2005 Forest Garden Blog

being an on-going narrative regarding the urban agriculture adventures of the folks who live on the southeast corner of North McKinley and NW 21st streets in Oklahoma City

By Robert Waldrop

June 18, 2005 | May 10, 2005 | March 1, 2005 | February 15, 2005 | 2005 plant list

Better Times Cookbook | Justpeace | Better Times | BobWaldrop.net |Access to Energy Conservation | On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City

For information about our plans for adapting our"urban homestead" to meet the looming challenges of peak oil, climate instability, and economic irrationality, see Gatewood Urban Homestead, the permaculture design for our home.

| Bettertimes Home | Gettin' the Right Eats, Bob Waldrop's Local Food blog | 2004 Garden Blog | 2003 | 2002 | 2002 plant list | 2001 | 2001 plant list |

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June 18, 2005

We are eagerly awaiting peaches. They are starting to turn gold and red, but still aren't quite ripe. We have been consoling ourselves with blackberries, boysenberries, sand plums (just a few, still a bit early), and mulberries, the mulberries and boysenberries and dewberries are finished for this year, but the blackberries are still coming on strong. It also looks like a peak harvest for elderberries this year too.

We harvested the garlic on May 25th. 552 bulbs! I started pulling shallots today, I also pulled a few multiplying onions but they have some time to go. We harvested our first bucket of Yukon gold potatoes and they were very tasty.

No, I'm not spending hours every day doing this. The important thing is to organize your garden for efficient working, and then do a little bit every day, early, when it is still cool.



May 10, 2005

I plucked the first ripe mulberry today, well, it was purple but it wasn't completely ripe. Even so, it was a foretaste of things to come. It really looks like a bumper fruit crop this year (God willing). Everything is loaded with fruit, except for the apples which are still skimpy.. Peaches, plums, sand plums, boysenberries, mulberries, dewberries, blackberries. The elderberries are readying themselves to burst into riotous bloom.

We are having a cool and cloudy spring, but hardly any rain. Fortunately, the deep mulch on the beds is doing a good job of preserving water. I have not had to do much watering.

This year we decided to ramp up our production of tomatoes as one of the items we are still buying at the store is tomato sauce. We can buy tomatoes through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, of course, but most of them are slicing tomatoes and since it takes about 5 pounds of tomatoes to make one quart of sauce, it would be prohibitively expensive for us to buy enough tomatoes to make 100 quarts of sauce.

100 quarts of sauce requires about 500 pounds of tomatoes and that suggests a need for 50-60 tomato plants. When I started thinking about this last winter, I thought, "well, where would we find room for 60 tomato plants?" Especially since I didn't want to plant them in a monoculture, but rather to design a "tomato guild".

As it turns out, we had plenty of room. The longer I live and garden here, the more the area seems to expand. In the beginning, six years ago, I wondered just how much food could be produced on this 1/5 of an acre urban plot, with a duplex, small house, driveway, and sidewalks. Each year we produce more. I keep finding new places to put plants. Besides the tomato plants, this year we also added hazelnuts (4), buffalo berry (3), 3 more Nanking cherries, 2 more chokecherries, and 20 prairie rose bushes. Also new herbs, 3 more varieties of oregano, 5 varieties of basil, 3 more varieties of thyme, also lemon verbena, dill, yerba buena, passion flower and lots of pansies, petunias, and calendulas. Oops, I forgot some new medicinals, boneset and all heal and astragalus, and 3 more comfrey plants. I planted the comfrey in the fruit tree area, as they are great mulch plants and comfrey's deep roots bring up nutrients.

And then there are the seven buckets of potatoes. I had tried potatoes-in-buckets before, but they didn't do so well, I used dirt and compost for the planting medium. This year I splurged and got peat moss and vermiculite to add to my home-made compost. Four of the buckets I have continued to fill with my homemade potting soil as the plants grew bigger. The other 3 buckets I filled with a mixture of straw and leaves as the plants grew. One hears about both ways of doing potatoes in buckets and I am curious as to any difference in yield between the two methods. I also had a problem last time with the buckets getting hot, so the buckets are placed so that the bucket itself is shaded, but the plant is in sunlight. I planted summer squash (yellow and zucchini) in our cold frame, together with catnip, lemon balm and marigolds. Hopefully the squash bugs won't find them. They are sporting their first blooms today! .

