Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City
2001 Forest Garden Plan List (updated 10-05-2001)
Several months have passed since we first posted this list. Here’s how the garden has developed. What made it, what didn’t. Plus a few additions not originally included in this list.
The rest of the trees have done fine. Had to pick some little caterpillars off the Gala semi-dwarf.
This fall we’ve planted turnips (for greens and for turnips), radishes, cabbage. We’re still harvesting collards, pak choi, radiccio, swiss chard, and tomatoes. For a compost crop we’ve planted a mixture of crimson clover, hairy vetch, and Austrian winter peas.
We ended up with 76 different varieties this year (before the fall garden). (The lemon balm, day lilies, mulberry bushes and pecan tree were already established.) 33 didn’t make it, either the plant died or the seeds didn’t sprout. This is the third year in a row our squash has been eaten by bugs (the main bug problem we have). Next year we’re not growing squash. (We like to think we can take a hint.).
Miscellaneous musings on our garden experiences this year
Salad burnet, perennial salad – only got one plant out of a whole packet of seeds., but it is a great plant, produced big leaves, very prolific, leaves are very tasty, sort of like Romaine only milder. Next year will definitely plant more.
Highbush cranberry – hands down the prettiest bush we planted. Nicely formed green leaves outlined in a hint of red, like it’s always on the verge of a fall turning. Planted it in a sheltered location, morning early afternoon sun, close to the house.
The little ground cover berries – salah, kinnickinick, lingong berry – all eventually shrivelled up in August heat. They were planted around the perimeter of the front lawn, the onlyone that survived into July had afternoon shade, and it shrivelled up in August. We’re leaving them to see if they come back in the spring.
The evergreen huckleberry was advertised as the best berry for a shady spot, it got a shady spot, but didn’t do well from the beginning, expiring in June.
The problem with seed germination we had was both with plants we direct seeded and some we tried to start indoors. This was our first attempt at indoor starting, and I think the room we used probably didn’t have enough light plus it wasn’t warm enough. Oh well, we expect to do better next year. A couple of the direct seeding failures (anise hyssop, strawberry spinach, and roman chamomile) were caused by cats selecting those spots in the beds for their own personal use. Oh well, they got three, but left the rest alone. That’s fair. The cats are worth it.
The bush cherries did OK although they don’t seem to have grown much. The aronia seedlings did well, oops, one was chopped twice by accident, but the other one did great.
As did the collards, we have eaten our fill of them and then some. Even though they were run over by a car, which put a big dent in the middle of their bed, I keep clipping them and they keep growing. As does the pak choi and arugula. Very prolific. We were long on “strong tasting salad greens” and real short on “mild tasting greens”. Thus, next year more salad burnet and hopefully we can get the good king henry going.
The tomatoes were another great success, mostly Roma. They produced bountifully into the first week of August, then they began to shrivel even though I kept watering them. The heat broke early in September, the rains came, and now those same tomato vines are bigger and bushier than ever, loaded with blossoms and fruit. We planted them on top of small fish we caught in the Canadian River, one fish per plant.
The potatoes in buckets were another disappointment, although at least this year we got some harvest. So we’re moving in the right direction. Sunflowers were great (volunteers from last year), and the seeds were tasty. The water drop wort have held their own all summer, although they haven’t gotten very big. So we didn’t have any water dropwort in our salads this summer.
As the summer went on, I began preparing more beds, basically doubling the amount of we have in “cultivation”. If you’ve checked our garden plan, you’ll notice a group of beds on our west lawn that fronts onto North McKinley street. This sketch hasn’t been updated, but the space north and south of the beds on that west lawn has now been covered with new beds. First I outlined them with logs. Then I put several layers of grass clippings and etc (not all at once, but as I would find them and bring them home). Next was several layers of newspaper or cardboard. Then more grass clippings and compost materials. Then some topsoil. I planted one small bed of radishes, one bed of turnips (for greens and for turnips), one of cabbage, and one of agrotriticum, a perennial grain. The rest I sowed with a mixture of crimson clover, hairy vetch, and Austrian winter peas. I also sowed the south yard (which is shaded by the mature pecan tree, is the site of our compost piles, and also was the source of a lot of topsoil that went on the new beds) with crimson clover and hairy vetch. We seem to be getting a pretty good stand on all these beds and on the south yard. The south yard is enclosed with a fence, and is also the site of our solar clothes dryer.
The herbs have done wonderfully. Most of them we used plants we got from a local nursery, sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, oregano have all done very well. I have three stumps set up by the herb beds, and I like to sit on one of them in the late evening and sniff. The cats also like them because they are convenient petting perches, putting them at just the right height to be stroked without a person having to bend down.
I can’t figure out what is going on with the amaranth. It grew big and tall – some as much as 6 feet! One plant developed a beautiful string of purple flowers early, the rest have taken their sweet time in blooming. A wind storm a couple of weeks ago knocked a couple of them down, I left them, and now they’re all sprouting long upright strings of light green flowers. I was hoping for some grain, maybe it will get here eventually, it strikes me as being a very long season crop. It has been real pretty all summer, purple touches to the leaves and stems.
Our magnificent dead tree at the corner of our lot lost a major limb during a lightening storm. We had a shortwave antenna strung from a chimney on the house to the tree. It looks to us like lightening struck the antenna, traveled down and blasted the tree, cut the limb off cleanly. The falling limb almost took out our little peach tree, but instead it landed in such a way that it is kind of nestling/protecting the new kid on the block. So we left it there, of course (what’s a forest gardening without dead wood contributing its nutrients?), and a little microclimate now nestles beside it with a couple of plants I haven’t seen before, one of which has berries. Hmmm, what can these be? In due time we’ll find out.
For the past month, we have had perfect weather for an Oklahoma fall. The front lawn , which faces onto NW 21st, has been covered with some kind of wildflower that looks like a tiny lavender daisy (there are truly rewards for not mowing your lawn). I also broadcast crimson clover seed over most of the remaining grass lawn. It already is well “infested” with a white clover, so I hope it does well. Now the time is almost upon us to lay out beds on the NW 21st front lawn.
And also decide what we’re going to do about the paths between the beds. Bricks? Bricks interspersed with aromatic herbs and mints (like they did in medieval times)? Maybe some planks or big pieces of bark?. Also, we have several big stumps in the dog run that could be brought out front as decorative touches. Maybe plant hops so the vines would grow all over them? Ideas, things to think about as the winter comes upon us.
This year I think we continued to learn that while planning and learning and dreaming is important, there is no substitute for putting the seeds and plants into the ground and seeing what you are able to do. We had a lot of things that didn’t work out this year, but more things that did just fine, and thus we had some very tasty food that didn’t first detour through the agri-bizness corporations on its way to our table. When I wanted mulberry cobbler, I simply went out on the front porch and picked mulberries.
Well, I don’t suppose it’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but perhaps it is a start.