Saturday, February 13, 2016

Useful "weeds" - List of Ten

There are a lot of plants in urban/suburban areas, and throughout North America and the world for that matter, that are common weeds. However, many of these plants have good uses. Since they are hardy enough to be labeled as weeds, you know that they would require little work on your part to get them established. And when they are in the right place, they can be quite beneficial. In fact, a weed is really, as David Holmgren puts it, just "a plant out of place" (http://holmgren.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/PPQ-26-issue-3-2011-Weeds.pdf). Weeds are pioneer species doing what pioneers do: move into open areas and naturalize, or become native to that place.
  1. Plantago spp. (Plantain)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantago
    Common plantain - Source

    http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Plantago+major
    • Nutrient accumulator
    • Medicinal - I have found it to be especially good for insect stings and spider bites.
    • Edible - Samuel Thayer says it is not much as a food, but Elias & Dykeman recommend it with emphasis on collecting and grinding the seeds into a flour that is used to make pancakes.
  2. Portulaca oleracea (Purslane)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulaca_oleracea
    http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a603
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/power-packed-purslane.aspx
    Purslane - Source
    • Medicinal - this plant has traditionally been used by many different cultures throughout
    the world for many different symptoms, having been especially used in traditional Chinese medicine. Scientific studies have been performed on the effectiveness of purslane in dealing with a variety of medical concerns.
    • Edible - during the warm summer months this grows throughout my yard/garden and to keep it in check I make sure to eat plenty of it in my salad. In addition to being a tasty green, it is also extremely healthy, being best known as the having the most omega-3 of any leafy vegetable, as well as having good amounts of many vitamins and minerals. Check out the wikipedia link to see the whole nutritional listing.
    • Companion - this plant makes a pretty good ground cover and helps maintain moist soil. Some plants, including corn, will "follow" purslane roots through harder soil that they could not penetrate on their own.
    • Nutrient accumulator - its impressive list of beneficial minerals helps indicate just how well this plant does at finding and collecting nutrients.
    • Decorative - many nurseries actually sell purslane as a decorative ground cover.
    • Self-reseeding - it can even finish ripening the seeds after the plant is pulled up.
    • Chicken and rabbit feed - both of these animals can gain great nutritional benefits from purslane.
  3. Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)
    http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Dandelion.html
    http://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Taraxacum+officinale
    Specimen Spotlight: Dandelion
    Dandelion flower
    Dandelion flower - Source
    • Insectary - as a very early starting plant (I've seen green plants of this species in February), it is often one of the first sources of food for bees. In addition, it continues flowering from early spring throughout the summer, providing for a hungry host of helpful insects.
    • Nutrient accumulator
    • Thrives on neglect
    • Shade to full sun
    • Edible - it is becoming a very popular salad green. Be sure to pick the leaves before the plant flowers, otherwise they tend to turn bitter. The flowers add some nice color to a salad. You can also eat the large taproot. Cook it like you would other root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, or potatoes.
    • Perennial and self-reseeding
    • Medicinal - as is the case with most, if not all, nutrient accumulators. It has been theorized that the ability of these plants to gather hard-to-reach nutrients might have something to do with their medicinality.
    • Flowers! - okay, so dandelion flowers may not seem like much to look at, but little children love them!
  4. Chenopodium album (Lamb's quarters)
    http://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Chenopodium+album
    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/WEEDS/lambsquarters.html
    http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/September09/healingwise.htm
    • Edible - I add the leaves in moderate quantities to my spring and summer salads. The
    Lamb's quarters - Source
    seeds can be used to create a flour or are cooked like rice - just be certain to rinse well to remove the bitter saponins. A sibling of quinoa and a cousin of spinach. The early shoots can be cooked and eaten like asparagus. Excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium.
    • Companion - very friendly towards corn; also benefits cucurbits, such as cucumber, pumpkin, and watermelon. Louise Riotte also says that it invigorates zinnias, marigolds, peonies, and pansies.
    • Nutrient accumulator - The Rodale Herb Book indicates that the long tap root does a good job of pulling up nutrients from the soil.
    • Self-reseeding - the seeds are pretty tiny, and there are lots of them just on one plant, so it doesn't take much for one plant to become a lot of plants.
    • Wildlife - speaking of seeds, this plants seeds are used by a variety of small mammals and birds as a significant food source.
  5. Amaranthus retroflexus (Redroot pigweed)
    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/WEEDS/redroot_pigweed.html
    http://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Amaranthus+retroflexus
    http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/fieldbio/Edible_Plants_Ramer_Silver_Weizmann/Pages/spp_page_amaranth.html
    Redroot pigweed - Source
