Preparing and Planting a Bed of Sweet Potatoes

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Planting a bed of sweet potatoes is easy.

Preparing a bed for sweet potatoes is a little harder. That takes some digging and loosening.

Fortunately, my trusty Meadow Creature broadfork is always up to the task.

Digging in sandy soil with a broadfork is easy. In rocky clay, it’s not nearly as easy. It’s basically an extreme sport in clay.

meadow-creature-broadfork

It’s not impossible, though. That bed took me perhaps 45 minutes to prepare, mostly because it takes more stomping on the broadfork than I’m used to, plus I had to bust up the big clods.

Sure, it’s work – but it’s work that needs to be done, especially for root crops.

Why Dig a Garden Bed?

The major reason: loose soil. If the soil structure is open and crumbly, plant roots do a lot better. They can dig deep and get the minerals and water they need without having to force their way through hard earth. You’re doing the hard work first to make their lives easier.

Digging garden beds even works well in sand, as I discovered back in Florida.

DoubleDugAbundantBed

When your plants have easier lives, they’ll spend more time making delicious things for you to eat.

The Initial Feeding

When I prepare a garden bed I rake in compost right at the beginning. In the past I’ve also used amendments such as lime, blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal and kelp meal – all of which are excellent additions to the soil.

Here, though, I can’t get most of those things, so I stick to compost, biochar and sometimes seaweed.

You can see a recent bit of bed prep in this video:

You don’t need a ton of organic matter in the soil. A few percent is fine. I sprinkle perhaps a half-inch cover of compost on a newly dug garden bed and rake or turn it in before I plant. The plants really appreciate compost and it lasts longer and releases its nutrition over time, unlike chemical fertilizer.

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When preparing this garden bed I used my Back to Eden chicken run compost, which is probably hotter than compost from a typical backyard pile. The plants don’t seem to mind, though.

Here’s how I made that compost:

Simple.

Planting a Bed of Sweet Potatoes

This is easy as shoo-fly pie.

Just cut some vines and stick them in.

planting a bed of sweet potatoes

You can start your own sweet potato slips with store-bought sweet potatoes if you don’t have any vines currently growing on your homestead.

Use the toothpicks and a jar method – or – even easier – start potatoes growing by burying them shallowly in a pot of soil, then cut vines off of those to plant.

I use a stick to dig holes, then plant the sweet potato cuttings a few inches deep into them.

They’ll look like they’re going to die for a few days, then they’ll recover as the vines root. Sweet potatoes are tough.

For more on growing sweet potatoes in Florida and why they’re one of my top crops for the Sunshine State, check out my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.

For more on sweet potatoes as a survival crop, plus an in-depth look at various garden designs and their pros and cons, get my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening.

I’ll post a video update on this bed soon – you’ll be amazed by how good these little pieces of vine look after a week or two.

Planting a bed of sweet potatoes takes some prep work, but do that preparation well and you’ll be rewarded with abundant harvests.

Natural Vegetative Strips

natural vegetative strips

I came across a fascinating video on “natural vegetative strips” yesterday.

Check this out:

According to FAO:

“Natural vegetative strips (NVS) are narrow live barriers comprising naturally occurring grasses and herbs. Contour lines are laid out with an A-frame or through the ‘cow’s back method’ (a cow is used to walk across the slope: it tends to follow the contour and this is confirmed when its back is seen to be level). The contours are then pegged to serve as an initial guide to ploughing. The 0.3–0.5 m wide strips are left unploughed to allow vegetation to establish. Runoff flowing down the slope during intense rain is slowed, and infiltrates when it reaches the vegetativestrips. Eroded soil collects on and above the strips and natural terraces form overtime. This levelling is assisted by ploughing along the contour between the NVS – through ‘tillage erosion’ – which also moves soil downslope.
The vegetation on the established NVS needs to be cut back to a height of 5–10 cm: once before planting a crop, and once or twice during the cropping period. The cut material can be incorporated during land preparation, applied to the cropping area as mulch, or used as fodder. This depends on whether the farmer has livestock or not, on personal preference, and on the time of cutting. If the grass is applied as mulch or incorporated, the technology can be considered to be an agronomic, as well as a vegetative, measure.

