Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

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Tall Winter Rye In Garden

Planting cover crops to build soil fertility will benefit any garden, big or small. Each season seeds are sowed and the plants are watered and taken care of with the eventual goal to harvest and eat. The soil is what gives the plants the necessary nutrients to grow strong, fight off pests and disease, and produce the best flavored, most nutrient-dense food possible and it requires those nutrients to be given back. Cover crops will give back to the soil.

Some cover crops are capable of adding nitrogen to the soil while others are intended to add a great deal of biomass to the soil; some do both and all of them will help prevent well-built and well-earned soil from eroding. Here we’ll go over the benefits some cover crops provide and give a brief explanation on how and when to plant them.

Green Manure

Cover crops are also referred to as ‘green manure’. At Mad Love Organix we do not have access to manure. We do compost but compost only goes so far. So we stretch out the compost and plant cover crops. The main goal in planting cover crops is to get massive growth in a minimal timeframe when or wherever land is not being used. Rather than having nutrients leach out, nutrients will be stored and preserved and healthy, strong soil will be built.

According to How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method written by J.I. Rodale, both the plant being grown to harvest and the cover crop should be grown in one season. The cover crops can be grown either before or after the harvest crop. This goes back to taking from the soil then giving back. Or as Rodale points out, giving to the soil then taking the harvest. Either way, the cycle will continue.

Nitrogen-Fixing Cover Crops

Legumes, alfalfa, and clover are known for their nitrogen-fixing capabilities. They’re also some of the cover crops I’m most familiar with seeing in Pennsylvania. They possess this magical ability to take nitrogen out of the air with their leaves and transfer it back into the soil with their roots. They also add organic matter to the soil.

According to the Encyclopedia of Gardening by the American Horticultural Society, the amount of organic matter these plants can add may add as much nitrogen as a regular feeding schedule. Due to its low carbon-to-nitrogen ratios, the organic matter breaks down fast making the nitrogen quickly available.

Planting Winter Rye to Add Biomass

Winter rye is a great cover crop to plant in order to add a lot of biomass to the soil the following season. It’s especially great here in the northeast because it protects the soil from eroding over the winter. To get the full benefit of rye it must be planted before September 15th, according to Rodale in his book. If planted after that it will result in too limited of growth to be of benefit.

Last winter our winter rye was less than 12-inches in height. After a few warm days in March and April it sprouted to more than double that. I used a hoe to chop the majority of the plant off the base of the stem, listening to and enjoying the sounds similar to popcorn popping on a stove top. There was so much biomass I had to carry most of it to the compost heap before turning the remaining – and much shorter – winter rye into the soil.


One other cover crop I enjoy growing is buckwheat. Last year a plot of blossoming buckwheat saved some potted golden berries from Colorado potato beetles. But that was just an added benefit. The main benefit of planting buckwheat as a cover crop is its good for “re-building poor soils or restoring acidic soils,” according to Rodale in his book. It also attracts a lot of bees.

Blossoming Buckwheat Plot

How and When to Plant Cover Crops

Cover crops are thrown over the soil, lightly raked in, and watered, but the art of planting cover crops lies in the timing. Other than wanting cover crops to grow massively tall in a short amount of time, cover crops also need to be turned into the soil at the right time. This will maximize the nutrients availability to the plants being grown next.

According to Monty Don in his book The Complete Gardener, three to four weeks should be waited between turning the cover crops into the soil and planting the crops meant to harvest. This is how long the soil will be busy breaking down the cover crop into available nitrogen and other nutrients for the next crop. He also warns to not wait too long because after about a month “most of the benefits will no longer be available.”

They can also be planted during the growing season by planting them in-between the rows right before harvesting time. Or planted in early summer and allowed to grow then be turned into the soil just in time for a fall planting. Or if the garden is real big, half of it can have cover crops growing for a full season to build soil fertility while the other half is used for heavy vegetable production, and vice versa the following year.