    • Edible - as a wild variety of amaranth, the seeds are quite tasty albeit very small. They can be ground into flour or cooked as they are. They make a great thickener for a soup to give it more substance. You can also eat the young greens just as you would spinach. Very rich in iron and a good source of vitamins A and C.
    • Dye - can be used to make red, green or yellow dyes
    • Drought resistant - and handles hot weather just fine, too. At least, I never noticed that it was wilting in the sweltering heat of Kansas (or Utah) in late July.
  6. Lactuca serriola (Prickly lettuce)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactuca_serriola
    http://commonsensehome.com/prickly-wild-lettuce/
    http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/include/searchherb.php?herbsearch=prickly+lettuce&x=0&y=0
    http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lactuca+serriola
    http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/prickly_lettuce.htm
    Prickly lettuce - Source
    • Edible - raw leaves which are best eaten while still very young, before there are much if
    any spines. They go great in a green weed salad! Considered the wild progenitor of domestic lettuce, which means it has not been selectively bred over time to be extra tasty. And that might explain why some use it as the bitter herb in their Passover meal. It is possible to use the young shoots as an asparagus substitute. And the seeds produce an edible oil that, when refined, is considered to have a pleasant flavor.
    • Medicinal - this pioneer is very widespread, so the medicinal uses vary. The Navajo used it as an emetic (vomit inducer) and the Ancient Greeks as a treatment for eye ulcers. The sap, or "milk", is, according to PFAF, "used for its anodyne, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, hypnotic, narcotic and sedative properties."
    • Insectary - the flowerheads provide nectar and pollen which are used as sources of food by bees.
    • Self-reseeding
  7. Veronica spp. (Speedwell)
    http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Veronica+agrestis
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_(plant)
    http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_speedwell.htm
    The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History
    • Insectary
    Speedwell - Source
    • Thrives on neglect
    • Groundcover - it can outcompete grass. This may or may not be a plus, depending on if and where you want grass. But you can use this as a mix with other "trample-friendly" plants, such as clover, to create a less resource-hungry yard.
    • Edible - although just barely. Ken Fern considers it a famine food - only good when you have nothing else.
    • Self-fertilizing, self-reseeding and some species put out runners
    • Medicinal - the benefits of each species vary somewhat
    • Flowers! - these are often quite small and easy to miss, but they are beautiful when they are noticed
  8. Erodium cicutarium (Redstem Filaree or Stork's Bill)
    http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Erodium+cicutarium
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_(plant)
    http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_speedwell.htm
    http://www.eattheweeds.com/erodium-circutarium-geranium-carolinianum-two-bills-you-want-to-get-2/
    • Insectary
    Stork's Bill - Source
    • Thrives on neglect
    • Drought and heat resistant - tends to be found more in hot and dry regions, so naturally it doesn't tend to stress out when the weather is hot and dry.
    • Dye - makes a green dye and does not need a mordant to set the color.
    • Groundcover - it tends to stay low to the ground, which makes it survive mowing. Being a hardy plant, it also can handle a decent amount of foot traffic.
    • Edible - the entire plant is fine either raw or cooked and is best when young, which is also when it tends to taste similar to parsley.
    • Self-reseeding and some species put out runners
    • Medicinal - a leaf tea is used to induce sweating and as a diuretic.
    • Flowers! - quite pretty in their simplicity
  9. Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit or Henbit Deadnettle)
    http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lamium+amplexicaule
    http://www.ediblewildfood.com/henbit.aspx
    http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=LAAM
    Edible Wild Plants by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, pg. 116
    • Insectary - important early source of pollen and nectar to honey bees.
    Henbit - Source
    • Common name given because many chickens especially like to eat this plant
    • Hummingbirds also like this plant for the nectar in its flowers
    • Edible - the whole plant can be eaten or used to make a tea. Although it is in the Mint family, it does not have a mint flavor. Some say that it tastes similar to kale, which is why I recommend it mostly as a salad add-in. Also, you can pick the flowers and suck the nectar out of them, which kids seem to love doing.
    • Self-reseeding and can put down roots from stems that are pressed against the ground (layering).
    • Mildly medicinal
    • Flowers! - if you look close, you can see that these are quite exquisite flowers: they remind me of orchids.
  10. Rumex crispus (Narrow-leaved Dock)
    http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Rumex+crispus
    http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/curly_dock.htm
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumex_crispus
    http://www.eattheweeds.com/rumex-ruminations/
    • Wildlife - Many birds and some small mammals use dock seeds as a wintertime food source.
    Narrow-leaved Dock - Source
    • Drought resistant
    • Dye - the root is used to make a dye varying between mustard and brown
    • Edible - but often bitter. However, sometimes bitter is good/desired. 
    • Self-reseeding and can put down roots from stems that are pressed against the ground (layering). The seeds can remain viable for more than fifty years!
    • Medicinal - used to increase red blood cell count and as a treatment to external wounds, among many other things.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Now coming to you from ... Kansas!

