Need Landscape Design Help - Perma/Polycultures, Eco-Gardening

kajaDecember 26, 2009

Good morning everyone!

I'm interested in finding a landscape designer / architect / other, who can help me design my front and back yard with permaculture, polyculture and eco-gardening techniques.

I've been doing a lot of reading, and my latest book (which I can't put down) is Gaia's Garden, 2nd edition (Toby Hemenway). I find the advice in this book exceptional and very enlightening, and I'd like to find a landscape designer / architect / other who can help me design based on these principles.

I live in Smyrna, Georgia, with almost 1/2 acre of land, and I'd love to get my food forest started so I can have some great, fresh, ripe eats this summer, if possible.

Being new to Atlanta, I don't know what grows here successfully and what doesn't. And rather than just start planting, I'd like to have a master plan for both my front and back yard, and work towards fulfilling the plan.

Can someone recommend a business or individual to help me with design? I don't care about credentials necessarily, as long as one is well versed and experienced in these design principles.

Thank you everyone, and Merry Christmas.


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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

There is an atlanta permiculture group that meets monthly to learn permiculture techinques and the people who run it have a permiculture school.
I would suggest contacting Dwaine Marcus of the Urban Gardener (and his blog, the funnyfarm) as the person most able to help you with this. What you want to do is not something that can be designed and done over night. It is a long learning process and you need someone to help guide your decisions but ultimately, permiculture is not something one can design for you. You need to make it happen. Dwaine and Robin also run the Decatur Farmers Market which is Wednesday afternoons if you want to meet them in person.
I do this locally in my community, (I don't go to Smyrna) and Dwaine has helped several people get started slowly, by teaching them all the techniques. His wife Robin is also great and teaches many classes on their urban farm such as canning, preserving, cheese making - they also host a very wide variety of classes.
You may also like to try the Georgia Organics upcoming weekend in Athens - it will help you understand the process more, what you would be doing and how long it takes.
One of the most important questions would be if you have an HOA. If you had an HOA i do not think you could have permiculture but you could garden with eco-friendly techniques.
Lastly, coming in Spring you may want to keep abreast the happenings at Oakhurst Community Gardens in Decatur. Myself and several other folks teach organic gardening classes there from the "ground" up. The prices are reasonable and it's a good way to get your feet wet if you've moved here recently.

Good luck, I hope this has helped!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2009 at 10:32PM
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Excellent info! Thank you kindly.

Fortunately for me, no HOAs. In fact, when I started shopping for a home, this was my #1 priority.

I realize this is a long term endeavor. And I have much to learn! But what I'm most interested in, and need most is someone who knows what grows well locally, and what can and cannot, should and should not be planted near each other. The rest is trial and error, luck and a whole lot of learning and work.

For example, I was reading that a walnut tree secrets a toxic substance (genus is allelopathic) that suppresses some completing plants, so choosing the right plants to grow around a walnut tree takes care. It's these kinds of relationships that only an experienced local gardener can help me with. While this is just an example, I'm sure you get where I'm going. I want to choose the right plants and place them in a way that's most beneficial for the entire garden. I have nowhere near this kind of expertise to do this. This is expert territory, indeed.

I will definitely check out all the references you provided.

I found an orchard that sells many fruit trees, and was hoping I could plant a few fruit trees as soon as I can. Do you know anyone who has purchased trees (some with multiple fruits grafted onto the same tree!) from If so, do you konw what grew well here in Atlanta? These folks got good reviews on the net.

I can't wait to get started! I'm going to keep a detailed blog of my experiences. I've read that this flavor of permaculture is relatively new to most, so maybe detailing what works and doesn't work might help someone else.

Thank you GGG!


    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 8:31AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Don't forget you can ask here about a lot of your questions such as Walnuts. Both Walnuts - especially black walnuts and pecans have alliopathic tendencies which mean NO plants will work all that well below them. So you could choose to plant the tree maybe beside functional outbuildings so that you can have it. Or grow a nut tree that will produce faster and will not have this issue such as a hazelnut (I am choosing a half bred type to prevent disease issues in the native hazelnuts). However, you could grow a walnut as a single yard tree. I have a pecan with two oaks beside it. Nothing grows underneath so I plan to put some water collection in that area, lean to storage space for some items not so pretty, and an outdoor shower which will water the trees in the summer.