Permaculture speaks of guilds as associations of mutually beneficial plants. In cultivating annual plants, people usually talk about "companion planting", but the concept of "plant guild" takes the concept up a notch or two. Guilds are an area of on-going research and observation in permaculture, and a lot of experimentation is going on. I decided on the plants for our tomato guild by researching companion plants for tomatoes.

Here are the plants we are associating together in these tomato guilds:

Tomatoes - Amish paste, Hungarian paste, San Marzano, Principe Borghese, Roma, Yellow Pear
Basil
Chives (onion and garlic)
Horehound
Asparagus
Bee Balm
Borage
Hot peppers (cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, ancho)
Petunias
Marigolds
Pansies

The tomato guild beds are laid out like a Square Foot Garden bed, with one square per plant. Indeterminate tomatoes needing trellising go along one or two sides of the bed (yellow pear, Amish paste, San Marzano), determinate tomatoes (Hungarian paste, Roma, Principe Borghese) which don't need support are inside the beds scattered among the other plants.

We already had the asparagus scattered around here and there, so adding that to the guild was a matter of siting some of the tomato guild beds. Bee balm, asparagus, horehound, and chives are perennials, I will have to think about what we will do next year, but we hope this works well for this season. The chives we transplanted from elsewhere, bee balm I either started from seed or bought plants. Borage we started from seed, and we also started most of our tomato plants.

I have acquired a cinnamon yam plant. It is a climbing vine, frost hardy in this zone, that bears edible tubers above ground. I have it in a pot still as I haven't quite figured out where to put it.

We've been picking and eating greens several days a week - chard, mustard, and turnip. They are very tasty. We blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, and then sautee them in a skillet, with a little broth or stock, also onions, garlic, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, rosemary, and sage. Maybe some soy sauce and oyster sauce and sesame fire oil, for variety.

I ran out of compost this year, all the new bed building and planting consumes compost like it was plentiful or something. Since this is a harbinger of things to come, I am ramping up my compost production. I am now in the process of building 3 compost piles, each about 14 ft long, and when done they will be 4' high and 4' wide. I am also doing considerable compost making on the existing planting beds and around the trees and bushes with thick mulches.

I do not produce enough plant material on this property to make all this mulch and compost, so I am always bringing stuff home. I drive around a bit in the neighborhood on trash day and bring home bags of leaves and lawn clippings. I bring home wilted altar flowers from church. I buy some bales of straw at the farmers market and a local feed and seed store. To give folks an idea of how much mulch and compost material is required, Ruth Stout's "No Work Garden Book" estimates that 25 fifty pound bales of hay or straw are needed to mulch a 50' x 50' garden area to a depth of 8 inches. (Ruth Stout's book, which is a collection of her columns published in Organic Gardening magazine, is one of my garden "bibles".

Volunteer vetch came up in the garlic, shallot, and multiplying onion beds, I pull it every other week or so so it doesn't get too thick. Right now it is in beautiful purple bloom, and it looks very elegant twirling around the onion and garlic stalks. It takes nitrogen from the air and puts it in the soil, so it helps the alliums grow. The allium harvests are coming up soon. Last year I picked garlic on May 24th. We're ready for some fresh garlic, we are out of last year's crop. We planted considerably more garlic this year than last year (which is one reason I guess we ran out last year). We should have enough garlic to have a whole bulb of cloves every day, plus enough to replant a similar amount, and maybe some extra to distribute as seed garlic.

As of today, we have 120 different varieties of useful or edible plants growing on our former lawns.



March 1, 2005

Big Garden Day!

We spent all day today working on the garden. Hired 3 folks to help, plus two of us. We did a lot of clean up, and made two new beds out of logs, one of them is 4 X 30, the other about 3 X 10. What's the point in having a garden if you can't move things around as you please, that's what I say. It helps if you have help, of course. Added some new vertical elements, an 8 foot windmill I got on sale, and two 6' metal arches. Dewberries will grow up the windmill and grapes up and over the metal arches. They are placed so that as the grapes grow, they will nicely shade my favorite "sittin' log", part of one of the old elm trees that were original tenants of this property (we counted the tree rings after the ice storm knocked it down and it was older than the neighborhood by about 20 years.)

