Monday, September 24, 2018

Growing Gorgeous Garlic

stiffneck garlic
by Heather Jo Flores

From ancient Egypt to modern Manhattan, garlic is one of those plants that you can find in almost every garden. It is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and all around the world people still rank garlic among their favorite foods. And it's not just food —it's medicine, too. Garlic is used as an antibiotic, antiviral, heavy metal detox, and to fight colds, high blood pressure, Alzheimers, diabetes and cancer. It even wards off vampires and evil spirits, or so they say.

Here are a few tips on how to succeed at growing garlic.

Start with Quality Seed Garlic
Sure, you can plant that nice organic garlic you got at the Co-op or the farmers market. It was delicious, right? And it will probably grow just fine. But keep in mind that plants that were grown specifically for the purpose of being seed stock have been monitored for traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and uniformity, among many other things. And, by purchasing seed stock from a reputable grower, you are connecting to a lineage that is building long-term food security.

As for varieties, you will never run out of options, but here are some reliable ones to start with.

Softneck varieties, with a milder flavor, good for braiding and long-term storage:

Nootka Rose, for proven reliability in temperate climates, available from Garlicana in Southern Oregon. Check out their free PDF Catalog for an education on the history and genetics of garlic.

Transylvanian (because who could resist?) from Great Northern Garlic in central Washington State.

Chinese Pink, because it matures extra early. From Territorial Seed Company in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Stiffneck varieties, with a stronger flavor and edible scapes, great for roasting and pickling:

Turkish Giant, famous for giant, easy to peel cloves, also from Territorial (above).
Music, bred for large size, strong flavor and disease resistance. Available through High Mowing Seeds. Their online catalog features a cool comparison feature that lists several types of garlic.

Chesnok, a red Siberian variety known for hardiness and flavor, also from High Mowing.

Where to Plant Garlic
Garlic likes full sun, but it will still do OK in a spot that gets some shade. Garlic and roses are classic garden companions, and it stands to reason that garlic will also do well among other members of the rose family.

Try planting patches of garlic around your plums, peaches, apples, raspberries, blackberries and cherries. Or just clear a sunny area in your garden that you don't mind devoting to garlic until next June (or so).

How to Plant Garlic

Here's a fun tip:
Use a small longneck bottle to make the holes in your freshly weeded and raked garden bed. A small hot-sauce bottle from a brand like Cholula works great for making the holes the perfect depth. Make each hole 6 inches apart, in a pattern that makes the best use of the space in your bed.

Now, break up the heads of your seed garlic and pull the outer papers off of each clove. Plant each clove individually, with the flat side down, pointy side up. Fill the holes with rich, organic compost.

Make sure to mulch!
Garlic is drought-resistant, to a point. A thick mulch can make a huge difference in whether your plants die of thirst or not. When you've just planted the cloves and filled the holes with compost, spread a thin layer of manure over the beds. Top that with 2 inches of straw mulch and saturate the whole area with water. Add another inch of straw and forget about it for the winter. If there is a very dry Autumn, water the patch a couple of times. But it will probably be just fine on its own as long as we get some rain by January.

Weed, fertilize, and mulch again.
Garlic is a "heavy feeder" and will do much better without a lot of competition. In the early spring, the stringy green tops of your garlic crop will be pushing out of the straw mulch, and so will a bunch of random weeds. Go through, pull out the weeds, and remove that overwintered straw mulch as you go. Now use a small rake to scratch in some organic fertilizer (anything that's recommended for roses will work just fine).

Toss the old mulch on your compost pile and spread a fresh layer on your garlic patch. This helps prevent mold and mildew from gaining ground while your bulbs mature. 
Water well after this weeding-fertilizing-mulching adventure and then you don't need to do much else until it's time to harvest. 

Eat the Garlic Scapes!
If you planted stiffneck varieties, you're in for a treat. The flower stalks, called "garlic scapes," are delicious when pan-fried or flame-grilled. The stalks will shoot straight up, crowned by a point head-bud, which will plump out and then curl around the stalk in a spiral pattern. Snap that off and fry it up! Removing the scapes also helps the heads grow bigger.

If you want to try and save the seedlets from the later-mature flower stalk, don't cut the scape. Wait until the hard little seedlets are completely dry, and then harvest and replant them. Either way, once scapes have curled, it's time to cut off any irrigation and let the garlic dry down a bit before harvesting.

