Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include:
First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purchase of Featherman Poultry Processing Equipment, including pluckers, knives and more!
Second Prize: A 164' roll of electric poultry netting from Kencove valued at $140!
Third Prize: A large heirloom pack of assorted seeds from Baker Creek (northern or southern region) plus a copy of Jere and Emilee Gettle's recently published book The Heirloom Life Gardener.Valued at $125!
Fourth Prize: A $55 gift certificate good toward any purchase at Lehman's!
Round 1 ends began January 15 and ends March 15 so GET BUSY WRITING and email your entry to us today!
It's spring nursery catalog time... time to snuggle next to the wood burning stove and dream of your next garden / landscape. Or, You’ve moved into a new place and it hasn’t been landscaped yet., or your constantly pruning (and wondering why) your current landscaping that looks like everyone else’s. Either situation why plant something that just looks pretty, and still requires maintenance? (perhaps even higher maintenance than some of the alternatives listed)
Many people have flowering quince bushes for spring flowers. Did you know that quince is a fruit bearing bush or tree? Why plant a variety that only flowers? Toyo-Nishiki is a unique Japanese variety; Toyo-Nishiki produces a spectacular display of red, white, and pink flowers which can all appear on one branch. After the flowers, you can harvest the fruit and make delicious syrup and jam. Or the Contorted Quince an especially attractive selection, Contorted is prized for its compact growth habit; it’s white and pink flowers, and its unusual contorted branch structure. A naturally dwarf plant, Contorted grows to only about 3 ft. in height. Contorted also bears abundant crops of medium size fruit. It also provides beauty in the winter with its contorted shape.
Speaking of Spring flowering shrubs, if you’re living in the South, you either have or want Dogwoods. We just love the beautiful under story tree. But instead of just having pink or white dogwoods (or even the ones with red branches for winter), why not plant Cornelian Cherry Dogwood. It is native to Ukraine and other regions around the Black Sea. Growing as a shrub or small tree, it is valued for its tasty fruit and for its ornamental value. It is very high in Vitamin C and is good for fresh eating, preserves, juice, and wine.
You have cherries or strawberries that the birds harvest before you do. Why not plant a Contorted Mulberry This very rare and unique Mulberry grows only 6-8 ft. tall with gnarled and twisted branches. Enjoy this beautiful and unusual effect especially after leaves fall. An added benefit is the small, tasty, sweet black fruit. Birds like Mulberries more than cherries and strawberries so use it for a “target” tree. Again, like the Contorted Quince it provides for the winter garden also.
Another scrub that provides beauty in the winter, and delicious fruit is the contorted Jujube; (also know as the Chinese Date). The date-like fruits may be picked under-ripe, at the cost of sweetness. The taste is somewhere between a dried apple and a date; more like an apple in the early stages of ripeness, more like a date in its wrinkled, later stages. The jujube is only partly self-fertile: cross-pollination increases productivity. The jujube must have very hot summers to fruit, and in fact there seems to be no such thing as too much heat for a jujube. It tolerates alkaline soil, salinity, and drought. The inconspicuous flowers come late; pollinators seem to be wind and insects other than bees. So: a semi-dwarf with an ornamental, zig-zagging branch pattern; ripens mid-season. A very ornamental version of jujube which also bears delicious fruit. Use another variety as a pollinizer.
A little note… I admit I like things that are triple (flowers, fruit and winter beauty) service. I’ve listed 3 contorted plants that also have “normal” configuration. We also have a contorted hazelnut (also know as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick - but it doesn’t provide the amount of nuts the other verities do so didn’t list it), and a contorted locus (it’s not just a beautiful tree during the whole year, but it’s also a great bee supply for the bees ((which we also keep)) to make honey so it’s still a edible landscape in the broadest sense)). We do have other jujubes (for pollinization), a couple other mulberries for target trees and a couple other fruiting quinces again while the fruiting quince is self pollinating, it has more fruit when you plant more than one variety. We’ve also ordered Flying Dragon. Flying Dragon is a unique and exotic Citrus relative, Flying Dragon is a deciduous, very dwarf tree with attractively contorted branches and equally attractive, hook shaped thorns. Flying Dragon bears yellow, 2” diameter fruits that yield juice that can be used as a lemon-like seasoning. In China we have seen Flying Dragon used as a compact, impenetrable hedge. Flying Dragon is reportedly hardy to minus 20°F and can be grown outside in many areas the Pacific Northwest and other regions of the U.S..
Everyone else has Azaleas or Rhododendrons again for spring bloom. Blueberries have the same requirements for sun and acidity. Blueberries bring delicious fruit as well as striking ornamental beauty to your garden and landscape. Blueberries are easy to grow, require little care and are seldom bothered by pests as well as beautiful spring flowers, brilliant fall color, and a range of sizes and ripening dates. Recent research has also shown that Blueberries are very rich in anthocyanins and antioxidants, which are reported to help prevent cancer and improve eyesight
You want a privacy hedge (either from the road or around your back yard). Instead of red tipped Phoenicias why not create it with Hazelnuts, Serviceberries and Seaberries (or Rosa Rugsoa A vitamin C source par excellence. The hips are often used for tea. The petals are also edible, and sometimes find their way into vinegars, jellies, and potpourri. The Navajo make a tan dye from the leaves and twigs) Hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are fast-growing plant that are often used as a hedge The blue jay, ruffed grouse, and some woodpeckers enjoy a filbert now and then.