Long time, no post. Sorry 'bout that. Life has been crazy as only life can be. At any rate, I thought that now would be a good time to inform my readers that I am no longer reside in Utah with a small suburban plot. I have relocated to a small (~11 acres) country farm in Kansas. I am more or less in the same hardiness zone, strangely enough, but the growing season is (according to what the locals tell me) much longer. And, being out in the country with eleven acres, I have a bit more space with which to play around and on. :-)

We are working to rehabilitate the farm: it was previously a private feedlot for beef cattle where synthetic, conventional and chemical means of "fixing" the problems were the standard operating procedures.

We have much to learn, as we have not had much experience with large poultry, large flocks, nor medium-sized mammals, all of which we are learning how to manage. And, as you may know, our main method for learning how to do something is to, first, read a bit about it in a book, and, second, go full steam ahead in trying it out. At this time we have goats, sheep, pigs, geese, ducks, guineas, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, and hedge hogs. Phew!

I intend on planting a lot of things this spring, which, for this area, is right around the corner. I did dig up and bring with me from Utah many of the plants that were small enough, including the trees that I had just transplanted the previous spring. Here' to hoping that they take to their new environment.

And, just like anywhere else, there are new native/naturalized plants to appreciate. These include fruiting mulberry trees and wild plums.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about my change of scenery and the opportunities that it is providing. I hope to continue to make posts along the lines of previous posts - specific species, plant use categories, permaculture practices, etc. - but I also expect to throw in things that may be pertinent to my region. Stay tuned and let's see where this ride takes us!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Specimen Spotlight: Aronia

Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa)

Black chokeberries - Source
Although this plant is a native to North America there are relatively few people who know about it. Please let me introduce you to the producer of the original superfruit, Aronia melanocarpa. Superfruit it may be, but, to those who have tried the fruit, it is best known as black chokeberry (not chokecherry - totally different plant) because of its super power: ultimate power pucker. Let's continue on to see what this plant is all about.
  • Superfruit - as mentioned, this was the first fruit to be called a superfruit, meaning it is incredibly beneficial for one's health. It is now coming back into the spotlight, having been rediscovered and starting to be re-hyped. New hype or old, the bottom line is that this fruit provides great things to your body, such as normalize blood pressure, strengthen blood vessels, support natural immunity, and delay the effects of aging, just to name a few.
  • Antioxidants - going along with the superfruit portion above, aronia berries have been shown to have one of the highest antioxidant levels found in fruit. Plus, in addition to providing the most and best antioxidants, they also enable the blood's capacity to carry antioxidants.
  • Native - aronia is a shrub that natively grows in eastern North America: 
    Native distribution in green - Source
  • Plant alternative - aronia is recommended as an alternative plant for some landscape plants that have been classified by some groups as invasive species, including winged euonymous, privets, some honeysuckle species, buckthorn, and some viburnum species.
  • Perennial
  • Blossoms!
  • Edible - as mentioned, the fruit is often not regarded as edible when fresh picked, due to its intense tartness. However, when mixed with other foods or made into a juice or jam, that is when it really begins to shine.
  • Food coloring - the dark blue juice can be used as a high quality, stable, natural food color
  • Tolerant - it is disease, drought, pollution, and insect tolerant. Add to that list soil compaction, salt, mine spoils, and heavy metals tolerant. All in all, aronia is a very difficult bush to offend.
  • Heavy metals safe - unlike other plants, aronia does not put heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, and tin, into the fruit. This means it is safe to eat the fruit even when the ground around the plant contains those heavy metals.
  • Minerals - some elements that are needed in trace quantities by the body can be found in aronia berries. Some of these elements are manganese, copper, molybdenum, iodine, boron, and cobalt.