The University of Georgia website as well as the Georgia Organics websites both have pamphlets about seasonal vegetable growing that might be of help for you.

You need to buy local fruit trees. Why? Because you need to choose plants that are grafted on root stocks appropriate for heavy clay growing. If you are growing organically you also need to be choosing plants and choosing sites for the plants which will decrease the amount of disease so you can spray less (or not at all if you choose wisely). The Fruits yahoo group can help you.
Trees Atlanta is having a fruit sale on January 23rd, and their choices are very appropriate for our climate, and were thoughtfully chosen for organic growing. I also learned from the Atlanta Fruits yahoo group a link to a family fruit nursery near Jefferson Georgia. The website had some good info including perhaps the best advice I have ever heard for those trees that are prone to blights...plant on slopes! So I chose the site for my apples and pears wisely and I am quite pleased.
Johnson's Fruit Nursery has some good information on their web page for growing fruit, and the Southern Living Garden Book published a few years ago has some very good advice for growing fruit in heat and humidity.
I suggest finding Dwayne (correct spelling) as I think he can really help you with everything you need.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 11:28PM
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I've already contacted Duane and we're going to talk tonight! I'm really excited about this.

I will start tuning into the Atlanta Fruit group and see what they say. Again - great info. Thanks.

I have a question.

Can you (et al) recommend particular species or varieties of the below, that grows best in the Atlanta / Smyrna area? In time, I'd love to have as many of these as I can:

GRAPEFRUITS!!!! I Loves me some fresh grapefruits
Apples (any eating variety)
    I can get many varieties from a single tree, via grafting
Kiwi (I think this is a vine)
Star fruit
Passion fruit

    (these are soooo good; picked them all the time in Oregon)

As for the trees, to have as much variety as I'd like I'll need to stay with trees that are somewhat smaller rather than larger.

I may be gathering an extensive list in the coming months of food I'd *like* to grow, but the reality is that I will start slowly, with only a few fruits, and over time slowly add to my food forest.

So I guess it'd be best to start off with a few fruit trees (3 or 4 varieties perhaps) and some berries (2 or 3 varieties) that'll do well in Smyrna.

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 8:47AM
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Hi kaja,

I'm a landscape architect in Marietta. Ecological landscaping, native plants, and backyard wildlife habitats have become my focus in the year since the economic crisis caused me to loose my land planning job.

However, food growing and permaculture have also been long time interest of mine. I actually bought "Gaia's Garden" a month ago, but have been reading "Planting Noah's Garden" first.

My own lot is heavily wooded and overgrown in ivy. I hope to get the ivy cleaned out soon and plant native fruits like pawpaw, serviceberry, and wild blueberry; but my emphasis will be more on wildlife than food production.

I think it would be interesting to see how you apply more traditional permaculture principles to your yard. And I wouldn't mind looking over any master plan drawings you do, give you an extra opinion, or help you think through the design process.

Let me know if you would like to get together to talk.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 9:42AM
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I went to the funnyfarm blog. I'm hooked!
All this discussion has reminded me of a question I've been meaning to ask.

I'll put my question in here, as well as add a new entry in the main area. It seems like y'all might have some ideas for me. (And GGG, you know everything and everyone!!!!!)
We have a cottage-y house with a woodsy, natural area behind it. I love it. One of our home improvement projects was digging a dry creek along the entire length of the property, to direct water away from house and down the gentle hill to to the woods, which is very dry and could benefit from moisture. The lot is long and skinny -- the dry creek is long.
It is functioning fine as is. "As is" consists of a big ditch of red clay, now growing full of weeds and eroding in an artistic manner! (We may have the second Grand Canyon!)
Our plan has always been to finish the creek with landscape cloth, pebbles, river rock, plantings, etc. In reality (obviously) we are having a hard time getting to this.

My question is this..... do any of you know of a landscaper who excels in natural looking work? I have seen too many dry creeks that look horrible -- like a big ditch filled with egg shaped rocks. Ugh.

We want it to really look like a creek bed in a natural area. I have already done the digging and grading -- the shape curves and meanders nicely. I just need someone with some know-how, materials, and skilled strong people to do the work.

