Best plants for sustainability in Sonoma county

By greendoc on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 - 1:47pm

I just finished making my salt preserved limes for our family and xmas gifts for the neighbors.  They are great for cooking

I was reflecting on how wonderful our Bearss Lime has been.

I probably planted 7 years ago and have not needed to buy lemons or limes at all the past 4 years.  I cannot believe how productive this plant has been. I grow it against a west facing brick and stucco wall and it is partially protected by overhead eave, and I always cover it if we get a hard frost.

I basically use limes for anything calling for lemons.   Limes work for guacomole, anything thai, etc.

Starting in October or so, I start picking the ripest for kitchen use and do so til Chirstmas.  That is when I pick what I need for preserved limes.   Then I pick the tree mostly bare, juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays to be used throughout the rest of the year. I usually leave some on the tree as well to pick until I see blossoms the following spring, then i pick them too prefering to let the trees energy go to new fruit production but I think you can leave them on indefinitely, the rind just gets thicker. 

Arbequina olive so far has been reliable in our environmental niche...there are highly productive trees ten plus years old in the hood, even though we are at the foot of Bennet Mtn and get cold air pockets.

I have been so far disappointed in Stewart is frost tolerant, but too cold to reliable set fruit well.

Jerusalem artichokes way too productive: what can you really make with them that is tasty?

Arugula just volunteers on its own as does parsley, purple orach, amaranth...I seem to have that at least half the year without even trying.  But it is more of a random thing, so gathering it is an adventure or roaming the yard to visit the upstarts. 

I adore dinosaur hardy and robust. rainbow chard. ditto. Everyone shoudl put in asparagus if you liek eating it.  I have jersey king, jersy giant, and some purple type, and martha washington. Wish I had skipped the sets so many seeds, i have volunteers everywhere!  I think the male cultivars are teh way to go.

As for fruit "wonderful" pomegranate lives up to its name. My jiro (fuju type) persimmon has also been fantastic. Mission fig is reliable, Violette de bordeaux fig less so.

I am interested in hearing what other plants folks locally could not go without. 



earthwise's picture
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Use for Jerusalem artichokes

Hey greendoc, you asked "Jerusalem artichokes way too productive: what can you really make with them that is tasty?"

Answer: meat. A while back I searched out info on different fodder crops for livestock and Jerusalem artichokes kept popping up. I haven't tried them on my critters as of yet, but it's still on the back burner. 

So, it would appear that by feeding them to hogs, goats, sheep, cattle etc., one could turn the "way to productive" Jerusalem artichokes into T-bones, lamb chops, bacon etc. 

Now I think I'm gonna hafta push my plans for Jerusalem artichokes up to the front burner.

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I Vote for Medicinal Herbs

I love this thread!

I vote for medicinal herbs.  One of my herb teachers talks about having a Medicine Chest in your garden. Here are the herbs I include in that with traditional uses indicated:

St. Johns Wort - great anti-depressant, great salve for burns, stings.

Calendula - also a great skin plant especially for wound healing, diaper rash.  Make an infused oil of the dried flowers.

Comfrey - great at healing bones and cartilage, hence its folk name, Knitbone.  Use the leaf to avoid the toxicity believed to be a problem with the root.

Chamomile - eases digestive issues, very, very calming, can be helpful for insomnia.  Use German Chamomile and not Roman Chamomile.

Mullein -The leaf eases dry coughs.  An infused oil of the flowers is used for earaches. Super easy to grow.

Hawthorn - Okay, this is a tree and a very beautiful one at that!  The berries are known for being a heart tonic.  They also make a yummy cordial.

Burdock - the root is a great liver tonic.  It self-seeds and will spread all over the garden, so don't let it go to seed unless you really want to have it everywhere.

Echinacea - I love having this plant in the garden.  Don't get hybrids.  They aren't medicinal.  Stick with Angustifolia and Purpurea and plant it in a protected raised bed or other container because the gophers love Echinacea root.  It stimulates the immune system to ease infections.  Echinacea also attracts bees.

Vitex - a large bush that's known for easing female issues.  Also called Chasteberry.

Yarrow - a must have for anyone who cooks or has kids because it stops bleeding so effectively.

All of these herbs grow well in our Sonoma County climate and it's easy to learn how to use them.  Like our food, it's great when you know where your medicine came from.


earthwise's picture
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Comfrey too!!

As noted above, I had previously sought out fodder crops for my livestock. Several homesteader types recommended comfrey as a fodder crop. I've been growing it for two years and the goats sheep and rabbits love it. Takes a lot of water though, which could be an issue in arid climes. Still, it's worth the effort.

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Check out jujube, an easy care fruit that tastes good fresh or dried. I believe it would do well in your dry climate:



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I whole heartedly second

I whole heartedly second herbs. one word of caution on st johns wortand mullein. They can be highly invasive and can easily take over a garden.  If you live in a suburban neighborhood surrounded my well watered land, you may find your neighbors as well as yourself regretting the addition of that plant to your garden. I learned the hard way, the populations can explode exponentially if they like your setting.  That goes for chelidonium too.  I wish echinacea would do that or goldenseal. 

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Cows and sunchokes

I haven't tried it on a large scale, but I gave my beef cattle a couple armfuls of Jerusalem Artichoke tops this fall.  They liked them very much. 