References

Saturday, July 6, 2013

My Fruiting Plants

I am often engrossed in the plants that I have growing in my yard, as well as the plants that are growing the yards around mine. Most of that contemplation falls back to trying to determine how to acquire my own samples of the neat specimens that I have noticed in my neighbors' yards. However, upon reflection, I wanted to just list out what plants I have in my own yard that produce fruit, if for no other reason than to recognize just how far the yard has come since I first started "fixing" it after moving in over five years ago.

Trees

  1. Apple - no idea what kind. It is a mature, standard apple that provides apples that are good for pretty much everything that we have tried to do with them. They ripen up right around the first week of October.
  2. Peach - again, I have no idea what kind it is. It is a mature, standard tree. Like the apple above, it was part of the yard when I acquired the home. But the peaches are delicious. They do best for fresh eating, but, unfortunately, that only lasts so long.
  3. Plumcot - I do not remember the variety name, but a plumcot is a hybrid of a plum and an apricot. The natural occurrence of this particular hybridization has been documented many times over the past couple of hundred years, but Luther Burbank is credited with determining how to make it happen. Plumcots are the stepping stones for other, more recent, hybrids, such as apriums, pluots, and peacotums. I love the fruit on my plumcot. The tree is a semi-dwarf and has been in my yard for... hmmm... I guess it has been about four years now. It is part of the first group of fruit trees that we added to the yard.
  4. Cherry - I believe it is a Stella which is a red sweet cherry. It is also part of the first group, and, like all of that group, is a semi-dwarf. Around here people regularly complain about having cherry trees because they "have" to spray in order to have "good" cherries. Honestly, I love living in this area because there are so many very large cherry trees that produce loads of delicious cherries that the owners do not want. Anyway, the whole problem is that the cherries will often have a tiny worm in it. The worm is technically called a Cherry fly maggot, but the word maggot has such gross associations with it that I much prefer cherry worm. We just put the cherries through a cherry pitter and eat them whole or freeze them to use in pancakes and smoothies. If you do not actually see the worm, it is not really there, especially since it tastes like cherry. More for me. Perfect. Growing up, there was a huge mulberry tree in my yard that was the same - it had little worm-thingies crawling on the fruit. Oh well, it all tasted good. And you certainly could not tell in the mulberry pie. Anyway... moving on.
  5. Apricot - just like the cherry, I do not know what variety it is. It is part of the first group. Since it blossoms before any other tree that I have, I often get just a few apricots because of late frosts. And because the tree is still quite young. I'll have to see how much it produces in a few more years to see if it is the late frosts that are really the culprit.
  6. Pear - also part of the first group. It is a Twentieth Century Asian. I had not eaten Asian pears prior to picking some fruit from this tree. So far the fruit is almost more like a sweet apple than a pear, very crisp and round. But quite tasty. Especially when we give it a chance to ripen all of the way before getting impatient and eating it early.
  7. Nectarine - it is also part of the first group. It is a Fantasia. The fruit has been super delicious, but they always look kind of weird with strange folds and shapes. But, as I am not one to let looks deter me, it still tastes great, which is the whole reason for growing nectarines. The yield has been rather paltry, but it is probably because the tree is still pretty young and small.
  8. Apple - this is a Wynoochee Early variety. It is part of the second group of trees that I planted this spring. It is a semi-dwarf. I do not yet know how the fruit will taste, but it is supposed to be very good for an early apple.
  9. Pear - this is a European pear, with the well-known pear shape - long, thin neck swelling into a round ball at the bottom. It is a Seckel, also known as a Sugar Pear. It is often known for the fact that it and Bartlett strangely find each other incompatible for pollination. I have never found an explanation as to why they do not pollinate each other, just that they do not. It is also part of the second group.
  10. Quince - the quince is a pome, like apples and pears, with a core containing multiple, small seeds. The variety is Mellow, a Ukranian variety that has a tendency towards dwarfing, so it should only grow to eight or ten feet tall. I am looking forward to seeing how well it fruits in this area and how it tastes. It is part of the second group.
  11. Medlar - also part of the second group, the variety is named Marron. The fruit has been popular in Europe since the Middle Ages, is chestnut brown in color, and is said to have the taste and texture of spiced applesauce. The tree only reaches six to eight feet in height. Another that I am looking forward to trying out.
  12. Plum - another one from the second group, the cultivar is Brooks. It is said to produce very large, sweet, dark purple fruit. The fruit is great for fresh eating, preserves, canning and drying. Interestingly, this variety was the main variety in Oregon's dried plum industry. Hopefully it does just as well in Utah.
  13. Fig - I count this as one of my trees because, well, it is mine and it is a tree. It is a Negronne and also came in the second group. I picked a specimen of that variety because it was labeled as being small and suitable for growing in a container. My hope is to eventually plant a fig in a warm microclimate in my yard, but before then I would like to become more acquainted with figs in general, as they seem to be quite different from the pome and drupe varieties with which I have experience. So, currently, I have this in a large pot out in the garden. It seemed somewhat slow to get going, but now that it is better established and the weather is quite warm and sunny, it seems to be thriving.
  14. Peach - seedling that started growing in our compost pile. It survived the removal of the compost and is now in its second summer. I am letting it grow mostly just to see what happens.