Does anyone come to mind?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 10:15AM
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One key to having a creek bed look natural is to use different sizes of rock - that's why the "all egg rock" approach looks so fake.

Consider how a creek flows - big rocks (and I mean a few bigger than basketball sized rocks) here and there, especially in the curves where nature might have to "go around it", thus actually directing the water flow in another direction. Look at some pictures so that you have a better sense of what you want when you go to hire someone (or pictures might give you the inspiration to do it yourself again).

Most people discourage the use of landscape fabric these days, by the way, but it might be ok for this application.

Here is a link that might be useful: Look through some of these pictures

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 10:26AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I hate to burst your bubble, but edible citrus is not hardy here in the Atlanta area.
Cherry: Stella as a sweet, Montmoracy for a sour which is still iffy depending on your heat island at home.
Apples: You want a single variety per trunk, just prune them small. Liberty and Red Free are disease resistant and Duane may have tried some others

Figs: quite a few are hardy: Celeste, brown turkey, the LSU varieties all are available from Johnson's
Kiwi (I think this is a vine)
Star fruit: not hardy
Passion fruit: hardy but require some taming as they LOVE the south and go insane here.
Mangos: Not Hardy
Grapes: read about pierces disease and table grapes. Scuppernogs are recommended for the South but they are an aquired taste.
Persimmons: American or Japanese, whatever you'd like to grow.

(these are soooo good; picked them all the time in Oregon)

Berries do fairly well. I don't know about huckleberries. Elderberries do well here, and you can also grow pomegranite, pineapple guava, goumi.

Remember, you need to do this research and not just jump into it. Take it SLOWLY. It took me three years to choose my fruit varieties before planting. I needed to assess light, drainage, soil and fertility, having a space in the garden which would meet a particular need of a plant and if I did not have that - striking the plant from my want list (this is HUGE in permiculture), creating swales and berms for water flow through the property, setting aside areas for composting of various kinds, planning out the property (Duane is very good at this) taking into consideration where you need to place "necessaries" such as sheds, compost, greenhouse etc.

You can grow your tender trees in a climate controlled greenhouse and get fruit.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 12:24PM
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Thanks Esh - and I did make a separate entry - sorry for piggy backing on this thread. Thanks for the dry creek pictures - it's making me want to get outside!

This whole perma culture topic is new to me and fascinating. I am going to continue to follow this.

GGG - can you define permaculture? It sounds like plant selection very specific to conditions -- with the intent of low to no maintenance -- also intended to sustain life? Nature and people?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 12:41PM
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Thanks for the encouragement! I may or may not have mentioned, but I'm a novice gardener based on my experience though my passion for gardening is great and has been a lifelong interest. Only now do I have the room to really learn, and have some FUN in my back yard.

I am planning on documenting all that I do from day one. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It will be interesting, indeed! I sure hope there will be more good than bad or ugly... :)

This will be the learning experience I've always dreamed of. But too, I'll be hiring experts to help me get started and keep me on track. So I think I've got the right attitude for success.

I would love your thoughts on my food forest, and would be grateful for any and all advice! Thank you for offering.

Duane (from Funny Farm) and I are going to meet at my home on the 9th to discuss the beginnings of my food forest. I wanted to talk with him and get some ideas so I could maybe come home from the Edible Fruit Tree Sale on the 23rd with some fruit trees to plant.

Some of the first things I know I'll be doing is to create numerous swales (the lot is bowl shaped; my back yard is at the bottom of the bowl and is a pool when it rains), a compost pile and... well, hopefully plant some fruit trees. Regrading all that needs to be regraded will take a great deal of time.

From there I was hoping to get some berries started. I figure this will keep me busy for a few months. At least.

I'll post a link to my blog when I have some pics to show and have a plan.

I can't put Gaia's Garden down. I highly recommend this book. While I am the first to admit I know very little about permaculture, my thoughts on Gaia's Garden is that it takes permaculture to a whole new level. I think you'll really enjoy it! I'm going to look into "Planting Noah's Garden".

Do you recommend this book for a newbie like me?