Planted some 7-top turnips (which are grown primarily for their greens), some "mustard spinach" (described as heat and drought tolerant on the package) and "rainbow" chard, which has a picture of a highly variegated chard on the cover, should be very attractive.

A lot of the cleanup involved the area where the old garage had been. Just behind that was an area of soil, but the top layer was heavily contaminated with asphalt from roof shingles that had disintegrated and were knocked off by wind and rain. Regretfully we consigned that to the dump, as I couldn't think of anything to do with mulch and soil that was completely combined with asphalt shingle bits and pieces. We used 4 bales of straw making the new beds and adding mulch "all around".

Looking at the former garage space, I found places for about 10 more edible shrubs, which is good because I have more coming with this year's bulk purchase of edible shrubs and trees. I can also see my outdoor kitchen and bread oven, I need to accumulate some more bricks so we can start that this summer. Looking at the concrete pad, and the placement of the existing trees, it looks to me like we will have some nice shady sittin' areas too for the summer heat.

We got the first blooms four days ago, two Nanking cherry bushes. We have had light freezes the last couple of nights, they seem to be coming through fine. One of the peach and one of the apricot are on the verge of full bloom, it seems early to me, but our winter has been very mild, with lots of "mild March weather" in February. March truly has come "in like a lamb" this year. Yesterday was a fine day for gardening, a bit chilly in the morning but by early afternoon we were doing fine.

To make the new beds, we removed the sod, then put down two layers of heavy cardboard (appliance boxes), a layer of straw, then topsoil, compost and straw mixed together, then topped that with a layer of straw mulch. For the sides, we used logs, some standing up, some laying down. The "Lincoln log lawn" landscape I guess you would call it.

I cut up the seed potatoes and laid them out to harden a bit, I will plant them tomorrow in buckets, in a mixture of vermiculite, compost, and soil. We'll see how this lighter planting mix works this year.

February 15, 2005

This is the first entry in my 2005 Garden Blog, which I will post at both www.bettertimesinfo.org/2005garden.htm and www.oklahomafood.org/bobsblog/ .

Last year's garden diary kind of straggled out as things got busy and I was writing mostly about Oklahoma Food Cooperative subjects. We had a great garden year last year. Each year we have harvested more food from our garden. Home food production is important for any family that is seeking to save money on their groceries. Sure, you can spend a lot of money gardening if you want to, but you don't have to spend a lot to harvest a lot. Gardening is truly like finding money growing in your back yard. One way I leverage my participation in the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, for example, is by home production of food. The food that I produce at my house is food that I don't have to buy. Thus, I have more money that I can spend on high quality local food products like meat, certified organic eggs, and etc.

For low income people in particular, a home garden can be a source of excellent nutrition and can help increase the family's food security.

This year we are not adding a lot of new perennials. I am replacing a few plants that were planted last year but didn't make it, adding one apricot tree and another black cherry tree. We are adding a new strawberry bed. Other than maintaining the existing plant list, I am concentrating more on the annual garden area this year. I intend to expand the "square foot garden bed area", create a new "Italian Herb Garden", and expand my production of tomatoes. In the fall, I intend to plant a lot of carrots, turnips, and cabbages.

What didn't make it in 2004? Sea buckthorn, Manchurian apricot, a newly planted peach tree, a semi-dwarf peach tree

The garlic, shallots, and multiplying onions I planted last fall have done fine through the winter. I saved some of the multiplying onions and am planting them this spring to see how they do in the summer.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit, but Oklahoma Extension says the planting season for cool weather spring crops begins February 15th, so yesterday I renewed one of my rectangular garden beds with an inch of compost (I just piled it on top of the winter mulch), and into the ground went seeds for broadleaf and Southern curled mustard, chantenay carrots, spinach, lucullus chard and rhubarb chard. I have some seed potatoes, and am going to try them in buckets this year. The last time I did this the production wasn't so great, my theory is that I was using too dense of planting soil, as I just used some of my garden soil mixed with compost.

In Oklahoma, this is a good time to put in perennial vegetables. Asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish are all available at most garden stores at this time of year. In OKC, the best price I have found for asparagus crows is at the Bethany Country Store, at NW 34th and Rockwell.

And it is a great time to plant cane fruits, strawberries, and grape vines. I found grape vines (table grapes, concord and also two kinds of white), blackberry, raspberry plants at Horne Seed this week, NW Expressway and Classen. I got some more strawberry plants, we made a new garden bed and I decided strawberries would be perfect. We already have some strawberries, but thus far not enough to make jam, they all git et fresh.