I've also wondered for years if JA's could provide a significant amount of food for pastured pigs. If the pigs move through them quickly enough, and get followed by a good cover crop, I would think the pigs could thin out the tubers enough to keep them from overcrowding.  Haven't dared to try any of it yet, though.

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I'm evaluating pawpaw.  This small tree will grow in many states, and looks very promising from a nutritional standpoint.

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Medicinal Herbs

I'm a good field botanist and have always taken an interest in medicinal herbs.  My 1934 copy of The Herbalist states mistletoe "is credited with beneficial stimulating properties of a high order when properly administered".  It's the properly administered part I'm stuck at.  Has anyone tried this?

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Update on great food plants for Sonoma county

It is this time of year I evaluate my garden to see what needs to be shovel pruned, due to poor performance, and what new plants to add to my rotation. 

The poor performers:
Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a perennial root crop that tastes like a fruit.  This plant was productive, but I really did not care for the taste.  So out!
 Hopniss/Indian potato (Apios americana) is a vigorously growing herbaceous vine that wraps around shrubs, small trees, and larger vines.  In my garden this plant has done squat.  I suspect, since it really is from the more temperate, humid east and midwest, that it is too dry here…and I do not give it enough water. 
Oca (Oxalis tuberosa, formerly Oxalis crenata),  actually I liked how this tuber tastes, excellent roasted with olive oil and splashed with vinegar and salt. But very high in oxalates and probably not healthy to eat as a regular staple crop.  It was not very productive either…again probably because I did not give my patch much water. 
Avocado…it was supposed to be a Stewart variety…at least that is what it was labeled at nursery. But when I finally got a fruit from was a black skinned variety.  So not sure what I have. And it is not really setting fruit reliably. I cut down a culinary bay tree that was shading it during the winter, so I hoping it will do better this spring after more sun during the winter. 
I lost my aprium and italian prune plum t two springs ago…it was a bad year for fireblight. I have not replaced. 
Since the wildfires I have looked at my landscape with a new eye towards fire safety. We  had two trees (port orford Cedar and and a Norway Maple)  cut down to create more defensible space around our home.  While sad to see them go, it creates more space for smaller, more compact trees that provide food.  
Planting new this year:
Mesquite   (Prosopis glandulosa "Maverick") is a thornless cultivar of the honey mesquite tree. The pods can be ground for flour. Attractive ornamental. 
I have a Sherwood Jujube tree, that has not fruited well which was disappointing as I enjoy the flavor of the fruit. As it turns out, I need another cultivar for pollination/good fruit set.  So i am planting another Jujube: the cultivar Li. Hopefully it will bear well this year with a another pollinator nearby. 
I also ditched the red flame grape for fire safety reasons. I had it trained on a trellis to shade the south side of house in summer, but it is a fire ladder.  And honestly, the grapes come all at once, and while delicious, they attracted fox and raccoons who ended up eating most of them.  
It will be replaced by Chayote that will be kept short and not allowed to climb onto the house.   (Sechium edule) is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, along with melons, cucumbers and squash.  Very easy to sprout. I have one started indoors in a gallon pot to be planted out after last frost date. A delicious food that is  very versatile. 
This years star performers:
 Cactus/nopale: I went to the local hispanic grocery last year and bought 8 nopales paddles and stuck them in the ground in and around the hugekulture bed I made two years ago. 6 of them rooted and now I have more cactus paddles then I know what to do with. I love okra and in the midwest where I grew up it was a weed.  But it thrives in the humid climate in Nebraska, but here in California I could never get okra to do well. too dry.  But cactus can and does do well….and  I use it like I would okra in gumbo, jambalaya, soups.  plus can be added to eggs, pan fried, made into salads. Very versatile and good for you 
Olives Arbequina: We have twelve of these planted 7 years ago. A great year for olives: we picked 120 pounds . We brined half to make 48 quarts of delicious table olives.. I gave most away as christmas gifts, but have a dozen jars that will last us all year. The remaining 60 pounds wen tot a community olive oil pressing and we got 1/2 gallon of really delicious extra virgin olive oil, rich in polyphenols. 
Also really productive this year:
Bearrs lime
Pomegranate  Wonderful
Persimmon Jiro /Fuyu type
Kumquat: anyone have ides how to use these up besides eating fresh and making  marmalade?
Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) is an attractive, evergreen tree or shrub with many landscape uses. It's ideal for warm, western climates and well suited to home gardens.  
I never really new what to do with this fruit until now. I started making a guava/persimmon/pomengranate salsa. It is like a winter version of pico de gallo and it is delicious!  
Basically: equal parts of chopped guava (I love skin on, just trim top and bottom), diced persimmon, and pomegranate arils as you see fit. 
Juice of limes.  Chopped garlic, salt and jalapeño or red chili to taste. I also add either perilla and/or cilantro. It is gorgeous to look at, and tastes better. 
I also made a chutney with guava and the green tomatoes that I picked in December as I pulled out the vines. Added garlic, onions, red peppers, cumin, mustard seed, and apple cider vinegar. Pungent but tasty. I also freeze the guavas and you can toss into smoothies. 
Of course, all the usual suspects: kale, chard, collards, tomatoes, winter and summer squash, basil. It was a pretty good year for the garden. This year I hope to grow more root veg: parsnip and rutabaga.  
What is doing well in your micro-climate?


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