342. Everything Elderberry | Healthy Green Savvy | Susannah Shmurak | Minnesota

Everything Elderberry- How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy
Everything Elderberry: How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy 

by Susannah Shmurak

Listeners I have not had time to go through these shownotes and attach links that Susannah shared I will try to get it done ASAP, this is just the transcript direct from the computer:

Hey Green future growers. Thanks for joining us today. If you’re new to the show, I hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes or your favorite Android app and let’s get growing. Hey, green future growers. Join me on the listen app. Invite code green, G R E E N. I would love if you left me a message, you can reach out to other green future growers and other green, organic gardener podcast listeners. There, we can have a conversation about what’s growing in your garden. What are you eating?

Does it not feel good? Walk by the produce aisle? It does for me. And if you’re not there yet, we’d be happy to help you get there over on the listen app, invite code green, G R E E N.

Hey everyone. So I just want to remind you, this is the most important time to be taking good notes on what’s working well. What’s not working well. What don’t you want to forget? Come next, February and March, when it’s time to order supplies or do your design, you know, what are your favorite seeds or what do you want to play more of?

Do you want more broccoli? Like you might think I’m never going to forget this, but you probably are going to forget it. And a great way to support the green organic gardener podcast would be to get our garden journal. That’s got a beautiful butterfly that I took a picture of on our lilac. So it’s like a little part of our home in your home has got blank pages and line pages, and it would really support us a lot. So, but most of all, we want you to have good records, just hold on. Okay.

1 (1m 45s):

Listeners, you know, this, that what I’m going to say. And see, I started to say this when I was on the free guy page is if you read Susannah’s awesome book on, elderberries make sure that you go to Amazon and give her a five star review and a, and write the review night. Don’t just leave the rating, but write their actual review because you know that she’s out there trying to help shave your neighborhood. And that’s what you want, not just for you learning, but show that your neighbors can learn this stuff.

And so we want to share her knowledge. So make sure you read the book and if you love it, I know you will give her a five star review. 


Everything Elderberry- How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy

Everything Elderberry: How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy 

Welcome to the Green Organic Garden.

It is Saturday, August eight, 2020. And I have an awesome guest on the wine who has a blog called Healthy Green Savvy. She’s passionate about helping people find practical shortcuts to healthier green living. So we know we’re going to hear tons of golden seeds. She boils this all down from years of research on eco-friendly choices, growing food in small spaces, with as little effort as possible and easy ways to support health.

1 (4m 23s):

Naturally, she even has a book. Everything Elderberry that covers what the latest research tells us about elderberries effect, unhealthy growing advice from elderberry farmers across the country, plus 62 delicious recipes for using elderberries and elder flowers. So I know we’re just going to learn lots. So I’m going to be quiet. And if you’re today is Susanna Schmurak. Oh, I totally, you sent me the thing.

1 (4m 53s):

How do you say that? Mark? <inaudible> Susannah. Oh my goodness. If you, hadn’t sent that, I probably would have been fine. I probably should have practiced out loud though instead of just in my head. Okay. Welcome to the show, Susannah!

2 (5m 12s):

Thank you so much for that. Terrific. In-product introduction. I’m delighted to be here.

1 (5m 16s):

Well, we’re just tickled pink. So tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m so glad you reached out to me and are here to share this today. So go ahead and tell listeners about this.


2 (5m 26s):

Thanks. So I have a peculiar backstory. I was an academic for many years. I taught literature and writing at the college level. I spent lots and lots of years thinking about not too much besides the literature during the day, and thinking about gardening and eco-conscious living all the rest of the time and my classes tended to go that way as well. And in 2015, I just to switch gears completely and I left academe and decided to start writing and researching full time.

2 (6m 7s):

And I launched a blog and started writing for a bunch of websites and magazines and have made that kind of my full focus now. And it’s been absolutely fantastic. I’ve volunteered locally at the city’s environmental quality commission and spent a lot of time researching permaculture and home scale, renewable energy and all sorts of topics related to health and environment.

2 (6m 39s):

So the focus of my blog, as you said, is really to try to help people make that connection between the personal and the environmental, with a focus on really, really practical and doable things anyone can do so that they can shift their lives towards sustainability and better health. And it’s been amazing. My day job is to research things like allergy remedies and how to get better sleep, to write about energy audits and experiment with nontoxic pest control and put new things in my dehydrator and write about it.

2 (7m 12s):

And it’s been really, really enjoyable. So I get to just be a full time energy nerd, garden geek. And I just keep learning about fascinating plants that either appear in my yard, or I read about online that turns out we can eat them, or they have medicinal value. I’d never even realized. So that’s kind of my backstory. I have a larger backstory about where I started to garden. I don’t know if you want me to go into that.

2 (7m 44s):

It’s kind of long and complex.

1 (7m 48s):

So I always start my show out asking about like your very first gardening experience. Like, were you a kid or an adult? Is that where you’re headed? Or I just have to like back up just super quickly. Where, where are you located again?

2 (8m 2s):

I am in Minnesota and it’s zone four.

1 (8m 7s):

Okay, cool. All right. Yeah. Well, you’re doing a fantastic job and so I’m just keep going, but yeah, we kind of want to hear a little bit about like, were you a kid, were you an adult? Who were you with? What’d you?

