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Square Foot Gardening Book Review
This post offers a Square Foot Gardening Book Review. All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space is a book written by Mel Bartholomew. The most recent book is a revised edition of his original book published in 1981. The premise behind Square Foot Gardening is to plant different species very close together, each plant type in 1-foot squares, in special soil.
He states that planting a garden in long rows is a hand-me-down from farmers. Most of us gardening are not a farmer; we are gardeners so we should go about farming with a different approach. As for the soil he states it takes 7 years of plowing and digging up the soil to make it right for our large gardens. The national average is that a homeowner moves every 7 years. So as soon as our soil is good for gardening, we move!
His solution is to grow plants above the soil in a box with a special soil mixture called “Mel’s Mix”. This way you have soil ready to plant in and grow good crops the first year. Instead of doing long rows of plants and growing too much food, grow what you need in a 1-foot square. If you need more, pick anther 1 foot square elsewhere in the garden.
His suggested box size is four foot by four foot. This way you can reach into the garden from all sides and reach all points of the garden without having to step in the garden. Stepping in a garden compacts the soil and makes it harder for plants to grow and get healthy roots. He actually has a parts list and detailed pictures and instructions in his book on how to put the bed together. He uses wood lath to permanently lay out his one foot squares.
He goes into many different design options on how to cover your garden and keep pests out. The book has many pictures so you can get a good visual of what he is talking about.
The Book has an entire chapter on how to make Mel’s Mix so you can garden with success. The basic ingredients are compost, peat moss, and coarse vermiculite all measured equally by volume.
After your Mel’s Mix is made and ready to go in your bed, it is time to plant. That is where chapter 6 comes into play. It describes how dense to plant various different plants. He also talks about succession planting or planting different plants in the same square at different times of the year.
To conserve space in smaller areas he talks about how to garden vertically. This is basically growing the plants up a trellis or fence on one side of your box. This allows you to have more plants in the ground because you are not taking ground space for sprawl and crawl of the plants.
There is a chapter about how to extend your growing season and the different techniques to do this. This includes starting plants indoors and shading in the heat of the summer.
He has a rather extensive appendix that gives “at-a-glance” documents, plant profiles, planting charts and planting grids.
I bought the book, All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space by Mel Bartholomew, about three years ago and implemented many of the techniques in his book. I have had some success, but always find some bright shiny object to sidetrack me that my gardens usually don’t look as pretty as the ones in his book. Some of his plant densities seem a little too aggressive and I think the plant size may suffer from this. Overall it is a great book for someone who has limited space and limited knowledge of gardening.
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Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation
This article provide information on Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation. This tree or bush bears edible fruit and is a nitrogen fixer. Autumn-Olive (elaegnus umbellate) also known as Autumn-Berry, is a deciduous shrub that can grow into a small multi-trunked tree reaching as high as 20 feet. The leaves are a grayish green and looks as though it has scales on the bottom of the leaves. The leaves are about three inches long and very narrow measuring only about one inch wide. It is often used in forest garden design to assist in repairing soil as the food forest garden matures.
It is a drought tolerant plant that can grow in full sun or partial shade. It does prefer well drained soil and does well on the edges of forests, hillsides, and abandoned fields. Birds like the fruit and propagate the seeds. It is a very hardy plant and is usually not bothered by deer. Some view Autumn Olive as a noxious invasive weed.
Forest Garden Design
Autumn olive is one of the few non-legume plants that fixes nitrogen in the soil. This is accomplished with the assistance of a certain bacteria called Frankia. This allows it to be a pioneer plant to grow where others can’t and begin to repair the land and soil making it a perfect plant in a Forest Garden Design.
Autumn Olive Fruit
Autumn Olive has tiny flowers in the spring that give way to berry fruit in the late summer and early fall. The flowers are fragrant and the plants are self-fertile. I have plants that bear red berries and plants that produce gold berries on my farm (both pictured on this post). The fruit is astringent (makes your mouth pucker) but sweet. As they sit on the bush they get softer, sweeter, and less astringent. The birds and small mammals like the berries as well, so don’t wait to long to harvest. A single bush can produce 20 to 70 pounds of fruit.