At Our Home

Here at Mad Love Organix, we limit our consumption of outside resources to grow food in a self-sustaining manner the best we can. Even though we buy the seeds we make sure to support small businesses and they’re relatively inexpensive in comparison to many other certified-organic fertilizers available on the market.

My favorite benefit of growing cover crops is the simple ability of watching something else grow. After watching a season’s worth of green growth, blossoming flowers, and buzzing bees it can feel lonely looking out to a garden mostly empty, bare, and seemingly life-less. Cover crops keep the action going while the gardener can take a break.

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 2013 garden on March1

Every few years it is good to reevaluate what you are doing. Take a step back and try to look at things with new eyes. Think to yourself --What would happen if I did this? or How would things be if I moved this over to here? That’s what I did with my compost piles and they went from bins made from pallets along the north edge of my garden to piles with no bins on a garden bed as part of my garden rotation. This change began with thoughts of harvesting all the goodness that leached from the piles. Also, my garden methods had changed over the years and once I was harvesting all my compost-making materials from my garden using biointensive methods, it made sense to have the piles on the beds. You can read more about my compost rotation plans at Homeplace Earth.

Each year I plan to have more than 60 percent of my garden planted to cover crops and compost crops that will provide material for compost making. The stalks and straw from corn and small grains are my main carbon sources and the biomass from legumes, such as clover, alfalfa, and winter peas provide material rich in nitrogen. All through the winter my garden is green with cover crops. In the spring I let them grow to maturity, or almost to maturity, and cut them with a sickle, rather than tilling them in earlier and not getting as much as I can from them.

Plants have reached their most biomass when they are flowering and that is the time you would cut (harvest) the legume plants for compost material. The carbon sources of stalks from corn, sunflowers, and Jerusalem artichokes or straw from grains such as wheat and rye are cut at the end of their life cycle. The compost crop I might cut early is winter rye interplanted with a legume. Rather than let it grow until the grain is ready, I cut it when the rye is flowering and leave the plants lie in the bed to provide mulch for the next crop, which is something transplanted, such as corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, or squash. The mulch suppresses weeds and composts in place, gradually feeding the crop now growing in the bed. My DVD Cover Crops and Compost Crops In Your Garden shows me in action through the season managing these crops with hand tools.

Once compost piles were no longer along the north side my garden, other ideas started presenting themselves to me. I could bump out the fence and add a hazelnut hedgerow. There was also room for basket willow, another couple garden beds, and an apple tree. My outdoor washing station moved to that side of the garden. There is still a spot that I’m reserving for a small pond along that north side. You can see all these features on my permaculture map in my book Grow a Sustainable Diet. What will your imagination conjure up for your garden once your compost moves out of the bins and onto the garden beds?

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Rosemary And Shed

My husband and I moved into our current residence about 11 years ago, and with the slightly less than a half-acre property came a blank slate in which to add landscaping, a veggie garden and whatever else we wanted to do within the confines of our city’s municipal code. About a year or so after we moved in we had a 120 square-foot shed built (the largest we could have without a building permit) to store and protect our assortment of gardening equipment and other yard essentials. What the area needed from an aesthetics point of view was some kind of plants around the exterior and base of the shed – some shrubs that did not need a lot of maintenance or water, could handle the sandy, alkaline desert soil, and was fairly fast growing. What I ended up choosing were five Tuscan Blue Rosemary plants.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), a member of the mint family, is a native plant of the Mediterranean region and comes in both upright and prostrate forms making it great as a shrub or groundcover depending on what is needed. Tuscan Blue is a variety of the upright form. Rosemary is evergreen, quite fragrant, has needle-like leaves, and clusters of small flowers in pink, blue, white, or purple depending on the variety or cultivar (guess what? Tuscan Blue has blue flowers).

