Author Topic: Northern Permaculture  (Read 6597 times)

R.R. Book

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Northern Permaculture
« on: March 10, 2017, 08:17:11 AM »
Hi all,

Socrates, thank you for your wisdom and your passionate stewardship of the earth.  This sub-thread is focused upon homesteads north of the Mason-Dixon line, but Southerners may have lots to contribute as well.

I've spent the past several years intensively studying and experimenting with Eric Toensmeier's book Perrennial Vegetables, and here is what I have learned:

Some edible species which are so invasive that they may be illegal in some Southern locations may be suitable for Northern gardens as dieback perennials.  One invasive that carries the potential to be a reliable northern starvation ration is sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes, which are essentially a sunflower and one of many alternative species of potato or sweet potato.  Even a small remnant of one of these tubers may be used to amass a whole colony of plants in a short period of time.  This plant allows northerners to overwinter something more nutrient-dense than salad greens.

The Nutrition Data website gives the following nutritional profile for a cup of uncooked Sunchoke tubers: 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 26g carbohydrates including 2g fiber, 3g protein, 10% daily vitamin C and 20% daily iron. If that raw bit of sunchoke were brushed with olive oil or butter and sprinkled with sea salt, the nutritional profile would be still more enhanced.  Some fingerling potatoes are also hardy enough to be left in the ground to overwinter, and Fedco of Maine carries a selection, as well as Roninger's Potato Farm in Colorado.

Toensmeier challenges northerners to re-think the severely limited number of species that we consider to be food.  Sunchokes are in essence a northern type of potato.  Sea kale can be thought of as perpetual northern broccoli.  Lovage satisfies the cooking requirement for both parsley and celery, and is medicinal as well as being a bee magnet.  Chives replace onions in the garden, and there is a kind of patented French sorrel which forms tidy clumps and does not bolt (go to flower and then die back) that is available from Richter's in Canada or Food Forest Farm in Massachusetts which satisfies the need for perpetual greens, in addition to many other spinach-like species that will overwinter in the north.  Skirret is the northern perennial carrot/parsnip, available at Oikos Tree Crops of Michigan.

Any other thoughts?
« Last Edit: March 10, 2017, 09:47:56 AM by R.R. Book »

ilinda

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2017, 05:02:21 PM »
Thanks for your thoughtful post, R.R.Book.

Jerusalem Artichokes are as you describe and here's my addendum.  Here in Missouri's Ozarks in southeast MO, I grew them years ago and unfortunately planted them in our well-dug garden, where they did become invasive.  Had I realized that even in our temperate climate their potential I would have planted them outside the garden where they would be better kept in check.

So I dug and dug and finally got rid of them, and now have regretted it ever since.  I want to re-start them as I agree with everyone who taks of their high nutritient qualities.  We found they are great baked with potatoes, onions, etc., as long as they are not broken open.  But slice them open and bake them, and every single thing in the dish tastes like Jerusalem Artichokes!

Socrates

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2017, 04:38:54 AM »
My focus has always been toward semi-arid 'gardening' but Paul Wheaton is possibly the world's most influential permaculture facilitator and he's up in cooler regions [Montana]. Listening to him i picked up a few extremely interesting facts that i'd never considered before, like
- soil holds onto it's value must longer and easier in colder regions since bacteria and other lifeforms die off or go dormant in winter. In warmer regions, everything gets eaten up much quicker [assuming you can keep it moist].
- though higher [in the Northern hemisphere] latitudes have sunlight that is a bit less intense, the fact that there are more hours in the day levels the playing field. Assuming you can take advantage of the extra hours [and your plants don't end up in the shade at some point or something], there's no reason most plants shouldn't have enough (i.e. compared to more southernly regions).

Hey, if the world goes into some sort of nuclear winter, it could be that people in now semi-arid regions then find themselves dealing with conditions people farther away from the equator are used to dealing with; it's good to know a few things about the differences.
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R.R. Book

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2017, 02:19:59 PM »
Hi Ilinda, I hope you get your separate sunchoke patch up and growing again, even if only for the extra peace of mind in knowing it's a reliable staple crop.  A friend of mine who farms 90 acres just keeps his on one big open mound at one end of his farm, not even in or near a garden.  I have them growing in dedicated quarantined beds at opposite ends of my little homestead, and just maintain paths around them for access.

