Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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HOMEGROWN Life: Flowers Aren't Just for Lookin' Pretty

5/14/2012 9:52:12 AM

Tags: flowers, pollinators, bees, apiary, farming, Farm Aid and


 When your primary focus is growing food sometimes other plants get overlooked. I have to say I'm definitely guilty of this. In a race to use all of our available space to grow food we made the dumb decision to rip out our landscape that was filled with flowers. Soon after we moved the chickens and quickly realized that planting a new landscape - even an edible one - wasn't going to happen. The established landscape would have been able to hold up to the chickens but anything planted now would quickly get trampled and eaten.

 flower bed 

We had Ceanothus (Wild Lilac) which has beautiful cornflower blue flowers that bloomed the earliest in spring. The magenta Penstemon (Beard Tongue) bloomed almost all year round here. In summer the Hemerocallis (Daylily) and Lavandula (Lavender) bloomed together in complementing orange and purple flowers. The Salvia (Mexican Bush Sage) bloomed in late fall. In between all the plants grew a blanket of white clover.

The flowers weren't just there to be pretty. They provided a long blooming source of forage for our bees and the native pollinators. The hummingbirds and bumble bees would visit the Penstemon on a regular basis. The clover offered consistent forage for the bees and turkeys and it would have also been eaten by the chickens if we had left it. Everything together offered habitat for beneficial insects along with acting as a trap crop for pests. It served an important purpose in helping us avoid using pesticides on our edibles.

But there is also nothing wrong with pretty. My day job involves making landscapes pretty. Pretty can make a space somewhere people want to spend time. It can make a space relaxing. While edibles feed the body, pretty feeds the soul. We need pretty just as much as we need functional. And sometimes, like with our former landscape, pretty can be functional.

Rachel Dog Island Farm 

 My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better! 

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