Replace Weeds with Seeds

An Abundance of Corn Seeds

Aloha Everyone,

The official start of Spring is just days away, and gorgeous healthy weeds are popping up everywhere.  We have dandelions, thistles, spurge, mares tails and a wide variety of other  volunteers that I can’t even name growing right up through the mulch!
What I’ve come to love about these volunteers is that they are really here to help. They get the garden started where nothing is growing, creating healthy nitrogen-rich leaves, and  breaking up heavy clay soil with their roots!  See here how useful these gardening allies are for creating crumble, friable soil where once we had dense clay!  
I’ve been enjoying time in the garden, listening to the birds sing, breathing in the fresh air and getting exercise as I pull up weeds and drop seeds or small seedlings in the holes left behind, burying the seeds or seedlings back up and then tearing up the leaves and dropping them for mulch. I give some of the dandelions leaves to the turkeys too – they are very fond of eating dandelions!
I’ve been planting lots of corn seeds because I still have a huge bag of corn seeds left over from last years crop, even after we ate a lot of fresh corn, froze some, and popped some. This year, I hope we can sell some too!
Well that’s our post for today – when you pull out weeds, replace them with seeds (or seedlings) of your preference!

Break off the flowers and seed pods from the weeds for disposal before you drop the leaves back on the ground, if you wish to prevent more weeds from self-propagating.

Aloha!

Winter Abundance in a Food Forest

Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia nuts in Shell - This crop has thin shells and are coming off the tree already cracked

Aloha Friends,

 

Wintertime doesn’t stop the food forest from richly producing abundance! 

The great freedom of having a forest-style garden is how easy it is to get an abundant harvest!

Here’s a list of  the “work” we have done this winter:

Please note:  This “work” can also be thought of as fun, good exercise, an opportunity to enjoy being in nature, and an opportunity to create a healthy oasis for life!

Broadcast last summer’s seeds onto the forest floor before a rainstorm – easy!   Stroll through the garden with a bag of seeds in hand, sprinkling them onto the mulch as you go, then let the rain wash the seeds down through the  mulch where they will germinate when the weather warms up.

Prune the pecan and almond trees to keep them shorter so we can easily harvest from them next year –  top pruning takes about 1 hour per tree at most, and if you do it every winter, the tree begins to take the shape you want – we like umbrella shapes, so we prune off the branches that are growing up too tall for us to reach.   Here’s a link to our post about why we prune in winter:

How Winter pruning increases our harvests

 

Chip the pruned branches into mulch, which we spread on the forest floor – Easy with our new Patriot electric chipper

 Create a hugelkultur from the larger pruned branches. Easy – here’s a link showing how it’s done…

How and Why to create your own Hugelkultur from pruned branches!

A bit of mowing our pathways.

And a whole lot of harvesting!!!

Other than that, THE FOOD FOREST GROWS BY ITSELF – check it out…

ONIONS AND GARLIC

The delicious green garlic tops and onion tops are in season now.  The roots will survive a frost, especially when covered with mulch so the soil doesn’t freeze.

 

 

Onion and garlic plants look like tall grasses
Onion and garlic plants look like tall grasses – note the ground is covered by mulch

 

Garlic growing around the perimeter of a fruit tree - it gets sun in winter and improves the soil surrounding the tree.
Garlic growing around the perimeter of a fruit tree – it gets the sunshine in winter and improves the soil surrounding the tree.

 

A A A A single clove of garlic will multiply into a whole bulb of garlic in 1 year.

1 year old Garlic, harvested in late summer. These bulbs each grew from a single clove.
1-year-old Garlic, harvested in late summer. These bulbs each grew from a single clove.

 

This is the flower of the onion - it's a whole ball of individual flowers, and each flower has little black onion seeds inside of it
This is a flower from an onion that grew last .  It’s a ball of small individual flowers, and each flower has little black onion seeds inside of it.