A functioning local food system has many components, access to local produce, poultry, and meats is certainly important, but so is "urban agriculture". That's why I try to encourage everybody to grow some of their own food, and to consider using food producing plants in their landscaping. In the city we don't speak of land as "acres" but rather as "square feet", but an amazing amount of food can be grown even in a typical urban central city lot, which tend to be smaller than the lots out in the suburbs.

Which is why we need to expand our concept of cultivation from just a flat surface, to include vertical areas also. A developed "permaculture" plan for an urban lot (or a rural farm, or market garden) can utilize seven different layers. Think "food producing forest" and you get the idea.

First is the large canopy tree - here in Oklahoma, think pecan, or black walnut, or full size varieties of fruit trees like black cherries.

The second layer is for mid-size trees, such as dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties of fruit trees, or useful trees such as the redbud, which also fix nitrogen in the soil.

Third comes a layer of bushes and canes - blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, Siberian pea shrub (fixes nitrogen, yields edible peas), juneberries, mulberries (bush varieties), various bush cherries, currants.

Fourth is a layer of herbs and smaller plants and flowers - bee balm, medicinal and culinary herbs, flowers, day lilies, echinacea, mints, etc.

Fifth are ground covers - strawberries, dandelions, thymes,

Sixth are the roots - ground nuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes (which of course are neither artichokes nor native to Jerusalem), horseradish.

The seventh level are vines and climbing plants, like grapes, scarlet runner beans, passion flower, luffas, pole beans and peas.

Just as in a regular forest (or as I often like to think in the Oklahoma context, the boundary layer or interface between prairie and forest edge) the various plants and elements support each other. Such "edge areas" in nature are often the most diverse and productive of natural systems.

Plants in nature generally don't grow in isolation or monoculture, rather, they are found in conjunction with other plants. Permaculturists speak of "plant guilds", which is kind of like "companion planting" only for perennial plants.

The traditional Native American "three sisters" method of growing corn, beans, and squash together is an example of an annual plant guild. Each of these plants supports the others in various ways. The beans fix nitrogen, which helps the corn and the squash. The squash or pumpkins shade the ground and preserve moisture. The beans climb up the corn stalks. Controlled university studies have shown that corn yields in "three sisters" cultivation are about 20% higher than corn monoculture fields.

A guild should include nutrient accumulators, mulch plants, insectary plants (that attract beneficial insects), pest repellants (fragrant herbs), ground covers, nitrogen fixers. Each important function should be supported by more than one element. For example, I have peach and apple trees in my front yard. In the same area I also have sand plums, various mints (including apple mint), elderberries, thyme, comfrey, day lilies, Siberian pea shrub, bush cherries, walking onions, dewberries, blackberries, vetch, clover, and strawberries. I just go out and nibble on my lawn when I get hungry in the summer. But the specific point here is that these plants complement and help each other. The flowers attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. The Siberian pea shrub fixes nitrogen in the soil. Walking onions and mints help repel pests.

And so on and so forth it goes, into a new garden year. Y'all bon apetit, and keep on gettin' the right eats, you hear?

2005 Forest Garden Plant List

120 total varieties of plants, 4 biennials, 24 annuals, 76 perennials

TREES 12 varieties
pecan
semi dwarf peach (Elberta semi dwarf, hansens, saturn)
semi dwarf Apricot
apple (dwarf Jonathan and Gala semi dwarf)
semi-dwarf plum (Superior and Toka,)
hardy apricot (prunus armeniaca)
black cherry
Oklahoma redbud

BUSHES 12 varieties, all perennial
bush cherries
elderberries
mulberries
Oregon grape
Siberian pea tree
Nanking cherry
Sand cherry
Schubert chokecherry
American hazelnut
Native cokecherry
Buffalo berry
Sand plum

GROUND COVERS 4 varieties (1 perennial, 3 annual)
strawberries
purple clover A
white clover A
hairy vetch A

VINES AND CANES 12 varieties , all perennial
fredonia grape
niagara grape
venus grape
concord grape
dewberries
blackberries
boysenberries
clove currants
scarlet runner beans A
white wine grape
Passion flower
Cinnamon yam