NVS constitutes a low-cost technique because no planting material is required and only minimal labour is necessary for establishment and maintenance. Some farmers had already practiced the technology for several years before the intervention of the ICRAF (The World Agroforestry Centre) in 1993. ICRAF came to realise that farmers here preferred NVS to the recommended ‘contour barrier hedgerows’ of multipurpose trees – which land users viewed as being too labour intensive.”

How is the Practice of Natural Vegetative Strips Different?

 

Imagine hedgerows or alley cropping, then make it simpler.

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All the farmer does is find the contour of their slope, then let the native vegetation grow. It’s rather like Inga Alley Cropping, but with grass and weeds instead.

According to FAO, over time, those strips eventually create terraces instead of a steep slope. This illustration from the .pdf shows how:

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I never thought much about swales, runoff and hedges on contour back in Florida. Here in the tropical mountains, things are a lot different and I’m learning all over again.

I can see how this natural vegetative strips idea would work well here by stopping erosion, providing a place for beneficial insects and lessening the slope of the land over time.

I’m filing it for the future.

Trench-Planting Yams

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Let’s see if this works:

The clay here is very hard to dig, particularly near the house where the topsoil is thin and the clay and rocks are abundant.

A local told me to try planting yams in a trench filled with leaves and grass, so I decided to give it a try.

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We’ll see how it turns out. Yams are an EXCELLENT tropical staple crop and figure prominently in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.

If you live in Florida and want a solid calorie crop that produces well and takes almost no work – give yams a try. The trenching isn’t required in a sandy soil.

Just pop bulbils or minisetts in the ground and wait.

Amazing Vertical Forest Buildings Filter Pollution

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These forest buildings were built to reduce pollution and produce clean oxygen for the city:

forest buildings

Via CNET:

“China has pollution problems, and one Italian architect could have some answers.

The Chinese city of Nanjing is getting a Vertical Forest, a set of two buildings stylised with around 1,100 trees and a combination of over 2,500 shrubs and plants.

But it’s not all about how it looks: The Nanjing Towers will absorb enough carbon dioxide to make around 132 pounds (60 kilograms) of oxygen every day, an official press release claimed. China’s Vertical Forest is scheduled to be completed sometime next year.

At the time of writing, Nanjing has an air-quality index of 167, which categorises it as “unhealthy.” For reference, Sydney and New York both have “moderate” indexes of around 60, while London sits at about 100, teetering between “moderate” and “unhealthy.”

It’ll be the third city to get a Vertical Forest, following ones built in Milan, Italy and Lausanne, Switzerland.”

There is a video included with the article which you can see here:

There’s another video which shows more of the features of these verdant verticals here:

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The towers are powered (I assume in part, not completely) by air and solar and the forest portions are allegedly watered by greywater.

According to the architect’s website:

Vertical Forest is a model for a sustainable residential building, a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory. It is a model of vertical densification of nature within the city that operates in relation to policies for reforestation and naturalization of large urban and metropolitan borders. The first example of the Vertical Forest composed of two residential towers of 110 and 76 m height, was realized in the centre of Milan, on the edge of the Isola neighbourhood, and hosts 900 trees (each measuring 3, 6 or 9 meters) and over 20.000 plants from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants distributed in relation to the façade’s position towards the sun. On flat land, each Vertical Forest equals, in amount of trees, an area of 7000 m2 of forest. In terms of urban densification the equivalent of an area of single family dwellings of nearly 75.000 m2. The vegetal system of the Vertical Forest aids in the construction of a microclimate, produces humidity, absorbs CO2 and dust particles and produces oxygen.