 

Onion seeds that fell to the ground last summer are this year's new onions!
Onion seeds that fell to the ground last summer are this year’s new onions! They look like tall thin grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUGENIA CHERRIES

We enjoy eating these gorgeous purple cherries, seeds and all, either fresh from the bushy trees, added to oatmeal for breakfast, or dehydrated as snacks.  The turkeys love eating them too.  Every winter they produce abundantly – with no effort from us.

Eugenia Cherries are delicious and abundant in winter
Eugenia Cherries are delicious and abundant in winter

 

Use like cranberries in sauces or relishes or dry them for snacking. Delicious!
Use like cranberries in sauces or relishes or dry them for snacking. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aloha Farms food forest dried Eugenia Cherries, February 2017
Aloha Farms food forest dried Eugenia Cherries, February 2017

 

LEMONS, ORANGES, AND TANGERINES

These trees are worth planting if they grow in your area, because they produce useful delicious fruit for decades!  Plant them now and your grandchildren will thank you later 🙂

Aloha Farms Navel Orange Tree in February 2017
Navel Orange Tree in February 2017 You can tell by the trunk that this tree is very old, yet it still produces incredibly sweet and delicious oranges, year after year.
Aloha Farms food forest Lemon Tree in February 2017
Lemon Tree in February 2017 – This tree is over 40 years old – and it’s now healthier than it was 5 years ago!  Imagine, 40 years of lemons, in exchange for planting 1 lemon tree!!!

 

Aloha Farms food forest Tangerine Tree in February 2017
Tangerine Tree in February 2017  producing more heavily each year!
Aloha Farms food forest Valencia Orange Tree in February 2017
Valencia Orange Tree in February 2017 This is featured in our video (below) about increasing vigor in older fruit trees, and produces fruit year-round!!!

MACADAMIA NUTS

Each January, these trees produce a large crop, and smaller crops throughout the year.

Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia nuts in Shell - This crop has thin shells and are coming off the tree already split
Macadamia nuts in Shell – This crop has thin shells and are coming off the tree already split.  These have been soaked in saltwater and dried.
Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia Nuts February 2017 - a small portion of our harvest this year
Macadamia Nuts Drying February 2017 – a small portion of our harvest this year.  (with and without their shells).
The Macadamia tree is forming flower tassels for the next crop, while we are still harvesting this winter's crop!
Macadamia tree is forming flower tassels for the next crop, while we are still harvesting this winter’s crop!  The abundance doesn’t stop in a food forest!

 

The macadamia tassels have just begun to show their form. Cute!
The macadamia tassels have just begun to show their form. Cute!

 

Aloha Farms food forest Macadamia Tree in January 2017
Macadamia Tree in January 2017-  Healthier after a pruning and producing more than last year!

For more on Macadamia Nuts, please see our post from 2016:

How we process the Macadamia Harvests

GUAVAS

These tropical fruits grow safely here in a warm micro-climate at the edge of the oak tree.  

Aloha Farms food forest white guava tree in 2017 - with ripe guavas
White guava tree in 2017 – with ripe guavas

 

KALE

 

Aloha Farms food forest Kale in February 2017
Kale in February 2017 – There’s kale available year round

ARUGULA

Aloha Farms food forest Arugula in February 2017 - growing from last year's seed
Arugula in February 2017 – growing from last year’s seed. It spreads its own seeds,  growing with no effort from us other than harvest and prune. Last year, we made spicy mustard from the arugula seeds too!

LETTUCE

Aloha Farms food forest Romaine Lettuce growing from seed February 2017 - growing near Carrots, Clover and other Volunteers
Romaine Lettuce growing from seed February 2017 – growing near Carrots, Clover and other Volunteers

 

HERBS

Fennel, Parsley, Thyme, Mint, Sour Grass, Oregano, Stinging Nettle, Calendula and more can be found throughout the food forest.

