Ecuador Gardener has pink-fonted praise for Push the Zone:
Ecuador Gardener has pink-fonted praise for Push the Zone:
I quit eating almost all grain some years back. I used to have heartburn, sore joints and lethargy during the day – not to mention a gut – and then I discovered the “paleo diet” thanks to this guy and his book.
I lost thirty pounds in about a month and a half, gained muscle, and so long as I stick somewhat close to the diet, I never get heartburn anymore. It’s truly amazing.
But… today we’ll throw that all out because we “Good Gardeners” love all plants, even the ones that make us fat, dull-witted and dyspeptic.
And because growing and utilizing grains really is a marvelous challenge and a link to the past.
Rye… barley… wheat… corn… these are the storable foods that built great civilizations.
“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.
53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”
56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses[h] and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.“
A much nastier tale relates to the deities of corn in Aztec culture:
“The fourth month of the Aztec calendar called Huei Tozoztli (“the Big Sleep”) was dedicated to the maize gods Centeotl and Chicomecoátl. Different ceremonies dedicated to green maize and grass took place in this month, which began around April 30th. To honor the maize gods, people carried out self-sacrifices through blood-letting rituals, and sprinkling their houses with blood. Furthermore, young women adorned themselves with necklaces of corn seeds. Maize ears and seeds were brought back from the field, the former placed in front of the gods’ images, whereas the latter were stored for planting in the next season.
As the son of the earth goddess Toci, Centeotl was also worshipped during the 11th month of Ochpaniztli, which begins September 27th on our calendar, and along with Chicomecoati and Xilonen. During this month, a woman was sacrificed and her skin was used to make a mask for Centeotl’s priest.”
Let’s call that reason #182993829 why we should be glad Christian missionaries traveled around the globe.
On a lighter note, don’t forget the marvelous uses of barley:
“Now the grain of the barley is mostly starch, but before the barley can grow this starch must be turned by chemicals called enzymes into sugar. The malster and brewer take the starch of barley, turn it into sugar, and then ‘ferment’ this sugar (as eating it with yeast is called) into alcohol.”
And we call the final product… BEER!
Gene Logsdon’s book makes grains interesting for the home gardener, not just for the big factory farms that grow almost all of the wheat, corn, rice and other grains most of us use on a daily basis. I own the book and have planted patches of rye, corn, barley, wheat, amaranth, buckwheat and even sorghum.
As the description states:
“More and more Americans are seeking out locally grown foods, yet one of the real stumbling blocks to their efforts has been finding local sources for grains, which are grown mainly on large, distant corporate farms. At the same time, commodity prices for grains—and the products made from them—have skyrocketed due to rising energy costs and increased demand. In this book, Gene Logsdon proves that anyone who has access to a large garden or small farm can (and should) think outside the agribusiness box and learn to grow healthy whole grains or beans—the base of our culinary food pyramid—alongside their fruits and vegetables.
Starting from the simple but revolutionary concept of the garden “pancake patch,” Logsdon opens up our eyes to a whole world of plants that we wrongly assume only the agricultural “big boys” can grow. He succinctly covers all the basics, from planting and dealing with pests, weeds, and diseases to harvesting, processing, storing, and using whole grains. There are even a few recipes sprinkled throughout, along with more than a little wit and wisdom.”
Small-Scale Grain Raising is quite a good book and well-illustrated. I quite enjoyed the read and the ideas.
Look at the plants in the book cover above.
It almost looks like where I live.
Rich, lush, tropical…
…yet all that amazing growth is taking place under some of the worst gardening conditions.
High altitude, sub-zero winters, poor soil, pine monocultures.
Sepp Holzer isn’t in Costa Rica. He’s located in the Austrian Alps… not a place known for its mild climate and rich soil.
His story is fascinating and his mind is always working.
