Archive for the ‘Perennial Crops’ Category

Hi all, I know, it’s been long! Busy is again, the usual excuse …

Here is a quick update on early – mid year harvesting, I waited longer than usual to plant out my squash family plants and it paid off! Although I still had them out much earlier than what seed companies and most gardening books in the UK recommend. Basically, I try to plant out say one third of my squash every year (Courgettes (Zucchini), Cucumbers, Pumpkins and the other unusual ones (Such as my Summer Crookneck) – with the other two thirds to go in a few weeks later, you always still have the time to germinate the first third again if the first batch fail.

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Salad, Herb and Veg Harvest – Permaculture Organics – June 2018

After chatting with a fellow allotmenteer, he told me that he came across some older information which shows that our area has never had frost anytime in May as per records – which now means anything recommended to plant ”later on in may after the last frost dates” can be pushed a few weeks forward with some small risk possibility.

Anyway,to the main story, whilst almost all of my fellow allotmenteers are only just planting out their squash, I’ve already been harvesting!! In the above photo there is some fresh Lemon Balm (for calming tea), Terragon (cooking herb – I have added this into tea as well), Sorrel (Sour, as a salad addition) and 4.5 Courgettes (one had a bit of rot on the blossom end). I have a larger batch of Lemon Balm drying in the shed at the allotment, I just wanted some to bring home fresh.

Foraging wise, I have been able to get hold of Tilia Flower for tea (Linden tree – known incorrectly as Lime tree, latin= ‘Tilia cordata’), this makes a very soothing, calming subtle tea and is probably my favorite tea – mix with Lemon Balm too! Elderflower has been harvested and kept in the freezer (might try make the wine again, if not, there are other recipes especially a cordial I want to try out).

In the kitchen, I have produced three batches of Jam so far, the first was the rushed Dandelion Flower jam which I made a few jars that should last until next year, the second was a Strawberry jam from store bought berries, then again more Strawberry as a friend who has another allotment not far from my neighbourhood went on holiday and aid I’m welcome to go there to pick them, all in all I think I got at leat 4 kg of Strawberries on the two occasions I went there. So the second batch of jam was inevitably made from Organic / Semi Organic strawberries which were sweeter, I decided to reduce the sugar content by 250-300 grams and my jam still set fine!

Finally, another thing to note – in the above photo, of all four produce harvested, Three are perennials! Permaculture emphasizes on the importance of Perennials in a food producing system… and for good reasons.

 

I have written some previous posts about growing Shiitake mushrooms on logs and this year I am making it a personal goal / mission to get more than one species of mushroom as well as more than one type of wood species. I realised that the best approach is to have a few options and different wood types so that you get fruit harvest in different stages as well as the possibility of quicker colonisation.

Below is a wood type to mushroom species reference chart so you can decide what to grow depending on available wood type.

Wood Mushrrom Chart.png

As you can see, Oak is the preferred log due to the amount of species that it can be inoculated with however, here in the UK Oak are a preferred species and are often protected with TPO’s (Tree Protection Orders) mainly due to their benefit to wildlife and as habitat. Another consideration is also what ‘Plug Spawn’ you can get your hands on, it’s all nice to see what can be grown using the above chart but you may not be able to locate a seller who has all of these varieties and you may even have to purchase from a number of different suppliers.

 

Growing Mushrooms on Logs – In A Nutshell

As short as possible, you get hold of recently cut / felled logs (tree surgeons are the obvious choice to contact as they are happy to get rid of logs for free – they usually have to pay to dump woodchip). Try find out how long it has been since the logs were felled, try to have your spawn arrive or be available for use no longer than 5-6 seeks after they were cut. (Mushroom Dowels or Spores can be stored in the fridge for a period of time depending on your appliance temperatures etc, generally most suppliers recommend no more than 2 weeks)

You drill holes in a diamond formation around your logs and hammer in pre-inoculated sterilised wooden dowels into these holes and seal with how wax (there are special waxes for this). The best method for keeping logs moist came to me from one of Sepp Holzers’ books (either ‘Holzer’s Permaculture’ or ‘Desert or Paradise’) – you merely pay attention to where the top of the wood is and what was / is the bottom, so before chopping make markings pointing up representing the top. You will plant the inoculated logs into the soil (up end up) to a certain depth and the log itself should naturally draw up moisture from the soil, otherwise if you forget for a short time to moisten the logs, you could kill the mycelium inside the log and everything would be a waste of time and effort.

More detailed information on the process will always be provided by the Dowel / Spore supplier, all you will need is a drill, hammer, place to wash the logs, place to do the drilling / innoculation and something to melt wax in and a brush, (some paintbrush bristles are actually made from plastic and will likely melt in the hot wax, get real horse hair brushes).

Within 1 year to 18 months, you should have full colonisation and the starting of regular fruiting, depending on log size, you could get fruit from each log for up to 8 or so years!!

The time to cut logs is before Spring so right now would not be the best time but if the logs are already cut (by a tree surgeon for instance) then you may as well use them (it’s best to avoid cutting trees in Spring due to the rising sap which causes excessive bleeding on Trees and Shrubs).