 

Aloha Farms food forest Rosemary and Lavender - Some of the many herbs growing in February 2017
Rosemary and Lavender, Calendula and Nasturtium – Some of the many herbs growing in February 2017
Aloha Farms Food Forest Mint Growing in February 2017
Mint Growing in February 2017

 

 

Aloha Farms food forest Parsley growing from seed, February 2017
Parsley growing from seed, February 2017

 

Aloha Farms food forest Fennels and Stinging Nettles growing from seed February 2017
Fennel and Stinging Nettles growing from last year’s seed – along with other volunteers – in February 2017

 

Aloha Farms food forest Calendula and Lettuce growing along with other Volunteers in February 2017
Calendula and Lettuce growing along with other Volunteers in February 2017

 

Aloha Farms food forest Chamomile growing in February 2017
Chamomile growing in February 2017

TOMATOES!

Aloha Farms food forest tomatoes still ripening in February 2017
Tomatoes still ripening in February 2017

Here are some things that are not quite ripe yet, but growing:

 

COFFEE

Aloha Farms food forest coffee ripening in February 2017
Aloha Farms food forest coffee ripening in February 2017

 

PASSION FRUIT

Aloha Farms food forest Passion Vine in February 2017 - here comes the fruit!
Aloha Farms food forest Passion Vine in February 2017 – here comes the fruit!

 

Even now in winter, the forest is lushly abundant with food for us and for the animals that make it their home – and it’s so easy – we just go out and pick what we want!!!

We hope you try growing a food forest of your own, and it brings you

Peace,  Abundance, and Aloha 🙂

Aloha Farms food forest Logo Roots Grow Fruits!
Roots Grow Fruits!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Flower Power!

Aloha!

 

There’s amazing power inside of a flower!

 

Rabbits & Squirrels & Gophers – Oh My! How We Protect our Seedlings From Being Eaten by Them – and You Can Too!

Aloha Farms food forest's Portable Garden Fence of PVC and Chicken Wire

We enjoy listening to the birds sing their joyful songs, watching the woodland creatures frolic in the garden, and seeing the darling faces of the moles when they pop their little heads up out of the soil and sniff around in the fresh air.  They enjoy frolicking in the food forest and eating many of the plants they find growing here.

We have enough abundance to share some of it with our furry friends, but when it comes to the newly sprouted seedlings that emerge from seeds we’ve recently planted, we have to set boundaries to prevent the hungry creatures from eating our new sprouts before they have a chance to mature into useful plants.

To create the necessary boundaries, we created a simple fencing system, constructed with 5-foot lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe and PVC fittings (the kind you use to run irrigation lines), and some chicken wire.

Each section of the fencing is 5′ tall and 5′ wide, and we join them together with T’s and 3-way corner fittings.  With a small fence like the one pictured below, you don’t have to use PVC glue to hold it together – which leaves the material completely intact and re-usable if you decide to dismantle the fence.

Of the various configurations you could make from this material, we chose to make a 10-foot by 20-foot rectangle, but you could make it much smaller or larger.

After fitting together the pipe, we wrapped the entire structure with 4-foot tall chicken wire.  When the seedlings were very young, we draped deer netting over the top of the fence (as a ceiling) to prevent squirrels and birds from getting in.  Here’s a shot of our first enclosed garden from spring of 2014.  The fence successfully protected the sprouts 🙂

 

Our Portable Garden Fence
Our Portable Garden Fence

We  constructed a simple gate by adding one more 5-foot PVC post halfway between two of the existing posts and attaching it to the top and bottom of the fencing.  We cut the chicken wire here a couple of inches past where we installed the new post and wrapped the chicken wire around the post.  Then we wrapped the other side of the chicken wire that we had just cut onto a 4-foot piece of PVC  to give it a little stability while we opened and closed the gate.  Finally, we used a bendy foam-covered wire to tie the gate closed.  Here’s a shot of the gate:

 

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The Door into the Portable Garden Fence

 

 

 

 

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Here’s the Portable Fence, seen from the long side – it’s really great because you can move it easily from one spot to another and keep establishing new growth from seeds anywhere you put it!!!

 

We liked our prototype so much, we decided to create larger, semi-permanent fence, which we call “The Middle Garden”, because it’s a garden in the middle of the food forest!

