As our gardens gradually resume their lushness and vibrancy over these spring months, we are busy tending to the many plants, bushes, vines, trees, (and weeds) which fill our acres of edible areas. Our greenhouses are packed with tiny annual seedlings and intrepid starts not quite ready to face the vagaries of weather unprotected, and our orchard zones and perennial beds are thriving with our hardiest of plants. Although our annual plants receive high profile attention, we spend significant springtime hours tending to our perennial stock as well.
While we have finished our spring pruning of established nuts, fruits, and berries, we have been in a flurry of planting new stock these past few weeks: chestnuts, buartnuts, hazelburts, currants, gooseberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, apples, asian pears, mulberries, quince, rhubarb, and lingonberry fill out our list of recent plantings. We’ve also, however, been busy dividing and transplanting established species.
This is a long and varied inventory. Over the past couple weeks you could find us digging about in patches of chives, walking onion, rattlesnake plaintain, and black locust to name a few. Each year, though, we focus primarily on the following species: comfrey, lupine, ella campagne, valerian, and mullein. These species are hardy and plentiful, and do wonders for our garden system.
There is, of course, the aesthetic element – as each of these plants produce beautiful flowers. The bees appreciate this as much as we do; having such species in abundance promotes healthy habitat for our pollinator species. However it is the underground efforts accomplished by these species that is so important to us. With long taproots, they are able to grow deep into the ground, accessing nutrients that other, shallower rooted plants are unable to reach. Furthermore, the ability of plants such as lupine to fix nitrogen through their root system further enriches our soil chemistry. The vascular system of broad-leafed plants such as comfrey, for example, enhances the ability of the plant to maximize its use of solar energy and available soil nutrition. The result is a plant that is invaluable as animal fodder, a compost additive, and as garden mulch.
Attending to perennial stock in this manner, we are boldly working for the future. While annual plants will provide our short-term calories, perennials represent the long-term viability of our homestead: food production, soil fertility, and pollinator habitat are all provided by these species. Edible food forests are our goal and the drive behind our farmer imaginations. The potential of such an edible, perennial system is immense – for ourselves, for our landscape, for our community, and for future generations.
Want to learn more? D Acres, in conjunction with PSU’s Center for the Environment, PSU’s Common Ground Club, Thomas Roberts Salon (Plymouth, NH), and PAREI, are hosting Dave Jacke, renowned permaculturalist and author of Edible Forest Gardening. To be held at Boyd 144 (PSU Campus), 7pm, on Saturday, May 12, Jacke’s presentation will focus on the principles and processes of edible landscaping. Don’t miss this opportunity! Perennial stock is our insurance for the future.
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