. They eat my crops (primarily deer and groundhogs), dig in my beds looking for tasty bugs (moles, skunks, raccoons, and possums), etc. Odds are good that you'll have some losses if you don't protect your new bed in way or another. That being said, you might want to wait and see what happens...it might be a disaster, or you might find you have few problems. Then again, given the relatively small size of your bed, surrounding it with chicken wire or something similar wouldn't be too costly. A good alternative that's worked for me is a motion activated sprinkler.
6 years ago
Thanks, Norris -- that's encouraging. How densely did you plant the solomon's seal at the outset? I know that they spread, but I'm not sure how quickly.
6 years ago
I'll be placing an order with Oikos Tree Crops in the near future, and I'm inclined to pick up one or more Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) plants and give them a try. These are the smaller 2' to 3' variety, not the giant Solomon's Seal that Eric Toensmeier writes about in Perennial Vegetables. While they're often recommended as a shade-tolerant edible for forest gardens, I haven't seen a lot of information about expected yields, length of harvest season, etc. other than that they're generally considered to be a spring crop like asparagus. Does anyone have practical experience growing Solomon's Seal?
6 years ago

Rachell Koenig wrote: I like to start plants indoor, like my peppers, and lots of new herbs. I only have one good sized window and it just barley gets enough light, but it works. I start my seeds off in damp potting soil with plastic wrap laying on top until the spouts show up. This keeps the fungus from showing up, and keeps the soil moist.. but soon after its removed the trouble begins. Last year i saved most of my plants by stirring the top layer, it kept the fungus to a minimum. I want to do better than that this year, but stay organic. Like maybe mix up some garlic spray? I would like to know what other people do for this.



Chamomile tea is reputed to be antifungal, and I've had good success with it in previous years -- just mist the soil surface with a weak solution periodically. I also use a small fan on low speed to keep air moving around the plants. This both strengthens the seedlings and helps to control fungus. Finally, I've found that I have the fewest fungal problems when I stick with a mostly sterile potting mix of peat/coir and perlite/rice hulls. Definitely no organic fertilizers or compost, but I did begin experimenting with 10% worm castings last year with good results. The worm castings boosted growth and seemed to provide sufficient nutrition without the risk of fertilizer burn.

EDIT: Looks like others chimed in with much the same advice while I was composing my reply...
6 years ago

Drug Mile wrote:I'll also think about ordering Crawford's book, looks like another nice source of information.



I highly recommend it. It's a great book with a lot of practical information, but I value it most for its plant profiles. Like Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables, Creating a Forest Garden introduced me to a lot of plants that have great potential for the permaculture garden.
6 years ago

mike mclellan wrote:Have you also considered lupine? There might be a variety suited to your area.



Hi, Mike. I'm glad to hear that Baptisia was a good performer for you. The fact that it did so well in rather harsh conditions is encouraging. I considered lupine, but gardeners here in NC report mixed results -- some can grow it successfully but many can't. In fact, Baptisia is a commonly recommended lupine substitute for the southeast. Nonetheless, I have some lupine seeds that I purchased on a whim last year, so I might give it a try.
6 years ago

Toby Hemenway wrote:Baptisia was the first thing that came to mind. It's a great plant. There are small indigo varieties that you should research, and Amorpha should also be a good choice; I've kept it pretty small.



Excellent -- thanks for seconding Baptisia, Toby. I did some research last night, and Baptisia minor looks to be just about perfect. It's a shame that it takes it a few years to bloom (or so I've read) -- the flowers spikes are lovely. I'll take a closer look at Amorpha, as well.
6 years ago
I'm obviously not Toby, but I thought I'd point you to another outstanding book that has some cool ideas for integrating vines into a food forest -- Martin Crawford's Creating a Forest Garden. Crawford suggests several ways to grow perennial vines without erecting a trellis:

1. Grow the vines on a coppiced tree. He likes to use a tree with edible leaves (he suggests Tilia cordota). If I remember correctly, when it's time to cut back the tree again, he also cuts the vine back and restarts the process.

2. On a mature tree, he removes the lower canopy with the exception of specifically chosen limbs that will become his "trellis." Can't remember the species that he usually uses...alder? The tree still has plenty of foliage up high, the vines have limbs to climb, and the gardener has better access to the vines in the open lower canopy that he or she has created.

3. The first two seem to be his preferred method, but he also suggests the possibility of growing a sacrificial tree, girdling it, and then allowing the vine to climb the dead tree. You would then plant a future sacrificial tree close by so that, when the original tree falls, you can then restart the process.

If you're looking to pair vines with a fruit tree, it seems like method 2 would work if the tree was large enough. Sure, you'd sacrifice some tree fruit for the vine fruit, but that would be a great way of introducing diversity to your garden.
6 years ago

H Ludi Tyler wrote:I've been looking at Baptisia Blue False Indigo or Wild Blue Indigo. There is a large-growing form to 4 feet Baptisia australis and a smaller relative Baptisia minor.



I really appreciate your reply -- I'd dismissed Blue False Indigo because I thought it was too large, but I appear to have been mixing it up with Amorpha fruticosa (aka Desert False Indigo or Indigo Bush). Baptisia minor looks especially interesting. I found one nursery that suggested it as a good lupine substitute for the south, so it could be just what I'm looking for...
6 years ago