GREENS AND SALADS 20 varieties (8 perennial, 8 annual, 4 biannual)
Salad burnet
daylilies
Turnips (a)
Fordhook giant chard (b)
Bloomsday savoy spinach (b)
Rhubarb chard (b)
Lucullus chard (b)
Mustard (a) (Southern curled and broadleaf)
lettuce poly-culture bed (a) (Parisian cos, buttercrunch, red sails, bibb, romaine)
Dandelions
French sorrel
Rose of sharon (flowers)
Rosa rugosa (flowers and hips)
Rosa arkansa (flowers and hips)
Mache (corn salad)



VEGETABLES 9 varieties (2 perennial, 7 annual)
Asparagus
carrots
habenero peppers (a)
Caribbean peppers (a)
Amish paste and roma tomatoes (a)
Ancho peppers
Jalapeno peppers (a)
Cayenne peppers (a)
Tomatoes (Hungarian paste, Roma, San Marzano, Principe Borghese, Yellow Pear, Arkansas Traveler, Amish paste



ROOT CROPS 7 varieties (5 annuals, 1 perennial, 1 ?)
shallots (a)
walking onions (p)
potato onions (a)

Welsh onions (?)
Garlic A (a)
Turnips (a)
potatoes

FLOWERS 16 varieties (9 perennial, 7 annual)
Rosa rugosa
Rosa erfult
Prairie rose
Purple echinacea
Pink ecinacea
Iris (not edible)
Maximilien sunflowers
Russian mammoth sunflowers A
Mexican hat (a)
Wild geranium (a)
bee balm (monarda) (p)
Daffodils (p)
pansies (a)
petunias(a)
marigold (a)
calendula



HERBS 28 varieties (25 perennial, 2 annual, 1 biennial)
sage
creeping thyme
common oregano
greek oregano
tarragon
lovage
catnip
rue
garlic chives
spearmint
apple mint
lemon balm
lime balm
spear mint (or some kind of common mint)
dill (A)
basil
horehound
chocolate mint (the leaf tasted like one of those chocolate mints you get at a restaurant checkout)
lemon mint
Roman chamomile
horseradish
rosemary
comfrey
parsley (b)
boneset
All heal
astragalus
borage (a)



LIST OF PLANTS ORGANIZED BY LAYERS OF A FOREST GARDEN



Canopy trees
pecan
American plum
Manchurian apricot
black cherry



Understory trees
Oklahoma redbud
semi dwarf peach
semi dwarf Apricot
semi-dwarf apple
semi-dwarf plum


Bushes and canes
bush cherries
sand plums
elderberries
Mature mulberries
Oregon grape bushes
Siberian pea tree
Nanking cherry
Sand cherry
Saskatoon juneberry
Sea buckthorn
Schubert chokeberry
Sand plum
dewberries
blackberries
boysenberries
clove currants



Herbs and smaller plants
Salad burnet
daylilies
Turnips (a)
Collards (a)
Fordhook giant chard (b)
Rhubarb chard (b)
Mustard (a)
Self seeding lettuce bed (a)
Dandelions
Bloody sorrel
French sorrel
Rose of sharon (flowers)
Asparagus
rhubarb
habenero peppers (a)
Cherokee and roma tomatoes (a)
English peas (a)
Purple hulled peas (a)
Black-eyed peas (a)
Jalapeno peppers (a)
Cayenne peppers (a)
Rosa rugosa
Rosa erfult
Prairie rose
Purple echinacea
Pink ecinacea
Iris
Maximilien sunflowers
Russian mammoth sunflowers A
Mexican hat (a)
Wild geranium (a)
bee balm (monarda) (a)
sage
creeping thyme
common oregano
greek oregano
tarragon
lovage
gotu kola
catnip
rue
garlic chives
spearmint
apple mint
lemon balm
spear mint (or some kind of common mint)
dill (A)
horehound
chocolate mint (the leaf tasted like one of those chocolate mints you get at a restaurant checkout)
lemon mint
Roman chamomile
horseradish
rosemary
comfrey
parsley (b)



Ground covers
strawberries
purple clover A
white clover A
hairy vetch A



Climbing vines
fredonia grape
niagara grape
venus grape
concord grape
scarlet runner beans A
Luffa (a)



Roots
shallots (a)
walking onions (a)
potato onions (a)
Garlic A (a)
Turnips (a)

Oklahoma's first state flag.