Socrates, Thank you for all the great links that you post.  It will take me some time to digest all of your shared material.

Some other northern analog crops to share: Instead of tomatoes, there are sweet distant relatives such as cape gooseberries/ground cherries (similar growth habit to tomatilloes) that self-sow prolifically.  The pineapple flavored variety (Aunt Molly's) tastes awesome and fruits heavily the same season it's planted, but causes me to break out in hives, so allergy sufferers should be cautious. 

Alternatively, cherry tomatoes are perpetual if overwintered in a pot indoors, as are pepper plants.  Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes make a gorgeous hanging basket both indoors and out.

Dandelion offers both a source of greens and a source of carotenes in the flower, which is a delicacy pan grilled in butter.

Although Good King Henry is touted as a kind of spinach, I find the seed head on the tops of the plants to be far more interesting and edible.  This plant is in the amaranth family and the abundant seed, which should be soaked overnight before using, is similar to quinoa, which provides a substitute for the taste of corn for dishes such as grits.  The plant makes a reliable and handsome medium-tall crop row in the garden.


R.R. Book

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2017, 11:51:53 AM »
Adding a few more northern perennial permaculture crops that I'm experimenting with, some of which are variants of weeds!

Garlic chives - has both the garlic and onion flavor in one convenient crop.  Richter's of Canada carries started plug packs.

Groleau chives, also available at Richter's, is a cultivar for growing indoors under low-lighting conditions.

Dandelions that have been selected for non-bitterness (though the bitterness is actually beneficial for liver and GB) -   Cultivars Vollherzigen and Full Heart are available as started plants at Oikos Tree Crops.

Miners' lettuce or Claytonia seeds from Sowtrueseed.com

Chickweed seeds from Sowtrueseed.com (A half cup contains 375 mg of vitamin C, which is several times as much as an orange contains, so it's a good non-citrus source of C for northerners - see one of my favorite websites, the Plants for a Future database, for more details).










ilinda

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2017, 04:30:35 PM »
Adding a few more northern perennial permaculture crops that I'm experimenting with, some of which are variants of weeds!

Garlic chives - has both the garlic and onion flavor in one convenient crop.  Richter's of Canada carries started plug packs.

Groleau chives, also available at Richter's, is a cultivar for growing indoors under low-lighting conditions.

Dandelions that have been selected for non-bitterness (though the bitterness is actually beneficial for liver and GB) -   Cultivars Vollherzigen and Full Heart are available as started plants at Oikos Tree Crops.

Miners' lettuce or Claytonia seeds from Sowtrueseed.com

Chickweed seeds from Sowtrueseed.com (A half cup contains 375 mg of vitamin C, which is several times as much as an orange contains, so it's a good non-citrus source of C for northerners - see one of my favorite websites, the Plants for a Future database, for more details).
And according to some goat books, chickweed is higher in copper than many plants which makes it good for goats, as copper in the system tends to be unpalatable to intestinal parasites.  It doesn't kill them, per se, but they don't like the environment.

And for humans, it's good to know of plants with important trace minerals, as well as good ol' vitamin C.

Socrates

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Re: chickweed
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2017, 06:53:13 PM »
I loves me chickweed!  :P
And it's all over the place this time of year here in Holland. Thank you! for letting me know it's a good source of copper. I've actually made colloidal copper before to make sure i get enough; now i know that i just have to harvest more chickweed.  :D
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Solani

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2017, 03:08:57 PM »
Not sure what sub/category to write this. Let me know where to move it if it's in the wrong place.  8)

Growing potatoes in colder climate

I REALLY need to stop typing directly online... :( and type whatever in a document on my computer first. I don’t know how many times I’ve lost everything I’ve written, before I’ve been able to push the post button… Heck! I even think about the possibility of losing whatever loooooong post I’m writing before it happens. You’d think that would give me a clue??!? *ARRRRG*

So, here’s the second version for today… :P

What I’m writing here is how I’ve grown potatoes for many years now. Having lived in Sweden, where even if it does get very cold in the winters, potatoes grow successfully in large fields or in folks’ gardens. My house/property which I left when I moved over here to Canada is built on “mountain” and I only had a foot of earth/dirt before hitting bedrock, which made it a pain in the rear to plant stuff such as potatoes, carrots and other root veggies.