“Holzer was called the “rebel farmer” because he persisted, despite being fined and even threatened with prison, with practices such as not pruning his fruit trees (unpruned fruit trees survive snow loads that will break pruned trees). He has created some of the world’s best examples of using ponds as reflectors to increase solar gain for passive solar heating of structures, and of using the microclimate created by rock outcrops to effectively change the hardiness zone for nearby plants. He has also done original work in the use of Hügelkultur and natural branch development instead of pruning (see Fruit tree pruning) to allow fruit trees to survive high altitudes and harsh winters.
He is currently conducting permaculture (“Holzer Permaculture“) seminars both at his Krameterhof farm and worldwide, while continuing to work on his alpine farm. His expanded farm now spans over 45 hectares of forest gardens, including 70 ponds, and is said to be the most consistent example of permaculture worldwide. In the past he has experimented with many different animals. As a result of these experiments, there is a huge role for animals in Holzer Permaculture. For example, Holzer is using pigs to dig new beds. This is a very effective way of digging, as the only thing he has to do is to throw some corn and fruit on the spot he wants dug up. A couple of days later, he can bring the pigs back to their enclosure and plant new plants in the bed. Holzer is able to successfully grow his plants without using any fertilizer.”
In his book, Holzer talks about dealing with problematic government officials, working with trees inside complete ecosystems, building simple but excellent shelters with logs and other found materials, cultivating mushrooms and livestock and more. It’s inspiring, even if you don’t share his climate (which I obviously don’t).
Sepp has also experimented extensively with creating microclimates, which is a particular fascination of mine.
If you are looking for ideas, love permaculture, appreciate genius or all of the above, pick up a copy of Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture. It’s excellent.
Is it wrong to promote one of my own books?
Because Capitalism is the best “ism” (as my friends at Crypto.Fashion say).
The main reason I’m promoting one of my own books this week is because my publisher has just released it in paperback.
The third book in my “Good Guide” series… Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics can now be purchased in fully compostable paper!
“Have you ever wished you could grow mangoes, coffee, oranges and other delicious tropical plants… but find yourself limited by a less-than-tropical climate? If you long for Key lime pies at Christmas, or homegrown bananas at breakfast, you’re not alone! Expert gardener and mad scientist David The Good fought for years to figure out how grow tropical plants hundreds of miles outside their natural climate range… and he succeeded!
In PUSH THE ZONE: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics, David the Good shares his successes and failures in expanding plant ranges, and equips you with the knowledge you need to add a growing zone or two to your own backyard. Based on original research done in North Florida, PUSH THE ZONE is useful for northern gardeners as well. Discover microclimates in your yard, use the thermal mass of walls to grow impossible plants and uncover growing secrets that will change your entire view of what can grow where!”
Featuring a foreword by Dr. David Francko, the author of PALMS WON’T GROW HERE AND OTHER MYTHS.”
Though Push the Zone doesn’t have the wide appeal of Compost Everything, Grow or Die or even Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, it was a book I had to write for the hard-core plant geeks. The experimenters. The loonies.
The fun of growing things where “they don’t belong” has compelled me for years and I had much more success than I originally thought was possible.
Yes, you CAN grow coffee in North Florida, citrus in the middle of Georgia and peaches in Canada.
If that sort of thing interests you, pick up your copy here.
I’ve always loved wandering through the woods and breathing in the damp, oxygen-rich air, fragrant with the aroma of fungi and growing things.
A forest is almost like a large, multi-faceted organism. It recycles nutrients, holds together the soil, provides myriad nooks and crannies for animal and insect life, breaks down rocks into soil, brings up water from deep beneath the earth and provides man with fruits and nuts, wood, game and an escape from the blazing sun.
With some clever planning, a forest can be constructed deliberately to maximize food production while still serving the many other functions of a wild system.
That’s where food forests come in.
I’ve read extensively on the food forest concept and helped build multiple food forests in my home state of Florida.
Here in the tropics, I have plans for a new one – eventually – but even if you don’t live in a warm climate, you can create a marvelous and edible forest garden.
After all, Robert Hart planted the first and most famous forest garden in Shropshire, England.