 

One of the best ways to obtain a stock of Perennial Herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano etc. from what I know is to pass by near the Vegetable section of a large Sainsbury’s Supermarket (Found on a metal shelf at the end of one of the aisles).

As long as you are okay with the idea that these plants are not of Organic cultivated stock and have likely been fed with a Chemical Fertiliser of sort, that this is a great way to save some money and increase your herb variety if you cannot or will not want to wait for seedlings to become decently sized.

They sell these in potted form and if I remember correctly, I got a Rosemary and Thyme for only £1 each which is a little more than buying a pack of freshly cut spigs! As Sainsburys is not actually my regular shop, I cannot say what other stock they have and which season they sell them in, my purchase was a last minute effort just before I finished my Herb Spiral on my allotment and my large Herb Planter at home in my kitchen garden. So far all of the plants purchased are still surviving and look healthy.

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Cheap / Decent Sized Perennial Herbs – £1 per pot!

As always, I like to encourage my followers or any visitors to try go from a mainly intensive annual crop production to a more relaxed approach which includes loads of Perennials, a system like this gives you more free time and could help you to produce a better Annual crop due to the fact that you can spend a little more time on them.

Starting off with Herbs is a great way to start up on a Perennial approach, species such as Terragon, Chinese Chives, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme to name the most common are quite cold hardy and will live for more than two years. Most of those mentioned are very nice in herbal teas which have healing properties, they have more than one function other than for flavourful cooking!

Don’t get too hasty if you see a plant that seems to have died off, some plants such as the Terragon, Chives and Oregano will die off above the soil but new shoots will emerge from the soil in Spring!

To add to the above, I would recommend to plant the following in order to be able to create or at last add to salads during the summer months; French as well as Red-Veined Sorrel, Red Valerian (a common ornamental plant whose leaves are edible – not so great on their own but nice as a sandwich filler or added in a salad), Salad Burnet, Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle – another very common ornamental – young leaves in a salad), Cedum (Ice Plant – quite common ornamental, also in salad) < All three of the latter mentioned Ornamentals are quite drought tolerant once established! The final one which I have yet to plant / try is Hablitzia taminoides, another salad plant which is said by Mandy at Incredible Vegetables to be happy growing in a shady corner in ones garden.

For those of you in the Tropics / Sub-Tropics where either all of most of the above-mentioned species will not grow well, please refer to the Plants For A Future Database if you would like to research Perennial Herbs and edible / medicinal plants suited to your climate and soil conditions etc.

Here is the general UK Hardiness Zone Map with a helpful Key to give you all a general idea of what Zone you are situated in, aparrently the UK Zone system is based on the US system with only changes to the colours.

This is helpful for anyone who is planning or will be obtaining plants especially perennials to be planted before the worst of Winter, always check whether the plant is suited to your Zone’s expected worst cold weather temperatures!

Hardiness Zone Map

UK Hardiness Zone Map

The Orange blip on the south easterly end of the map would be the London Microclimate, I could not locate any map online which pinpoints major towns or cities so the above map can be a little difficult to figure out … so for example, does the London microclimate extend to Greater London or just within the confines of the city and it’s immediate sorrounding suburbs?

KEY BELOW

Hardiness Zones Key

UK Hardiness Zone Map Key and Temperatures

The best site for checking each plant’s Zone hardiness is PFAF.

I have been making Apple Cider (even a semi Pear Cider) and Cider Vinegar using a very very very veeerrrry simple recipe now for 3 years running, so simple in fact that you Do Not Need a Fruit Press!

Young Organic Apple Jonagold on an urban Permaculture Farm

Organically Grown Jonagold Apples – Cider & Vinegar Making

What you need is: Apples, Water, Container/s (5ltr / 1 Gal), Sugar (1 Cup), Knife with Chopping board … and Time – That’s It!

What I recommend is to get hold of a few different varieties of apple (even some pears), try your best not to use only one apple variety.

Click the Link Here for the full recipe with explanation between Cider only and Cider Vinegar as the final result.

I will (hopefully weekly) be posting part by part, all of the episodes of Living With The Land which is a series shot by the good people involved with the Permaculture scene (mainly Permaculture Media) in the UK.

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Just one example of how inside / part of a Forest Garden looks like

In this episode they discuss the concept behind Forest Gardening and how it is done, it includes some interview time with Martin Crawford who is known famously in the UK scene as he owns and has been maintaining a 20+ year old forest garden.

 

Follow my blog for updates when I post the following videos in the series, for the imaptient, you can view the series on their youtube channel from the above video.

Today whilst trying to get a list of Perennial Herbs which are good in most Temperate Climates (mainly for the UK climate due to locality) I came across this extensive list that is short in descriptions, to the point and advises whether the plant is annual, biennial or perennial.

herbs

I’m just sharing the link below for anyone interested, their organisation has morals too, they have a pledge to be 100% peat free in their business – take a quick read on the peat free page, it is quite interesting and might make you think twice when buying compost again. This list is a great reference you could use to decide which herbs to obtain, further research for each plant’s specific requirements is likely to be needed once you have selected species and varieties.

http://www.devongrown.co.uk/herb-list.html

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 …

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).

dandelion gorilla 1

 

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.

dandelions

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 …