2 (8m 19s):

Okay. Well, so my first gardening experience was just helping my mother in our backyard garden. And so I have memories of pulling weeds and kicking things off the vine. They’re not too carefully formed, but they probably laid a groundwork as it were. But I would say my gardening story really starts with our move to Minnesota. In 2002, it was the height of the housing bubble and we were graduate students and my husband had just taken his first job at a college in our town.

2 (8m 52s):

And there was literally nothing we could to buy to live in, in town. And there’s no rental market either. So after looking at the only thing in our price range, which our real estate agent said should be condemned and refuse to take us into. He just, I don’t, I really said, you know, there’s this old house out on the highway. They’re about to knock down. Maybe we should look at that.

2 (9m 23s):

And we went out and there was this beautiful 1910 craftsman style house. And it turns out that, that if you’re, if they’re about to knock a house down, you can take it away for free if you’re willing to pay to move it. So we acquired this free house and then had to find a place to move it to which turned out not to be terribly easy, but we found this half lot, just a block away from where he was going to start working a few months later and spend the rest of the summer setting up this house move then.

2 (9m 55s):

So we had a basement dug the whole lot had to be cleared. So all plant life got completely erased and they brought this house in which we then started renovating. And that was kind of, our focus was renovating this house and making it, it was actually in great condition and it was just in the wrong place, but I learned a ton.

1 (10m 17s):

That’s what I was wondering, like how easy was it to move a house built in 1910? I mean, that’s a hundred years old.

2 (10m 24s):

You’d be shocked. It’s actually really, really easy for the people who do it for a living every day. They just pop it off its foundation, stick it off, stick it on a truck and away they go. It’s kind of amazing. We had no idea you could move a house before our real estate agent just kind of said that as maybe a joke. I dunno. So we just suddenly got embroiled in what was involved in bringing a house up to code. And I started doing it. This is early days of the green remodeling products.

2 (10m 57s):

So trying to figure out what was safe to bring into our house became a sort of longterm project and the yard and was this bare dirt. So we got permission to move in as fall set in. You have to have a kitchen sink and a functioning toilet. So we had, we had a reuse sink on a two by fours and got permission to move into this house that had been to some degree, completely gutted and started remodeling it.

2 (11m 28s):

And then there’s just dirt outside and nothing else. So we threw down some grass seed to just kind of try to stabilize everything. And then winter here, I don’t know what it’s like out in Montana, but it’s at about six months along that you can have snow on the ground, which in that particular case was something of a relief.

1 (11m 46s):

Well, I have to tell you, I had a lot of friends in college that came to Minnesota because they thought Montana was milder winters. But yeah, I don’t know. We had, we have a good amount of snow. I didn’t drive here from November to may my first, like 10 years, but probably very similar.

2 (12m 5s):

Yeah. It’s intense living in a climate like that. Anyhow. So then, you know, I was spending all this time, remodeling the house and the yard was just kind of sitting there and we started dealing with weeds in this grass and started rethinking how we could do things the way the house sits on the lot. It means my backyard is probably about 10 feet wide and totally in shade. The side yard is eight feet wide and totally in shade. So I have this corner lot with a 10th of an acre garden where I can grow a limited amount in sun.

2 (12m 42s):

So I, at that point started reading Fritz Hague’s edible estates and the eat, the lawn movement had kind of launched. So I started trying to smother the grass with cardboard and attempted to grow one of these beautiful front yard, vegetable gardens. And it turns out Minnesota is not a great place to do that. The soil doesn’t warm up enough to plant a lot of things.

2 (13m 12s):

You would stick in one of these gardens until, you know, early may. So it’s just a lot of bare soil and it wasn’t

working. I tried sweet potatoes, which should have made this lovely, you know, ground cover had to give that up. Cause our growing season just isn’t long enough. So I learned a lot just experimenting and failing over and over and over again. As I read more about permaculture, I realized that fruit trees could really be an answer to this problem. And I got seven fruit trees or fruit trees squeezed into that little space and planted as many Berry bushes as I could possibly fit in and then kind of let nature take over.

2 (13m 51s):

So one of the, one of the biggest things that I’ve gotten to do as this yard’s developed is kind of learn how changing patterns over time force you to adapt and how to eat the things that will grow there. So my whole front yard now is mostly violence, which we use quite a lot. We make salads in the early spring with the flowers and the leaves I use the leaves and T all season long. So learning how to work with what you get has been part of this process.

2 (14m 26s):

I still desperately would love a big backyard garden, but that’s not what I’ve got. And so the yard is this sort of edible landscape that isn’t entirely keeping with the aesthetics of the neighborhood, but people kind of like it in spring when everything’s in flower. And they kind of think it’s wild and Bailey interesting, but also pretty weird a lot of the rest of the year. Cause we’re in a sort of traditional neighborhood with grass and foundation plantings, which is where we had started as well.

1 (14m 59s):

And the reason you can’t have a big backyard garden is because there’s too much shade. Is that right?

2 (15m 4s):

There’s also no backyard. It’s a, half-life it’s 10 feet wide and it’s full shade. There is no backyard.

1 (15m 13s):

Talk about this. I’m like, this is, I just love this whole story. And then the other question, like, I, I kinda like watch track or maybe a like show your grad student. This is before you got your job at the, like, how old are you when this is, this is in 2005,

2 (15m 30s):

Two. We moved here. Yeah. I was not quite 30. So it’s been awhile. Yeah. So I was, I was a graduate student who was supposed to be finishing her dissertation at that point and kept doing things like fixing plaster and refinishing floors and reading about permaculture. So my dissertation eventually got done, but it took awhile. So I was, I was teaching full time for a couple of years, for a few years there, there were kids in there.