The tropics may be loaded with a massive array of species, yet temperate regions also support stunning forests.
For cutting edge research with temperate food forests, it’s hard to beat the work of Martin Crawford. His book Creating a Forest Garden is an inspiration for gardeners in colder climates.
Crawford covers groundcovers, shrubs, canopy species, fungi, insectary plants, planning and lots more.
The only downside to this book, in my opinion, is that Crawford succumbs to the climate change fear-mongering which has been pushed on us relentlessly over the last few decades.
Of course, if that sort of thing worries you, planting a forest garden is a good way to create a more stable ecosystem long term. It’s certainly a good way to mitigate heat and cold, floods and drought. Forests can take a bigger beating than say, a field of sweet corn can.
Climate aside, the knowledge and ideas in this book are worth the price of admission – I’m glad to have a copy – Martin Crawford knows his plants and their uses as well as how to make them work together in a forest garden.
Imagine planting a vegetable garden once: perennial vegetables allow you do do just that.
I fell in love with the idea of perennial vegetables years ago when I discovered the ability asparagus has to come back year after year.
That doesn’t mean I had success growing it – not in Florida, at least – but the idea of planting something and getting harvests again and again was appealing to me.
Unlike beans, tomatoes, corn, broccoli, lettuce and the many other vegetables most of us rush to plant in the spring, then rush to harvest in their season, perennial vegetables allow the gardener to pace himself.
Sweet potatoes were the first perennial vegetable I had luck with. Though normally grown as an annual, they’re perennial in South Florida where I grew up.
I was in charge of taking care of a neighbor’s lovely yard for a year while she and her husband and daughter lived on their houseboat in some exotic port. She said “if anything dies, just fill in the space with something nice.”
When some of the petunias gave up, I planted sweet potatoes in her front planter.
They rapidly took over, filling the space with green rambling vines.
Mrs. Campbell was not happy with me when she returned home. The potatoes were harvested and she replanted ornamentals… but something funny happened. Vines kept popping back up. Every little piece of root left in the ground sprouted.
I think it took her a year to eradicate them completely.
But hey – that’s easy food, right? Maybe it wasn’t in the right place (sorry, Mrs. Campbell) but they are a wonderful perennial vegetable.
When I discovered Eric Toensmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy-to-Grow Edibles I spent hours reading and thinking about the possibilities.
And then I started hunting down and planting many of them.
I’ve grown chaya and kangkong, horseradish and yacon, Chinese yams and Chinese water chestnut… there’s a wonderful world of perennial vegetables once you get started.
Perennial Vegetables is a great book, filled with excellent research and a mouth-watering variety of long-term edibles – many of which will be entirely new to the reader.
Some are temperate species, many are tropical, and many will grow in-between climates.
Eric has grown many of these vegetables in his Massachusetts garden and I grew many of them in Florida.
There are selections for shade and for water gardens. There are beans and roots and leaves and shoots and plenty of great ideas.
If you don’t own this book and you love the idea of planting a garden that lasts and lasts and lasts, I recommend you get a copy and get inspired.
This book is well worth the low price of admission – you’ll pay it back in spades after planting some of these prolific perennials.
I wouldn’t be without it.
Welcome back to The Survival Gardener Book of the Week!
Last week we covered Herrick Kimball’s inspiring garden ideas book… and this week, we’re continuing the series with a very popular gardening book.
Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham is a non-stop seller.
And there’s a reason for that: it’s a dream of many to become self-sufficient; however, they think it takes a lot of space.
Markham’s ideas are based on everything from permaculture to Square Foot Gardening and you’re certain to be impressed by the small amount of space in which he manages to grow tons of food (literally).
Markham also covers chickens and has a section on how to build a simple homemade chicken plucker.
For those of us who are deep into theory and have read widely across the gardening spectrum, Mini Farming reads more as a synthesis of ideas and methods into a successful backyard farming operation.
