Archive for the ‘Beneficial Plants and Shrubs’ Category

I’m a little late with my current season updates this year, but anyway here we go…

 

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Giant Goosefoot ‘Magentaspreen’ Seedlings

One of the most ornamental Salad Greens I have on my allotment is the Magentaspreen Giant goosefoot, the centre has a beautiful magenta colour which shows up differently in photo’s, they are very similar to ‘Fat Hen’ aka Good King Henry (there’s such a thing as a good king? .. whatever).

I made the effort to keep some Phacelia to go to flower, mainly as they are very beneficial to various pollinator species but also because it is a Green Manure, it pays to let some go to seed to keep my own stocks up. Watching bumblebees visiting Winter and Summer Squash flowers can be quite ammusing, they seem to aim for the flower and just fall in, I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed this, I noted this with quite a few bees on one particular day.

I still have a few smaller Borage plants still to open flowers, it seems like my self seeded patch is quite weaker / smaller this year, it may be that I have loads more going on at the Allotment this year that perhaps I am giving the dedicated wildlife flower section less attention.

I decided to allow the Broad Beans which were sown at the same time last year as my Garlic on top of the new Hugel / Suntrap to go to flower and seed (the intention was as a Green Manure where you dig them into the soil as you see them forming flowers) They made a nice addition to a stew we made. As an experiment, the Hugel / Suntrap has various support / companion plants sown on top with one Tomato, Sorrel, a couple Salad Burnet (Perennial) , Rhubarb (Survivor / volunteer) and two Asparagus crowns (these are purely to experiment, I obtained many crowns [20+] and can afford to lose two if all goes wrong).

 

Mid summer update coming up soon …

Hi everyone, this is just a quick update on my Dandelion Flower Wine (I made a batch around May when the flowers were still about in abundance). Click here for the recipe.

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Home Brewed Dandelion Flower Wine

I couldn’t resist and had one bottle about a month after first making the batch, the other three are now going to sit and mature – I keep reading that you should enjoy them starting around Christmas the same year onwards, I sincerely hope that I can leave one bottle to serve for a nice boiling hot day in Summer 2018 whilst next year’s batch is being bottled up and into storage!

I also have a previous post on Dandelion flower Jam, you will not regret making this at least once in your life!

The wine was quite nice, still a little strong with some fementation taking place so hopefully it will mellow down a bit in a few month’s from now, the alcohol content is surprisingly quite high.

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Dandelion flower Wine, bubbling away (2nd Week)

Keep an eye out, I will have a couple recipes for Elderflower wine and Elderberry Cordial coming up soon …

Here is the second recipe in my list of recipes using Dandelion Flowers, the rest of the plant is edible and I am now considering this plant to be a very important plant in Permaculture or any sustainable lifestyle environment. We are at the time of year when in various parts of the Northern Hemisphere, these plants are currently, have or will still come into flower (Here in the outskirts of London, we are currently seeing the last flowers appear and many have already become seed heads).

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In the last installment, I wrote on a very delicious Dandelion Flower Jam recipe which I highly recommend – it’s probably the best jam recipe I have ever used so far!

Before we get into the wine recipe, I must make it clear that this is the first time I am using this recipe or making the wine for that matter, I am currently halfway through my wine fermentation period and will not be able to give any taste results to my readers. This recipe comes to me from a reputable source and when I enquired with a contact of mine, it sounds very similar to the most commonly used Dandelion Flower Wine recipes out there, I am sharing this only because this is the time of year that the flowers are here, and we only have about a three week period before we don’t see them again for another year! Try it out, what have you got to lose?

Things you will most likely need to obtain / buy before hand:

  1. Fermenting container / Demi-john (1 Gal / 4.5 – 5 Ltr),
  2. Obtain container bottles for the final product (plastic is recommended over glass in case of continued fermentation gasses),
  3. Yeast sachet x1,
  4. Bubbler and Cork / Stopper,
  5. 4 Ltrs of Water (1 Gal USA) ,
  6. 2x Oranges,
  7. 2x Lemons,
  8. 1kg of Sugar (2lb 3oz),

Method:

  1. Put all of the Dendelion Flowers into a large pan / pot and pour over a full kettle (normally 1Ltr) of boiling water and leave for 24 hours,
  2. Strain the liquid out and don’t forget to compost the used flower heads,
  3. Add the juice of the lemons and oranges, the sugar and remaining water and stir until all mixed in sufficiently – place into your brewing container (not your final Demi-john – I used a 5Ltr plastic bottle),
  4. Add your yeast, cover with a cloth and leave in this container for a further 24 hours,
  5. Pour into your Demi-john and place the bubbler (Airlock), leave in a dark cool cupboard / basement etc. for a minimum of one month,
  6. Pour into our storage bottles – consume chilled

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere then some of you may still either be waiting for Dandelions to flower or may be seeing the last flowers become seed heads, for those lucky enough, you still have time to collect the flowers for the following Recipes.