Biological habitats Vertical Forest increases biodiversity. It helps to set up an urban ecosystem where different kinds of vegetation create a vertical environment which can also be colonised by birds and insects, and thus becomes both a magnet for and a symbol of the spontaneous recolonisation of the city by vegetation and by animal life. The creation of a number of Vertical Forests in the city will be able to create a network of environmental corridors which will give life to the main parks in the city, bringing the green space of avenues and gardens and connecting various spaces of spontaneous vegetation growth.

Mitigations Vertical Forest helps to build a micro-climate and to filter dust particles which are present in the urban environment. The diversity of the plants helps to create humidity, and absorb CO2 and dust, produces oxygen, protects people and houses from the suns rays and from acoustic pollution.”

 

I like the idea of forest buildings. I imagine you could really “push the zone” on the south-facing wall of a building like this, as they would be located inside the heat sink of surrounding urban development.

The next step would be to grow edible plants and trees, though you’d have to be careful about avocados falling 500 feet and turning some sidewalk stroller’s brains into guacamole.

 

*Original article h/t The Drudge Report

*Image via architect’s site

Herrick Tries My Compost System in His “Minibeds on Plastic” Garden

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I just saw this last night over at Upland:

 

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“After pulling up those tillage radishes, and seeing several other plants in the garden that could be pulled and tossed into my compost pile, it occurred to me that I should try composting some of the garden waste in a minibed. This isn’t an original idea with me. I saw it mentioned recently in a YouTube video by my gardening friend, David The Good

David and his family are living (and gardening) among the natives in a mysterious undisclosed Caribbean location. You can subscribe to David’s YouTube Channel and follow the adventure. Every so often, you’ll see him sporting a Planet Whizbang hat in his videos. That always puts a smile on my face.
It seems like a good and logical idea to pile garden waste in a minibed and let it compost down. But I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that a compost pile will not “work” unless it is at least a 36″ square cube in size. The minibeds are only 30″ square, and the bed frame is only 3-1/2″ high. That’s hardly big enough.
But I don’t call it a Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden for nothing. 
I rounded up a variety of old and mostly mushy vegetation from my garden and made a pile in Minibed E7 (please refer now to your copy of The Report to locate minibed E7). Into the pile I put the tillage radishes, along with beet tops, kale tops, carrot tops, chard tops, broccoli tops,  buckwheat straw (from a cover crop I planted last year), and some odd tree leaves. 
I cut up some of the bigger pieces of vegetation with a knife before adding it to the pile. Here’s a picture…
That’s quite a pile, but it will settle down considerably in time. It is best to cover a compost pile in order to maintain a steady moisture level, so I put a piece of 1mil black plastic over the top…
One tire sidewall on top, four on the sides, and the plastic will stay in place. I’ll push my compost thermometer into the pile in the spring and see if it has any heat to it. It might not, and if not, I think I will redistribute the contents into bed E6, while mixing in some high-nitrogen feathermeal.
The feathermeal is vile-smelling, but it does a fine job of getting a compost pile hot (and I just happen to have half a 55-gallon drum of the stuff). 
As I contemplate this minibed compost pile, I think it might be a good idea to make some sort of frame extensions and stack them up so I have a compost bin that is more of a 30″ cube in size. Perhaps something along the lines of my Lee Reich compost bins would work.”
I think this compost pile will work fine. It may not get that hot, but it will break down and feed that soil. I also believe that colder piles make better compost – or at least, more compost.
“Hot composting usually only yields about 25% to 33% cured compost per unit of built material volume. In contrast, Ecology Action (EA) has found that cold compost can yield about 35% more cured compost per unit of built material.”
That said, I think you could still get a pretty hot compost pile even if it’s smaller than the oft-cited hot composting magic size of one cubic yard.
Have you ever cut grass and then waited a day or so to rake up the piles? Even small piles – we’re talking less than 12″ thick – of grass can get warm inside. I think that feather meal is going to do the trick.
Finally – if you want to know what Herrick’s whole “Minibeds on Plastic” experiment is all about, you can buy Herrick’s report on it here.
I got a copy and hope to read it this week when I get a chance.

