The Hosta – Hosta spp. started flowering in the home garden this week, and with it brought a sense of peace in an otherwise hectic week. The dense, basal leaves of this plant are striking and highly attractive, overlapping each other to form a spreading mound of foliage. A highly ornamental plant, it’s perfect for shady borders, as grown here, but also for woodland gardens or shade gardens. It can be planted as an understory to a shrub layer, and we’re planning to use this plant in the centre of Shipka when we plant out a shady area. Ground cover plants play an important role in the forest garden, protecting the soil, providing refuge for wildlife at ground layer, preventing unwanted plants from establishing and can provide some food such as berries or leaves.
A tomato ripening in the home garden. We haven’t had many of those this year, and this one is huge, possibly weighing in just shy of a kilogram. The plant was given to us by a local elderly man, and we’ll be saving the seeds to grow next year, share, and add to a seed bank that we’re starting as part of the ESC project. To see what the volunteers have been up to, you can check out their personal blog here.
Another seed we’ll be adding is that of this heirloom squash, which we call ‘Victoria’s Granny’. One of the participants of our past Polyculture Market Garden study, Victoria Bezhitashvili, gave us some winter squash seed that originated from her Granny in Belarus. Year on year they provide a reliable harvest of bright orange, tasty fruit, and we save seeds from the next generation every year too. To avoid cross contamination with neighbouring courgettes, sometimes we use rubber bands to protect the newly emerging male and female flowers, the next morning removing the rubber bands to pollinate the female flowers with the uncontaminated pollen from the male flower, and then protect the pollinated female flower by replacing the rubber band and tying a piece of wool or ribbon around the stem so that, rather like a piece of luggage at an airport, it can be easily identified and the seeds from that particular fruit saved. We learned this from Real Seeds who have a wealth of great information on their website as well as quality seed.
In the below photo you can see the Victoria’s Granny squash migrating into the forest garden area of the home garden, making itself at home on a Guelder Rose.
Here are some of the other plants in the wider polyculture
We’ve been harvesting figs from all the gardens and drying them on baking trays in the car. They take around 10 -12 hours to dry in a dehydrator and around 2 -3 days on top of the car dash board (parked in a sunny spot). Dried figs can be stored for six to eight months.
Figs must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they are picked. They will not ripen if picked when immature. A ripe fruit will be slightly soft and starting to bend at the neck. The fruit should be harvested gently to avoid bruising. Fresh figs do not keep well and can be stored in the refrigerator for only 2 – 3 days.
Bad news for vegetarians thus being when you eat fig you probably eat wasp, however, common fig types have all female flowers that do not need pollination for fruiting as the fruit can develop through parthenocarpic means. Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Brunswick, and Celeste are some representative cultivars. More from our Essential Guide – Dig the Fig here.