Despite the 10 – 20 degrees below our normal temps around here and the recent snow, I’m itching to get things growing. With the running back and forth between the two properties, I can’t focus too much effort in the annual vegetable growing department these days, but I am trying to grow as many perennial shrubs, trees and vines from cuttings and seeds as I can at home to take out to the farm. We have a lot of space at the farm and it would be too costly to buy all of the plants needed to get things going.
Last year I grew rhubarb, oregano, sages, alpine strawberries and rosemary from cuttings off of plants here at the house and planted them out at the farm with the fruit and nut trees (which were purchased bare root). I also grew Osage Orange, Mosu Chiko Bamboo and Paulownia from purchased seed last summer and will be planting those out at the farm this spring along with the white Concord grapes, Hebe, Hardy Fuschia and Golden Hops I grew from from cuttings.
Red Cedar, Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Alder self seed all over my yard and I’ve been digging the little starts up and growing them out in my unused vegetable raised beds until they are big enough to transplant safely out in the woodlot at the farm.
I also have a zillion Copper Sedge plants that self-seeded everywhere from a potted one up on deck. I keep digging them up and putting them in plastic pots. Hopefully I’ll find a good use for them somewhere at the farm as I’ve also saved a lot of the seed.
I just started Black Locust and Saucer Magnolia from seeds I collected, as well as Sea Buckthorn, Blue Elderberry, Asparagus, Comfrey, more Osage Orange and Szechuan Pepper from purchased seed. I also have a wide variety of saved and purchased perennial herb and flower seeds I will start in another month.
The Saucer Magnolia is an anomaly. We have one here in the yard and I saved a couple of seed pods to experiment with. The rest of the plants were selected for particular reasons (nitrogen fixing, edible, mulch maker, medicinal, chicken forage, etc.). The Magnolia is purely an ornamental, but I suppose one needs to feed the eyes as well. I guess it could also be considered a mulch maker, so maybe it’s not such a poor choice from the permaculturists’ point of view.
My daylight basement mudroom was converted into a propagation room several years ago for my vegetable seed starting. We have a deep freeze in there too and it keeps the room at around 55 – 60 degrees in the winter.
I also grow forage strips for my chickens to get them through the winter. It’s a mix of annual ryegrass, common vetch, winter peas, flax, cereal ryegrain, crimson clover and buckwheat. They take about two weeks to grow to this size so I keep about dozen or so trays in continuous production so they have access to fresh forage when pickins’ are slim in the yard or they are confined to the coop because we are down at the farm.
This year is going to be tricky with all of the perennial trees and shrubs I’m trying to start as they will be taking up more room here shortly when I starting potting them up. Construction of the greenhouse at the farm is still a little ways off, so I’ll just have to make due the best I can between the two places until then.
M bought me a couple of soil blockers (a mini and a 2″) for Christmas one year. I use Eliot Coleman’s recipe for the soil mix. The mini blocker is great for the asparagus seed as they take up very little space allowing me to put all 200 of them on one my heating mats. After they germinate, I just pot them on to a 2″ block, and then I can plant the blocks out at the farm when things warm up a little. For the rest of the seed I start with the 2″ blocker and will pot the trees up into special tree pots I found on Peaceful Valley’s website.
I have an 8′ x 4′ raised bed in the back yard that M enclosed in polycarbonate. I call it my greenhouse bed. I use it to harden plants off in early spring and [used to] use it for planting out my peppers and cukes or tomatoes when it was warm enough to put them in the ground.
The house where we live now is in a very shaded wooded area and we just don’t get very much sun – it has to be pretty high in the sky to peek over our trees and shine on my vegetable plants – but I get enough to ripen some varieties. The bulk of my tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers are grown in very large pots on my southern facing deck. This is where I get the most sun at home so I really have to work it to squeeze every bit of sunshine I can. We will have to wait until I get out to the farm full time before I attempt to grow anymore peppers and tomatoes. Too fussy for now.
I have loads of unused annual vegetable seeds from the past couple of years and think I’ll experiment with them on the hugels we just built. We will see if the buried wood soaked up enough water to get the veg through the dry summer as irrigating is a chore in and of itself with hauling water. Although we just built the hugels last November/December, the trees and stumps sat out in the field over a year before that, so hoping there was a jumpstart on the biological activity.
I would like to get a bunch of berries started as well, but the budget is tight with the barn using up most of our reserves. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for a good deal. That reminds me I have several Mulberry and Fig trees I got for next to nothing at a fall plant sale in pots on the deck I need to take out to plant in the area we will be housing our laying flock. Time to get off of the computer and back to seeding!