Shrubs

  1. Currant, Black - I have had one of these bushes for three or four years now. The berries have been less than desirable in my opinion, but the rest of the family really likes them. I think that I need to plant another black currant to improve pollination and thus have better fruit production.
  2. Currant, White - two plants added last summer. They both have strings of "pearls" that are about the size of small peas. As the fruit has not yet ripened, I do not know how well I will like the fruit.
  3. Currant, Red - one plant, of the Red Lake variety that I added last spring. I have not yet had fruit from it, but there is some this year. When it ripens I will try it out.
  4. Gooseberry - I have one bush. This is its second summer. Last year it put on a few fruits, but this year it did not even flower. A friend says that happens when it is not watered sufficiently, which may have been the case at the very start of the growing season. But I really want to get a good crop of gooseberries. They look so tasty!
  5. Aronia - this is their first summer and, even though I know it is better to pluck off any fruit, I have left the berries to ripen. And there are quite a few! I expect both plants to give me nice, dark, tart fruit that I can freeze whole and then add to my fruit smoothies for its nutritional benefits.
  6. Elderberry - I think this is the plant's second or third summer, but it might as well be its first summer in my yard. I did not know much of anything about elderberry bushes when I bought it, and so it has been transplanted a couple of times and not really treated with much in the way of care and consideration. Now that I know a little more, I have been helping it get its roots under it, so to speak. It is a European variety that has been selected to be very decorative while still putting on plenty of flowers and fruit. Maybe next year I will get to try the fruit.
  7. Seaberry - I have three plants, one male and two female. They are sometimes called sea buckthorn. A friend said that these plants send out a lot of suckers, have really large, sharp thorns, and the fruit is sour. I planted these this spring, so all I can say so far is that they do have long, sharp thorns. I am not too worried about the suckers. And sour fruit is fine because I can just mix them with my green grapes which are really sweet but not overly flavorful so they make a nice natural sweetener.
  8. Rugosa rose - planted last year, I hope to get a good crop of rose hips, based on the hips that have formed already.
  9. Serviceberry - this year these plants really put on the blossoms and the fruit. I started picking around the first week of June and am still picking the berries as they ripen. I have four plants and have picked about a quart of berries from each plant so far.
  10. Goji - recently planted. I had another goji for about three summers. It never reached more than six inches in height. This new goji was two feet tall when we planted it, so it is already far and away better than the last. Hopefully I will get to try homegrown goji berries next year.