2 (16m 1s):

There’s a lot of other things I’ve done besides this, but the, the writing and the blog has kind of become my

full focus in the last few years.

1 (16m 11s):

Okay. And tell us more about the healthy green savvy blog.

2 (16m 16s):

So it started in part because I, as long as I can remember, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by kind of nutritional hacks. I was reading health magazines when I was in my teen years. Just there’s something about, I don’t know, kind of tricking your body into doing things. I just found utterly fascinating, whether it was, you know, certain kinds of nutritional deficiencies, that if you fix them, you have more energy or you sleep better.

2 (16m 48s):

And I talked about these things a lot to other people, as I would read about them, and somebody said, you should really start a blog. And I said, what’s a blog, kind of went from there. So healthy green savvy is it’s kind of a dumping ground for all the cool stuff that I’ve been reading about and researching and the new cool stuff that I keep finding out. But it’s focusing lately a lot on things like foraging.

2 (17m 20s):

I’m utterly mesmerized by all the edible weeds that people don’t realize they can eat. So it seems like I find anyone in each season when something

1 (17m 30s):

Tell us about some of them, because Matthew Zoeller asked me to bring somebody on to talk about edible weeds and I’ve never really found anybody besides him. He ended up knowing more than most people. And just, can you,

2 (17m 43s):

Can you tell us a few edible weeds? Oh, of course. So they’re huge websites devoted to this and wonderful books on foraging, but pretty much every yard has something you can eat. So most people know about dandelions, right? That’s an easy one to identify and it’s wonderfully prolific, and also incredibly nutritious. The I’m a big fan of a Regal. So I use the leaves of dandelions in a very similar way, but you can eat the flowers. The roots are medicinal.

2 (18m 13s):

They’re just great plants. And since I smothered my grass, they’re actually in short supplies. I’m really happy when I find some of them in my yard, wood sorrel, Rose abundantly here personally is one of my absolute favorites. It’s available pretty much everywhere. It’s incredibly tough. It’s considered one of the best sources of Omega threes out there in the plant world anyway. And I use it in smoothies and salads, people around

the world use it as a vegetable.

2 (18m 48s):

It’s, it’s a S a standard in stir fries. Let’s see, I’ve already mentioned Violet’s we use those quite a lot. I’m really, really trying to make friends with creeping. Charlie. I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted it. It really would take some getting used to, I haven’t figured out something that would make it valuable, but it’s

1 (19m 9s):

Oh, I don’t know what that is.

2 (19m 11s):

You don’t have creeping Charlie out there. That’s fascinating.

1 (19m 14s):

I don’t know. Maybe we do. And I just don’t know what it is.

2 (19m 17s):

It’s also called ground diabe and it goes by some other names as well. Anyway, it’s apparently very good for you. If you can, if you can stomach the flavor, it’s in a, it’s in the mint family and people with lawns everywhere, pretty much universally despise it, but it’s this fantastic ground cover. And I would love, I would love to try to find a way to use it besides, you know, begrudgingly adding a little bit to my tea. Sometimes this year I’ve got slammed with Virginia water leaf.

2 (19m 53s):

It just went crazy in my yard. And of course, I looked it up and discovered, lucky can eat that too. And again, I really tried. It’s it’s edible, but that’s about the best you can say for it. It’s not wonderfully tasty, but in small amounts, it worked in things like frittatas. If it’s cooked and you can sort of get away with it as an early spinach. It’s nice. Cause it’s so early when everything else is frozen here, it’s something that’s out there that you can put in a smoothie. If you wanted to that sort of thing.

2 (20m 26s):

What other edible weeds have we,

1 (20m 28s):

How about a soup? I’m not the biggest smoothie person. Like, especially at that time of year, like I’m so craving live fresh green food. I’m much more likely to put it in a soup or a salad. Like I have tried to put spinach in a blender and just practically cry, try and do it. I’m like part rabbit. I love that shovel.

2 (20m 50s):

I do too. Actually. That’s that’s a big reason I wanted to grow food so badly. Yeah, it could. I don’t know if, if your listeners have this plant, it’s not a well known plant, but it is very invasive once it gets started in a yard, but it’s around here, it’s a native. So it’s invasive, but not a bad guy in some ways. Anyhow. Yeah, it could, it could work in a soup. It has a little feds to it. The early leaves you could probably get away with. I’m a huge fan of Minnesota chef who has a blog called foragers chef.

2 (21m 20s):

And he works with Virginia water leaf, a decent amount. So that’s

1 (21m 26s):

Awesome. Well, these are all great. Just tons of edible things that grow nearby, that listeners are probably gonna be like, what can I find? I just ran into my friend Theodore the other day. And we were talking about, we’re actually applying for this thing called, Oh, what was it plants to grants? Or I don’t know. But it was about like, you could get a grant for teaching people in your community about herbs and local native plants and things. And so we were talking about taking plan teen and chewing it up for a beasting and sure enough, the next day Mike, like was getting me some straw to mulch my raspberry bed and pulls apart two things.

1 (22m 7s):

And bees just come flying out this whole nest. And we both got stung like four times and I was like, I know what to do. I know what to do. So I chewed up the planting. I don’t think I cheated up enough. Theodore’s like, you gotta really chew it and get those juices out. But that’s a local thing. That’s all over my yard.