This one is 30 feet x 30 feet and we used the same PVC framing method, but we had to use glue on the fittings to hold this one together.  We substituted deer netting for the chicken wire to save money (but ended up having to wrap a 2-foot tall section of chicken wire around the entire fence at ground level later because the rabbits chewed through the deer netting).  We also pounded stakes into the ground and tied them to the posts to help keep them upright.  Here’s a shot of our creation on March 10, 2014:

The Middle Garden – 900 sq. ft. fenced, covered in mulch, and ready to plant with seeds!  Hurray!!!

The Middle Garden - 900 sq. ft. covered in mulch, fenced, and ready to plant! Hurray!!!

We also created a similar, but new gateway, by pounding a piece of rebar into the ground and slipping a PVC pipe over it.  In the pictures below, you see how we lift the PVC pipe to reveal the rebar which holds it in place.

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In the middle garden, we’ve planted countless seeds and grown them into healthy mature plants, and have been able to save the next generation of seeds to use in future plantings. We saved seeds from onions, carrots, beets, lettuce, corn, pigeon peas, sunflowers, radishes, squashes, peanuts, peas, and whatever else went to seed in the garden.  Having removed the weeds, covered it in mulch, and fenced it off  has made possible a successful garden space that’s protected from hungry critters!

 

Here are a few pictures of what we’ve grown in “The Middle Garden”  🙂

June 2014 in The Middle Garden
This was June 2014 in The Middle Garden – our first planting from seeds – we were thrilled with the success!

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Here it is today, dominated by pigeon peas and kale (which we planted from seed last year) and strawberries (which we planted as small plants last year), and with newly planted seedlings of peas, beets, peanuts, onion and garlic popping up.

We were enjoying our autumn seedling success, until a family of gophers moved into the middle garden last month and are now busy eating the earthworms and the new seedlings and stirring up the soil.  As cute as they are, they still have to go!  A few days ago, we installed 2 Sweeney’s Sonic Spikes into the ground, which run on solar power and repeatedly emit an annoying beep sound once or twice a minute 24 hours a day!  That did not work at all for us. Maybe because we live in a noisy place.  We saw a little gopher snake the other day,  we are really hoping that nature will work this out.  If the problem gets too bad, we’ve considered installing owl boxes or getting a cat or a dog to drive them out.

Late 2016:

It turned out that hawks keep the gopher population in check, and we don’t have to do anything.

We still have gophers appearing in the garden, but we stopped fighting them because we began to appreciate the great job they do of bringing up unwanted debris from the soil so we can easily collect it and dispose of it, and of creating mounds of really nice soil that we can use for potting cuttings and seeds.  Here’s a short clip of one of these cuties at work:

 

 

So that’s the story of how we protected the seedlings in the food forest from being eaten by our furry friends – and you can too!

Thank you for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it.

🙂

Aloha!

 


Pigeon Peas – Nutritious food for chickens, turkeys, and people :)

People who grow food for people and animals will appreciate the many benefits of growing pigeon peas.

Pigeon Pea Flowers
Pigeon Pea Flowers

Many cultures love and grow this plant, but here in the USA, we don’t hear much about it.   We’re growing them here in Southern California and we love them so much that we want to share our enthusiasm about them with you.

We were introduced to pigeon peas on this permaculture site -which is clever and fun to read.  Rather than me trying to re-state all of the information, please check it out here and then come back for the rest of the story!

tropicalpermaculture.com/pigeon-pea

We ordered seeds on amazon.com and planted them in May 2014, so they’re about 1 1/2 years old in our garden now.

We wondered how they would grow here in USDA Zone 10a/Sunset Western Garden zone 23.

Take a look… here they are just a few weeks after planting…

Pigeon Pea seedlings in May 2014 - when newly planted
Pigeon Pea seedlings in May 2014 – when newly planted

Grow they did – and grow some more – and they keep growing 1 1/2 years later.   It’s so pleasant and fun when something grows with such ease!