With softneck garlic, it is best to remove the straw mulch a couple of weeks before harvest, to help avoid mold. Plants that have mold on them will not store well, and they will infect the storage area with mold spores. If you spot moldy patches early, you can remove them with a clean knife. Keep the patch weeded and don't overwater. When the heads seem to be starting to beef up (and the tops seem to be dying back a little) then rake all of the mulch off the area and cut the water.

It's time to harvest when all of the tops are at least 60 percent brown. The night before, give the whole patch a good watering to soften up the ground for digging. Harvest gently, with a D-handled digging fork, working slowly and attentively to avoid slicing into the heads. Don't yank on the tops and don't cut them off. Garlic is delicate when first harvested! And don't dig up the whole patch at once. Dig up a few heads and see if they are mature. Have the bulbs rounded out, or are they still elongated? There is no sense it waiting nine months for your crop and then harvesting it a week too early. Be patient!

Curing and Storage
After harvesting, your bulbs need to cure for optimum flavor and storability. Leave the tops on and either braid them together or gather them into bunches for curing. Hang in a cool, dark, dry space for at least a month. This will cause the bulbs to harden and tighten. Now you can hang up the braids in the kitchen, and/or cut off the tops and store the heads, sell them, eat them, pickle them or give them to the neighborhood kids for Halloween!
Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Eat the Weeds! 12 delicious and nutritious edible weeds and how to include them in your diet.

by Heather Jo Flores

Take a moment to ponder your relationship with the wild plants in your garden. Chickweed, thistle, pigweed, plantain. Cleavers, lemon balm, nettle. These not only provide forage for insects, birds, and animals, they also provide food for you.

Most of the common vegetables we enjoy in our salads, such as lettuce, carrots, parsley and mustard, were once considered weeds.

So why not let their wild kin act as volunteer herbs and vegetables?

Edible weeds taste great in a variety of recipes, and are known to be more nutritious than domesticated plants. You probably already know about a few of these, and perhaps you've even tried dandelion greens or purslane in your salad.

Here I offer a rundown of my favorite weeds to eat and ways I like to prepare them, organized by season.

Early Spring
Fresh Eating. You can make a delicious salad with the very early leaves of just about any of the plants listed in this article, but my favorites are dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), chickweed (Stellaria media), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Chop them all together with lettuce, sunflower seeds and a light vinaigrette.

Late Spring
Weedy Smoothies. When the weeds are still young but starting to taste bitter when eaten raw, try putting them in smoothies. I love a smoothie with avocado, kiwi, peeled cucumber, hemp seeds, lamb's quarter (Chenopodium album), sheep sorrel and purslane.

Baked Weeds. Use weeds like spinach to make lasagna, enchiladas or spanikopita. Try it with lamb's quarter, pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri), burdock (Articum lappa) and/or chickweed (Stellaria media).

Yum-Yum. Collect the large, bitter leaves of late-season dandelion, burdock and broad-leaf plantain (Plantago major). Add some long branches of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and pigweed. Hang them in bundles in a warm, dry space for a couple of weeks, to let them dehydrate. When dry, shuck the leaves off the stems and crumble them together with sea salt, powdered cumin and dried seaweed. Use this to sprinkle in soups, salads, salsa and everything else, to boost nutrition and aid digestion.

Weed Pesto. Collect the earliest shoots of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), cleavers (Galium aparine) and miner's lettuce. Put them in a blender with olive oil, garlic, asiago and a handful of seeds from the milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Spread on fresh bread or tortillas.

Proper identification. Some plants are quite poisonous, and I have included the botanical names in this article in hopes that you will be careful to correctly identify any plant you eat. With any new food, it is wise to always try just a little bit first, then wait a day or two to see if your have an allergic reaction. Chances are, everything will be fine, but better safe than sorry!

#foodnotlawns #DIY

#foodforest #edible weeds

Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Monday, September 17, 2018

Best Permaculture Books Written by Women

Shining the spotlight on writing by women in permaculture.

by M. Kramer
food not lawns book
Women have a high rate of participation throughout permaculture, but aren't proportionally represented in leadership roles. The spotlight often goes towards men while women who are organizing and farming get overlooked. This can make it more difficult to find the work out there that women have done. In researching this article I was surprised to find that any combination of words I could think to type in around women writers in permaculture found few, or oftentimes no results.

So, to make it easier for everyone to find these excellent resources, I've compiled a list of books written by women, some in the permaculture movement, some who may not identify as permaculture designers, but who still wrote important books for self-sufficiency and gardening. I also included some information on the authors.