Brett writes on his website:
“Mini Farming is not a hobby. It is undertaken with a specific economic objective. Unlike a garden, even if the food is produced only for your household, it is run like a business. By that I mean that conscientious efforts are made to adopt methods and materials that minimize costs and labor while maximizing productivity.
Unlike industrial agriculture, the focus in a Mini Farm is sustainability. The whole idea is to move food production local; so outside inputs are minimized. An industrial farm might adopt a labor-intensive method that makes economic sense only because of the ability to import immigrant labor at $2/hour; or it might adopt a fertilizer-intensive approach that only makes sense with a specific variety of a given crop. Mini farming focuses on building and then maintaining long-term soil fertility using natural processes. By doing this, even if there is no fertilizer to be had or a specific plant variety becomes unavailable, your food output isn’t compromised.
The idea, too, is self-sufficiency. The future holds economic turmoil from a lot of different directions and the impacts and timing are unpredictable. You want to be able to supply a vital necessity for yourself and your family without being inordinately dependent on materials being trucked in from 1500 miles away or shipped on a slow boat from China. The more you can do yourself, the better.”
I like that approach.
As the book description reads:
“Mini Farming describes a holistic approach to small-area farming that will show you how to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre—and earn $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require.”
It really is a cool system. Get the book on Amazon here.
This week, we’ll cover a book by another one of my mentors – a man I’m also lucky enough to call a friend.
Let’s face the dirty truth: gardening books are often boring. And good gardening ideas are few and far between.
Sure, there’s the occasional laughter-inducing tome, such as Ruth Stout’s epic Gardening Without Work… or the infectious enthusiasm for geometric horticultural engineering found in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening.
But most gardening books do little to stir the mind.
How many time do we need to be told the proper C/N ratio of compost? Or the spacing of beans? Or the cold-tolerance of kale.
We Gooders are looking for more. We need the burning vision of a Sepp Holzer to stir us… or the green vistas of Geoff Lawton’s food forest Edens.
Today’s book nestles in the sweet spot somewhere between the down-to-earth and the skyward-reaching tendrils of imagination.
If you’re looking for gardening ideas, this is the book for you.
Herrick Kimball is the inventor of the Whizbang Chicken Plucker, the Whizbang Wheel Hoe, the Whizbang Cider Press the Whizbang Garden Cart and he’s the maker of Classic American Clothespins that are better than their high-strung ancestors.
But… on to this week’s book!
I first had the chance to read The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners during the cold days of winter back in 2014 and found it to be a great inspiration for the upcoming gardens of 2015.
This is truly a book of ideas. If you’re a DIY person, a dreamer, a tinkerer or an experimenter… Kimball sets forth a big batch of homemade and home-tested ideas and basically says “Here – take these gifts and build with them and on them!”
Gardening ideas covered include remarkably inexpensive and sturdy T-post trellises, tri-grown carrots, refurbishing antique garden hoes (which I have done myself with great success!), creating biochar, building solar pyramids, siphon-tube rain barrels and a lot more.
Along with the many ideas and profuse illustrations, Kimball includes snippets and essays from vintage gardening books, letters, almanacs and bulletins. The wisdom of the past twines through the pages, reflecting Kimball’s Christian Agrarian philosophy of working with his hands and caring for the land generationally.
Mineralization, tool design, insect control – the gardening ideas are introduced to the reader one after the other, daring him to set down the book and get out in the workshop or garden with a brilliant new plan.
The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners is my kind of book – and I think you’ll like it too.
You can get a copy here.
Today I’m announcing a new regular feature: The Survival Gardener Library!
Every Friday I’ll feature a book of the week worth adding to your library. We’ll focus on gardening, homesteading, food forests, permaculture and wild plant foraging and maybe even throw in the occasional book from out there in left field.
I’ve been a book collector since I was a child and those books shaped the man I am today. From the Animals Without Backbones to The Foundation Trilogy to Florida Gardening to The Lord of the Rings, books have uplifted and inspired me over the years.
And that doesn’t even count the book that has impacted me the most: The Holy Bible. If you don’t have that book yet, go get one.
