NDSHS 2012 website is up

This year the North Dakota State Horticulture Society has a webpage for their annual conference – we still can’t accept online registration, but at least we can post conference info and the brochure for people to print out and mail in!

The 89th annual conference will be in Bismarck, at the spanking-new Career Academy building at BSC. I always love these conferences – it rotates throughout the state every year, so attendees get an unparalled chance to tour new and interesting gardens from all over the state. I’ve been waiting a long time for it to come to Bismarck! I still fondly remember Minot and Jamestown, and the amazing kolomikta kiwis and mulberries in a Jamestown tour.

 I will be giving two talks this year – Resilient Gardening and a focus on Edible Perennials including mushrooms; and if I can manage to get my garden revamp done in time, my yard will be in the open houses on Thursday night July 26th. Craig Stange is giving his famous rainbarrel talk; there’s a session on composting; and Renee Ewine has opened her lovely city yard with raised veggie beds in the front and a huge rain tank and compost setup in the back,  so permaculture considerations will make a good showing!

Check out the site, the pictures of past conferences and this year’s yards, and let me know if there’s more info you’d like to see. Hope to see you in Bismarck in July!


The astoundingly early Honeyberry (haskap)

If you have room for two shrubs in your yard, consider the Honeyberry – the earliest fruit I harvested in 2011. They’re described as tasting like a mix between a blueberry and a currant – so, with a bit of tartness to them. That’s a fairly accurate description… I quite liked them, anyway! Others wanted sugar added.

These are the two smaller of the commercially-released varieties from the University of Saskatchewan. Berry Blue and Blue Belle? They should be ~4-6′ tall at maturity.

May 6: first flower.

May 11: whole bush in flower.

June 2: green fruit already present.

June 13: ripening.

June 24: ready to eat.

About 8 oz total yield from two first-year shrubs, maybe 16″ high each.



October 4: Settling down for the winter.

Growing soap

I am procrastinating writing a solar dehydration class.

I just got Martin Crawford’s Creating a Forest Garden in the mail Thursday, and flipping through the pretty pictures has reminded me of a plant I want to incorporate into the garden next year – soapwort.

It’s pretty, low enough to blend into the other ornamental perennials already present, and extremely useful. The jar in the below picture (from a Junior Master Gardener show and tell session) shows some suds from just shaking purchased shredded dried root in a jar with cold water – imagine how much better you can do extracting with hot water!

Or, don’t imagine – check out these people. This is so going on my project list.

Alternative vegetables: radish edition

What to do when your radishes bolt into flower before the root sizes up enough to eat?

Radish Pods / Rat-tail Radishes (From Plant Pictures)

Why, eat them anyway, of course!

Radish pods are my new favorite low-maintenance vegetable crop. Don’t let the seed catalogs convince you that you need a special variety of radish to grow these tasty seed pods – my radish population is a bastard cross of three years of French Breakfast, Cherry Belle and daikon intermingled by bees, and the pods tasted great – mild radish flavor with the crunch and juice of snap peas. (Well, there were a few skinny ones that were spicy enough to blow my head off, but I am convinced with no evidence that they came from the relatively unimproved daikon. Any cultivated garden variety radish should do you fine.) Harvest when bright, shiny and firm, before the insides get fibrous. They should be preservable in the same ways as snap peas or green beans – Terre Vivante specifies jarring these, soaking them in a few changes of water, then lactofermenting.

These pictures are from 5 July, the end of the spring self-sown batch, but the next batch is flowering now and should give me another crop of pods before frost. Make sure to leave some pods to mature for next year’s seed – and if you leave the pods on the plant long enough, they’ll split and self-sow. Vegetable gardening can’t get any easier than that.

From Plant Pictures

The flowers are tasty too, if you can’t wait for the seed pods to develop – and are actually spicier in flavor than the pods. And of course the cooked leaves are good for soups and greens.

The best thing about radish pods – for the same effort, one radish plant will give you one radish root, or 30-50 pods. I know which I’m choosing.

From Plant Pictures

Permaculturists, don’t forget the immense value of deep daikon roots for breaking down hard-packed soil and infiltrating organic matter deep into tough clay. By taking the additional yield of pods, you can have your radish flavor and your organic matter boost too!

Catching up

It’s interesting being back at work – it seems I have only so much space in my brain for project-related things, and my new work is now taking up all of that room. Everything else is going verrrry sloooowly. What is going on?