    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 7:42PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Permaculture is a form of human agriculture which works in harmony with nature. OK, that's pretty much what we all think of gardening as, isn't it?
Permaculture takes it one step further, the garden is permanent and mostly perennial - and instead of forcing a plant to live in a place where it needs a lot of the gardeners help to succeed, the key is choosing plants which naturally fit the place.
For example, KJ's space is very similar to my space. I garden in the area where water collects from my entire neighborhood. That said, the water that collects is urban and may be polluted. So I've (well not me physically, but I designed it)added a dry creek with a ponding area. This holds water and will be planted with plants that naturally filter yuck. There are several underground swales - since so much surface water comes into certain areas, we've added water redirection by placing swales of gravel, and also french drains (which don't drain away but into areas of need).
One area still collects water when it rains, however it does drain immediately after rain stops (thanks to all those invisible swales). Sine this collects moisture, it's perfect for elderberries and many natives which can be used as medicinal herbs. I can't plant cultivated fruits here, apples and pears etc. won't work as this type of moisture can really exasperate fire blight. So I know that I can work with the natural setting and plant the fruit on the sloping areas.
Permaculture is organic and wastes nothing, so a variety of composting is used. Another big principal is not leaving ground to "waste" - mulching is eventually something that is not as needed (as the way we mulch our perennial gardens) - because the space will be so filled with plants! Weeds are not thought of as a bad thing. Weeds stop errosion, they keep the soil active microbially while no food plant is in place, and the weeds when removed to be replaced with other plants can be composted or eaten.

So I hope helps with a very simplified answer and some examples of my own permiculture attempts at home. I'm not a purist by any means. I want my 'weeds' cultivated in contained areas (edible and medicinal 'weeds') and I don't mind mulch as I work on building soil and drainage in the garden.

KJ, I also think you need to look into some soil books - building soil fertility and also tilth. One of the big challenges in gardening this area is the red clay. Red clay is a nutritious soil but the fact it drains poorly and can solidify in drought means that gardeners constantly try and create the best texture in soil. This isn't so much a component of permiculture, but it's necessary here.

Youtube is fully of great permaculture videos. The classic permaculture 101 project is making an herb spiral. Check it out!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 8:46PM
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Does "not hardy" mean it won't grow/produce fruit? Or that it does product fruit but it doesn't last thru the winters? I don't really know what exactly "not hardy" means.

Bummer on the citrus...

What is your take on growing Kiwi fruits? Will I get edible fruits or...?

I couldn't agree with you more about the slow thing, and opting to not plant something if it isn't right. This is why I'm working with Duane in a week or so. I'm hoping he can help me plan to get some of what I want started sooner rather than later. I figure if I can get some of the trees in now I can create plant communities / plant guilds around those as time passes.

I'm in no hurry. Well, let me re-phrase. I'm impatient; I want everything now! But I know better. I figure I'll get expert help to get some of my plants started, and start creating my swales and get my compost piles started. All the while I'll be learning about the fruit trees I've just planted, and over the spring and summer I will hopefully have learned enough to have picked a few more plants to incorporate into each (tree) guild. Learn more, plant more, learn more, etc.

Can you recommend some soil reads? Next week I'm going to look into having my soil tested. I figure it's really not wise to plant anything until I know more about the soil where I'll be planting my trees. I'm hoping fruit tress will be the first thing I plant.

I can't thank you enough for your advice GGG! I've already learned a lot from this thread alone.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 9:06PM
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You're right. "Not hardy" means it won't last through the winter. Whether or not your get fruit depends on whether it bears fruit in one season. For instance a bell pepper isn't hardy, but you get peppers the first summer. A citrus needs several years to mature enough to bear fruit.

A blog is a great idea. Maybe I'll make one for my ivy pulling adventure.

"Planting Noah's Garden" is a great book for beginners. She has a very pleasant, but rambling style that conveys more information than you'd expect. But it's more about planting ecosystems than food systems.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 11:20PM
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Wouldn't a food system also be considered an ecological system? Would there be a difference as long as the principles of "an eco system" are adhered to regardless of the individual plants in the system?

If there is a difference, can you please explain? I'm still really new to all this, so I'm interested in understanding the finer points of each.

