Polycultures at the Tefft House

This post is a little over due, but better late than never, right?

All of the annual beds are planted! I’m experimenting with square foot gardening, polycultures, and guilds. Here’s what we tried this year:

We have 8 beds of different sizes. They all wrap the circular lawn area, with the inner parts of the curves facing the uphill direction of the topography. Here’s a view of what we’re working with.

I’ll start with the left hand side, top bed, and work left to right, top to bottom, like a book.

The smallest, top left bed has parsnips, chard, kale, and marigolds. The center left bed has 4 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes (bought from the Timm family, local organic farmers who sell plants and produce at the Plainview Farmer’s Market), different colored sweet peppers, purple and green basil, carrots, garlic chives, and marigolds.

Moving across the sidewalk, we have our brassica beds. In the larger one, we have broccoli, cauliflower, and Romanesco broccoli (which I call fractal broccoli, because it grows in a perfect fractal shape!), red and yellow onions, beets, and marigolds.Here’s what it looked like right after planting. I grew the brassicas from seed in my college apartment under a grow light. It was so exciting to see them go into the ground! A few weeks later, look how big they’ve grown!

In the smaller bed, we have a similar combanation, with red and green cabbage, shallots, a different variety of beet, and marigolds.

The arrangement of the beds was very experimental. First, I consulted a few different resources regarding companion planting. The University of Minnesota Extension was helpful, and so was a book called “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte. After placing the annuals into groups, we looked at the spacing requirements for each different plant. The book “How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine” by John Jeavons was also helpful. We laid out seeds to get the proper spacing before we planted and mulched with straw.

Moving back to the lower left side bed, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, and marigolds. In the center left bed, we are experimenting with this trellis to maximize plating space. Growing up the trellis, we have cucumbers. underneath we have bush beans, and flanking the sides we have radishes and marigolds.

The right center bed is a variation of a three sister’s guild. In this bed, we have decorative corn, a dry pole bean variety, yellow squash, and a few radishes. The lower right hand bed is another variation of the three sister’s guild. In this bed there is sweet corn, pole beans, zucchini, a few radishes and marigolds. And then there’s other things growing that we didn’t plant, but are indicators of a healthy biological system. Here’s one of the many mushrooms that have started growing out of the sheet mulch, next to some common wood sorrel and grass.

Our next tasks in the garden will include de-constructing the landscape that is currently in place, cutting down a dying maple tree, and sculpting some earth works in the yard.

The Time of the Season

Alrighty, time to take a break from my ethics course blogging and do an update on the Bed and Breakfast garden, as it continues to make progress.

It’s seed starting time, people! In cold climates like we experience here in Minnesota, gardeners can extend the growing season by starting seeds indoors. This year, we’ve invested in some new toys to help the little plants. So here we’ve got a 4 foot florescent light and its stand, plus a temperature controlled, heated germination mat. These pieces of equipment were ordered from Amazon.com, but I’ve seen similar set-ups for sale at places like Menards, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot. But really, you don’t need all this fancy stuff to start seeds! The generous warmth and light helps the plants grow stronger and faster, but normal home temperatures and a south facing window is all you need to extend the season.

Veggies that are cold tolerant can be started indoors way before the threat of frost passes, and transplanted for a spring crop. Around late February or early March, you can start onions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and lettuce. This winter has been remarkably mild, so I planted a little early. 🙂 What can I say, I’ve already got spring fever!

Seeds planted.

The first to germinate.

Along with the garden at the Bed and Breakfast, I’ll also be working on a personal garden with some friends here in Winona. We’re staggering the germination process through time (about 2 week intervals) so we don’t end up getting the entire harvest all at once. Next up, in mid March, we’ll start the hot season veggies, like tomatoes and peppers. But in the meantime, other plants in the design are being started, like White Wild Indigo, Marigolds, Lavender, Nanking Cherries, and herbs. For more great gardening advice, check out the University of Minnesota’s Extension Website.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It’s Christmas time again, and that means baking! I’ve been trying to modify recipes to include ingredients that are a bit more wholesome. For this delicious treat, I used the recipe from this blog I found from a google search, Gimme Some Oven. The internet is truly a wonderful thing! I just replaced the oil with applesauce, switched up the chocolate, added some spices and added peanut butter to the glaze.


Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe

Ingredients for cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup lightly packed organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Ingredients for glaze:

  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 6 Tbsp.  butter
  • 4 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 4 small loaf pans, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and apple sauce.  Add the eggs, and vanilla. If zucchini is fresh, shed and add with the buttermilk; if it is frozen from an earlier harvest, combine buttermilk and frozen zucchini in a blender. Add the smoothie mixture to the mixing bowl. Then add the dry ingredients, stirring until they are just incorporated and evenly moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans, and bake the cake for about 50 – 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (or with just a few wet crumbs). Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 – 15 minutes. Then, invert the cake onto wire rack to cool completely. Top with the chocolate glaze, or dust with powdered sugar before serving.

To make glaze:

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate, peanut butter and butter together over medium low heat, stirring continually. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Let cool 1-2 minutes, then drizzle over cake. Enjoy!

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ahhh….good, clean food: the life blood of permaculture. Today I made the most colorful dish made from local, organic veggies that I got from the Winona Farmer’s Market at WSU. I wish I would have brought my camera to the market; it was beautiful! Flowers of burgundy, gold, and orange, free samples of apples, fresh made bread and pies, carving pumpkins, mason jars full of freshly made jams and pickled veggies, crafts, soap, fair trade coffee, and who could forget the tables full of freshly harvested veggies. There was so much I wanted to get there! But, being on a college budget, I just opted for some root vegetables and raspberries from a local Hmong family, and a loaf of bread and some rhubarb coffee cake from the loveliest Amish woman.

Beets and heirloom potatoes waiting to become a part of my concoction of deliciousness.

This recipe is super easy and adaptable.

Roasted Root Vegetables:

1 medium bowl root vegetables (2 beets and 6 small potatoes in today’s dish, but you could use carrots, turnips, yams, radishes, onions and even squash contributes quite nicely albeit not being a root veggie.)

Olive Oil

Spices to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil on bottom of pan. Cube veggies, and cover in olive oil.

Place in a thin layer on a pan. Then, sprinkle with spices, like salt, pepper, oregano, chives, garlic or roasted red pepper flakes. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir veggies on pan, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until roots are tender.

It reminds me of confetti.

Then devour! I made quite a bit today, so I’m freezing half of the dish for later. I’ve still got 2 more beets and 4 more potatoes! ^_^ Bon Appetit.