This week we’ll start the series with the must-have book Scorpions of Medical Importance:
Oh wait, no, that’s not it. I’m sorry.
This week we feature Steve Solomon’s classic:
I consider Steve Solomon my mentor.
We finally got the chance to meet via Skype a couple of months ago and he is brilliant in person as well. The man’s mind is a machine – yet his books are easy to read, accessible, and almost always practical.
Steve has gardened organically for years in a variety of climates. He’s farmed, run a seed company and written multiple books. I own them all, with the exception of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades – though you can bet your broadfork I’d buy that one too if I lived within a thousand miles of the region.
Gardening When it Counts teaches you to grow food without breaking the bank or your back. It will open your eyes to the value of wide spacing, sharp tools and traditional methods.
Reading Steve is like learning from a wise grandfather who has been there, done that, and grown the potatoes.
If you don’t own this book and you are a gardener, you should.
Go get a copy. Read it. Learn from Steve – he knows his stuff.
*Original featured photo by my friend Jean.
Jonelle needs help gardening in Plant City:
“We have about 3.5 acres of lawn-ish, peppered with what we have been told is called bull grass. Our drain field for our septic is covered in Dog fennel, we have been told. It drives my husband crazy, so he has been hacking at it, but it is slow going. I’m not sure what to do about it, since I don’t really want to grow vegetables on my septic… But any ideas of how to get rid of it and prevent it returning would be great.
Our house front door faces west, and the South and East sides of the land are bordered by Lowlands, according to the property appraiser’s office. I would love to figure out if there is anything good already there, or if I can use it to do some food forestry.
I have bought some seeds, see attached, but now I am at a loss as to where to plant them. With lawn, I’m thinking raised beds might be fastest, since we are renting and just moved in Feb 1. I don’t have time to smother the lawn with all our moving boxes. I got a couple pots of herbs : stevia, and a combo pot of basil, oregano, thyme and Parsley. Oh, and I have Everglades tomato seeds on their way.
Any ideas would be welcome. This place has so much potential, I’m drowning. We are also thinking about chickens, (hubby also wants to do rabbits) since there are some kind of pens on the south side of the property, almost in the woods. And I’m considering red wigglers to help compost.”
Well, let’s see what we can do!
Plant City is the strawberry capital of the world, so there is definitely good agricultural potential there. The climate is mild and supports a wide range of fruit trees and vegetables; however, the summers are quite hot and freezes do sometimes occur in the winter.
Here’s an overhead view of the property:
All that bare ground makes for very hot conditions, but as it’s a rental it’s probably not worth adding in some more shade for now.
It’s definitely worth hunting through the woods for useful and edible species.
Chances are there are wild berries, smilax, edible cacti and maybe even some edible and medicinal mushrooms. You could also plant some species but be sure you don’t introduce anything that can mess up the native ecosystem.
If dog fennel is driving you nuts, get yourself a machete and hack them down, then keep the area mowed. Personally, I leave wild patches of dog fennel and other “weeds” on purpose as they provide hiding spaces for beneficial insects as well as forage areas for birds and butterflies.
Lawn is a low-level ecosystem.
Scrubby prairie with a mix of species is better and will keep your nearby gardens healthier.
One way to kill down an area if you want to garden it later: just mow the area and put down some of this woven plastic weed barrier through the summer. In fall, you’ll have a great, clear place to plant. I love that material – it’s much better than regular black plastic and lasts for years and years. It also allows air and rain through but completely suppresses weeds. Put down a strip where you want a garden and let the sun do the rest.
I simply loathe raised beds in Florida. They aren’t a good option. They get too hot too quickly, plus they need more watering than in-ground beds. You’re better off just digging a patch of ground to loosen it, then planting there. No borders required.
I used cinder blocks to edge my perennial beds but if I had it to do again, I wouldn’t even do that.
Here are the seeds Jonelle bought for 2017’s gardens:
It’s too late to plant most of those selections. The heat will kill almost all of them within the next month or so.