The fruit contains the carotenoid lycopene, which is several times higher than that of tomatoes. The fruit does contain seeds and it has been said that the seeds are chewable, but I have just eaten the flesh and spit the seeds out. I’ll have to try chewing them sometime and see what they are like.
Autumn Olive berries can be eaten right off the bush. They can also be used in jams, pies, fruit leathers, other deserts and juices. They store well frozen once cleaned.
Autumn olive is native to Asia and was introduced to North America in early to mid 1800s. It is hardy down to USDA zone 3 can be found growing in southern Canada and the majority of the United States.
I bought one of my Autumn Olives from RainTreeNursery.com and had good luck with them. Autumn Olive is one of the plants I will have for sale in the Great Escape Nursery store in 2016 or 2017.
A note to my FaceBook fans: Each week day I am posting my experiences with the business side of Great Escape Farms. These posts include the lawyer visits, accountant visits, and my various web hosting issues and journey. These updates are posted on the Great Escape Consulting site at Great Escape Consulting. Copy and paste the following into your browser: http://www.GreatEscapeConsulting.com
If you would like to receive an email when updates have been posted, you can sign up for my email list on the FaceBook page, Great Escape Farms or Great Escape Consulting Page. I will only use the email list to update you about new posts to the site.
The blog is only updated from time to time until we get the consulting business up and running, which will hopefully be sometime in 2017.
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Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms
Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms is a description about the owner and his journey into forest garden design that spurred several new businesses.
I figured that if you are going to spend time reading my blog, then you should know a little about me, and how I acquired the knowledge to write about these subjects.
First the basics… I grew up and went to school in Pasadena, MD, joined the Air Force for a four year enlistment, then went to the University of Maryland where I got a BS in Computer Information Science and got a job as a Network Systems Engineer. There… that’s out of the way. So what does this have to do with gardening and plants? Not much. It’s the side jobs where I got my experience.
While going to school I held several jobs, some before I was a teenager. I spent several pre-teen and teen years mowing lawns during the summer, raking leaves in the fall, and shoveling snow in the winter. Sometimes I would help my parents or an employer (any neighbor who would hire me) plant trees and gardens. I had a garden of my own for many years and assisted my father with his planting endeavors.
As time went on I graduated to a “real job” in my sophomore year of high school and went to work for a local mom-and-pop shop called Joe’s Plants and Garden Center. There I worked at tending the nursery stock, selling products, assisting customers and every once in a while perform onsite landscaping work for clients.
Then I went on to the Air Force, College, and work. I did a little planting here and there, but not a whole lot. In 2001 I moved to a new house that had a lot of property (about a half acre). I got into landscaping and making the back yard look nice, put in a pond and garden and enjoyed it.
In 2012, my wife and I bought a 10-acre parcel of property in West Virginia. This property had 42 mature fruit trees on it. I was very excited about the thought of fresh fruit, but had no idea how to take care of them. So I started researching and the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know.
I now subscribe to a dozen magazines, watch YouTubes all the time, read books at night on many different subjects and listen to about 30 hours of podcasts every week while I drive (yes, I drive a lot).
Recently I have taken two permaculture design courses. I have submitted one project for grading and will submit the other after I pass the first. I have also taken a plant propagation course and I am signed up for a Soil Biology course and a Bee-keeping course. I have attended several seminars and tours on Permaculture and sustainable farming.
I have been on a working farm twice as a Wwopfer (Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm). During these stays we put in several thousand feet of swales and planted into them. I also did day-to-day farm activities with the animals (pigs, cows, horses, ducks, rabbits, chickens, and barn cats).
For the last two years I have been doing plant propagation, both hardwood and softwood, and this spring put in a propagation bed with intermittent mist system. I planted 48 different varieties of cuttings ranging from fruit trees and bushes to ornamental, just to experiment and see what grew. I had fairly decent results and plan on propagating and selling the plantings in 2016.
My ultimate goal is to farm, blog, and sell plants for a living when I retire from my “geek” job in a few years.
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Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant
Lemon balm plant uses are many. Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb in the mint family that is hardy down to zone 4 or 5 and can be used as a forest garden plant. It is a native to Europe, central Asia and Iran, but is now naturalized around the world. Lemon Balm has a mild lemon sent that is enhanced if the leaves are bruised or torn. The leaves have a lemon flavor and can be used for culinary uses in sweets and teas. During the summer the plant has small flowers that are great for attracting bees and other beneficial insects.