As it turns out, Rosemary is not only aesthetically pleasing and low maintenance, it also offers a number of other desirable qualities – here are a few of them:

Low-Water Use / Drought Tolerant

I only water the Rosemary via a drip irrigation system with 4-gph emitters, which runs about once per week for about an hour and a half. This is especially good with the current California drought and recent state-wide water restrictions.

Desert Soil Tolerant

Rosemary grows very well in our native desert soil, meaning I don’t have to add any amendments or fertilizers – saving money for these products as well!

Heat, Cold, and Wind Tolerant

The High Desert climate can get fairly hot in the summertime – I’ve seen it as high as 117 degrees F, although normal summer temperatures are in the upper 90s and low 100s. Winters can get chilly – usually down into the 20s, but often enough into the upper teens, and rarely into single digits. Wind happens in the desert a lot, and this time of the year it seems to be non-stop! Whether it is hot or cold, wind can be drying to many plants, but Rosemary isn’t phased at all.

Attractive to Honey Bees

The flowers of Rosemary are very attractive to honey bees. The fact that it blooms in late winter and early spring is a great way to provide bees with nectar during a part of the year where few other flowers are available other than my fruit trees.


My Ducks Love It

About five years ago I acquired a couple of female ducklings. Ever since they have been old enough to lay eggs, their favorite nesting spot has been under one of the Rosemary plants. It provides awesome cover and shade, and an added bonus is that the ducks smell really good.


My Chickens Don’t Eat It

When I started acquiring chickens about five years ago, it didn’t take long to discover that they will devour almost anything that grows – great if what they are eating are weeds, not so great when the plants are part of your landscape or garden. Evidently Rosemary is one of the few plants that is not on the preferred chicken diet. The chickens do occasionally lay eggs along with the ducks under one of the plants.

Culinary Uses

Rosemary is an herb, and with five large plants, I have an almost unlimited supply to cook with. A little bit can go a long way though. It goes great with chicken, and potatoes. One of my favorite ways to use Rosemary is with my own recipe for

Crockpot Chicken


• 1 whole chicken
• 2 sprigs of Rosemary
• 1 lemon or lime sliced
• 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
• Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place the Rosemary sprigs and garlic under the skin of the chicken.

2. Place the lemon or lime slices inside of the chicken cavity.

3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the chicken in a crockpot/slow cooker and set it on low. I usually cook the chicken all day – 8 or 9 hours more or less.

Health Benefits

According to a number of websites, Rosemary, which is high in iron, calcium, and vitamins B6 and E, has many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that may lower the risks of stroke, Alzheimer’s, ALS, breast cancer and leukemia, skin damage, memory loss, asthma, liver disease, heart disease, and type II diabetes. It may also help to enhance memory and concentration, regulate menstrual cycles, ease cramps, lower blood sugar, increase blood pressure, treat migraines, stimulate sexual organs, improve digestion, and stimulate the appetite.

Some Warnings

It is advised to use Rosemary sparingly and get advice from a qualified doctor. According to an article in Medical News Today, Rosemary, in high doses, can cause miscarriage, and it can affect some medications such as anticoagulant drugs, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and lithium. High doses can also trigger side effects like vomiting, spasms, coma, and pulmonary edema.


Remarkable Rosemary! The Benefits of Herbs, Extracts, and Teas!
Medical News Today

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Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon’s New Farm Movement spotlights 18 Oregon farms and farm supporters who are committed to a return to ecologically sound agricultural practices. This group reflects the diversity of people, both young and old, who are reshaping our state’s food system and reclaiming our right to eat well. In their stories you will hear how they came to be where they are, learn something about the challenges they face, and share their happiness at the successes they’ve enjoyed thus far. The following profile has been excerpted from Planting A Future.

Read Your Backyard Farmer, Part 1.

Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter harvesting produce

“There have been a variety of people come into the Portland market and try to do what we do – we actually taught a couple of them – but they were in and out. This is very different from regular farming where you have the same piece of land to farm for 20 years and you take care of that soil and have something that’s stable.