2 (22m 23s):

Yeah. Well, you can eat those two early ones. You can go ahead with your soup and your salad. And I, I tried and did not succeed. There’s a recipe online somewhere for planting chips, like kale chips. So you can try that. I think the leaves get tough as they get older and it’s later in the season, but that’s another good one to try. Yarrow is another one I grow and use quite a bit of. And then there are a bunch of things that aren’t weeds that turn out to be weedy in the yard that I also just kind of let go of things like mints. I’m a giant fan of lemon balm.

2 (22m 55s):

That’s everywhere. So most, every few days I go out and brew up a big batch of tea in it usually has some of the weeds in it as well as a lot of lemon bonds. So I do things like violet leaves and yarrow and a little bit of catnip for a nighttime tea. But it’s fun to just, you know, I have this little tiny yard, but I can go out and pick things either for dinner or for brewing up some medicinal teas. It’s been a really amazing experiment.

1 (23m 26s):

Okay. Tell us about the fruit and the elderberries.

2 (23m 29s):

Ah, okay. Well, the elderberries are a late comer. The fruit I’ve always been a fruit junkie. I’ve probably eaten more fruit than it’s good for me, but that was a huge part of what’s worked on this property. Even as the trees have grown in and we’ve gotten more shade, we’ve got raspberries, we’ve got honey berries. There were some Mulberry trees planted on the borders of the property, probably by birds. I have strawberries growing apples and plums, my cherry trees haven’t fared very well.

2 (24m 1s):

I’m going to make a huge plug for service berries. Do those grow out where you are or June berries or saskatoons? They’re going to go buy a book.

1 (24m 9s):

Yes, they absolutely do. They’re like, they’re almost like blueberries or huckleberries, but a little bit sweeter. I think

2 (24m 17s):

They are absolutely wonderful. And the birds love them. Yes. And when they produce well enough, they’re enough for the birds and for the people, they can be really prolific. And it’s just been a great source of free fruit. I’ve been really, really happy with that one. Elderberries, I’m just actually planting some of the unusual cultivars I learned about researching my book. So I don’t have a lot to report about those. I think I did a bad job planting some of them maybe 12 years ago.

2 (24m 50s):

I don’t actually remember. And they didn’t, they didn’t survive. So I’m curious to know if I can get a nice big elderberry shrug going elderberries are these fantastic medicinal plant that we can find references to more than 2000 years ago, Hippocrates was, was using elder pretty heavily in, in ancient Greece. And what I didn’t really realize until I started researching this book is have you smell the flowers are as well.

2 (25m 20s):

So you actually get two crops out of this one. Plant elder flower has had this gorgeous scent and can get turned into all kinds of medicinally, useful things like tea or tincture, but also they are a tremendous ingredient for treats and elder flower cordial winds up and all of these fancy cakes and can be used for things like popsicles.

2 (25m 51s):

They were just so much fun to play with that. I decided I really needed some growing in my art as well, rather than just reading my friend’s farm. He needed some so elderberries are fantastic garden plants. They grow on marginal lands. They don’t need a lot of care in general. They’re pretty pest resistant. The native plants do really, really well. They’re a good understory plant for readers who are doing some permaculture.

2 (26m 25s):

They even get along with black walnuts. They’re often used in a black Walnut Guild. If you’re looking to do gardening, that offers you some medicinal ingredients. I don’t think you could go wrong planting elderberries. And in my book, I have interviews numerous growers from around the country, and I learned so much about the more sort of unusual varieties. And you can order a bunch of these online and get flowers and fruit and much greater quantities.

2 (26m 58s):

Then you could, if you’re just using a regular native plant. So my question is, so Mike made some Oregon grape jelly a couple of years ago that was just to die for, but it’s always been my experience that things like these serviceberries and stuff need a ton of sugar, but as these are used, like in corals and things like, are they sweet? Do they need less sugar than other berries? Is that a weird question?

2 (27m 29s):

I disagree with you on the, on the June berries, meaning needing sugar. Elderberries definitely do. They are, they are not as sweet fruit by themselves. So if you get the right plant, there are some known for sweeter fruit. Bob Gordon and York are often highlighted as varieties to go for if you’re after, if you’re after a little more sweetness and flavor, but no, there is a fair amount of sweetening required. I’m generally as a, as a health conscious person into avoiding sugar and other kinds of sweeteners.

2 (28m 3s):

So I tend to use a lot of things like combining that elderberry concentrate, it’s called decoction. So it’s like making your own elderberry syrup, but you don’t add the honey to it. It doesn’t keep as well, but I will add that to smoothies or popsicles or things like that to add the added sugar. But a lot of people will throw fresh elderberries in baked goods where the baked good would already have a certain amount of sweetness.

2 (28m 35s):

So if you use them that way, you know, yes, you might be, you might be choosing to get more sugar than perhaps those ideal. I wouldn’t do that in sort of immune support situations, unless you have to, to get them down. I actually really like things that aren’t sweet. So that’s a little bit different. I have like a horrible sweet tooth. Yeah, I guess. I mean, I suppose sarvisberries are kind of sweet on their own, the June berries that you were saying.