Listed in alphabetical order, by author's last name:

Jenni Blackmore: Permaculture For the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre
A very readable, personal account of her twenty years of trial and error farming in Nova Scotia. A great read for anyone who can’t afford a large farm in a sunny climate.
In addition to being a micro-farmer Jenni is also a painter and certified Permaculture Design Consultant. She lives on Quakadoodle Farm.

Jessi Bloom: Creating Sanctuary 

Focusing on how to grow and use healing plants. She is also the author of Free Range Chicken Gardens and co-author of Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth. She owns N.W. Bloom EcoLogical Landscapes, based near Seattle, which is known as an innovator in sustainable landscape design. 

Catherine Bukowski: The Community Food Forests Handbook
Focusing on how to build and maintain a food forest project when working with a community of people. Focuses on the social aspects of a project and changes that occur in a group from the beginning to the end of a project. More info here.

Novella Carpenter: Farm City
An urban farming memoir set in Oakland that has contains many stories of her raising animals. In 2011 she was told by the city that she would need to close the farm but instead she was eventually able to get a Minor Conditional Use Permit. This allowed her to keep her more than 40 animals and inner city garden. She is currently an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco. Here's her blog.

Rosalind Creasy: Edible Landscaping
While this is not technically a permaculture book it does address designing your outdoor landscape with edible plants instead of being only decorative and was highly influential when it was first published in 1982. Her work goes as far back as 1970. She has written several other books and appeared in many publications. Her website is a fantastic resource for edible landscaping tips.

Carol Deppe: The Resilient Gardener 
Presents gardening techniques in disaster design, whether the disasters are financial or climate change related. A relevant book for our times. She has two other books, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. You can access many of her essays and articles on her website.

Heather Jo Flores: Food Not Lawns 
There are more than 50 Food Not Lawns chapters worldwide, mostly due to inspiration from this book. Here there is connection placed between activism, community building, and gardening. A great book for the urban dweller as well as country living. Heather is currently growing a food forest in southern Spain. She also runs this blog and the Permaculture Women’s Guild, which offers an online permaculture design certificate course taught by 40 women. She also offers her own series of online classes in the areas of emotional permaculture and practices for women authors.

Maddy Harland: Fertile Edges: Regenerating Land, Culture and Hope
Discusses the potential of use of permaculture principles in society alongside current events. She demonstrates those principles in contrast to the way things are usually done. She is also the editor of Permaculture Magazine.

Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume: Urban Homesteading
Focused on their own hands-on personal experience in an urban environment, this 2011 hands-on exploration connects to an ever-evolving blog, here.

Looby Macnamara: People and Permaculture
This has been a very influential book because it was an early arrival in the discussion of social permaculture, taking permaculture ethics and principals and applying them to our interactions with each other, ourselves, our families and society. It also contains many useful activities. Looby also wrote 7 Ways to Think Differently and is currently working on her next book Activating Cultural Emergence. She also runs Applewood, a 20 acre demonstration and education center.

Rosemary Morrow: Earth Users Guide To Permaculture
This book can be found on most lists for best permaculture books. It is a practical permaculture design guide good for use on whatever sized plot of land you are working with. Contains information on water use, managing pests and wildlife, and much more. Published in 1993 it is older than most books on this list. Rosemary began teaching permaculture in the 1980s and is still travelling all around the world teaching it today.

Trina Moyles: Women Who Dig
Features the stories of women from many different countries and their experiences with farming. Tackles climate change, economics, gender roles and much more. The secondary title is Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World. She also writes fiction and poetry and her non-fiction works have been published in several magazines. You can find more on her here.

Tao Orion: Beyond the War on Invasive Species.
Concerns over invasive species destroying ecosystems and choking out native plants has lead to a war where the use of herbicides and other destructive practices is viewed as necessary. This book contains a broader view by taking into account that we need to understand why invasive species are existing in an ecosystem to make more ecological decisions that address the root of the problem. Tao Orion is a permaculture designer living in Oregon. She does consulting through Resilience Permaculture DesignShe teaches at Oregon State University and at at Aprovecho, a 40-acre nonprofit sustainable-living educational organization.

Crystal Stevens: Grow, Create, Inspire
This book contains practical step-by-step ways to build the skills to become more self sufficient. Crystal is also the author of Worms At Work. She is an herbalist, a teacher and a regenerative farmer. She is published in many magazines and speaks at conferences.
She lives on a 10 acre farm in Missouri with her husband and two children.