Pigeon Peas at 1 and 1/2 years old
Pigeon Peas at 1 and 1/2 years old
The Pigeon Peas are about 6 feet tall at 1 & 1/2 years old.
The Pigeon Peas are about 6 feet tall at 1 & 1/2 years old.
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Here’s a shot of the pigeon pea pods – with a caterpillar crawling on them.  Butterflies love these plants, and so do bees and hummingbirds.
Butterfly on Pigeon Pea
Butterfly on Pigeon Pea

They’ve been producing pods prolifically.  All summer we picked baskets full every day.

This makes the turkeys very happy, because they love them so much!!!   It feels good to give them something freshly grown.

They’re delicious just eaten off the plant, and they make a great addition to a salad or they can be boiled in salted water and they come out like edamame (boiled soybeans you get in japanese restaurants as an appetizer).  They’re a great snack when served that way.  Other cultures serve them regularly with rice and in soups and stews too.  There are many recipes available.

As the weather began to cool down this fall, I noticed that the pea production slowed down, but stray pigeon peas plants had volunteered to grow where ever they had been dropped.  They grow with practically no effort.

 

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A volunteer seedling sprouting under the oak tree, with no human care.

We saved some of seeds and planted a new hedge with them too – so when those start producing, we will have not only something unique, but enough to offer to the community.

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The flowers a beautiful too – they are red when still closed, and open up into a bright yellow.

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Here’s a shot of one small green pod opened up to show the peas.  They are delicious at this stage.  Once they mature and dry out, they have to be soaked to be eaten.  I think we’ve always eaten them fresh, but maybe soon we’ll make a pot of beans from the dried ones!

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Younger Peas on Left, Older Peas on Right

 

 

Thank you for reading this post – we hope you enjoyed it!

– Aloha 🙂

 

How we saved our pecan harvest from the crows this year – and you can too!

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecans Ripening

It started when we lost of most of our pecans to the crows last year.  Dozens of them landed in several tall pecan trees in our neighborhood, flapping, cawing and having a good-old time.   They ate from the top branches where most of the nuts were growing, and we could only watch because we couldn’t even reach the pecans.  We got hardly any of the nuts on the tree.

Here’s the good news – this year during their annual pecan-ripening feast, they’ve bypassed our tree and gone on to the taller trees in the area.

Here’s why they’re more interested in the neighbors trees instead.

We decided to trim the height of the tree so the pecans wouldn’t be too high to reach.

Here are some before and after pictures:

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Tree in 2014, before we trimmed off about 1/3 of the height.
The Pecan Tree in 2014, before we trimmed off about 1/3 of the height.

We waited until winter, when the tree was leafless and dormant. It took us less than an hour to trim 1/3 of the height.  We lopped off the vertically growing branches and kept the more horizontal branches.

It didn’t hurt the tree at all – in fact, the tree grew wider and fuller this year.    Now the nuts are at our level and we can get to them as soon as they begin to ripen, thus giving us a fair chance against the crows!  We will trim the tall vertical branches again each winter, because we are so pleased with the results.

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Tree grew fuller and wider after trimming and the fruits were in reach.
The tree grew fuller and wider and the fruits were in reach.

Here’s one more shot from another angle.  See how it’s a lot easier for humans to reach now?  The crows did get some pecans this year, but just wait, we’ll be on the ready next year…

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Tree - Healthier after Trimming 1/3 of Height
Pecan Tree – Healthier after Trimming 1/3 of Height

Here’s why we love our pecans:

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecans are delicious and good for you!
Pecans are delicious and good for you!
Aloha Farms Food Forest - These beautiful tassels are the pecan tree's flowers. This was in April 2014.
These beautiful tassels are the pecan tree’s flowers.

We keep the outer skin of the fruit for use as a hair dye.

Aloha Farms Food Forest Pecan Fruit Husks Used for Hair Dye
Pecan Fruit Husks Used for Hair Dye

 

Pecan Fruit juice will stain your skin and hair dark brown
Pecan Fruit juice will stain your skin and hair dark brown

See how we use it for hair coloring, and other forest-friendly personal care ideas.

Thank you for reading the post and I hope it helps you if you have a problem with crows eating your fruit.

Aloha! 🙂