Seed Harvest 2022

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Each year I feel anxious until I have some seed gathered for next year.

The tangles I have growing in the front an back are pretty dense in terms of the number of species of vegetables and flowers.

The vegetables include tomatillos, groundcherries, peppers, squash, pumpkins, okra, and several varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

The flower seeds also have to be gathered, although the birds leave very little of the sunflowers seeds to harvest.

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Sunflowers and Butterflies

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The front and back yards are tangles of heirloom vegetables and wildflowers of many different types, and that draws a lot of butterflies, especially the large yellow tiger swallowtails.

Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) and various varieties of sunflowers dominate about half the area with full sunlight, with cosmos, coneflowers, and zinnias making up most of the rest, at least as far as annuals.

Note that all of those flowers are warm yellow, orange. and red colors, and so it’s a little dazzling on blue-sky days, especially with all the large butterflies flying around.

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Flower Meadow & Rate of Change

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The large maple in the back yard was home and pantry to all sorts of birds and animals, and so I wasn’t happy taking it down, but it needed doing.

The maple was asymmetrical and leaning over the house.

The issue was using a lot of energy to change things very fast and move all the organic material (tons of wood and leaves) off the property in a day because that is the way tree services work.

It went against my principle of making change slowly, even in removing invasive plants and ornamental shrubs.

I prefer to make large changes as incrementally as possible to minimize impacts on all creatures, especially salamanders and snails and other slow moving critters.

For the tree, I wish I could have left the main part of the trunk standing to rot in place and provide habitat for many kinds of insects, birds, and animals.

It could have been cut off at 12 feet, and I could put a beehive on top.

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20220701-passionflower-bumblebee. Notice the yellow pollen on the bumblebee’s head, back, and wing.
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Male Rhinoceros Beetle

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This is a male specimen of the eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus), a species of rhinoceros beetle native to the eastern US.

I saw one of these only a handful of times growing up, and I was amazed each time.

I associate them with years when June is rainy, and the plants are fat and green. I think every one of these I have seen turned up the day after a night rain.

If I had any doubts about turning my lawn into an ecological oasis, this guy showing up would have convinced me.

Biodiversity and Ecological Value

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At least half of my time tending the pollinator meadow is spent removing invasive evergreen seedlings: monkey grass (liriope), Japanese privet, wintercreeper, English ivy.

These plants might not feed most insects and other animals, but birds love the seeds and poop them all over creation.

The problem is that these plants displace native species that feed a higher number of species, including caterpillars and other insect larva.

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20220609-kankakee-mallow. The Kankakee Mallow (Iliamna remota) is an endangered plant previously limited to a single county in Illinois. There is also Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) in the bottom right quarter of this photo. Both are perennials.

A plant doesn’t have to be rare or endangered to be ecologically valuable.

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Pollinator Meadow vs Garden

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The ancestors made their gardens only in the rich damp soils of the bottom lands around rivers and creeks.

My yard is mostly clay and sand and is well up the hill from a creek.

Growing most vegetables would require unsustainable and wasteful irrigation using water from the municipal water supply which is taken from the Chattahoochie River.

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20220625-bumblebee-passion-flower

It doesn’t make sense to do that if the goal is to maximize biodiversity and habitat overall.

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The First Harvest 2018

Heirloom tomatoes

Going into this, I explained to my son that we had several challenges and unknowns and that the goal for the first year might be merely to raise enough seed for next year, preferably enough seed that we could sow it in a thick tangle with enough left over in case a late freeze killed the first round of seedlings.

We did much better than that, at least for most things.

We had a gallon of tiny tomatoes about every 2 to 3 days and a good supply of peppers too, more than we could eat and dehydrate easily.

We managed to get about two quarts of black beans for seeds, and the Chinese brown cotton made enough for seeds too.

On the other hand, the rabbits killed the squash plants by chewing the bases of the plants, and so we only got a few scalloped squash and zucchini.

The corn was a complete loss in spite of growing very well. The squirrels ate it all.

Tomatoes of different heirloom varieties.
Tomatoes of different heirloom varieties.
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Native American Garden First Planting

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Native American Garden

We aren’t using any pesticides on our plants. We aren’t shooting the squirrels, although I have explained to my son that in a time of hunger, we wouldn’t have to worry about them because they would have already seen the inside of a pot.

I only hope they leave us enough for seed. I’m hoping to raise enough seed to over sow the entire garden next spring with a mix of everything in one big tangle. Continue reading “Native American Garden First Planting”

Seedlings

Germination Room 1: Formerly Known as the Dining Room

Instead of buying plastic germination trays, I wanted to show my son how to reuse recycled materials like cardboard and the rolls from toilet paper in some totes on loan from the warehouse. Continue reading “Seedlings”