Canes

  1. Blackberry - they do noticeably better when you let them become established as opposed to moving them around a couple of times each summer.
  2. Red Raspberry - I do not know what varieties I have, but they produce very well. We have about four rows, each about twenty-five feet long, plus a few new tranplants growing in the chicken garden.
  3. Boysenberry - I am hoping to finally get a good taste of our boysenberries. In the past we only had one plant and would only get five or six berries from it. Last year we added a whole row and, as long as they do not get lost in the garden jungle, we might get a couple of handfuls of berries.

Vines

  1. Grape - the varieties that I currently have are as follows: Concord, Glenora, Canadice, Reliance, and a mature green seedless that was here when I moved in.
  2. Hardy Kiwi - they were just listed as a self-fertile female (how does that work?) hardy kiwis, so I have no idea as which named variety they might be. I have two and this is their third summer. I have yet to see any flowers, much less fruit, but this is also the first year that there has been significant growth. Past years there were some watering malfunctions and they apparently do not grow very well without a good amount of sunlight and sufficient water.
  3. Akebia - this is its first summer. I had two, but one just withered and died one week. :-( I will need to acquire another in order to get the fruit.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wish List Plants

I love looking at One Green World and Raintree Nursery catalogs, going through the large selections of all kinds of plants, but most especially the perennial fruiting plants. It is almost the same as going through the Christmas catalogs when I was a kid, the only difference is that I might actually get some of the plants. Anyway, the result of the plant ogling is that I have created a list of plants that I really want to try growing in this area and finagle into doing my bidding (mwah hah hah), i.e. grow tasty fruit that makes my belly happy.
  • Honeyberry, a.k.a. "Blue Honeysuckle"
  • Goumi - I have a friend in the neighborhood who grows these and they seem to do okay, especially the part of the bush that gets more sunlight. But the fruit production is only so-so. The flavor reminded me of pie cherries (sometimes called "sour" cherries). I really like that goumis are nitrogen fixers, too.
  • Jostaberry - hybrid of gooseberry and black currant
  • Black raspberry, purple raspberry, yellow raspberry - I just want to add more colors and try the different flavors
  • Shipova - hybrid of mountain ash and pear
  • Black apricot - naturally occurring hybrid of Prunus armeniaca and P. cerasifera
  • Peacotum - hybrid of peach, apricot and plum
  • Paw paw - produces the largest edible fruit native to America, plus some say the fruit tastes like vanilla custard. Yeah, I want one... or maybe two.
  • Persimmon - I want to really try to promote native American fruit, 
  • Mulberry - I grew up with a mulberry tree and I really enjoyed them. And maybe it will keep the birds out of the cherries.
  • Pomegranate (in a pot) - exotic plant that would heighten my hard core grower status just by having one. Actually getting fruit from it would just be gravy. Sweet, delicious gravy.
  • Jujubes - I think that name just sounds cool, which is enough for me to want to grow the tree. Add on the fact that it produces edible fruit and I'm convinced. It needs hot summers to ripen which makes me wonder why it is not regularly grown here because it has been plenty hot.
  • Maypop - native to the eastern U.S., it is a passionfruit vine that dies back in the winter and pops out of the ground in may. The flowers are exquisite and exotic. Plus, I want to eat my own passionfruit.
  • Almond - my favorite nut might taste even better if I could grow my own
  • Yellowhorn - nitrogen-fixer that produces small nuts. Another nut tree that does not take up most of the yard.
  • Bamboo (specifically Phyllostachys nuda) - building material, edible, just plain neat.
  • Blood orange (in a pot) - some of the best tasting fruit that I have ever eaten. With this and the pomegranate I could really get started on my indoor orchard.
  • Prickly pear - I know it grows wild in much of the western U.S., but I have seen and tasted how much better the fruit is when it gets a modicum of attention. And the results were delicious.
Do you grow or have you grown any of these plants? How did it go? Would you recommend any of them? Why or why not?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Plant a Fruit Tree" Sale

This is a pitch for Evermore Edible Landscapes, my new business venture. We are doing a "Plant a Fruit Tree" sale. Here is a link to the flyer (PDF) that I used to get the word out. We will purchase and plant a fruit tree in your yard for $100 when you contact Evermore Edible Landscapes by June 16th.