Coming here to Canada last winter to live with Dan I decided to “upgrade” my way of growing potatoes. Potatoes would most likely grow directly in the earth here as well but, season is shorter than it is in Sweden. In Sweden I would grow potatoes in layers of old car tires, stacked on each other as the potato plants grew. Here at Dan’s place I not only found LOTS of car tires but also many large old rear tractor tires. Geeez, sometimes I feel that what I can’t find out here, most likely doesn’t exist!! ;) Dan is a long time “hoarder” from everything to scrap metal, machinery, vehicles, tools (new and old) and much more… Took me the better part of last year to clear the first floor of the house…  :o Not to mention all the “fights” when I wanted to junk something that hmmm… “could be good to have”. I was lucky that his sister came up from Mississippi last summer for a month long visit and she took most of the “battles”.  ;D Didn’t throw everything away but, anything that doesn’t serve a purpose inside the house, had to “move out", into one of the many buildings outside. Anyhow… got sidetracked… ;)

I chose to use the large rear tractor tires for my “potato grow-op…” Same way as I would grow in the car tires but bigger. (bigger = more potatoes without more work...  ::) ) First I put down a 1-foot layer of straw on the ground where I was going to place the tires. Hauled the tires with the tractor and laid them down on top of the straw-beds I’d made. Next I took/take straw mixed with dirt and fill the sides (inner walls) of the tires to insulate from the cold but also it helps keep the moisture and warmth in the soil where the potatoes will grow. Also that the tires are black, makes it warmer…

I pre-plant my potatoes in gallon buckets of well fertilized soil. I use a mix of chicken and 2-year-old horse poop as fertilizing agent. When the potato plants have grown to be about 4 inches tall and have sprouted a healthy set of green leaves I bring the buckets outside during the daytime and set them next to the tires when the outside temperature during the day is warm, so they can get used to being outside before I permanently plant them in the tires. I mix the soil in the bottom tire with same type of fertilizer.

I also make sure that hopefully the frosty nights have past before permanently planting the potatoes outside. I water the prepared soil in the tires the evening before I plant the “potato babies”, giving it a thorough soak. Come morning I’m up with the sun and transfer the baby potato plants to the soil in the tires. You can fit about 8 – 10 potato plants in one large rear tractor tire and 4 potatoes in a car tire. One difference if using car tires, you need to start out with 2 tires stacked on each other, since they aren’t as “deep” as a rear tractor tire. You can also do a similar variation using a big plastic rain barrel. Just make sure you have a ring of holes drilled in the bottom of the barrel so water won’t collect and rot your potatoes from the bottom up. You can also place a layer of fist size rocks in the bottom of the barrel. The barrel method is a good way for someone that lives in a city that perhaps only has a balcony to plant their own potatoes. Just make sure you have a deep platter or dish under the barrel so your neighbor under you doesn’t have a conniption due to getting “rained on”.  ;)

Hmmm… back to the tractor potatoes…   :P
 
OK, so now we have the potato babies planted in the tires… Make sure to have a big pile of straw ready just in case it looks like it’s going to freeze during the night, so you can pile that straw on top of your potato plants during the night. Potatoes are quite hardy once they’ve adapted to being outside but don’t do all that well with frost during the first week or so when newly planted outside. The straw will protect from the brunt of a nightly freeze but if it looks like it’s going to be more than just a light drop in temperature, you can also add a tarp on top of the straw. Once the potatoes/leafage have grown to be about a foot above the soil, add more soil. (no need for more fertilizer) Just make sure that you don’t cover the plants completely. You need to have at least 6 inches of leafage above soil. Adding soil like this as they grow, will create room for more potatoes to grow under the soil. When needed, add another tire and keep adding soil as the potato plants grow. (insulate those tires with straw too) Last year I had 2 big 4 tire high stacks full of potatoes. Come time for harvest (after the first frost) “just knock the tire stack over…” Hmm… if you don’t have a tractor or a 4-wheel drive truck that you can attach a cable of sort to the stack or top tire to pull them down, go with the regular car tires. Those big tires are HEAVY… but well worth it. But do one layer of tire at a time if possible. (Which ever method you use to pull the tires down, make sure you or anyone else is nowhere near them and absolutely not downhill from them... That goes for your truck, tractor, house etc. as well. A runaway/rollaway tractor tire that has a mind of its own, can be downright evil!) All you do then is sort through the soil, basket the potatoes and store them somewhere well ventilated and cool. Don’t wash the dirt off of the potatoes until you are ready to use them.