Serviceberries have Soft white, 5-petal blossoms come early in spring. Papery, elliptic, toothed leaves; grey bark & twigs. Orangey fall colors. Fruits resemble blueberries, the largest reaching 5/8" across. The Sea berry (or Sea Buckthorn) fruits are loaded with vitamins C and A, and not too shabby for E either. The fruit is ripe when it is bright orange, usually in September. Sea buckthorn is often used in soil reclamation and conservation, because it has a large root system, and fixes nitrogen from the air. The oil (mostly in the seeds) is reportedly effective in treating burns and other skin problems, and internally for ulcers. Russians are the largest users of the oil as a therapeutic product. The twigs contain an astringent (tannin), and some extract from them has been used to expel intestinal parasites. Chinese and Russian research indicates the bark and oils may contain tumor-inhibiting compounds.
If you (like we do) enjoy roses, instead of the hybrid Tea (with its multiple disease problems) why not plants Rosa Rugosa? This special rose not only produces an abundance of large, very fragrant single flowers from summer through autumn, it is loaded with large tasty red hips. The foliage is deep green and disease resistant making these bushes, month after month, a collage of white, red and green.
You’ve seen (or have) the Bradford Pear. While it looks pretty in the spring, that’s all. Why not plant a Seckel pear? The famous small but very sweet, heavy setting variety known as the sugar pear. It has yellow russetted skin and extraordinary flavor. It ripens in the last of September and is fireblight resistant.
You have a seen a beautiful weeping flowering cherry tree (or another weeping tree), and love the beauty (year around too). Instead of planting a tree that only looks beautiful, why not one that looks beautiful year around plus harvest fruits from it? Why not plant the Weeping Mulberry. is a beautiful accent plant for your yard or in a pot on your deck or patio. This exotic ornamental and fruiting plant will grow to only 6-8 ft. in height. Weeping Mulberry bears small, sweet and tasty, jet black fruit. Weeping Mulberry is hardy to minus 25°F.
How about some biblical fruit that can grow in at least zone 6 (maybe even zone 5)? The Tashkent (we visited there last September and harvested figs ((and pomegranates)) from trees with at least a 6 inch diameter trunk) Fig is from Tashkent Uzbekistan. (Tashkent normally gets to -4° F.) This green fig has an excellent flavor. Raintree brought it from Uzbekistan where it was the heavy producing favorite among many cultivars in the garden of an Uzbek horticulturist. The fruit is green and flesh light colored with an excellent flavor. It thrived in the cold Tashkent winter but hasn't been tried in cold regions in the United States. It has not set well in a maritime climate and prefers areas with hot summers.
We are also trying the Sochi Dwarf Pomegranate. This variety in Southern Russia and have been impressed by its hardiness. And Favorite Pomegranate This variety is also from southern Russia in 1991. A very attractive, medium-size shrub, Favorite has survived temperatures below 10°F. The pretty, bright orange-red blooms appear in early to mid summer and continue until fall. (Southern Russia ((except along the Black Sea coast)) is at best comparable to zone 6))) We also harvested pomegranates while visiting Tashkent. Everyone I asked didn’t know the variety but I suspect Favorite (the shrubs were 8 to 10 feet high) and, they were like the Tashkent Fig, very tasty!.
Another biblical fruit that seems difficult to grow in the States is the date. While I don’t have a suggestion for a “true date”, how about trying the Trebizond Date? This very hardy large and attractive shrub is widely grown in Europe and Asia and is prized for its upright growth habit, willow-like, silver-gray foliage and small, greenish-yellow, very fragrant flowers. A form of Russian Olive, Trebizond Date bears abundant, date-like fruits that are sweet and good for fresh eating and are also very popular dried. Trebizond Date is tolerant to extremes of heat and cold and can be grown as a small tree or prune it back to keep it as a shrub.
Edible Landscaping & Gardening (http://www.efn.org/~bsharvy/edible.html) has an extensive database of edible plants, how they can be used, what their requirements are, what pests to be aware of, what zones they will produce in, how big (both in height and width) they will grow etc.
There is also a forum (currently sparsely populated but would welcome you readily!) at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ediblelandscaping/. Its description is for those who have or would like to replace ordinary landscaping plants with varieties that are edible or otherwise useful in the household - such as medicinal, for crafting, dried or cut flowers, fragrance, teas, etc. We will discuss all aspects of herbal gardens, herbal lawns, wildflower meadows, nut trees, fruits, and vegetables, especially attractive varieties, and how they can be used in the ordinary landscape plan. Marketing of your excess home grown products will be discussed, as well.
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