Benefits of having a fruit tree in your yard:
  • Best tasting fruit - in my opinion, is that which grows in your own yard. Fruit can be picked at the peak of ripeness and eaten within hours, if not immediately, unlike food purchased from the store or even from roadside stands.
  • Convenient - no trip to the grocery store in hopes that that fruit is in stock
  • Food safety - you know exactly what has been done to the tree and the fruit, as well as where the fruit has been (tree → across the yard → into the house, if it gets that far before it is eaten ), who has touched it, and what they had on their hands when they did touch it. In case you could not tell, food safety is a big concern of mine.
  • Food security - no worries about whether the fruit will be available at the grocery store. You will be able to tell for weeks how much fruit to expect for your harvest. And that harvest is not dependent on the weather in California or the price of fuel, etc.
  • Environmentally friendly - this is true in so many ways. Just a couple are that you have increased - as opposed to reduced -  the number of trees on the planet, and you shrink your carbon footprint by producing your own food.
  • Wallet friendly - although it may seem like it would take a lot of fruit to make up for the cost of adding a fruit tree to your yard, it does make financial sense to produce your own food. Especially with increasing food prices which tend to go up fastest for fresh produce.
  • Healthy choice - everyone knows that eating fresh produce is good for your health. But the healthiest produce is that which is perfectly ripe and ready in your own region. Plus, nothing encourages you to eat fresh produce like watching it ripen on the tree, anticipating its juicy sweetness in your mouth. :-)
  • Spring blossoms! - need I say more?
  • Perennial - unlike a squash or tomato plant, once you have a fruit tree in the ground you will not need to replant for years or decades. Plant once, harvest year after year after year.
So now that you want to have at least one fruit tree in your yard, fill out this form to request a phone call or visit about having me plant a fruit tree in your yard for you. Each tree is self-fertile (so you do not need multiple trees to have fruit) and semi-dwarf (so you can reach the fruit when it is ready to pick). They are at least two-years-old and between three feet and six feet tall. Unpruned, they can grow to be between fifteen and twenty-five feet tall, but with pruning you can keep your tree short.