Does Composting Destroy Weed Seeds?

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Does composting destroy weed seeds?

We are regularly assured by composting experts that hot composting destroys seeds… yet I have some pumpkins that beg to differ:

composting destroy weed seeds

Those pumpkins grew as volunteers from one of my compost piles a few years ago. Granted, it wasn’t a regularly turned pile, meaning that they probably missed the hottest part of the compost… but how many of you have turned your compost regularly and still had little tomatoes or weeds pop up in it?

My bet is ALL of you.

Here’s an example of “hot composting kills weed seeds” advice from Aggie Horticulture:

“The composting process also naturally kills weed seeds. Properly managed, a compost pile should easily reach 140°F, which breaks down all organic matter, including weed seeds.”

They recognize the difficulty, though, as the next line reads:

“The key word is properly.”

My bet is that few gardeners reach that lofty, “proper” goal.

Why Our Backyard Compost Doesn’t Kill Weed Seeds

 

compost destroy weed seeds

A typical backyard compost heap isn’t insulated or turned often enough to maintain heat and rotate all the viable seeds in the compost through the hot center of the pile.

Yes, the heat generated by thermophilic bacteria in a hot compost pile is high enough to destroy seeds, but getting every bit of your compostable materials hot enough to kill the seeds takes very good compost management.

My old pile didn’t do it. It was built from reclaimed landscape logs with too many gaps to get everything hot. Plus, turning it was a pain.

I imagine if you owned a cement truck and packed the barrel of it with a proper mix of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials, then rotated it every day or so, and perhaps insulated the inside with foam, you could get that compost to heat up perfectly.

I’m joking. A bit.

My composting methods have gone from complicated to simple over the years as I’ve realized creating perfect compost doesn’t really matter.

Nature doesn’t create perfectly sifted, totally rotten-down brown humus. No, she throws logs and leaves on the ground. There’s always some finished material and some fresh material, some fungi eating at this and some insect boring away at that.

But let me back up. What prompted today’s post?

This Viewer Asked a Question

There was a comment that prompted today’s great big post on weed seeds in compost. Four words that led to 1145 words:

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Martha asked this question on this anaerobic compost tea video I posted back in the summer:

My answer was:

“Good question. I try to avoid throwing plants with mature seeds into the tea. They never seem to get completely killed in hot compost piles, either, though, even though we hear all the time that “hot composting kills weed seeds!” It’s probably true for the ones in the middle of the pile, but I’m always getting volunteer tomatoes, wheat from straw, weeds, and pumpkins popping up even from hot piles. My guess is that this tea method will rot down most of the seeds if it sits long enough but not all of them.”

It takes a lot of faith in your compost-fu to deliberately throw in weedy materials, no matter how you’re composting.

If you have spiny pigweed going to seed in your food forest, do you really think you’ll be able to throw that in your compost bin and then use the resulting compost in your spring gardens?

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Do you want to take that risk?

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But I Compost the Right Way!

That’s fine – I appreciate the thermometer and sifter brigade.

To those about to compost, I salute you!

I am totally sure that I could destroy weed seeds by hot composting if I thought it out properly. My interest, however, is more in gardening than in the processes that lead up to it. Making “perfect” looking compost isn’t as important to me as growing corn, pumpkins, beans, yams and fruit trees. I also don’t like spending money to make perfect systems.

If you enjoy it, that’s fantastic. I love the smell, look and taste (well, maybe not taste) of finished compost. I made some nice-looking stuff myself this year and just sifted it the other day:

composting destroy weed seeds

I made that compost with almost no work, though. No thermometers, no turning, no measuring ratios of carbon/nitrogen to get that 25/1 mix. No, I just threw it all on the ground in one of my garden beds.

And – oh YES – LOTS of seeds came up in it! Enough to start my new fruit tree nursery.

I view this as a feature, not a bug. Sometimes I just let compost piles turn into garden beds since there are so many volunteer edibles coming up.

