Steven Kovacs

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since Jul 18, 2015
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Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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Recent posts by Steven Kovacs

In MA, we have had luck with violets but less with lavender - cold spells killed 2 of our 3 plants, and lavender gets “leggy” unless you prune it annually.
4 weeks ago
We actually do have a linden as one of our street trees, and I will vouch for the leaves being reasonably tasty for the first week or two that they sprout.

As for people care, I like pawpaws but not enough to eat all the ones our three trees produce - sadly few of my neighbors and colleagues like them so they are hard to give away.  You can’t get any lower-maintenance than pawpaws, though, and they make a nice privacy screen and seem to soak up a lot of water on the wettest part of the property.

Thanks everyone for all these recommendations- some I had tried before (Hablitzia didn’t germinate for me, have to try again) but most are new to me.

Oh! And what they say about the indestructible nature of comfrey is true - I have some growing very happily under our (boo hiss) Norway maple street tree.  Not even dandelion will grow there but the comfrey is flourishing in hard packed soil and heavy shade.
1 month ago
Many thanks!  I will read the perennial greens threads and read up on sochan, which is new to me.

I am looking to grow some food but of course not be anywhere near self sufficient.  I want to focus on things I can’t get (at all, or at a good quality for a reasonable price) so herbs and fruit (especially raspberries) were obvious choices.  I also want to have fresh greens through as much of the year as possible, which implies season extension techniques; I have Four Season Harvest but probably need to get more competent at growing annuals first. I also want to encourage my kids to have a good relationship with food and plants (one is picky but loves the outdoors, the other loves all foods but tends to be an indoor bookworm).  Fruit wins out there too although sorrel was a surprising hit.

I have finally largely defeated the aegopodium podagraria that colonized much of the yard so I am excited to plant, and the soil is extraordinarily rich (river valley loam).

The yard is also a play area for the kids (play structure, swings, grass, mud) and I plan to build a work-from-home office shed, so organizing things spatially will take a little effort.  We live at the bottom of a hill in a very wet climate so there is still some drainage work to do as well.
1 month ago
We have blueberries, cherries, raspberries, pawpaws, rhubarb, asparagus, rosemary, sage, mint, walking onions (though I don’t find them easy to use), chives, sorrel.  It sounds like I was right to suspect that we need to rely on annuals for greens and starch.  I love the idea of perennial greens but my foray into sea kale was a disappointment - I really wish there were more options in the perennial greens category.
1 month ago
Ok, something of an intentionally provocative title, but:

Can anyone point me to a successful small urban garden in a temperate climate?  I am really struggling to figure out what to do with my 1600 sq ft yard.

Some permie concepts (zones and sectors, etc.) are relevant anywhere.  But when it comes to growing food, a small lot in a temperate climate has some disadvantages when it comes to perennials in particular.  Once you exclude nut trees (which take up too much room to be practical at this scale), there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to choose from in perennial species other than fruit and herbs  Fruit is great, but what about greens (we eat a lot of annual brassicas) and starches?    For protein we might eventually do chickens; fats will probably have to remain store-bought.
1 month ago
Thanks, all.  Ultimately I think I will go with concrete blocks and skirting, not least because it is the cheapest and easier option.  It also has worked well for my wood shed.
1 month ago
Thanks, all.  I think I will do concrete blocks, which worked for my 5x12 wood shed.

We have three rain barrels to ensure adequate water during droughts; the two droughts we have had in the last decade only required about one and a half barrels of water so I think we are good on that front.
1 month ago
Theoretically the frost depth is 48”.  No way I am digging that deep for a shed foundation.  In practice the climate has warmed a lot here so 48” is not realistic anyway.  Some frost heave below a shed is ok though I am not sure how electrical conduit will like it.

Stumps will rot far too fast with the amount of water in the soil (rich loam on top of clay on top of bedrock, at the bottom of a hill).  We have some 12” stumps in the yard that have turned to mush in 3 years.

Green roof is a nice idea but would require a more robust structure than I am planning for.

Water storage is also a nice idea but my experience on this property is that we need to get water off it as fast as possible except in the summer - we get at least 54” of liquid water equivalent per year, increasingly in rain rather than snow, and we are getting deluges of 2-6” in 48 hours sometimes (a town nearby got 10” in a day recently).

Concrete blocks seem the cheapest option but don’t keep critters from nesting underneath.
1 month ago
Western MA, zone 5, on a slope.  I want to build an 8x12 shed as a home office (probably super insulated) in our back yard.  The site slopes 18” from the highest to the lowest corner.  What is my best bet for a foundation?  Gravel held in place with 4x4s? I want to minimize the amount of impervious surface - our yard gets seriously soggy as it is - so I was hoping a gravel base (extending further out than the footprint of the shed) might help with infiltration.
1 month ago
Anne, thanks.  How deep and wide a trench did you dig, and what kind / size of rocks did you use?  Have you had any issues with silting up?

Since the water collects exactly where a path is, I was also thinking about using flat stones on top to make a paved path, but that might be too wobbly if put on top of drainage rocks.
4 months ago