I'm trying to find a 2010 copy of the Georgia Master Gardener's Handbook but that's proving to be a bit tough. I called the offices for Cobb County a few months ago and I thought the person I spoke with said the book may be available for sale for those who are not in the program. I may need to call again though and see if this is still true.

I thought this book we be a perfect addition to my collection, because is specifically relates to all things gardening here.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 7:24AM
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KJ - If you find a way to get that book, let us know! It would be a great resource!

I am also excited to hear how your meeting with Duane goes. I bet you will type us a book's worth of enthusiasm in your post!

Isn't it fun?!?!?!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 8:27AM
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It's the BEST fun EVER!!! And I can't wait to meet with Duane. I've been thinking about having my very own garden and my very own yard for quite some time. I've waited years to have the right space and time to have a garden adventure. AND HERE IT IS!

I can't wait to buy my first rake (in years), and my first (non-snow) shovel (in years), and my first... whatever else I need. See, I close on my home tomorrow, and I'll be moved in on the 31st. So technically, I am at the very forefront of my yard and food forest adventure.

I'm about ready to place a rather large order of heirloom veggie seeds with a few different companies. Part of my blog/website will be to document everything, including the time and money I spend doing everything garden related. The way I figure it, even when things don't go as planned, I'm still learning.

I see no harm in me - being a novice gardener, going all Jonny Appleseed in my back yard, planning a food garden that rivals any....any.... ah, grocery store produce section! I mean, how very cool is that?

I look forward to many things in a lot of ways. For instance - as funny as this may sound, the best humor (and lessons) come from unexpected things or failures in life. While I look forward to a great many successes in my garden, on the flip side I can't wait to experience some interesting failures. I'm sure expert gardeners will see my (many) future train wrecks coming... and laugh all the while I'm dealing with them. But that's the fun part of life - the unexpected. So as hard / embarassing / trying as parts of this endeavor may be, I look forward to my failures almost as much as my successes. And I hope everyone will be amused.



    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 6:51PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I know you are impatient. It is easy to sense in your postings :)
However, one shouldn't be impatient with the perennial fruits, especially. They are not easy - not all are simple first time gardener plants. You must learn pruning and supporting techniques and be willing to do this as needed. Fruit needs more tending in urban gardens, mainly to keep things neat and managable.
Does Smyrna have a library system? If so, I suggest you go and begin reading! There are so many wonderful books that will be of assistance to you - however, the books are not necessarily about growing in the South, a region which has really been neglected in regards to vegetable gardening and fruit growing in literature.
One book you should look for, and perhaps purchase is the Perennial Vegetable book - their website also has an online list of perennial vegetables for the Southeast which I found very helpful. A few are obscure, a few need to be grown from seed, a few are a challenge to site...some you may not like...some don't make enough harvest to be worth their planting. Plus the list is missing some goodies (obscure, but goodies).

I think one thing that will help you is if the regular food gardeners here post what and when they are planting and how they are planting it. I winter and spring sow and already have some perennial vegetables sown and germinated (or germinating). Most of my annual vegetables will be sown in the spring - spring vegetables right in the beds and summer vegetables in pots to go in after we eat the spring veg. I follow a general timetable - but watch the weather for clues as to what can be planted when: a few days earlier or later...(and in the Southeast, you can get surprise weather too!)
Did you know you can eat daylilies? Buds, leaves and roots? I gave away my "regular" orange daylilies and now I need some again!!! I love lily flower soup!! How pretty they would be with fruit trees! Tasty too!!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 7:43PM
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You can see right through me. :)

I was hoping that Duane could help me pick the right fruit trees to plant, given my experience level, yard, sunlight, etc. Then once I got a few tree (after prepping the soil correctly of course) I'd plant them and then start reading up on those specific trees so I would know how to care for them properly.

My main hobby is reading. I've been doing tons of excellent reading, mostly on permaculture and ecological gardening. But when I start planting, I'll be doing specific reading on whatever I plant. This seems like a good approach.

Veggies... I can't wait to eat RIPE, organic food from my garden.

I had no idea one could eat day lilies!!! How cool is that? I may ask you for your recipe one day. I knew one can eat some flowers but I've never really read up on it. I just know some are edible. Plus, I'd imagine they make a great color splash to a salad or other dish.