But What About Killing Weed Seeds???

Right – that’s what you all want to know, right? How CAN you compost those pesky weedy plants?

Weed_Bouquet_3

My favorite method is to keep them out of the compost piles and gardens altogether.

In my former food forest I would just chop down weeds and throw them on the ground around my fruit trees and other shrubs. If they self-seeded and came back, I’d chop them down again.

Unlike delicate annual garden plants such as lettuce and cabbage, trees and shrubs don’t need to be perfectly weeded in order to produce. I just knocked down the weeds again and again, and every time I did, guess what?

Those fallen weeds rotted into humus.

Nature does this all the time. The winter freezes come once a year and toast all the weeds, letting them fall down and rot into the soil, improving it. The Bible instructed the children of Israel to let their land go completely fallow one year out of seven. Weeds regenerate the soil, as I’ve written before.

If you want to use weeds to feed your gardens, you’ll have much better luck in a no-till system where you throw a pile of seedy weeds on the ground, then cover them up with mulch… and then DON’T TILL!

If you till, you’ll bring those seeds up to the light and warmth and they’ll go crazy in your eggplants. Beneath a layer of mulch, however, they’ll eventually rot away safely.

Compost_960-webThat’s my two cents on composting destroying weed seeds. Yes, it can – but most of us aren’t doing it “properly,” so don’t trust too much in the magic of compost to pile-drive your pesky pigweed problems.

Personally, I prefer cold composting anyhow as I believe it keeps more of the good stuff in the pile instead of steaming away into the air. Nature almost always cold composts, and while that process takes longer I think it’s a simpler and gentler method.

Then again, I may just be lazy.

You decide.

And go get my book Compost Everything if you really want to transform your thinking on the wonders of composting. It’s even available as an audiobook, read by me.

And it’s funny.

Supercharging Garden Beds with Biochar and Compost

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Biochar and compost, my friends. That’s what I’m doing this time.

And… freshly tilled garden beds are irresistible to chickens. Little punks.

biochar and compost and a chicken

Yesterday I shared how we started working the garden beds, along with a video. Today I have a follow-up video, plus a deeper look at my experiments.

After seeing Steven’s success with biochar and leeks – and after getting really sick and tired of how gluey the clay can get here – I’ve decided to make lots of charcoal to add to my beds.

biochar and compost

I did an open burn and managed to get over 15 gallons of biochar. It’s mostly from fast-burning materials like palm fronds and bamboo, with a big of hardwood and random sticks thrown in.

Charging Biochar

If you throw charcoal directly into your beds it soaks up the minerals for a time, lowering or even eliminating your yields; however, if you “charge” it first with some minerals and nitrogen, it acts like a reserve in the soil. Or that’s the theory as I understand it.

Being rather insane, I decided to soak the biochar in seawater and Epsom salt. And urine. And some compost. I only soaked it for a couple of hours, though, which may not be enough.

Biochar wasn’t the only amendment I added to the garden beds. I also sifted some compost with my redneck compost sifter, AKA a carefully bent hunk of hardware cloth:

redneck-compost-sifter

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Some of the compost is being reserved for a new batch of potting soil I’m going to make to pot up some of my compost pile fruit trees, but some of it we put in the garden beds along with the biochar. Biochar and compost – what a wonderful combination!

Rachel helped with this part, even after all her vigorous broadforking.

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There are few things I enjoy more than working in the garden with my wife.

Having a task in front of us and getting it done together is better than watching a movie or hanging around smoking a hookah. I think. We’ve never actually smoked a hookah together, so that’s just conjecture, really.

Next on the agenda is planting… when we do that, I’ll share it as well.

Stay warm and have a great Sunday. We’ve been unable to make it to church for weeks now due to our car and I really miss it. I hope you are part of a good fellowship… and also have a working vehicle. Eventually we’ll be back to our normal Sabbath routine. Not worried. We have food, gardens, a beach within two miles walk… hard to feel too bad about a busted car.

