AdAstra Shepard

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since Mar 10, 2013
Eastern KS, USA
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Recent posts by AdAstra Shepard

Lisa Niermann wrote:
I was surprised that they didn't have an historical expert who was able to show them how to use a scythe correctly.

Yup, I think the original pioneers would have had an easier time of things just because they would have known things like that already. There were several times I was yelling at the screen because of the way they chose to do things. My great-grandmother still lived on a homestead in KS with no running water as late as the 1970s and I still hear the stories about that all the time from my great-aunts and -uncles, so I'm sure I would have done much better in their place.

I still liked it, though. Interesting to actually see the old tools and see people doing this stuff rather than hearing about it secondhand. If I were a history teacher I'd totally be using clips from this series in my classroom.
I can't tell you too much since this is my first year planting hugelkultur beds, and I haven't been so scientific or systematic as to take temperature readings. But I can tell you that we had a strange, late Spring this year in my area. Our average last frost date is mid-April, so I waited 'til after that to plant my more delicate veggies, but then we had 2 inches of snow in the first week of May. Other people in my area lost their gardens & had to replant, but the plants in my hugel beds didn't suffer a bit. So just from that anecdotal evidence, I would say you could probably extend your estimated growing season quite a bit if you're using hugelkultur.
7 years ago
Kind of off-topic, sorry, but...

Julia Winter wrote:Daylily petals are delicious. They have a vaguely cucumberish taste if they are thick. You can apparently throw the unopened flower buds into a stir-fry, but I like seeing the open flowers, so I've never tried it.

I can't eat sugars & grains (diabetic) so I'm always looking for low-carb food options, and I've discovered that you can stuff day lily flowers. I like to use the same stuff you'd put in crab rangoon: cream cheese, crab meat, onions & herbs. Take out the center part of the flower first, of course, then just spoon your filling in. Makes for a very pretty appetizer if you have guests, too; you can even serve them in a champagne glass if you want to be all fancy.

Anyway, I'm a bit south of you in zone 5, but day lilies grow like crazy around here and I'd highly recommend them if they're hardy there.
7 years ago
Ok, thanks for the clarification. Luckily it's a pretty small backyard garden (the entire lot, house included, is less than 1/5 acre) and I have only planted bits and pieces so far, so covering everything shouldn't be a problem. I just didn't want to be silly and run around covering stuff if it was unnecessary (I'm naturally lazy, which is why I like permaculture in the first place).
Thank you so much! It's a freeze warning, not just a frost warning, I guess... temps supposed to get down into the 20s. We're getting sleet and snow right now. But none of my little trees have leaves yet, though the bushes do. So the trees should be OK? I still have lots of cardboard moving boxes that would be just the right size to cover a little bush; that's a great suggestion, quick & easy to do and it won't get caught on any branches or thorns. Good to know the other plants should be fine.

Next year I'll listen to my dogwood tree... I vaguely remember one of my grandparents saying you don't plant your garden 'til the dogwood trees bloom, because the dogwoods know when it's safe. Last year my dogwood bloomed in late March, this year it still hasn't bloomed yet. So I guess it really does know when we'll have a late Spring!

Thanks again for the help. I love these forums!
I am the very beginning-est of beginners, so this may be a stupid question...
which plants need to be protected when there's a frost warning? I very carefully waited 'til last weekend, April 19 was the avg. last frost date in our area, to plant some new trees, bushes, strawberries, grapevines, a few annuals like lettuce and cauliflower, etc. And tonight there's a frost warning, the weather people are saying "cover up your plants."
Is that necessary with stuff that's supposed to be cold-hardy and perennial? Would I need to protect them just because they're babies now, but not later? I'm just not sure how that works. Also, I'm not sure of the mechanics. I have scraps of old rags & towels & some burlap pieces, and plenty of old plastic bags, would those be appropriate? Do you cover the whole plant, or just the root/base?

Part of me is tempted to take a Darwinist approach. Arnold voice: "You girlie plants do not whine to me about the cold! You are in my garden now! If you do not grow tough and strong, you do not deserve to be here!" But another part of me says "I paid good money for these plants, I need to protect my investment."