Propagation can be done through seeds that require sunlight to germinate, so press the seeds into the soil surface, but do not cover with soil. The seeds require a minimum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Propagation can also be done with softwood cuttings and by digging up “clumps” of the plant while dormant.
I bought my seeds from www.rareseeds.com. You get about 300 seeds for $2.50 (in the 2015 catalog.) I planted Lemon Balm for the first time in 2013. I planted the seeds in my basement under grow lights in March and then moved them out to the garden after the danger of frost had past. I put two plants in a 1×1 square (doing square foot gardening). By the end of 2013 they took up a 2×2 area and that was after being trimmed several times that year. Now in September 2015 I still have those plants growing, coming back every year, and needing to be trimmed back on a regular basis (they are in the mint family, so they spread readily and grow rapidly).
I like the leaves mixed into a tossed salad as that gives it a little extra flavor and zip. I have also added some of the leaves to a smoothie for a little extra zest. I have not tried it yet, but I’ve heard that Lemon Balm is a great addition to herbal teas. It can also be used as garnish for deserts.
Lemon Balm contains 24% Cintronellal with which is one of the main compounds in citronella. It is said that crushed Lemon Balm rubbed on your skin is a repellent to mosquitos.
Lemon Balm is high in flavonoids and can have an antioxidant effect. It also contains Vitamin C and Thiamin (a B Vitamin).
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Lemon Balm was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic).
The University of Maryland Medical Center also posts the following warning regarding all herbs: “The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.” And “Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take lemon balm.”
Disclaimer: This document is for informational and educational purposes only. Great Escape Farms is not recommending, prescribing, or advising the use of any herb for medicinal purposes. Please consult a qualified medical professional for herbal treatments.
The Herb Society of America
Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis, is a great herb and I will continue to grow this at Great Escape Farms. I plan on using it as a food forest garden plant on the farm.
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Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds at Great Escape Farms
Ever since I first heard about permaculture I wanted Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds at Great Escape Farms. Below are pictures of my first Hugelkultur Bed. It is basically a trench dug down about 2 foot which then has wood put into it mounding up. It is suppose to be several feet high (about 6-7 foot high) with grades going up to the peak at about 70 degrees. Mine are only about 3 foot high as I’m in a residential community and a 7 foot berm would look a little out of place. I will cover more on what a Hugelkultur is and how to build one in a future post. The hugelkultur bed will should have plants on the sides and the top. In my permaculture garden in Maryland I’m working on an edible forest garden. I discuss later what is planted in that edible food forest. In my permaculture garden in West Virgina, I am planting all kinds of unusual things to grow in your garden. I will write a future article about that edible food forest and will cover the easiest edible plants to grow.
The first three pictures below are of the installation of the Hugelkultur Bed in April of 2014.
The third picture shows a trench, which was not part of the Hugelkultur bed. I was running a 3/4″ water line out to my garden area and it just so happened to run right next to my Hugel bed.
The picture below was taken in mid-Septbmber 2015. It is difficult to even see the mound through the plants. I have the following plants in this bed: Brown Turkey Fig, Goji, 4 types of Honeyberry, 2 types of high bush Blueberry, 1 low bush Blueberry, 2 Nanking Cherry, Lavender, Lambs Ear, Black Currant, Pomegranate, Rhubarb, and some volunteer cherry tomato plants. You’ll also notice my two photogenic Rat Terrier dogs, Molly and Murphy, had to be in the photo as well.
The Spring of 2015 was wet in the mid-Atlantic area but from mid-June through September it was extremely dry. The plants in the Hugelkultur bed did very well. I can only surmise that this was because of the wood under the soil and the deep mulch around the plants above the soil.
Great Escape Farms is officially launched as a company that provides information on permaculture gardens, forest garden design, edible forest gardens, and permaculture garden layout. We will be providing permaculture garden design ideas and how to grow a sustainable living garden using permaculture plants. In the future our store, linked on the menu bar above, will sell unusual edible plants to grow as well as provide information on the easiest edible plants to grow.