I would plant my potatoes this way even if I did live in a warmer climate. I’m lazy and it sure saves your back not having to harvest from a field… Make sure you water your tire potatoes, depending on what your climate is like.

When you get down to the bottom tire, you can leave those potatoes in the dirt if you want, topping off with a thick layer of straw and a tarp. I have a friend that just heaps a thick layer of straw on top of the bottom layer/tire and a tarp on top of everything and come spring, she removes the tarp first and a few weeks later the straw and whatever potatoes that were left in the dirt sprout and that’s the start of her next year crop… I haven’t gotten that to work yet but I’ve seen hers.

//Solani
In order to determine what is possible, one only needs to step out into what is considered impossible and look around...

Yowbarb

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Re: chickweed
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2017, 04:36:37 PM »
I loves me chickweed!  :P
And it's all over the place this time of year here in Holland. Thank you! for letting me know it's a good source of copper. I've actually made colloidal copper before to make sure i get enough; now i know that i just have to harvest more chickweed.  :D
Coffee beverage made of dandelions, chickweed... This kind of product probably plentiful in Europe... my understanding is, these plants are good for the liver. :)

https://www.amazon.com/Chickweed-Herbal-Coffee-Stellaria-Caffeine/dp/B00N6M3K6K

Yowbarb

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2017, 04:37:45 PM »
Solani, what great tips! Thanks for sharing!
 8)

R.R. Book

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2017, 10:33:25 AM »
Hi Solani,

Seems as if those big tractor tires might also allow you a spot to sit while working, to some degree, which could help to spare your back as well as your energy in the summer heat.  Would love to see photos when your garden comes up this year!

R.R. Book

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Re: Northern Permaculture
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2017, 10:50:18 AM »
Yowbarb,

Thank you for the chickweed coffee link!  I consulted the Plants for a Future database, and was surprised to see how many species they're calling "coffee":

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Search_Use.aspx?glossary=Coffee

ilinda

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Re: chickweed
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2017, 05:24:30 PM »
I loves me chickweed!  :P
And it's all over the place this time of year here in Holland. Thank you! for letting me know it's a good source of copper. I've actually made colloidal copper before to make sure i get enough; now i know that i just have to harvest more chickweed.  :D
Coffee beverage made of dandelions, chickweed... This kind of product probably plentiful in Europe... my understanding is, these plants are good for the liver. :)

https://www.amazon.com/Chickweed-Herbal-Coffee-Stellaria-Caffeine/dp/B00N6M3K6K
Wow, that's a new one--chickweed and dandelion coffee.  Do you like it? 

Socrates

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Re: coffee
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2017, 07:27:17 PM »
A collegue of mine is going to the Philippines in April [i.e. 2017];
ANYONE INTERESTED IN ORDERING COCAO OR COFFEE BEANS, ORDER (through me) NOW...
And, in case you hadn't noticed, it is extremely hard to come by live coffee or cocao beans as the producers of said beans are wary of competition...
Hey, i searched through Ebay and found zilch. Take advantage.
But of course it's good to know how to make other kinds. Can you recognize the chicory plant...?
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Yowbarb

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Re: chickweed
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2017, 11:08:50 PM »
I loves me chickweed!  :P
And it's all over the place this time of year here in Holland. Thank you! for letting me know it's a good source of copper. I've actually made colloidal copper before to make sure i get enough; now i know that i just have to harvest more chickweed.  :D
Coffee beverage made of dandelions, chickweed... This kind of product probably plentiful in Europe... my understanding is, these plants are good for the liver. :)

https://www.amazon.com/Chickweed-Herbal-Coffee-Stellaria-Caffeine/dp/B00N6M3K6K
Wow, that's a new one--chickweed and dandelion coffee.  Do you like it?

Years ago I bought "coffee subs" many from Germany. Some did have dandelion and I think the chickweed as well... I consider them a food... Fresher would be better of course. Update, no the main brands I see do not have the chickweed.
I am going to shop for some, even though I do drink coffee now, my body liked those sub drinks... Weren't very expensive, either.  http://commonsensehome.com/herbal-coffee-alternatives/  this site ahs good stuff not seeing chickweed in this one.

Update Here's one product I just found... has the chickweed!

https://www.amazon.com/Chickweed-Herbal-Coffee-Stellaria-Caffeine/dp/B00N6M3K6K