What do y'all think? Any advice would be appreciated.
I am also a beginner and striving for that balance, too. Except in my case, I am diabetic and controlling it entirely through diet, which means severely restricting the amount of sugars and carbs I eat. So I'm the other way 'round: not much fruit is allowed in my diet, I need more veggies. Lots of eggs and meat and leafy greens for me. But I LOVE growing pretty flowering fruit bushes & trees... sigh.
I am also growing things like beans that I know will produce *way* more than I can eat. But on the other hand, as Michael pointed out: if it fits a niche in my little ecosystem, such as the beans that help fix nitrogen in the soil or the fruit bushes that attract pollinators, then even if I don't harvest or use all the food, it's still performing a function and being useful. So IMHO it's worth the effort to cultivate it. Also, you can always harvest it anyway and give away the excess to friends & neighbors.

Tom Harner wrote:...I always thought Pawpaws were tropical species; I can't read "Pawpaw" without thinking of Disney's The Jungle Book. (The Bare Necessities)

I will have to look into getting hazelnut, paw paw trees, elderberry bushes, & riverbank grapes. Where might be the best place to get some of these? Would a local nursery have them? My in-laws ordered the berry plants for us in memory of a my grandmother, other than that we have shopped at a local hardware store that offers the traditional garden plants/seeds.

LOL. Yup, the tropical papaya is often called a paw paw tree. But that's a completely different species, Carica papaya. The Paw Paw I'm talking about is a North American native tree, Asimina triloba. You wanna make sure you get the right kind! My mom grew up on a farm/ranch on the edge of the Flint Hills in KS and they always had paw paw patches near the creekbeds. That's the only reason I knew what they were. The fruits don't keep & ship very well so no one cultivates them commercially, but for a backyard food source, they're excellent. They're just now starting to be offered by more nurseries. Best sources I've found for these odd / native plants are, as the other poster suggested, state conservation organizations or ag extension offices. Got my hazelnuts from the Arbor Day organization. But there are more and more little nurseries springing up that will ship you various hard-to-find edible plants; you can find them if you are skilled in the art of Google Fu, but prices vary pretty widely.

After reading some of these other posts, I'm going to try & get myself some serviceberries too! I always learn something new on these forums.
Hello from another Eastern Kansan!

Sounds like I have a site with slightly different conditions than yours: my entire yard is shaded most of the day by gigantic old oak & maple trees in my and my neighbor's yards. So that cuts down on the evaporation and helps with the drought conditions a bit. But it means I have trouble getting enough sun to grow traditional stuff like tomatoes and peppers and squash. Ah, well, everything's a trade-off, I guess.

Anyway, if it helps, I've had great success just encouraging things that are already growing in my area. I don't know how you feel about things traditionally considered "weeds," but I've found dandelions, creeping charlie, wood sorrel and violets growing wild in my yard. Those are all edible and pretty nutritious. I've allowed them to overrun the grass wherever they want, within reason. I do try to keep them in balance and not allow one species to get too out-of-control... I've also had great success overseeding my yard with white clover. That fills in any bare spots, and provides nitrogen to the soil, and it's another one that's edible. I also have day lilies running wild everywhere; they seem to love it here.

Have you tried Jerusalem artichokes / sunchokes? They are a native plant here in KS and they're rumored to be pretty much impossible to kill. Sun- or shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant. Plant them where you'd plant sunflowers, they're in the same family and look very similar. But at the end of the growing season you harvest a bunch of edible tubers that are kind of like potatoes. They can also act as a source of shade and climbing trellis for beans and/or squash, and they attract beneficial insects.

Good luck!
7 years ago
I am also a beginner with the same problem. Smallish yard, lots of huge shade trees. I am just doing a lot of plant-it-&-see-what-happens.
How hot are your summers? I've found that in our KS heat, plants that say 'full sun to part shade' actually do better in shade.
Another suggestion is to look to your native local environment. Here in Eastern KS we have quite a bit of woodland area, especially near waterways. So I'm using plants I observed growing well in the understory there, like hazelnut, paw paw trees, elderberry bushes, strawberries, & riverbank grapes.
Hope this helps. I love all that you've accomplished already!