  • Raspberries are plentiful enough for a good handful each night before bed. Probably time to fertilize, as the older stems are looking kind of yellow and sad.
  • All 50 Tristar strawberries have been eaten to sticks by rabbits. Next year, raised bed and netting from the beginning.
  • Each thunderstorm gives me another 1-2 king stropharia mushrooms. Time to refill their wood chips for next year, as I can almost see dirt between them. I just scored some american elm shavings from an elm Craig sent to the sawmill, but I’d almost rather save them for a winter basement tupperware.
  • Garlic is almost ready for harvest – lower leaves are drying out.
  • A new 8×16 bed in the front yard meant for ornamental edibles is slowly getting planted; I made the mistake of bringing my husband along to the garden center so now there are an extra few perennial flowers to find a place for. I’m making good progress on emptying the planting bed with southern exposure to make room for cold frames this fall.
  • Planted an 8×32 bed of fruiting shrubs at my grandmother’s on Sunday – 2 currants, 4 gooseberries, 8 raspberries, 2 honeyberries, 3 kiwi, an autumn olive and rhubarb, lovage, sorrel and wild mountain daylilies to round it out. It’s still missing a medlar (wouldn’t fit in the car) and a Bali cherry (husband stole it for our backyard and garden center had run out). It’s been soaker-hosed and sheet-mulched for easy maintenance – there is clover and lambsquarters coming through the five inches of free rotted grass clippings, but I count those a benefit.
  • After seeing the appropriate harvest method for thistles in Sam Thayer’s A Forager’s Harvest, I tasted some leaf midribs from my Canada thistles and was pleasantly surprised at the mild, sweet taste. I harvested all the stalks I could find for peeling, but chickened out at the massive pile of stickers / ran out of time during the weekend.
  • The permaculture group might be hosting a booth at a Survival Skills and Preparedness Fair at Kirkwood Mall on 11 September.
  • The stunner of July’s garden club tours were a rainbow of daylilies with volunteer feverfew floating 8 inches above the blooms.

I managed to take pictures of a new favorite vegetable – radish pods – and will enthuse about their volume and texture at my earliest opportunity. Hope the summer is treating you all well!

Guess what time it is!

It’s currant worm time!

These are from only two currant bushes! I can’t imagine how much fun it would not be to pick these off gooseberries!

I used to enjoy caterpillars as a child, until I got stung by a huge one on a Louisiana live oak. These ones don’t bother me TOO much as they are fairly small and squishy, and respond very well to hand control.

A rainy update

So, today was supposed to feature the installation of a “rain garden” of fruit and perennial edibles in my front yard. It’s been raining off and on for a week – with snow at the beginning – so event was cancelled due to mud. The plants did not arrive today as I expected, so I will be potting up the bareroot shrubs till I can arrange a better time. The garlic, chives, strawberry and new baby lettuces and radishes are loving it; it would have been better to have dug the depression a couple weeks ago during the day while I was free so I could have harvested some of this water, but oh well. It rather illustrates the point! I’ve heard someone with two 1500-gallon tanks under their deck has already filled up just from this week of surprise drizzles.


  • May 2 – Garden rehab eval for my sister
  • Immediate – Canada thistle control
  • May 3 – re-employed!
  • Week of May 3 – try to dig raingarden myself in stages, as all future weekends have been claimed!
  • May 8 – In Sioux Falls teaching mushroom cultivation for the Glacial Lakes Permaculture PDC
  • May 15 – Wool Picking Party in Harvey, ND, and a wedding in Wilton
  • May 17 – Site Assessment exercise for prospective community garden/demo site, 5:30 pm – handouts to be developed
  • May 20 – Mushroom cultivation for Bismarck State College’s Continuing Education program – sign up here! They need a minimum of 8 to run the course, so if you’re interested everyone else already signed up encourages you to check it out!
  • May 25 – Urban Harvest Book Club, “Independence Days” by Sharon Astyk – glorious book! There is so much information here. She covers not just how to put up food, but how to ensure you get it eaten as well – my biggest problem.
  • Early June – plant warm weather garden crops
  • TBD June – Sheet Mulch Installation Demo in Mandan, focusing on strange fruits
  • July 15 – Speaking on composting/vermicompost for Urban Harvest Wellness Hour
  • TBD June or July – tour of Craig Stange’s raingardens and no-till gardens
  • Late August – ND State Horticulture Society Annual Conference in Devil’s Lake
  • Late September – hopefully I can make it out to the North Country Fiber Fair in Watertown, SD again. I’ve missed a lot of the recent fiber fairs due to schedule conflicts.

And of course:

  • Aug 2012 – NAFEX Annual Conference in Saskatchewan!
  • Aug 2012 – NDSHS Annual Conference in Bismarck!

I LOVE having a lot of time to plan.