Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Here in the Appalachian Mountains the risk of frost wanes, and the heat of midday begins to creep into the mornings and evenings. The cool nights of spring are slowly being replaced with heat, with rolling sheets of thunder, with lightning that ripples across the sky.
As the days stretch closer to their full summer length, we are welcomed to sow directly into the warming ground. We are invited to harvest from the woods, which are coming to life with new abundance. Now, we step into the light of the growing season, and we plant beneath the poplar moon!
On the homestead, in the forest, in the orchard, there is much to do in the month of May. Here is a guide to help you sow your garden beds, to help you harvest, and to help you connect with the power of this unfolding season. Keep in mind that these activities were created based on the Southern Appalachian bioregion.
This guide was created by the life experiences of Natalie Bogwalker, the founder of Wild Abundance and the Firefly Gathering, who is dedicated to teaching people how to connect and work with the land. This guide also includes contributions from permaculture teachers and plant enthusiasts Chloe Lieberman and Zev Friedman.
Annual Garden Preparations
• Make “tea” out of woods nettles and/or stinging nettles to apply to crops as a fertilizer/mineral supplement
• Plant squash, gourds and cucumbers in 4 or 6” pots very early in the month, then plant out in garden later in month.
• Plant New Zealand spinach, green beans (first sowing, thereafter you can plant them every 2-4 weeks until mid July for a prolonged harvest)
• Transplant out tomatoes, basil, peppers into garden
• Sow field corn (stagger sowings based on length of season needed and to avoid different varieties cross breeding)
• Select good-looking, medium sized sweet potatoes from last year to “slip out,” or secure a source for sweet potato slips
• Sow sunflowers (for beauty and/or seeds), repeat every 2-4 weeks until mid-July for continuous flowering
• Plant dill (repeat every 2-4 weeks for continued harvest and to make sure you have dill when it’s time to pickle cucumbers and beans)
Wild and Woodland Harvest
• Harvest flower clusters from black locust trees, enjoy in salads, as iced tea, and in liquors
• Harvest a small hickory tree or two for inner bark for chair bottoms, basket rims, and lashing if need be
• Gather and dry basswood leaves
• Harvest basswood coppice for friction fire wood, bark, and leaves
• Coppice Tulip Poplar trees of appropriate size to harvest poplar bark for building and baskets, and wood for carving and kindling
• Cut sochan flower stalks to maintain harvest of greens
• Harvest lamb’s quarters greens and steam/boil/sautée
• Eat purslane raw or cooked in salads or pestos
• Pluck daylily buds to eat raw, and steam or sautée, or throw in kim-chees
• Keep your eyes out for chicken of the woods and other delectable mushrooms
• Harvest massive amounts of nettle (flowering or not), and dry for a feed supplement for livestock in the winter
In The Orchard
• Notice and treat any early signs of diseases
• Mow/cut grass/weeds in orchard and lay clippings at bases of trees periodically throughout the growing season
• Dry wood nettle leaves
• Pickle and/or dry basswood leaves
• Make wild kim chee of basswood leaves, hemlock tree tips, daylily buds, oxeye daisies, and asian cabbage
• Continue making/freezing wild pestos
Other Poplar Moon Happenings
• Go to the forest frequently to observe dramatic changes
• Go through stores of preserved foods from last year and finish eating anything that is coming on again soon
• Birth and beginning of milking for many dairy animals
Don’t forget to celebrate, for poplar is a symbol of nourishment and sweetness. The nectar is rich, feeding our honeybees, representing the sweetness that blossoms before us as we step into the season of sun and heat.
Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt is a writer and a student of the earth. Learn more about working with the cycle of the season at Wild Abundance, where classes are offered in permaculture, gardening, carpentry and natural building. Read all of Aiyanna's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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