What you can plant now, though, is the long beans and the cowpeas. They’ll sail through the heat. Plant the Roselle as well – it should do fine. You can try Seminole pumpkins but my gut says it’s too late.
Most everything else I would wait until October/November to plant as the heat goes down.
We get two main gardening seasons in Florida: Late winter through spring, then fall through early winter. Some winters you can grow peppers and cucumbers right through by throwing a few sheets over the gardens during the occasional freeze, but other winters get too cold and will kill things off. Plant City is very mild, though, so you can probably push those winters.
Basil and stevia should grow, but keep the stevia well-watered and in part shade. The summer heat really roasts it. Basil is a lot tougher.
I recommend digging some beds through the summer and planting them with cowpeas and peanuts as you finish them, then turning under the plants in fall and growing your gardens on them. Or you can just tarp areas with that landscape fabric and plant them. I am a fan of cover cropping, though, as it keeps the ground alive and adds nitrogen and organic matter.
We tried rabbits and I gave up on them. Your husband may do better than we did, though. The maintenance, the random deaths and the infrastructure really was a mess – I was glad to see them go.
Chickens are also a pain in Florida as there are a lot of predators. That said, a good, strong coop can keep them safe and happy. I wouldn’t free-range them, though, as they will get killed. Dogs, hawks, owls, possums, foxes, coons, rats… everything likes to eat chicken. Here are my thoughts on housing chickens.
Most of my experiences with keeping livestock have been losses. The fresh eggs and meat are good, but the cost of feed, housing, losses through predation, etc., make the animals more expensive than they’re really worth. Plants have always yielded much better for me. A bed of sweet potatoes doesn’t need much babysitting!
Now worms? Easy! Too bad they don’t make eggs or (good) meat!
I used to raise mine inside an old dishwasher – you can see how here.
The castings are great, though you need a lot of worms to get enough castings for serious gardening projects. I really enjoyed keeping worms, though, and having them turn kitchen waste into amazingly rich compost.
In order to succeed at Florida gardening, you need to learn proper timing for planting, plus make sure you keep the ground constantly fed.
This method works really well in Florida sand:
Just DON’T add any straw, hay or manure, or “garden soil,” or compost from off-site. You need to make your own. Florida is absolutely infested with commercial farmers using toxic long-term herbicides that will utterly destroy your garden for a couple of years. It’s in almost everything now, even bagged manures. Throw some on, and your garden dies. It’s insane. Just read this story from a fellow gardener. I read new reports of dead gardens all the time. It’s better to make your own compost, which is something you can do over the hot months of summer. Pile up all the grass clippings and leaves you get from your yard and let them rot down. If you can get some clay anywhere nearby, add it to your compost piles. It will make the compost “stick” and last a lot longer. Florida compost breaks down really fast without any clay in it.
And, finally, have fun. If you don’t have my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, buy it. It will give you a huge head start.
As Jen wrote in a recent review:
“Just received this book and have already begun going through it & David the Good is so right! So many Florida gardeners have the best of intentions when beginning their garden, but often don’t do as well & get discouraged along the way due to choosing the wrong fruiting/nut trees & plants. This book is well organized, and is a quick & easy read for those of you who don’t love reading. David makes Florida gardening so easy! He has taken the guess work out of gardening–and let’s face it–there’s a lot of guess work if you just go to your local nursery–as there are a lot of trees & plants that will survive in your area–but they won’t thrive–and they certainly won’t provide lots of food. David has done all the legwork for us! He has literally tried to grow just about everything–including trees & plants from other continents–some with much success! David’s book is all about sharing with you what works, to make Florida gardening easy–not a chore you dread! This book will recommend the fruits & veggies that not only survive, but thrive in Florida–with minimal care. If you want to be a successful Florida gardener, you need to get this book! I absolutely love it!“
Good luck, Jonelle, and as always – if you need help, stop on by and ask questions. I’ll keep you growing as best as I can.
*Image at top adapted from a photo by WalterPro4755. CC License.