2 (29m 8s):

Okay. Well, did you want to tell us more about your book and elderberries or do you want to tell us like about something that grew well this year? Or where do you want to go? Let’s see. Well, what else would I tell you about elderberries I don’t, I guess, I guess your audience is probably most interested in the growing information on it. And I gave that to you. If I’m going to make a plug for my book, I would say that it’s

incredibly heavily researched.

2 (29m 40s):

I put that academic to use it has tons and tons of footnotes. I dove into pub med in a very big way. I got biochemists on this phone and ask them lots of questions about may have heard that parts of the plant can be toxic and really pushed some people to get some information on how that all works. So I, again, boil down just tons and tons and tons of research to try to make this as approachable as possible.

2 (30m 11s):

There’s foraging information. If, if you’re not growing them and you want to go forward to them. And then I just spent untold hours in the kitchen, trying to figure out the best ways to use these flowers and berries. I can’t even tell you how many methods I ate last summer, trying to get a good elderberry method recipe. So it’s a, it’s an unusual book in that it’s part cookbook. It does a lot of historical stuff, as well as science. And I promise it contains information.

2 (30m 43s):

You’re not going to find anywhere else. So that’s my, that’ll be my plug for my book. What grew well this year? Well, brew Barb grows well every year. I love rhubarb. It’s been one of those plants. Since I write for gardeners who are strapped for time, as I often feel, I am. It’s one of those plants that you can really stick it in the ground just about anywhere and it’s going to do brilliantly. And so I got a starter division from somebody.

2 (31m 15s):

I don’t know how many years ago, because I had gone to a dehydrating workshop where they passed around a fruit leather made with rhubarb. And I was instantly hooked. If you have a little bit of a sour tooth, this stuff is just utterly incredible. And so now I have eight rhubarb plants growing in this tiny corner. Lots of they’re kind of ornamental during much of the year, but I pick them tremendously in the spring and put up a ton of rhubarb, leather that anyone who tries it, it’s just like, this is fantastic.

2 (31m 52s):

And my kids and I devour it. The June Berry tree performed wonderfully this year. It did really, really well. I’ve never seen a harvest like that one. And I had to beg people to come pick something, cause I didn’t have time to get all the berries down myself. So those did really, really well. Perennial fruits and vegetables, I think are just a Gardener’s friend, particularly busy Gardener’s friends. So I completely forget in early spring, if there isn’t rain to keep all my seeds water, but the rhubarb is there.

2 (32m 26s):

What? I don’t have to do anything. I’ve got some chokes growing on in one spot as well. Those are also called Jerusalem artichokes as are another one that just need absolutely no attention and produce really

well. And they have big, beautiful, like yellow sunflower flowers too. Don’t they? So they feed the bees on pollinators. They do. They come out really late here there that that happens in September. They’re very small, beautiful send flowers rather than, yeah, but that’s good to have, like one of the big things I learned on my podcast when I was talking to this professor has things called Paul one nation nation, I think, or he has a podcast on pollinators.

2 (33m 10s):

And he said that one of the biggest keys is making sure you have something blooming all from like, you know, as early as you can in the spring all the way through the fall. Cause he said, that’s what the bees and the butterflies and, you know, beneficial insects and everything really need is a consistent supply of different flowers. Absolutely. Yeah. I just taught a class on creating an ecofriendly yard and in prepping that I came across a reminder.

2 (33m 42s):

So not only that, the different room times, and it’s great if you can have some of the early season stuff and leave those dandelions in place and then all the way into the fall and you know, some of those late bloomers, we have some golden rod that showed up that I let go. And then I have the sunchokes. One of the things that people don’t necessarily realize, particularly in a landscaped area like ours, where, you know, good citizens mow their lawns and rake their leaves is how important leaving the leaves can be for the pollinators, the pollinators Xerxes, or is their seas has a campaign in the fall called leave the leaves.

2 (34m 24s):

So that’s another thing you can do if you’re trying to wait, I gotta hear more about that. So like when the leaves fall off the tree, don’t break them up and like put them in your compost, just leave them where they fell for the pole. And what does that do? Like give them homes or someplace safe to stay. It’s a place for them to overwinter and you cleaned up in the spring when there’s not that much to do in the garden, which is kind of a nice thing. I want to hear more about the, the class that you taught about an ecofriendly yard, especially like this friend of mine, Patty Armbruster, who has like our own fan called by my show because she talks so much about soil health and drops so many golden seeds and she actually came to our house and I can tell like, she’s keeping her up at night, how much one my husband and I have that we look at the lawn as like firebreak, cause we’re in a very foresty area, but we do have an orchard where I feel like we could do much more of this edible landscaping, like you’re talking about.

2 (35m 24s):

I mean, I would love to have more fruit bushes struggling to put it together. Oh yeah. Well it’s, you know, it takes, it takes an investment upfront, but you know, under, under planting trees with something besides grass, really not only can massively increase the production of your yard, but also greatly increase its sort of, eco-friendliness a bigger plant, particularly something with deep taproots is going to be moving carbon out of the air and into the soil.

2 (35m 58s):

So you can actually think of ways to create things that are sort of carbon sinks in your yard. The class I taught kind of came from numerous articles that I’d researched that first of all, looked at the massive footprint that lawns can have when they’re fertilized. And when they’re mode something like 17 million gallons of gas are spilled every year.

