Kirk Schonfeldt

+ Follow
since Aug 09, 2013
Kirk likes ...
forest garden fungi trees chicken bike bee
Merit badge: bb list bbv list
I grew up in the big city wishing I was a country boy, composting, gardening, foraging, exploring, learning.  I've been a Certified Permaculture Designer for over 15 years.  I'm a plantsman and gardener, holistic orchardist, raise chickens and bees, cook/can/ferment/dehydrate, barter, explore and learn. Now on a homestead in south-central Iowa.
For More
South-central Iowa
Apples and Likes
Total received
In last 30 days
Total given
Total received
Received in last 30 days
Total given
Given in last 30 days
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand First Scavenger Hunt

Recent posts by Kirk Schonfeldt

Don't forget nettles! Besides the tamer and delicious asparagus, nettles are my favorite perennial veg and it's highly shade tolerant too. I have enough growing wild on the property but transplant some into my zone 2 for easy access and to keep an eye on maturity/harvestability.

3 years ago
I love perennial veg, but don't have nearly enough. Here's my experience in my humid continental Midwest climate z5a. Asparagus is a perennial favorite (especially Purple Passion) so I've got about 60'. Walking onions have become a staple guild plant that tolerates shade, competes against grass, prolifically propagates and makes great early green onions. Caucasian Mt Spinach grows easily, tolerates shade, modestly self-seeds, early growth is good in a mixed salad, older cooked like spinach, I'm a fan. Nettles are a wild harvested favorite, I find it a tender and mild green and have transplanted some into the timber by the house. I save the cooking water and dilute cold mint (and other) teas 50/50 and the kids don't notice. I just discovered several patches of ramps in the timber too and am very excited, they don't taste especially garlicky to me but the greens have a very rich savory flavor. My 3 year old sea kale plants were healthy but resented being transplanted and died (I still have some seed and need to experiment more). Out of 25 or so perennial kale I grew (Experimental Farm Network) a few years ago, only about 4 survived the first winter (it was a test winter -26F) and those remaining didn't survive last winter (a mild one, -12F), but they weren't well cared for so I should try again as they were good eating and we love kale (and perennial greens are my holy grail).

I was surprised that Wild arugula (random packet of sylvetta sp.) perennialized in the greenhouse (along with a few parsley plants that persisted for 4-5 years despite going to seed each year). Horseradish is a bulletproof perennial, and though one can only eat so much horseradish sauce, it's leaves make a pretty mild, acceptable cooked green. But unlike hybrid comfrey it propogates by seed as well as root fragments so keep it far from your garden.

My favorite tea is anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). The best is from "native" seed I harvested from a restored prairie nearby, far better than any of the half dozen "improved" varieties I've grown (granted only one or two were selected for their aroma). I've also run across A. nepetoides in the woods and field edges but have never tried it as tea. If only sacred basil was perennial in my climate!

The common daylilies have decent buds and flowers though I've never bothered to harvest in quantity and bring into the kitchen, maybe they'd be good battered and fried? I haven't tried hosta yet. Sunchokes are decent. I usually ignore in the fall and forget in the spring, but next year! I'm most interested in trying Linden, Turkish broccoli, perennial kales/greens, groundnuts and maybe a super hardy bamboo.


PS - Many mentioned berries. Here are some lesser ones I appreciate: honeyberries (shade tolerant! early ripening, many varieties, easy to propogate from hardwood cuttings in early spring, tasty if a bit fiddly to harvest, they turn color well before they're prime). Gooseberries as well as red/white/black currants are tasty and shade tolerant so they don't take up prime real estate and go in the understory.
3 years ago
Here's what has worked for me in Iowa in dappled to full shade:

Black raspberries
Caucasian Mt Spinach (CMS)
Lemon balm
Autumn olive
Garlic chives

4 years ago
I do a variety of things with my "weeds", chop n drop, compost or weed teas. I also grow comfrey along the border of my main garden area specifically for chop and drop. I have also considered growing miscanthus over my septic leach field to harvest nutrients and use as mulch in my garden beds, but not sure growing a vigorous perennial grass over my leach field is the best idea. Perhaps it would be wiser to grow vigorous annuals like sunflower, amaranth, pearl millet, sorghum, etc? Anyone care to share their experience trying to harvest nutrients from an existing leach field?

I've also considered in new garden areas planting every other bed to perennial dynamic accumulators like comfrey, alfalfa, clover, etc as a source of chop n drop mulch for the other beds. Anyone doing this?

I love the unique peppery-ness of Nasturtium leaves. I wonder if they could be dried/powdered and sprinkled on foods. That would be...interesting.
5 years ago
I'm planning to try black cumin, Nigella sativa, though its an annual...