Lily flower soup sounds like an outstanding dish! I'm curious about the reaction you must get when you make the Lily Flower Soup and serve it to others. Most aren't used to the thought of eating flowers...! That must be a riot.



    Bookmark   December 30, 2009 at 9:45PM
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You asked, "Wouldn't a food system also be considered an ecological system?"

Possibly. The key would be using native plants as much as possible, and one reason is that native plants have evolved relationships with local soil microbes and insects that non-natives do not have. (They have them with microbes and insects in their home habitat.) Microbes and insects are an important part of an ecosystem, for instance, even birds that normally feed on berries need the insect protein to feed their babies. "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy is an excellent book explaining this. "Life in the Soil" by James Nardi is a facinating account of fungi and other soil creatures keep the soil healthy.

If I were going to create a food permaculture, I'd use two strategies:

1) infill with natives, such as asters and little bluestem, as much as possible; even if they aren't providing food directly to you, they are probably helping polinators and preditors and improving the soil

2) learn to enjoy native foods, even those we are not used to. There are obvious ones like blueberry, pawpaw, blackberry, service berry, persimmon, mayhaw, elderberry, and sumac. But also acorns are edible, especially white oak, after the bitterness is leached out. Jerusalem artichoke is a perennial sunflower with ediable roots.

Jerry Hightower with the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area gave a good talk on edible natives to the Native Plant Society. I'll have to dig out my notes, but there are some wetland plants that are very edible. I wonder if, since your land is low, you could build a wetland.

Smilax, a thorny vine that I'm always fighting off, has new shoots in the spring that are supposed to be very tasty like asparagus. And that makes me think about poke salad and fern fiddle heads for spring eating (although I'd have to research what ferns are good).

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 11:11AM
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Liliumskygazer -- smilax! You said "smilax" and I swear I am developing a twitch in both eyes. That stuff is the devil in plant form! I had it totally taking over the woods at least 50 feet up in the trees! I saw how it's roots grow like beads in a necklace (thanks to Esh, or Shot for sending me the link about that months ago.) I have so many magnolia, dogwoods, poplar, maple and oaks back there, I can't even think about digging up the root system of a smilax that is certainly many years old. I was bloody by the time I pulled it all down and cut it all back!

Maybe I will try stir frying those persistent little shoots this spring. Thanks for the tip!

I ordered Gaia's Garden from Amazon and it's wonderful!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 3:18PM
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Here is a youtube video about how to collect and prepare smilax. He has one on eating daylilies too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Eat The Weeds, Episode 19

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 3:52PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I've been researching wild foods to cultivate in my own garden, since many would grow well under fruit trees as they are perennial and would multiply on their own - less disturbing them than if I gardened "regular" vegetables under them. There are tons of books on the subject, a few newer ones and loads of old ones from the 70's Euell Gibbons is so easy to read on the subject. You might want to check those out for some fun and easy reading (and all great info, might I add!!)
I have tried smilax - mine is thorny right from the get go. How on earth can you eat the stuff? Anyway, mine is GONE as I dig it out and toss it. You can also eat kudzu tips and make the flowers into heavenly grape jelly. That's one for wild gathering tho, to me. I don't want the stuff on my own property. We have LOTS of it wild in my neighbors yard. I plan to also dig and dry the roots for thickener/starch. Make useful what I am trying to erradicate!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 5:44PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Oh, and don't pay a whit of attention to that dude in the video. Check out the one on daylily. That guy is showing you an amaryllis and not a daylily! If he's really knowing about plants he would know this.
I would not trust a single thing that guy is saying - he lacks experience to be guiding people, so beware!!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 6:06PM
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Wow! You're right. He's calling it a daylily cultivar - at least he says it shouldn't be eaten, but I don't like the way he waits to say it.

I feel better about the smilax video - at least the part about eating the tips, because Jerry Hightower also talked about eating the tips.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 11:11PM
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I started reading Gaia's Garden, and I have to say I got irritated in the introduction with his discussion on invasives. I feel like in his eagerness to discredit the "only native" crew who might oppose apples and figs and other exotic foods in a permiculture system, he leaves the impression that it's pointless and unnecessary to fight invasive exotics. I'm having a hard time letting go of my annoyance to appreciate the next chapter, but I'm gradually getting into it.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 10:33PM
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Happy new year everyone!