2 (36m 27s):

Nevermind how many gallons are used to mow and putting all that carbon into the air from that it turns out fertilizer itself when it breaks down on a lawn, instead of being taken up is also a very potent producer of greenhouse gases. So limiting the lawn and then finding ways to whatever lawn you do, keep to manage it in the most ecofriendly way. But then also to think about where you can lose it. And since I’m writing for people in sort of smaller landscapes and people who don’t want to take on ginormous projects, I’m laying down a little bit of cardboard each year.

2 (37m 4s):

So I didn’t get rid of my whole lawn at once. I did these sort of cardboard and segments, like the day after Patty left,

1 (37m 11s):

I put the cardboard down and I’m trying to smother this one section of grass with this cardboard. And I don’t know what to do. Like I picked it up and part of the grass is dead. And part of it’s not, it’s been a month

2 (37m 23s):

To me, it’s like the sore spot

1 (37m 26s):

And I don’t know what to like, I don’t have really, I know I’m probably supposed to put dirt or compost on top of it and then grow something. But what if I don’t have dirt to put on top of it?

2 (37m 39s):

Okay. So what you could do this fall, it’s called sheet mulching or lasagna gardening. Ideally you’d have some soil or compost, but you can actually just throw your kitchen scraps and some of your leaves and other garden, garden cuttings and things on top of your cardboard. So you need to leave your cardboard a lot longer than a month and you cover it ideally. So if you were in a hurry to plant, you would cover it with a good layer of soil and compost and then you could plant directly. This other way is slower, but in some ways easier, cause you don’t have to haul in a ton of soil if you don’t have it.

2 (38m 13s):

So if you look up lasagna gardening or sheet mulching, you’ll find kind of the steps of piling this stuff up. And what’s incredible when the cardboard sits there over the winter is that somehow the worms find it. So our, our soil was really badly compacted. And I started putting down cardboard with a shin layer cause I’m frugal. And wasn’t going to in a ton of staff, a thin layer of compost and top soil and the worms just showed up in droves. So you need some patients for that.

2 (38m 43s):

You also need to make sure your cardboard is completely covering.

1 (38m 48s):

See that’s the problem like between like, so I’m trying to extend this garden bed. And I figured it was a good place because it’s someplace the hose already reaches. I’m already going to go water too. She’ll be a good place to have a new bed. But between where the cardboard ends and where the, the wood of the deep bed is, the grass is like 14 inches tall. Like it is not is like squeezing out. So then I was thinking, I was like, maybe I need to put like black plastic over that board between there and the cardboard.

1 (39m 20s):

And then I am thinking that I could take, like, we have a lot of grass clippings from the last time I could go on like at the end of July, that haven’t really decomposed yet, but they might be ready to go on there. I’ve been trying like last night I brought a whole bucket full of coffee grounds down. And just like maybe, maybe they’re ready to go on there. Cause I did do the cardboard thing in this other place. And I use the compost and I think Mike is like, he’s, he’s just like that compost was like earmarked for curates and beets and the other things I’m like when I’m looking at them now, because I grew buckwheat in it with the intention that eventually I’m going to put perennial flowers there because I love perennials like you do, but I just took the compost at the wrong time and way too much of it.

2 (40m 11s):

Right. Okay. So if you have a place that is still got 14 inch drafts, you can, I would advise milling that down before you put down the cardboard, you get the cardboard wet and you layer it so that the edges overlap. So there’s nowhere for it to get through. And then yeah, throw on those grass clippings, anything you can find, you can swipe, you know, leave the leaves you can, but swipe the leaves that you can’t and put them there. If you can get somebody to deliver a truckload of manure or something, that would be fantastic that you just layer as much as you can and that the Lowe’s mountain.

2 (40m 47s):

So I’m, I’m a, I’m a shortcut person, the lasagna gardening method, I think involves feet of materials. And that’s just not practical in a lot of situations. So I’ve really gotten away. I haven’t done the, that traditional methods so much as I’ve thrown soil and compost on top of cardboard because I just don’t have enough material otherwise. But I think do what you can put whatever you can on top of that.

2 (41m 18s):

And, and I bet you’ll find in the spring that you’re more able to plan if you’re not bringing in enough soil to get to get something planted there, wherever, whatever you’re trying to get in.

1 (41m 30s):

Okay. All right. Well, I, I feel a lot about the project now. See, the thing is like, so my husband’s goal is to grow as much of our produce as we can for the year and to like supplement. And so he has this thing, I call the mini farm. And so we do bring in as much when you were accomplished as we can. And like we have chickens just for the manure. It’s just all of that is your March toward his little mini farm full of vegetables. But you know, he’s not all that.

1 (42m 2s):

And we do share, and my buckwheat that’s growing and the other two beds where I’m trying to build the soil up is doing good. You know, like I read where I started the buckwheat thing. It’s supposed to be a 30 day crop or maybe on the back of the seeds that said that. And I’m realizing, I think I planted it July seven or I don’t know it’s over, it’s just over a month, but it’s actually the first time I grew buckwheat, it got like three feet tall before it flowered this buckwheat this year is only like, not even a foot tall, but both beds are starting to flower.

1 (42m 34s):

So maybe it’s just going to be a smaller crop because of the weather we’re having this year. We were having a really strange growing season in Montana this year. Like we had rain through halfway through July and then it got super hot for the last three weeks. And like yesterday it feels like fall. Like Mike wanted to build a fire this morning. I kid you not. It was 40 degrees all night.