And we definitely have “two or more gathered together” in the name of Jesus here on our homestead.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Getting the Gardens Going Again

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Howing-garden-bed

I apologize in advance to those of you dealing with January cold. Maybe this will send some warmth your way.

Back on Wednesday I posted that I was going to say “heck with it” and plant garden beds again even if the house sells before I can harvest.

I liked this comment by dfr2010:

Sounds like you made the right choice. Possible outcomes:

1. You get to harvest what you’ve planted, without moving.
2. You have to move, but get to harvest anyway.
3. You have to move, and someone else moves in … you’ve given them quite the potential house-warming present!

Doesn’t sound like there’s any real downside to me.

Heck, I’ve planted fruit trees across multiple previous properties at this point. People are harvesting and enjoying fruit now that they didn’t have to plant. No loss.

On Wednesday after finishing up some office work I took to the gardens and brought the camera with me.

You can see how I use a garden bed as a compost pile for a period of time, then rotate to another bed. I first did this on a lousy, sandy bed back in North Florida. The crops had done horribly in it, so I thought “hey, why not make THIS space the compost pile instead of piling up compost somewhere else?”

This is a crazy idea I like to call

Using a Garden Bed for a Compost Pile

This works great, as I share in greater detail in Compost Everything.

I don’t bother turning compost anymore.

I just pile up compostable materials and let them rot down over time.

If you do this in a garden bed, all the good nutrition that seeps out of the compost goes right into the soil beneath where your crops will find it when you later rake away the compost and plant the ground. Worms are also drawn to that area by the delicious rotting kitchen scraps.

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Look at this beautiful stuff!

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After letting a bed rot down like this for 6 months to a year, you can then plant right on top… or steal some of that compost for another project, making sure to leave a bit behind for the crops to come.

I sifted out about 3+ gallons of good compost from this bed using a piece of hardware cloth. You can still see some eggshell pieces, or as Rachel calls them, “slow-release calcium”:

beautiful-sifted-compost

This finer compost gets used when I prepare beds, make potting soil and as food for my potted fruit trees.

The rougher chunks that don’t make it through the screen get thrown into the new compost/garden bed. I also chopped-and-dropped a self-planted moringa tree I’ve let grow there.

new-compost-bed

Moringa leaves can be used as a fertilizer all by themselves, so it’s great to have some growing near or even in your garden area.

As for the previous compost bed, I broadforked it with my trusty Meadow Creature broadfork to loosen the soil for planting.

broadforking-old-compost-pile

Look at me! I’ve literally broadforked my head off!

Man alive, it feels good to get in the dirt again. As for the other beds which weren’t covered with compost, I used my grape hoe to get those weeded, then broadforked them as well.

Now I need to supercharge all these beds with long-term soil-building materials.

…but you’ll just have to wait to see how I do that.

Harvesting Rainwater with Swales, Plus Christmas Gift Ideas

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falling-rain

I just posted a video on harvesting rainwater with swales (and cisterns, too):

The swales running through the cocoa orchard slow down water, catch organic matter and fight erosion. They are quite important on slopes.

People used to ask me all the time back in Florida, “have you done anything with SWALES in your food forest?”

No. Because Florida is almost totally flat, so it makes no sense. Plus the ground is sand, so drainage wasn’t a real problem.

Here, though, we have clay soil and steep slopes. When I start my new food forest, I’m definitely adding a lot of earthworks.

I went down to the creek yesterday during a break in the rain. It was swollen and yellow-red with mud. Fortunately, the gap in the weather was long enough that I could capture the view with my paints:

 

It’s been raining like you wouldn’t believe. Yesterday the work area under the house turned into a pond. It’s sunny right now as I type but more clouds are on the horizon.

Christmas Gift Ideas

 

I created a couple of lists some time back with my favorite gardening books and tools on them and keep updating both.