“In urban agriculture the way we do it, although we do have a number of farms we’ve been farming since 2006, we also have new customers coming every year, which means we are continually faced with a certain amount of unstable soil. I think that’s a big difference.”

Robyn expands, “It also takes a lot of organization. You’ve got 25 locations and each one of them needs something different. You have to remember each task, as well as keeping everyone on schedule so all farms are growing crops optimally.”

Donna adds, “And you’ve got to consider microclimates. On a big farm there will be several places that have different microclimates that must be dealt with. For us, every single place we farm has different microclimates and soil structure. So urban agriculture has some unique challenges a lot of farmers don’t want to deal with. Plus, they don’t want to bring soil in to every new place each year.

They don’t want to carry their tools with them everywhere they go. In some ways this is like being a small contractor who hauls their workshop with them. There are a lot of unique requirements. And even we have our limits. If we had to do all year long what we do in the Fall and the Spring, we wouldn’t be doing this, because that’s not the fun part.”

Robyn: “Soggy days aren’t that fun.”
Donna: “When you’re hauling huge amounts of soil.”
Robyn: “Moving soil eight hours every day.”
Donna: “That’s where it can be really physical work. We don’t use any really big machinery so everything is done by hand.”
Robyn: “Grunt work.”
Donna: “And people go, ‘wow, how do you do that?’
Robyn: “You just do it.”
Donna: “And then you’re done with it. A lot of people don’t want to work that hard. But I can’t imagine, and neither can Robyn, doing anything different than what we do. Yeah, it’s hard sometimes and we don’t like each other sometimes, but ninety-nine percent of the time we do, and that’s what it takes.”

Your Backyard Farmer CSA garden

So these two women, year after year, keep putting in the work. The benefits are substantial. One fixed fee covers everything for a 37-week CSA running from the first part of March to the last of October. The farm agreement includes preparing the soil, setting up the trellising and water systems, the weeding, transplanting, seeding, and harvesting, as well as helping customers set up their compost systems. All this at a cost which makes it clear Donna and Robyn aren’t running a get-rich-quick scheme.

Plus, because Your Backyard Farmer’s customers keep all the food produced in their yards and no mechanized harvest or distribution energy is involved, the company’s carbon footprint is actually quite small.

The things that Your Backyard Farmer don’t do are any type of non-food-producing landscaping or raising animals. In both cases, the business would require different licensing. They can, however, offer suggestions.

Donna explains, “We don’t do animals but we guide people on becoming more sustainable on their own property. That’s our goal. We’re going to provide you with your food source. In addition to that, we’ll tell you, ‘This is how you compost. This is how you raise chickens.’ And because they don’t have to worry about producing their food, we’re giving them the opportunity to create some of these other things on their own. We can’t do it for them, but we’ll talk to them about it and help them understand what they need to do.”

With all the health and ecological benefits available to people who own a farmable yard, it seems like the world could use a lot more backyard farmers. Donna and Robyn have pointed out some of the challenges, and they also emphasize that this is not an endeavor designed to make you rich.

Rather, it is a passion project. A way of life focused more on the journey than the gold. A perfect fit for those who love to get their hands dirty and work with nature to bring the world to life.

Your Backyard Farmer CSA squash

So for those who think this sounds like a love affair they could embrace, how could they get started? What steps should they take? Is it possible to become a backyard farmer anywhere in America?

Donna cuts right to the chase, “People should just call us. If they tell us they want to do this in their community, we’re going to do what we can to help. There are a lot of ways to go about it. All of the people we’ve taught do things a bit differently.”

Robyn says, “None of them are identical to what we do, which is how it should be. It’s not a matter of this is how it should be, because every place has unique requirements.”

Donna continues, “Portland’s pretty progressive, so what we do may not work in more conservative communities. It can still be done there, but maybe a bit more contained. We can usually help people through the beginning stages, although they’ll have to know what their community will allow. We feel like it’s a fairly simple concept, but that’s partly because we know it so well.