Tree List:
  • Apple - Golden Delicious: ripens midseason, considered to be a great tree for home use, hardy, consistent bearer, fruit is good for eating fresh or canning.
  • Apricot - Chinese: blossoms come on later which keeps them from being frozen by the late frosts we have every spring; hardy; good flavor and texture; good production; great for cold winter regions, like Utah County.
  • Cherry, Sweet - Stella: split resistant, medium to large fruit, firm, thick foliage. Full disclosure: I have this variety.
  • Nectarine - Independence: early ripening, cold hardy, sweet and tangy flavor
  • Peach - Reliance: late bloomer, cold hardy, very sweet
  • Almond - All in One: cold hardy, handles frosts better than other varieties, great for home use, heavy producer, likes hot summers, sweet kernels
  • Pear, Asian - Twentieth Century: thin skin, medium-sized fruit, crisp and round like an apple, stores very well, good for fresh eating and canning. Full disclosure: I have this variety.
  • Pear, European - Bartlett: medium to large size fruit, top pick for this area, #1 choice worldwide, thin skin, begins producing in second or third year, delicious fresh or canned
When you indicate that you want Evermore Edible Landscapes to plant a fruit tree in your yard, you will then get the following:
  • Contacted to determine which type of tree and discuss placement.
  • The tree will be acquired and brought to your yard.
  • Final placement will be discussed and verified.
  • The tree will be planted with all labor provided by Evermore Edible Landscapes
  • Upon completion, you get proof of purchase which includes a warranty on the tree for ninety (90) days.
And you get all of this for $100 when you contact Evermore Edible Landscapes by Friday, June 16th. You can call (801) 850-3186 or fill out this form to request to be contacted.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Specimen Spotlight: Sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Field of sunflowers - Source
Sunflowers are well-known by most people. You can often see them in fields that you pass as you drive along. Many people will grow a few in a garden. Let's explore the benefits of these North American natives.
  • Edible - flower buds, petals, seeds, sprouts ← especially tasty!
  • Bird friendly - birds love to perch on sunflowers once the stalks begin to stiffen. They also love to peck out the seeds in late summer and fall. FYI, there will be a lot of sunflowers coming up in that spot in the spring because more seeds tend to fall out than are actually eaten by the birds.
  • Poultry plant - naturally, sunflower seeds are good for chickens and other poultry. Most chickens will eat the seeds straight from the heads. Chickens and ducks will enjoy sunflower starts or the new leaves on larger sunflowers, however, chickens especially tend to turn their beaks up at the larger, older leaves because they are not as tender, as long as they have other alternatives. They also like sunflower petals. Besides food, when many are grown together they provide a shady area for chickens to scratch around or have dust baths. And, when they have grown a few feet, sunflowers are sturdy enough that you do not need to worry about poultry damaging them.
  • Rabbit friendly - rabbits like to chew on the shells and eat the seeds. They will also eat the young plants if they do not have access to much in the way of green plants, but it is best to not let them eat too many
  • Wind break - especially great when you need a wind break now and not in ten years, although do not expect it to do as much as a wind break using trees. However, it does an admirable job of protecting small shrubs and herbaceous plants. Sunflowers work especially well if you are able to plant them on an elevated location, thus increasing their effective height and, in consequence, their ability to block the wind.
  • Green manure - this refers to a cover crop that is grown with the intent of being used also as a means of adding fertility to the soil via decomposing plant material. Sepp Holzer includes sunflowers as one of the species in a list of good green manure plants because of the large amount of leaves in a relatively short time.
  • Slope stabilization - used in a mix of other plants to improve steep slopes' ability to remain in place and absorb moisture during rainfall, thus preventing erosion and soil fertility loss.
  • Honey plant - bees like sunflowers because they provide a lot of good pollen and nectar, and the resulting honey is reputed to be quite delicious
  • Insectary - not just bees like sunflowers. I have seen many different types of insects stopping by the sunflower snack bar. Lacewings and parasitic wasps are also known to be frequent visitors of blooming sunflowers.
  • Sun trap - when organized in a U-shape with the open end facing south, you can create a sun trap as a means of creating a warm microclimate inside the U.
  • Nutrient accumulator - sunflowers will find trace amounts of calcium, manganese, copper, and zinc in the earth and then store these minerals in their leaves. When the leaves die and decompose, the minerals become readily available to other plants.
  • Mulch maker - the leaves and thin stalks are especially good as mulch
  • Medicinal
  • Flowers! - besides fresh flowers, you can also dry the flowers for decorative uses
  • Poles - last year's sunflower "trunks" work great as tipi trellis poles
  • Drought tolerant - when well established
  • Full sun - um, yeah, sunflower. 'Nuf said.
  • Inner pith - the inside of the stalk is one of the lightest naturally occurring substances and is used for all kinds of things, including life-saving devices
  • Dye - flowers can be used to make a yellow dye. A purple-black dye can be made from the seeds of a certain variety used by the Hopi Native American tribe.
  • Fuel and kindling - when dried, the stalk can be used as fuel for a fire. The resulting ash is high in potassium. The branches and the seed shells are good kindling.
  • Fiber - found in the stalk, it is used to make both paper and fine quality cloth
  • Roots - these can go as much as ten feet deep and also have a significant lateral spread
  • Tall - not all sunflowers are tall - I have one variety that only reaches two feet - but some varieties can get to twelve feet or more in height.
  • Companion - while not friendly towards potatoes or pole beans, sunflowers typically grow very well with cucumbers, melons and corn.
  • Heliotropic? - this means the movement of a plant part in relation to the position of the sun. A common belief is that sunflowers follow the movement of the sun through the sky. While this is true for unopened flower buds, once the flower opens it remains in a fixed location.
  • Phytoremediation and rhizofiltration - these big words mean that sunflowers are used to clean up the environment, such as removing toxins from the soil and harmful bacteria from water. They were even used to clean up Chernobyl and are in use in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
  • Latex - some development programs are in place to create a variety of sunflower that can be used to manufacture nonallergenic rubber
  • Allelopath - some varieties exude a substance that deters other plants from growing in the vicinity of the sunflower. I must add, though, that it does not seem to affect much in my garden except potatoes and pole beans.

References