I like to give useful and beautiful gifts at Christmas. Things like books, tools, seeds, pocketknives and creativity-inducing art supplies.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out my list of the best gardening books here. And my list of the best gardening tools here.

As always, if you buy through one of my Amazon links here, I make a little commission and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.

You can do your Christmas shopping at the Amazon home page through this link if you really want to send some love to The Survival Gardener – just bookmark it.

Updates from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Fall 2016

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Updates-south-florida-food-forest

It’s been too long since the last update on The Great South Florida Food Forest Project.

Mom sent me photos from just before Hurricane Matthew limped past the coast. There was no damage after the storm but the clouds in the pictures look amazing.

First, take a look at the tropical almond (background) and the black sapote (foreground, right):

Black-sapote-tropical-almond-florida-food-forest

See that little Senna alata (AKA candlestick cassia) growing to the left of the chocolate pudding fruit tree? We planted some of those when establishing the food forest and they seem to have naturalized… all over the place.

Now take a look at the avocado seedling:

avocado-coconut-palm-florida-food-forest

It’s over 6′ tall now and is a Thai type which makes huge avocados the size of honeydew melons. It just needs to get big so it can start bearing!

Here’s another look at the chocolate pudding fruit tree:

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Definitely getting taller and it looks very happy. Those are passionfruit and yam vines growing in the fence behind it.

Now check out the starfruit tree:cassava-starfruit-florida-food-forest

Mom reports that this tree produces gallons and gallons of fruit twice a year with long harvest seasons. The fruit are very good and sweet. Quite refreshing. Note the cassava on the right side of the image. The fallen sticks all over the ground are chopped-and-dropped Tithonia diversifolia stems. Great food for the soil.

Here’s a good looking chaya growing in front of the neighbor’s fence:

chaya-south-florida-food-forest

That’s the deeply lobed variety as opposed to the maple leaf type. I have both growing in The Great South Florida Food Forest.

Out in the front yard, Dad prepared for Hurricane Matthew by cutting back the acerola cherry:dad-cutting-back-acerola-cherry-florida-food-forest

That tree bears year-round and has sweet fruit. It’s been a huge blessing to my nieces and nephews, not to mention the children of the many friends who visit my parents’ place. They all love fresh-picked cherries!

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Another big blessing has been the mango tree. It bears large crops of fine-fleshed wonderfully sweet orange-fleshed mangoes.

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The ferns on the ground beneath it planted themselves. I love those “accidents” of nature.

Here you can see the mango to the left, coconut palms in foreground left, moringa tree in center and the Thai avocado to the right. Yam vines (Dioscorea alata) are draping across the trees through the center.moringa-avocado-yam-mango-florida-food-forest

Now here’s a nice tree to see: the 6th Street Mulberry is flying!mulberry-south-florida-food-forest

That is going to be a lovely, multi-branched tree. It’s already been bearing fruit. Hard to believe it looked like this not long ago:

MulberryJune8-2013

Here’s a view of the profusion from the other side. Isn’t this MUCH more interesting than a lawn?south-florida-food-forest-2016-fall

Moringa, cassava, mango, yams, sunflowers, mother-in-law tongues, ferns, orchids, starfruit, bananas… it’s a lovely mess of great plants!

Here’s another view of the starfruit with the moringa on its right:starfruit-moringa-florida-food-forest

And back around to the front yard again, on the other side, to see the tamarind and the canistel:tamarind-canistel-south-florida-food-forest

That canistel is now my height (tree in foreground) and the tamarind is almost 4 times my height. I love to see them both growing happily.

If you’re interested in starting your own Florida food forest, you’ll find inspiration and lots of ideas for plant species in my little book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.

FloridaFoodForestsCoverNewBLweb

It’s also available in audiobook form, read by me.

This is a great way to use your property. As the trees mature, you get more and more fruit… for less and less work. My parents aren’t even “plant people” and they greatly enjoy seeing the trees grow and having all the extra fruit to share with friends and family.

Go for it – you have nothing to lose but your boring grass!

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