Ruth Stout: No Work Garden Book
Again, not technically a permaculture book but groundbreaking in the organic world. Loved by many, the title says it all. She uses thick mulch to, as she puts it, garden from her couch. You know you want to read this book. She went on to write several more books and magazine columns. She lived from 1884-1980.

Amy Stross: The Suburban Micro Farm
Teaches how to farm effectively with limited land and free time. Her own tenth of an acre micro-farm is a real life example of her writings. You can stay caught up with her micro- farming adventures at


Not only are these amazing books by women in permaculture, they are amazing books, period. Let's work together to bring more support and recognition for these pioneering writers, gardeners, and designers! Share this article, read these books, and also check out these other resources, by and for permaculture women:

Facebook group
Free resources
Permaculture design course
Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Friday, September 14, 2018

What is Permaculture? It's not just about gardening!

by Heather Jo Flores

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of those whom we bring into the world.” --Bill Mollison
What is permaculture?
It’s a question I hear almost every day, and I answer it in a variety of ways, depending on how deeply I want to go in the moment.

The short answer:

A design system for sustainable living.

The long answer:
A set of tools and techniques borrowed from indigenous cultures and applied to physical, social, and emotional landscapes to create living, evolving systems that mimic nature, produce food and energy, and regenerate, rather than annihilate, the Earth.

But what in the heck does that mean? It’s got something to do with organic gardening, right?

Yes, right. But what most people don’t realize is that gardening is only a small part of it. Permaculture includes gardening but really it’s all about design: It’s about growing, harnessing, protecting, and cultivating environments that thrive. Imagine this design process as a starburst pattern that starts with the plants and spirals out in every direction, into every aspect of my life. This connects to land use, social relationships, self-awareness, and so much more.

Here’s a video I made for the first class in the Permaculture Women’s Guild online permaculture design course, which explains a bit more about what permaculture is...and what it isn’t.

Permaculture forefathers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren taught from an ethical and ecological basis that used Birch’s Six Principles of Natural Systems, as follows”

  1. Nothing in nature grows forever. There is a constant cycle of decay and rebirth.
  2. Continuation of life depends on the maintenance of the global bio-geochemical cycles of essential elements, in particular carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and phosphorus.
  3. The probability of extinction of populations or a species is greatest when the density is very high or very low. Both crowding and too few individuals of a species may reach thresholds of extinction.
  4. The chance that a species has to survive and reproduce is dependent primarily upon one or two key factors in the complex web of relations of the organism to its environment.
  5. Our ability to change the face of the earth increases at a faster rate than our ability to foresee the consequence of change.
  6. Living organisms are not only means but ends. In addition to their instrumental value to humans and other living organisms, they have an intrinsic worth.

And when I first started learning permaculture, way back in the 1990’s, I started by learning these seven principles (as presented by Mollison and Holmgren):

  1. Work with nature, rather than against it.
  2. The problem is the solution. "You don't have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency."
  3. Make the least change for the greatest effect.
  4. The yield of a system is limited only by the information and imagination of the designer. 
  5. Everything gardens, and is in relationship to its environment.
  6. It is not the number of diverse components in a design that leads to stability, it is the number of beneficial connections between these components.
  7. All design is ecological design, in that all designs, whether intentional or not, affect their environment.

Is it starting to make sense?

Can you see how these ideas and fundamental ecological truths could help you to design not only a garden and homestead, but also a social and emotional landscape that is more resilient, abundant, and joyful than the current (degenerative) systems in which most of us now exist?

Here’s a fun exercise, also from the first class in our online double-certificate course. It will help you tune into the living systems around you and begin to cultiivate a “designer’s mind,” which is the first step in becoming a permaculture expert!

Choose a tree near your home. Perhaps it’s on your street and you pass it every day. Go to the tree and touch it with your hands. Look at it up close and from far away. Smell the bark, the leaves, the soil around the trunk. Hug it, lean against it, touch it with your tongue.

What benefits does this bring to your neighborhood? What do the people who live near this tree get from it? What resources does it provide?

And how do the tree’s surroundings affect the tree? Think of animals, insects, birds, wind, humans, water, weather, pollution.

How does this tree interact as a living, evolving element in a whole system?

Write about it, draw a mind-map about it, or just think about it for a while and then share your thoughts/drawings/writing in our Free Permaculture group on Facebook! See you in there!
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