Starting the food process…
It is spring and seed needs to get put in the ground. So, even though we are in the very beginning stages of the analysis and design process to convert the whole farm to a permaculture haven, and have a lot of work to do in that planning, we have to move forward with food prep. That sentiment has grown even stronger now with the government response to COVID taking a massive toll on the nation’s food supply.
We currently have a couple of problems to solve at this farm and we are using food producing plants to solve them. One has to do with the sun and it’s heat buildup. The other has to do with a complete lack of privacy. You see, when this house was built in the ‘70’s, the common practice was to set the home right at the front of the property. It was (and sadly, still is in most places), also common practice to simply align the long side of the home with the street. There was no consideration for the climate’s impact on home. Sun and prominent breeze direction are important when designing a home for maximum efficiently. Unfortunately, we cannot (easily or affordably) pickup and move our home. So we will manipulate nature a bit to compensate.
The long side of our home faces due East. The front (east) yard is a massive, open, and very hot. It appears that many years ago, there were some very large shade trees shading the house. But only shadows of their stumps remain. Crepe Myrtle trees line the right side of the driveway and some pine are on the northern border of the front yard. From spring to fall, the whole front of the house must remain completely shuttered to help stave off the heat buildup. The hot, sandy soil grows some ground cover and sporadic patches of grasses. There is very little organic matter in the soils.
The plan is to plant food producing trees and shrubs in the front yard to feed the family and begin to change the microclimate of this area a bit. We planted a maple, that we will later tap for syrup) midway to the house to provide badly needed shade from the hot morning sun on the east side of the house. Across the front of the yard (inside the fence) we started a small orchard with apple, pear, pomegranate, and kiwi. We plan to add a large cherry closer to the house for shade and food as well as some mulberry trees. We’ll be growing food producing shrubs, bushes and other plants all throughout this orchard.
Outside, across the front of the property, I transplanted a row of the Crepe Myrtle volunteers that were popping up. We have approximately 170’ of fence immediately in front of the house. I intentionally planted sunflowers all along this and a row of day lilies that a friend donated. The lilies will provide an attractive, low maintenance border along the fence. (There is just under a quarter mile of our property fence line along the road. I planted the day lilies along the entire stretch and in the section not immediately in front of our home, I scattered sunflowers along the fence line. Whatever comes up, comes up and adds to the beauty and the food). For the sunflowers, I simply purchased a back of black oil sunflower bird food. We know this grows because we feed it to our goats and stray seeds pop up into beautiful plants!
Inside that same fence line, I started planting a long strip of densely planted corn (about as densely planted as folks do for the square foot gardening method). In between the corn rows, I planted beans and along the front of the strip, squash. It’s the classic three sisters companion planting. My twist is, I’m planting about 16’ at a time. Each 16’ section is a different type of each of these things. So far, I’ve planted about 56’. I’m whittling away at this in between other planting and farm projects.
I did not turn the dirt over, nor did I remove any grasses or weeds. Instead, I used a 4 prong metal fork to lift and loosen the soil a bit. In addition, I have not watered these seeds. It has been a typical April/May (after a hot, dry March) with cooler weather and rain every couple of days. I know between that and the fact that my seeds are old, the germination rate may not be ideal. But, my feeling is what grows, grows and it will serve. I do not wish to till at all. So, I am curious how things will grow among the existing grasses and weeds. After harvesting, we will simply lay the stalks and leftovers on the ground, add mulch and allow the soils to build.
We are considering this area to be a Zone 1 planting area…