“It’s time to stop thinking of a farmer as only someone who has 400 acres and a cow or 4,000 acres of corn. There are all kinds of farmers. Some of them are urban farmers, and the world could use a few more of them.”

Order your copy of Planting A Future: Profiles from Oregon's New Farm Movement.

(Top) Photo by Lisa D. Holmes: Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter, owners of Your Backyard Farmer, harvest produce from one of their urban farms.

(Middle) Photo by Lisa D. Holmes: A backyard farm in suburban Portland. Your Backyard Farmer uses organic methods to grow vegetables of all types. Plus, they can train homeowners to grow their own food.

(Bottom) Photo by Lisa D. Holmes: Summer squash helps make every garden feel extra productive.

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Garden Plan

Oh, the possibilities! The choices seem endless these days. All those beautiful seed and plant catalogues. So many heirloom, hybrid and new varieties available these days. What about the grafted options? Grafting has been around for centuries. Use a really strong, robust root stock that you graft the tasty variety on top. This gives you a hardy plant that produces lots of the tasty fruit you love. How about all the dwarf varieties? All the great flavor on plants of a diminutive size that fits perfectly in your small space or container. So many choices!

How Do I Choose?

Plant what you love: I always plant what we love to eat. Pick varieties that give you the most for your space: I want to maximize the harvest in the space I have. This results in less space, less water, less care required for the same amount of food. I look for the most productive varieties. Look for key words that tell you that the variety you are looking at is a strong producer. “Prolific” is what I like to hear in descriptions.

Leverage dwarfs and bush varieties: I look at how much I need from a plant. For slicer tomatoes, a dwarf is a great option because it gives a few tomatoes each week which is all we need for burgers. I look for bush types for zucchinis and cucumbers. These bush varieties can be grown in the garden or a container. They stay compact and give us just the right amount we need.

Grow what likes your garden: As you try different varieties, you find that some do better in your garden than others. Saving seed from the best tasting, best producing is just a smart thing to do. This is what our ancestors did. It saves money and develops plants that are perfectly suited to your climate and soil. You can get a head start by using seeds from neighbors or veggies you buy from your local farmers market.

Grow the number of plants for what you eat: This can take some trial and error to figure out how many of each type meets your consumption. There are charts that can help. Just estimate how much you eat and then you can look up tables that tell you the number of plants you need. Here is a link to one: Plan How Many

Here Is What I Have Decided To Grow this Year

Herbs. I have a new garden this year so the first order of business is making sure all my perennial herbs I planted in the fall make it to spring-savory, lavender, thyme, rosemary, salad burnet, marjoram, oregano, bay. I will plant annuals too-chervil, cilantro, cilantro (a more heat tolerant type of cilantro), basil, and parsley.

Broccoli. I am going to grow sprouting, 9 Star and Sea Kale (both perennials), Apollo and Rudolph for 9 months of harvesting.

Flowers. Gem marigolds, calendula, zinnias, loves lies bleeding, dwarf sunflowers, nasturtiums, and moonflower. Flowers play an important part in garden beyond just beauty. They attract beneficial insects and pollinators. They can significantly increase your garden’s production.

Fruits. I planted strawberries last year which are perennials. This year I am going to plant goji berry vine.  My hubby wants to plant some berry bushes.

Nuts. My husband is going to replace our Bradford pear trees with pecan trees. I have been supporting the Arbor Day hazelnut project and will have 5 hazelnuts bushes arriving this spring to plant.

Peppers.I love green peppers and humus. This year I am going to go with red and yellow banana peppers and a yellow heirloom pepper. For the spicier peppers, we’ll plant Pimento, Jalapeño, Cayenne, and Ancho peppers.  The Pimento is for salads. The Jalapeño and Cayenne is for salsa and hot sauce. The Ancho for chili powder.

