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Honor Marie

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since Aug 11, 2015
San Francisco area, USDA zone 9
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Recent posts by Honor Marie

In response to the original question: What can I grow without irrigation?

In my area, we get about 25" of rain per year, Oct-April.  The summers are not very hot and nights are cool.  Swiss chard, tree collards, blackberries, artichokes, fennel, and feral brassica mixes all grow wild in the uncultivated areas of my garden, and they make it through the summer.  The mulch layer is fairly thick, but other than that they receive no care.  They seem to do best surrounded by a living ground cover.

Some work well if they are planted during the rainy season and then finish maturing in the early summer without irrigation: potatoes, quinoa, garlic, peas, onions.  (Also with a thick layer of mulch.)

I have had tomatoes thrive without water if they are right next to a compost heap, which is kind of similar to the principals behind hugelkultur.

This is an area with only a few light frosts in December, so we can grow cool-season crops during the rainy season without irrigation.  
3 years ago
This is my second year growing quinoa and it has worked out well both times. I got the idea to grow them as a lettuce replacement because they produce more leaves per square foot and also still taste good after they flower. The greens are good in salad or cooked. They have a slight mineral flavor, but as long as they are mixed with another green, it isn't noticeable. Last year, I picked more than half the leaves off each plant and still had a big seed harvest.

If anyone has a good technique for harvesting the seeds, let me know! Last year I rubbed the seed heads between my hands, then winnowed with a fan. It was fine, but not going to work on a large scale.

Another awesome thing about quinoa is that you can grow the seeds from the bulk bin at the supermarket. Here in coastal California, I plant in March (when other cold season crops are planted.) Supposedly quinoa crops can be ruined if they get a lot of rain when the seeds are drying, so a summer drought is perfect. My plan for next year is to grow them without any irrigation. The soil is just drying out now (June) and the plants have already set seeds. I have read that a quinoa plant only needs 10 inches of rain to reach maturity.

If we can just work out the problem of threshing at home, quinoa would be the perfect homestead crop for those of us with dry summers.
3 years ago
I would stay away from clover. Barefoot kids have been stung in my lawn several times when they stepped on a bee.
3 years ago
I'm wondering how long it would take to dig a buried hugel bed by hand. Does anyone have an estimate? Include some info about your soil and the size of the bed, please!
3 years ago
Also, I wish I had animals, but I don't.
3 years ago
My garden space isn't easily accessible, so I'm trying to use as much of the existing resources as I can, without having to haul materials in by hand. The main resource I have right now is tons and tons of weeds that have gone to seed. I don't think I can make a compost pile hot enough to kill off every seed, so what can I do with them? My main objective right now is preparing organic matter for fall planting (in August).
3 years ago
Check out City Slickers of Oakland (CA) as an example of the kind of organization you may want to be involved with. Before college, I would start working with an organization that already does the kind of work you're interested in. That will help you narrow down exactly where the gaps are in your knowledge so that you can make every GI dollar count. Good luck!
3 years ago
What's going on at the edges of your annual beds?

Weeds like to set themselves up in the gap between my mulched pathways and my wooden raised beds. Then they slip in between the boards to invade the bed. I'm thinking I need a new approach. Since the edge of the pathway is such an enticing spot, maybe I should plant something there. There is no rain here in the summer, so it would have to be something that can survive on a few drops of irrigation runoff. Maybe wildflowers? Bulbs?

How do you defend/maximize your edges?

I just got access to all the rabbit manure I could possibly want! How much can I add to my raised beds? I was thinking a few inches, gently turned in with a fork, like compost. Is that too much? This is for one bed where I will grow tomatoes and squash and another bed with root vegetables. I'm short on compost this year, so I want to use as much manure as I can.
John Jeavons, "How to Grow More Vegetables (than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine)"

I found his book very useful. A lot of his techniques are also permaculture techniques, but focused around annual beds rather than a food forest.