This is the time of year for garden dreaming, but also for optimism, high hopes, and taking time to look at and consider the grand plan. We like to grow our plantings annually so we can establish things over time, not have any total loss if one year is a bad one weather or pest-wise, we don't have too much work all at once, and so there is not too much water demand all at once if we have a dry year (new plantings often need more consistent watering until established).
We always have our master plan in mind, but we also need to evaluate how things went every year and change based on data. If we install new bed areas and the soil or drainage or light or wildlife just make it a bad place, we need to move and adapt. One of the areas of adaptability is our orchards. We did plant tree orchard space in the front, and bush orchard in back. We underplanted existing mulberry, black cherry, choke cherry, and apple trees, but some of the underplantings were destroyed by wildlife - we also had a very wildly fluctuating weather season from extreme cold and snow in May to record heat in June. The deer also keep eating the baby trees and bushes, and there is not enough chicken wire in the world to wrap as much as we have planted as tall as is needed (we put tree guards and hardware cloth around a lot, which is ugly, but they still ate the tops). So, this year I hope to layout a lot of no dig contours to connect the bush orchard and retain moisture, create mounded planting areas for the underplantings to be expanded with plants the deer do not like, and then also work to put in temporary fencing around them in certain times of year.
We also are planting more trees, and we need to fertilize and supplement existing trees as they are growing slowly due to the deer damage. All of the bushes planted within the brambles and medicinal beds are doing well, as the deer don't really like getting in there except in winter, and the groundhogs and voles and field mice and rabbits do get in there, but the coltsfoot, walking onions, and thyme seems to keep them from doing much. The mint on the other side seems to keep them back as well. I thought wormwood would be a good deterrent, but it seems
Our goal as a UpS Botanical Sanctuary is, and has always been, to preserve endangered and at-risk plants, and use our space for education and support of conservation. OVer the past 3 years we have planted a lot more at risk plants throughout our wooded area and in a few new areas established for prairie/sun and shaded spots.
I know long lists of plantings are not the most exciting, but I like having this all written down in this space, so that it is there for me to look back on the future, and to also offer some kind of overview or look into the process of others wanting to do this type of work and planting more integrated permaculture layered gardens with a focus on also plant conservation and not just food and medicine.
So, last year we added a lot of native and medicinal at-risk plants - we won't know how well they are doing until this year and future years as they get established. A few things we planted in 2022 (many of these we plant more every year to grow the planting areas):
That adds to the ongoing list of the UpS species-at-risk we are growing:
Planting bare root and seeds of these natives and at risk plants means we don't always know how they are doing for a while. We planted our first wild ramps, ginseng, blue cohosh, black cohosh, wild ginger, goldenseal, and more back in 2019, and I just saw new plants emerging just last year, so they are actually alive and spreading, but it will be many more years before they become a large developed stand.
We also are focusing on the Wisconsin's Natural Heritage Working List to plant "species legally designated as "Endangered" or "Threatened" as well as species in the advisory "Special Concern" category" in the state of Wisconsin that often have also been used historically as medicinal plants by the indigenous people of this area for millennia. Wisconsin native plants we are working on growing and establishing here at Lunar Hollow include:
Every year I cold stratify natives around this time of by year as most need 30-60-90 days of cold moist stratification before being planted to break their dormancy cycle. They always say put all the seeds into a baggie with moist potting soil or sand, but I can't ever find the seeds again and end up with waste as I end up with a lot of seeds in one potting cell and none in another when I have to just divide the soil and plant it (except for larger seeds which I can see and manually extract). This year I decided to use some old pill containers. Each little cell is big enough for a spoonful of potting soil that I moistened in a bowl, and then each cell gets a few seeds. If you were planting thousands of seedlings this would not work, but I am always planting 4-6-8 of each thing, and planting them out annually to slowly grow and expand natives, so this seemed like a good idea. I labeled each section of seed by name and how long they need to stratify. I put each tray in a baggie to retain moisture and popped them in the fridge. I am hoping this makes the planting into seed trays easier and more consistent!
In addition to starting from seed, I also purchase spring shipped bare root plants that should arrive in spring to go in ground. So, other new plants coming in this spring for bare root plantings include:
And of course I order potatoes, onions, and other spring planting food plants as well.
So, that is a start. I am beginning to organize all of my food seeds from the last few years, clear out varieties that didn't grow well or we didn't like. Adding new things as we get input from the family. And putting everything into my folder system to be ready for seed starting. The grow light setup is up and ready, and we have a few new lights to try out this year as well. We always grow a lot of things, but for this year we hope to increase our storage veggies. We had a bad squash year last year, so we are moving the whole thing to a new spot and will see if we get luckier when the surrounding farms are on soybeans and not corn, as the corn rootworms took over our squash last year and most of the farms in our immediate area were on corn, so we think the weather made for a huge year for them and they strayed to our acreage. Most of the farms around here rotate so if it was a big corn year it should be a soy year, and we shall see. The good thing is that means I can grow our own sweet corn, as we choose to grow heirloom sweet corn only in soy years to prevent cross pollination.
I'll be sharing more about what we are growing food-wise soon. I will also post herb lists soon -as well as my Grow a Row choices for donating. I always try to grow enough for my family for an entire year without needing to purchase anything from a store that we could grow here (basically grow enough to be entirely self-sufficient in dried herbs), and then also grow enough extra to donate some. Wisconsin had a big update on cottage food laws, so I may also be selling dried herbs, herbal teas and spice blends, and other herbal products next year. We shall see! All of that impacts our expansion plans and beds, so we may look to adding many more no dig spaces to grow even more herbs depending on how this all goes. Exciting!
Do you grow any at-risk plants in your gardens?
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I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, certified permaculture designer (PDC), organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two young adults in south central Wisconsin.