Zucchini. Since I discovered new ways to use zucchini, I think we will plant 2 zucchini plants. I really loved making zucchini into pasta. I’ll freeze it for use throughout next winter and spring. Zucchini typically wears out about the middle of summer. I’ll do two plantings to keep the harvest going through fall.

Eggplant. I am going for a white variety like Casper and Turkish Orange. Casper doesn’t get bitter during hot, dry weather. Turkish Orange had great taste all season long and looks great.

Legumes. Will go for snap peas in the spring. Romano type pole and bush beans for green beans. Will also throw in some runner beans on trellis’. They have pretty flowers and the beans can be used as green beans or dried beans.

Cucumbers. I think I will do two vining types. I will plant on decorative trellis so they will have a very small foot print in the garden. One will be for fresh cucumbers in salads and the other for pickles.

Greens. Lettuce, orach, and kale. Arugula is a perennial so it will come back year after year.  Chard is also a tender perennial so if the fall planted chard did not make it through the winter, I will replant. Will do succession planting for lettuce about every 3 weeks.  Starting out with cold tolerant varieties, move to heat tolerant varieties at the beginning of May, and switch back to cold tolerant varieties in July for fall harvests.  Kale can be planted in spring and fall.

Cabbage. Thinking of doing Napa to use as wraps in the place of bread.

Tomatoes. My plan is 1 large fruiting variety (Cherokee Purple), 2 small fruiting varieties, (Chocolate, Chocolate Pear) 1 early variety like the 4th of July or Summer Girl, and 1 winter storage variety like Red October. This will give plenty for eating on burgers and salads, enough to make sauce, enough to freeze for salsa, and a variety that is a long keeper indoors for tomatoes through December. I am going to go for the chocolate and black varieties for the large and small fruiting types that I saved seed from last year’s crop.

Tea. Will plant a tea bush this year. It is hardy in Zone 7 which should work in our Kentucky garden with generous winter mulch. Otherwise, you can grow in a pot and bring into the garage or house for the winter.

This is my plan. Of course, I will see things I just can’t live without and buy. I’ll look through my refrigerated seed collection and run across varieties I just have to plant. There will be great successes and a few that don’t do well. It is all part of the gardening adventure!

For more tips on organic gardening in small spaces and containers, check out Melodie's blog Victory Garden on the Golf Course


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Julia Lont Painting Tomato Rainbow

Distribute the Surplus. The first, and easiest, principle of Permaculture. Keep what you need and send the rest off, into the community. Do it often enough, and someone else’s surplus comes back to you. We send off tomato seedlings in spring and figs in fall; last week, I walked by three flats of strawberry plants looking for a new home. I took one.

Every year, I plant eight to ten times the number of tomato plants that we need to fill our barrels. I like variety and I like reading seed catalogs, and it is really hard to plant four seeds of each type of tomato, so I plant two seeds in each six-pack, grow out whatever germinates, pot them up in four inch pots, and give sixty to seventy away on a sunny April afternoon. We keep one or two of each variety, set to the side in a flat labeled “OUR PLANTS.”   (I learned my lesson after giving away our carefully chosen plants one year.) All of my gardening friends stop by, hunker down, and consider their own needs and space limitations.

I choose the varieties carefully. Even after setting plants out in the sheltered southern corner of the yard, in large black nursery pots, we have a limited window of warm weather. I do not grow anything that takes longer than eighty days to ripen. That cuts out many of the southern heirlooms, but opens up a world of northern, Russian varieties. I also choose carefully for snacking purposes; we need several plants to line the bike path to the back yard, so we can munch when we come home from work. Then I consider color, because I will dry several types and mix them together in canning jars. Yellow and orange and red together create a beautiful rainbow of tomato chips on a winter afternoon.