GGG - excellent advice on sticking with native plants. In fact, that would work well for me.

One of the reasons I wanted to order heirloom seeds was that I'm kind of tired with the same old store variety veggies. So seeds would give me a variety of things to grow that one normally doesn't see or eat. But your thought on staying with native plants in a sense does the same thing. It gives me a chance to grow and try things I don't normally get to have. I'll still go with some things that I find interesting, but I would like to stick with natives as much as possible. It just makes sense, really.

If you happen across your Jerry Hightower notes, I'd be most grateful. Being able to read up on and study native plants now gives me a chance to understand and learn well before I plant. I will follow up on the other references you gave as well.

Liliumskygazer, I understand what you're saying in that the author is a bit judgmental at times. Please note though that I am very new to taking gardening seriously. So for me, nearly the entire book has brand new ideas, or old ideas presented in a new light. For me being a newbie and all, I found it one of the best gardening reads in quite some time.

That being said, when I find an author who appears closed minded or single minded on certain topics, it's tough look past that to see the rest. But what I got most from the book, and what I respected most about it was that:

- The author emphasized looking at gardening spaces as a whole, living, symbiotic system.

- It gives several realistic, real world examples of the systems he was discussing; before and after. Too often, I find this lacking in most educational books.

- That each eco system has a *tremendous* amount of variety, created using a very specific strategy.

It is these concepts that made me rethink everything I had in mind about gardening, for the better.

Good news y'all! I moved into my new home over these last few days, AND...!!! And I bought my first rakes, gloves and a shovel. I'm going to get some soil tests done this week some time, and Duane will be by next Saturday to kick off my gardening adventure.

I'm going to take lots of "before" pics and post them on a yet uncreated web site so we can all get a good laugh from the newbie gardener. ;)

Once again, thank y'all for the help and advice.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 7:02AM
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I'll preface this by saying that I don't garden for food (except we do have a few blueberry bushes and we share the berries with the birds). But along the lines of being inspired by a book and having your eyes opened, consider reading "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy. He is an entomologist that has brought together a lot of supporting information for his premise that native plants are a lynch pin to the living system around us. That is, native plants feed native insects which feed native birds which feed native mammals, etc. Reduce the plants and every piece thereafter is affected.

That, of course, is not to say that growing food crops is not important and/or should not be done. His main point is that individual homes/commercial plantings that often use all non-native ornamental plants are doing the environment a disfavor, so to speak because by and large native insects have not evolved to eat these non-native ornamental plants.

Anyway, my only point is that it is a very thought provoking and inspiring book and you should consider it for future reading.

Good luck with your new home and your gardening endeavors. I have enjoyed reading this thread even though I have no advice to offer.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 8:39AM
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Good evening esh_ga.

Thank you for your well wishes. I will put your recommendation on my list of books. In fact, that same author was recommended by someone else as well.

I decided it was WAY too cold today to break in my rake, so I'm going to wait until next week to do that. The leaves will still be there.



    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 6:41PM
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It was way too cold for me too.

Our winter often has nice outdoor days mixed in with the cold, but this cold spell looks long and intense.

I can tell Gaia's Garden is going to have good stuff; it was just hard to rekindle my excitement after disagreeing with part of the intro. But I think I'll go now and start chapter 2.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 9:37PM
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You'll have to let me know if the later chapters are better than the first liliumskygazer. I'm interested in your thoughts on the rest of the book.

Based on recommendation in this thread I ordered and just received, "Bringing Nature Home", by Douglas Tallamy. I have some great reading ahead of me since I'm not setting foot outside now that I'm in for the night.

Have you read this book yet? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

I ordered my soil test kit today, and will hopefully receive it in the mail this week. I'm really hoping I can get the soil analyzed before the edible tree sale on the 23rd. That'd be a big help.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 4:52PM
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I heard Tallamy lecture at the Native Plant Symposium last year and then read his book. It's what swung me firmly over to the native plant camp. I am willing to plant non-natives for food but not for ornamental purposes... a resolve that will certainly get tested as a landscape architect: I may have to move to a position of making sure my designs have a certain percent native plants but not all.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 9:25PM
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