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Once you start to see the flowers appearing, a good rule-of-thumb is to keep in mind that on average, you only have a 3 week window to pick and use for your recipes, so that means multiple trips if you want to follow more than one recipe.

This was the first time I have used Dandelion for culinary purposes and started first with the Jam Recipe:

What’s Needed:

  1. A grocery store shopping bag Half Full of Dandelion flowers,
  2. 3 x cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped,
  3. 3x squeezed lemons,
  4. 600ml boiling water,
  5. 725gm jam sugar.

Method:

  1. Put the Chopped apples and around 3/4ths of the flower heads into a pan with the hot water and simmer for 10 minutes,
  2. After 10 minutes, strain the remaining results through a sieve or similar and push as much pulp through as possible using a spoon,
  3. Add the strained liquid back into your pan together with the lemon juice and sugar,
  4. Dissolve the sugar by cooking on low heat and stirring regularly, add the rest of the dandelion heads (petals only, cut off the green parts with scissors),
  5. Boil on high heat until you reach the setting point (Click here to find out how to find your setting point in jam making),
  6. Ladle into your prepared jars, this recipe made me 3 standard honey jars and 2 smaller speciality hex jars I bought online.

I really, really like the end product! This jam is delish and makes the harvesting well worth it in my opinion, this is a plant that should not be killed off and considered a weed, every part of this plant is edible and it is a perennial!
– Jeff Permie

In the coming days, I will post a Dandelion Wine Recipe, I am currently fermenting my first ever batch of this wine and so cannot give you full information right through to the taste of the end product, I am halfway through the fermenting period and will be bottling the product up in another two weeks. I feel like sharing this recipe because of the fact that some readers may still be able to harvest the flower heads, this is a proven and common recipe and I feel that it will definitely be worth it …

This is a good video tour of a Four year old food forest, I would say this is a definite watch for anyone who needs a better understanding of a food forest system and what it entails. The video owner has many such like videos showcasing his project’s entire history (journey).

Video: (4Year Old Food Forest, Bay Area California USA) [19 Min’s]

https://youtu.be/L5RfruUjL1w

Further Reading / Articles about Food Forests:

Previous Post / Article on a 20 Year old Mature medicinal Food Forest

Previous Post -Video Tour of a Front Garden Food Forest in Denver USA

 

I had a thought the other day, what am I doing wrong in terms of companion planting / sacrificial planting? (Sacrificial, meaning growing plants which you intend to attract pests away from your desired species / crops). The main result being that I always grow them too late! When Spring is approaching we just usually all take a look at our stock of seed packs or growing calendars to see what needs sowing / starting off early indoors (such as Cabbages, Onions etc.) But the one thing I am going to change this year is to have a few trays dedicated to the sacrificial plants, mainly Marigolds (Tagetes). I am using Phacelia (Phacelia tenacetifolia) as a Green Manure but am aware too that Bumblebees like the flowers so, I will be ensuring that a few plants will be grown seperately purely for the Bees and placed in various micro-climates around my gardens (place one group in full sun, another grouping in partial shade and this will ensure different flowering timings which will help the bees a lot in that their forage sources are spread out), do this with various plant species, include perennial plants, annuals etc.

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Marigolds (Tagetes) planted as sacrificials to ensure Pumpkins were left unmolested by Slugs – once they died, fresh seed was harvested for next years sowings

Marigolds have two main and a third benefit in our gardens, the first for me and most Organic farmers (small scale) benefit, is the sacrifical planting which attracts slugs and snails away from other young plants you are trying to get going in the early parts of summer, they love marigolds and will mostly go for those (violas and pansies are another plant that can be used as well).
Benefit number two is that Marigolds (Specifically Mexican marigolds) have aleopathic chemicals which suppress difficult perennial weeds such as Bind Weed, a piece of land can in theory, have this perennial weed eliminated with the correct method being used.
The third benefit is it’s Ornamental value and it’s aparrent attractiveness for Bees (after growing Marigolds for the last 3 years as sacrificial plants, I have yet to see a Bee specifically going for them), I keep seeing it mentioned on other sites online especially ones writing about Pollinator Attracting plants …

Start your Sacrificial plant sowings Now, as well as any other plants you wish to get going in your garden by seed which are either for the benefit of wildlife or perennial plants.