(Fennel flower; Russian caraway; Black caraway) Commonly featured in Indian dhals and equally at home in Russian rye bread! Aromatic black seeds resemble fennel in aroma and taste something like peppery nutmeg. Seeds can be ground and used with near abandon like black pepper. Its legendary healing powers are summed up in the Arab proverb, “In the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death.”
5 years ago
My daughter and I love growing and harvesting our own teas. We haven't blended much but here are our favorites (mostly made with fresh herb in the warm season, sweetened with honey from our hives and drunk cold).

1. Tulsi - Love the fruity, clovey/spicy flavor, this is our favorite!
2. Anise Hyssop - Love the sweet licorice mint flavor, hard to beat!
3. Peppermint (Mint/Nettle) - Yum! I often dilute mint 50/50 with nettles and my daughter never notices!
4. Orange Spice thyme - this is a small-leaved, small-statured thyme variety so I need to propagate. It makes a lovely tea.
5. Lemon tea - Lemon thyme is the base, but I add lemon basil, lemon balm and often a squeeze of lemon.
6. Hibiscus - makes a great tea, but I have had great difficulty germinating the seed and growing myself.
7. Chamomile - easy to grow and dry a years supply. We grew a high-essential oil variety and its potent, should blend to dilute and mix with another relaxing evening tea herb (lemon balm?).

I need to try the wild Monarda sp. around here (though its flavor is more medicinal/oregano. Also, I'm more inspired to add various "medicinal" herbs in tea blends.

5 years ago
I appreciate you wanting to keep it local. I think you could vastly improve your soil this way. Do you compost your humanure? This is certainly a big step to closing the nutrient cycle. But on a relatively small homestead scale I think it judicious to import necessary minerals to bring soil back into balance (I was greatly influenced by Albrecht, Reams and Steve Solomon's The Intelligent Gardener) I am okay with importing minerals that are absent or severely limiting due to geology or past misuse of the land. For my circumstance, that is primarily P, and also some micros, which I have chosen to add back via Soft Rock Phosphate (and MAP on my more alkaline areas). I have only been at it a couple of years (and already started with overall excellent, fertile soil) but am seeing my soil come more into balance and produce more higher brix fruit and veg. I think of mineral imports as a temporary compromise that will reap long-term rewards for generations to come if the soil is managed and protected. Good luck!

6 years ago

Andre Lemos wrote:Jim,
you already have broom growing so let it grow and spread for 4 years and chop and drop them on the year 4.
In Portugal we used to use broom as fertilizers.

Good luck!

Be aware, broom or Spanish broom is a perennial leguminous shrub that fixes nitrogen, however, broom sedge is a completely different plant, a weedy native grass typical of worn out pastures. It is pretty unpalatable to livestock, spreads rapidly in poor soils and often outcompetes other natives due to allelopathy. I *think* the best way to keep it in check would be periodic heavy grazing and other general soil improvement measures (to give the less hardy, more palatable grasses/legumes a better chance). Also, I would *think* that this  area would be considered a "non-brittle" environment where enough precipitation and humidity exist to decompose biomass without the benefit of ruminant animals. This would mean a 2-4 time/year mowing regime would provide mulch that would decompose and improve your soil over time, improving SOM and increasing biomass production.

I would also recommend reading Steve Solomon's The Intelligent Gardener for details on how to balance your soil for productivity and nutrient-density (be your own soil analyst!). A $25 annual soil test and a judicious use of lime (cheap) and perhaps soft rock phosphate (less cheap but often lacking) and other trace minerals can do a tremendous job at unlocking the potential of your soil. If you have a bit more resources to spend (and this can address both soil improvement and water management) look into keylining the property. Keylining essentially involves ripping the soil on contour (more or less - it typically is done so that it is slightly downhill towards the ridges thus spreading precipitation more evenly across the land). Once you measure out the contours, renting a tractor (or hiring the job out) with a box blade or ripper (I've heard of lots of people that have had success without using the hard-to-find Yeoman's plow) and ripping the soil just 3-6" initially could have a major, lasting positive impact. Again, this is an oversimplification, but consider looking into Keyline design and keyline plowing if you want more info.

6 years ago
Robins came back a week ago in our neck of the woods and some forsythias are in full-bloom. NOT hopeful for peaches this year, darned February heat-wave.

Tyler Ludens wrote:Turkey Vultures have returned.

The vultures aren't year-round residents there? Were around Houston. They aren't the prettiest birds, but still one of my favorites. Known for their carrion-eating, but excellent hunters as well.
6 years ago