2 (43m 3s):

Yeah. This is the new world we live in. Right? Whether weirding global weirding, whatever it is.

1 (43m 10s):

Well, this is just awesome. You’re dropping tons of golden seeds. So tell us something you’re excited to do different next year or that you’re excited to try new.

2 (43m 22s):

Sure. Well, I’ve been experimenting with different pest controls a lot. So you know, you win some, you lose some and I, you know, some things, definitely one and man, the ground cherries, I just cannot win against whatever devours the leads. The second they go in the ground. So I’ve tried spraying them with neem. I’ve tried putting orange peels all around them. I’ve tried crushing eggshells and coffee grounds. I’m just, I, I want my ground cherries

1 (43m 54s):

Sounds very familiar and I want to say I tried them at the farmer’s market, but I can’t be a hundred percent positive. Did they look like a little tomato that’s hollow? I think of something completely wrong. Yep. Oh, sorry.

2 (44m 11s):

No, they looked like a little tiny package, but they’re small. They themselves are not hollow, but then paper package, they come in. Yes. They’re incredibly expensive to buy because if you’ve ever harvest them, it’s harvested them. It takes forever. So I tend to focus my garden on the, on the things that I’m too cheap to pay someone.

1 (44m 33s):

I love that because in my book I talk about, there’s like all these worksheets, we, my husband had wrote this book called the organic Oasis guidebook and it says, what do you find yourself staring at in the grocery store that you wish you could buy, but can’t afford it. I think that’s so important.

2 (44m 50s):

Right? Exactly. Yeah. So I absolutely focus our garden choices on that. And because our garden has to be small, we belong to a CSA as well. So I also choose things, you know, we’re, they’re growing them so beautifully and let me pick them in abundance. I don’t bother. So I haven’t had to grow cilantro in like 12 years.

1 (45m 10s):

Yeah. That’s awesome. I struggled with Saundra so much. I know so many people are like, it’s so easy to grow, but it is a challenge for me.

2 (45m 20s):

Right? Everybody, everybody has different problems. They grow fantastic zucchini. And I have these squash vine borers that just will not quit. So ground cherries are one where I just cannot figure out, well, I haven’t tried everything yet. Again, I haven’t gone for some of the pricier kinds of things that you can mess with it. I would like to like to preserve those better next year and see if there’s a better way to do it. The other thing that I keep meaning to do that I will do differently next year.

2 (45m 52s):

I hope cause I say this every year, there are some edible plants that I haven’t yet tried. So milkweed apparently is divine. And I, I have so much of it in my yard and I have yet I have yet to try it. So I would like to do that. Apparently the flowers are good. The shoots are good. You can even eat the pods in the early stage. And hostas are the other one. I have just a few Hostos growing in the shady side yard and I just never

get around to cutting them at the right time to try to relevant eat them.

2 (46m 26s):

They’re supposed to be fantastic.

1 (46m 29s):

Oh my gosh, you are such a fantastic guest because you’re answering a lot of the questions. Like I get all the time. What do I do about pests and bugs and things. And so I love that you’re sharing all these challenges after you’ve been doing this for quite a while now. I mean, this is the same house you bought in 2002, 18 years later.

2 (46m 51s): Yeah. So yeah.

1 (46m 53s):

Tell us about something that didn’t work quite so well this season like that didn’t come out the way you thought it was going to.

2 (47m 1s):

Okay. So we’re going to go back to pests. We are having an unbelievable year for Japanese beetles. And one of the many things I did as I was rethinking how to use our yard was plant grapevines around the edge of our porch. And so in order to maximize time outside, we have a screened in porch. I like to do a lot of my work out there, but I’m right here on a corner with sidewalks really close and I want to kind of be. And so the grapevines are a big part of my strategy.

2 (47m 33s):

They also produce grapes, which is nice, but they they’re giving us some screening and it makes the porch at least 10 degrees cooler cause they’re shading us. And so it’s also lowering our energy bill. I love these things. And unfortunately, so to the Japanese beetles and they just showed up in droves this year. I’ve never seen anything like it. So I’ve always done the pest control where you go out and you drown them in some soapy water and you know, maybe they’ll eat some leaves and it’s going to be deal, but they just kept coming. And apparently as they chew the leaves, it gives off the scent and I could actually smell it.

2 (48m 6s):

I said, what is that lovely flowery smell that I’m not used to it this time of year. And I realized it was the cheetah grapevine leaves. I’m just attracting more and more than say, look awful. I go out every single night and pull off about 50 of them. I did a ton of research on this. I have a post on my blog, all the research I did on this. You’re not supposed to get these pheromone traps because you will attract even more to your yard, but a neighbor. And I decided it was so bad that, you know, even if it wasn’t a sacrifice, we shouldn’t take out

some of the population.

2 (48m 40s):

These are non native pests that have no predators basically. And so they really can be a problem. So we felt like we were doing our part, but I’m still paying the price. So we’ve, we’ve now gotten rid of really thousands and thousands of our local beetles. And they’re still coming. They’re supposed to only have a six week feeding season. I really think that oughta be up by now, but they just massacred those minds. And I’m so sad about it. But you know, I’m emailing with a blogger friend. Who’s just starting a garden.