One trick I have learned about Marigolds is to let perhaps one set of true leaves form (the more mature leaves which will be differently shaped compared with the smaller baby leaves which come out on germination) and I then clip the top out above the first set of true leaves, I then immediately plant the tip in a small pot with damp compost and keep moist, these plants are very good for cuttings propagation, not a single one failed even though they were left right in full sun in moist compost).
Do the above for every one plant and you will easily double your population! so for example, if you decide you would like to grow maybe 40 -50 Marigolds per season. you merely need 20 – 25 starter plants to come up from seed which means one dedicated seed module tray!

Remember, as with all plants, the more you cut them lower down, the more the plant bushes out so instead of perhaps 2-4 flower heads from a mature plant, you will have lets say 5-9 flower heads and a more bushier / attractive plant, this should keep the plant lower to the ground which means more accessible food for the slugs and snails.
Once you buy one pack of Marigold seed, you should never really need to buy another pack as the seeds are easy to save, this is only unless you decide you would like to try another variety to compliment those which you already have.

In the next post, I will be writing about what can be sown now in preperation for the upcoming growing season, I will start off with January and get to February in the coming week…

Another Plant which I cannot see myself ever doing without unless moving to a climate which it cannot thrive in is the Artichoke Plant ‘Cynara Cardunculus’ (there are a few varieties). My obsession with these came when I snapped a photo of one flower head which had around 9 or so bees on it alone!

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The plant has a pleasant ‘Silver Tone’ effect which covers Greys and Silvers in an ornamental bed (Perennials)

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Multiple Flower Heads ‘Cynara cardunculus’

A friend of mine says that his Grandparents in the past, used to cook  the young shoots in a type of stew / broth recipe in the South of France.
There is the famous ‘Globe Artichoke’ which is edible and the varieties I am mainly focusing on here which do not produce edible flower heads such as the latter, but are great for Bees and Pollinators.
The plants are Perennial and once established should last years, in colder Temperate regions these Herbaceous plants will die down in a cold Winter and re-sprout in Spring. I am classing the Ornamental Artichoke ‘Cynara Cardunculus’ as Semi / Beneficial with the Edible ‘Globe Artichoke’ Variety as a good Beneficial Plant (Multiple Uses / Purposes) in a Sustainable / Permaculture System (Edible parts, good Cash Crop if grown in bulk, Perennial, Medicinal uses as described below and Pollinator attractant / forage plant. Another point is the leaves produce good green waste for composting and the tall woody stems you will chop down in Winter are great biomass, can be used as canes, in Hugel Mounds / Hugelkultur etc.)

 

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Bees Love the Artichoke Plant ‘Cynara cardunculus’

The plants are used medicinally and the following is taken from WebMD:

” Artichoke is a plant. The leaf, stem, and root are used to make “extracts” which contain a high concentration of certain chemicals found in the plant. These extracts are used as medicine.

Artichoke is used to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, and this is thought to help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and alcohol “hangover.” Artichoke is also used for high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), kidney problems, anemia, fluid retention (edema), arthritis, bladder infections, and liver problems.

Some people use artichoke for treating snakebites, preventing gallstones, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar; to increase urine flow; and as a tonic or stimulant.

In foods, artichoke leaves and extracts are used to flavor beverages. Cynarin and chlorogenic acid, which are chemicals found in artichoke, are sometimes used as sweeteners.

Don’t confuse artichoke with Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

How does it work?

Artichoke has chemicals that can reduce nausea and vomiting, spasms, and intestinal gas. These chemicals have also been shown to lower cholesterol. ”

 

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‘Cynara cardunculus’ grown commercially

The plants can be propagated by root division, take an established plant in dormancy (Winter / end of Winter towards Spring), using a spade, you will merely slice into the center of the root crown and dig around this newly sliced section, taking as much of the root with you as possible with soil to transplant to a nursing bed or in its final location. A layer of mulch is always a good idea once placed as protection from frost to ensure survival of the new plant.

Growing a couple of these plants in your garden together with other local / native as well as non native Bee Friendly plants will be very helpful for our Bee friends as an important food supply, ensure you study the different flowering times so that you can ensure that you alway have a plant or two supplying them with pollen and nectar most of the year round. You can even place one plant in a semi / shaded spot and this plant will flower later on, its flowers will still be going when the other plant has already finished its flushes.