This year’s line up:

• Peacevine — A small red cherry bred by Alan Kapluar, right down the street. Very tasty, very healthful, very prolific.
• Sungold — The small golden globe of tomatoes. Prolific and sweet. A summer sauce of sungolds and fresh basil is amazing!
• Green Grape — Slightly larger, green and gold when ripe. A lovely complex flavor for snacks.
• Lemon Plum — Plum sized and shaped, this tomato is not exciting fresh, but amazing dried. Really livens up the dried fruit shelf.
• Japanese Triffele Black — A large, complex tomato, black and green and red when sliced. This one never made it into jars as we ate it every day in tomato sandwiches. It is not real prolific, but it is tasty.
• Amish Paste — Every year, it seems, I look for the solid red canner. This is this year’s experiment.
• Longkeepers — These tomatoes turn pink in September, but keep in the basement until February, still tasty. I pick them before the rains, spread them in garden flats, and leave them downstairs.

In a few weeks, on a bright Friday afternoon, the Tomato Give-away will commence. Once again, I will send the small plants out into the world, four to six at a time, tucked into car trucks, strapped in bike baskets, carried away by hand. And, in time, the surplus will return home.

To read more about the Twenty First Street Urban Homestead, check out my blog. To see more of Julia Lont’s amazing artwork, go to Julia's website and Blue Camas Press.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Our original garden

In 2010 we moved into an urban duplex and began to farm the flowerbeds and back alley. 

One of the first things we did was to dream over the Raintree Nursery catalog. After many hours we settled on the dwarf varieties of Greensleeves (originally and English tree) and Beni-shogun (a type of Fuji developed for the Pacific NW). These trees were planted in large pots, planning ahead to the day when we would have our own home and could plant them in the ground. We also got a free tree from Craigslist. This tree, named River Road, was grafted by a member of a local tree grafting society.

We choose these trees because of their compatibility for pollination times, quality of fruit and compact size, making them practical for a small space and easy maintenance.

Over the years the trees survived in their pots and Greensleeves even produced a few apples.

In October of 2013 we moved to our “new to us” home, a 1/10 acre in a 1950's neighborhood. Broad streets, established trees and neighbors that garden in the front and backyards. What a nice change!

The following spring one of the first thing we did was to plant the 3 apple trees. They seemed to settle in, growing well but did not bloom.

This spring we are happy to report that all 3 trees are blooming! Lucky for me, my husband Eric, is a great photographer and had fun getting a few shots of the blossoms.   




What was our criteria for choosing our trees?

Size: Consider your space and the requirements for each particular tree. We were looking for something easy to maintain and harvest, compact trees that will fit into a diverse planting so our choice was 'mini-dwarf’ apple trees grown on a special EMLA 27 or M27 rootstock*. They are easily maintained at only 5 to 7 feet tall.

Bloom time: We chose trees with a compatible bloom time for pollination ease

Fruit: Both trees are known for crisp, flavorful fruit good for fresh eating or preserving.

These small trees are perfect in a border “guild” planting surrounded by comfrey, dill, yarrow, fennel and daffodils where they provide both fruit and beauty year round.

The letters refer to different types of rootstock resulting in smaller trees. “..."M" designates Malling series developed stocks. East Malling Research is a pioneer in the development of dwarfing rootstocks. East Malling Research Station in Kent, England collected clones of the Paradise stocks from France in 1912 from which 24 "M" were designated with no particular order to the rootstock characteristics other than where they were located in the garden at the time the numbers were assigned. In other words, M.2 is a larger tree than M.9, while M.27 is smaller than M.26... "EMLA" designates East Malling / Long Ashton research stations who took the "M" stocks and developed virus free versions. For example., EMLA 7 is M 7 with a guaranteed virus-free stock. EMLA characteristics are often different from the parent "M" rootstock. Note that nearly all the apple rootstocks in the industry are now virus free...”.


1. Fruit Tree Propagation
2. Rain Tree Nursery

You can read all of Deanna's posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 

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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.