2 (49m 12s):

And I just keep trying to say, you know, there are failures we learned from them and that’s completely okay. It’s part of the learning process. You do better next time. And this is why we plant a lot of different things. So great plans, a little bit of a disaster, but June berries and rhubarb were awesome and that’s

0 (49m 28s):

So next year, are you going to plant something besides grapes? So you don’t have those beetles or you’re going to try to figure out a way not to like get those beetles in there six weeks ago. What was six weeks ago? Like the beginning of end of June last week in June are going to figure something else or watch for them then was it, did you actually get one of those traps? And then now you’re having more.

2 (49m 55s):

I think that could have been why we have more, but I still think it was a worthwhile pursuit so that the population ought to be lower next year. Cause they didn’t get it when you, when you go drown them. If you’ve had these things, they’re almost always meeting. So killing them off at that moment means fewer next year. So I’m expecting it not to be as bad. And I’m actually contemplating just putting out a trap early. Like I seen some people do again just to get them and get them gone. Cause they’re so, so destructive.

2 (50m 26s):

They also they’re chewing up my Apple tree a little bit. They sit on my right plums and kind of enjoy digging into them. So they’re, they’re a really bad pest to have around. There are so to pre-treatments that my neighbor and I are looking into. So there are some soil, bacteria and diseases and things that you can introduce. Milky spore is something that people apply. There’s some sort of mixed results with that. I’m looking into beneficial nematodes, which I’d never done anything with. And seeing if there’s some other sort of prevention methods to do spraying something that smells bad on them early might help.

2 (51m 3s):

If I can mask the scent of my wonderful grapety grape leaves and get them not to come, that might help me. So I have to, one of the things that I’m not great at, cause I get embroiled in other projects is just kind of keeping on top of that, that garden’s schedule that you need to remember to get out. And I’ve started writing

things in my calendar. So my calendar for next June will already say something about spring with meme. It’ll make your grape leaf smell bad.

2 (51m 33s):

So yeah, you learn from a bad year and hopefully don’t have another bad year, but that’s not always the case. And, and I’m okay with that. We get so much food from our yard and I’m not gonna beat myself up over the things that don’t go. Well,

1 (51m 47s):

I have to look because I remember seeing something like in the middle of July about what to do about Japanese beetles. Also, I love all this because I’ve just been like, promoing on my show. He, this is the most important time to journal in your gardens. You don’t forget because you might think

2 (52m 8s): June

1 (52m 9s):

Beatles, but you are not. If you don’t write it,

2 (52m 12s):

I love that you’re putting it in your calendar already ahead of time. That’s awesome. Yeah, I tried it.

1 (52m 20s):

It’s so true. Cause you think I’m never gonna forget this. I’m never gonna forget this and come March or like what was that?

2 (52m 27s):

Oh yeah. I don’t kid myself about that anymore. I know. I won’t remember. So

1 (52m 35s):

Hey progressive radio network listeners. I am so touched that you could join us today, but we’ve run out of time. So if you’d like to hear the complete episode, just go to the organic gardener podcast.com and you can listen right there on your desktop, on your phone on you could certainly go to iTunes or your favorite podcast app and download, subscribe to the organic order podcast or download the episode there. If you have any questions about how to do it, just, you know, email me at organic gardener, podcasts.com or, or G podcast.com hit me up on Facebook.

1 (53m 12s):

I’ve been getting lots of Facebook, friends and people joining a Facebook group from progressive radio

network. And so I’m just touched that you’ve joined us and I hope that, you know, if there’s anything we can do for you, let us know, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. And if you want to hear the full version, the rest of the show or the beginning of the show, whatever parts missing, like I said, just go to organic gardener, podcast.com and click on the podcast tab. Thanks.

1 (53m 43s):

He listeners are kicking good notes of what’s going on in your garden. Are you recording? What’s working well. Are you recording all the things that you want to do differently next year? I guarantee you, if you wait till the fall, if you think you are never going to forget that you want to plan more carrots or you want to put the rugala in a different bed or you want to get a different type of beat or you found the perfect scenes. If you think you’re going to remember that in January, I guarantee you, you are not going to remember it.

1 (54m 16s):

And the best thing you can do, and this is not just me saying this. This is guests have been on my show, but I know Mike and I, this is the time to be journaling. And Hey, if you want to support the organic gardener podcast while you’re doing it, did you know that I made a beautiful blank journal? It’s got a photo of a butterfly on the lilacs at our house that I took and it’s got, I think 135 pages that are either lined or blank that you can sketch in.

1 (54m 46s):

So if you want to support us and it’s super cheap, it’s like five 95, I think on Amazon. So if you want to support the show, but most of all, if you want to have good records for your garden, if you want to place where you can take notes of what’s going on now what’s working well, what didn’t work? What don’t you want to forget? Come February when you’re filling out your order for next year now is the time to do it. Whether it’s, I want to get some Egor bond cloth.

1 (55m 18s):

I want to make sure I have row cover. I want to make sure that I have, you know, I just did this awesome interview with this guy. Who’s falling. Lisa’s Equilar’s cool flowers. He’s in the Southeast, but he, you know, he’s planting perennial seeds now because they are going to stuff their beds with cool season animals and perennials for the fall. So that in September they’re coming, I mean, in the spring, they’ve already got a good start and everything else and they can be one of the first flower farmers in the area to have flowers, a garden.

1 (55m 48s):

Do you know someone who would benefit from the organic gardener podcast and your notes? Like what you hear? We’d love it. If you’d share the organic gardener podcast with a friend, thank you

0 (55m 58s):

For listening. And remember grow local.


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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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