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Cowgirl

Organic Flowers for Subsistence and Stealth Gardening

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I started talking about flowers in my thread about raising chicken feed. They deserve their own thread!

 

I have been creating essentially an old fashioned cottage garden around our property. English cottages did not generally have a lot of land to work with, so they have traditionally grown fruits, herbs, flowers and veggies in a glorious intermixing. But in this way they could supply their family’s NEEDS. It was a form of subsistence gardening, originally. Nowadays it seems to me that permaculturists are drawing a bit on this old concept, because that old concept WORKED. Plants can benefit from diversity - legumes produce nitrogen that feeds their neighbors, bees readily pollinate as they move from flower to squash flower, and pests are less likely to come in and decimate a crop interspersed with other plants.

 

A happy pollinator population, particularly the native bees, means your food production goes up dramatically. No pollinators, and many crops will not produce ANY food. Thus, keeping the native bees fed through the entire season, from spring thaw on through to the last hard frost, means you will have the pollinators needed for your food production. Flowers are not just pretty distractions, they are VITAL to healthy bees, particularly in an age of widespread insecticide use and GMO crops with insecticides that are present EVEN IN THE POLLEN. Commercial farming practices have decimated pollinator populations. As a result if you want to raise anything that depends on pollinators, you must take on the role of cultivating not only your food crops, but your pollinator population. Feed the bees and they will feed you and your livestock. And that is where flowers come in. Organic flowers in an organic garden/homestead.

 

I garden organically for many reasons. First, I don’t want to eat poison myself. Second, I don’t want my food producing animals to eat poisons and concentrate that in their eggs, milk and meat. Third, if I sprayed poisons I would kill off beneficial “weeds” that feed my native bees and also my animals, especially my chickens. Fourth, if I sprayed pest bugs, I could not harvest them for free, high protein chicken food, and I would also kill the bees. I do nothing that could harm the bees, and I try to provide them with a complete habitat so that they do not need to wander off and get killed by the crap the neighboring farmer is doing in his fields. My bee population has grown as has my fruit production.

 

Our “lawn” and pasture are kept mowed (high setting), but it has much greater diversity than the standard American lawn. I encourage dandelions. Yes, I am one of THOSE people! Not only is the dandelion a valuable medicinal herb and spring tonic for people, but the flower is good for the native bees. I have seen hooved animals seek it out as well. I also encourage white clover. The bees love white clover flowers, and the clover is also excellent forage, akin to alfalfa, for the hooved critters. Another flower you will see in our “lawn” is violas or violets. The bees love these in the spring (as do I). Violas are also a useful herb.

 

Our windbreaks include lilacs, another gorgeous and useful flowering plant. They grow tall and thick enough to serve as a windbreak, helping to stop the blowing snow in the winter. They feed the bees. And, they are edible!

 

Eastern redcedars have rather inconspicuous flowers, so should I list them here? But they produce a fruit beloved of songbirds. Those birds, in turn, eat huge amounts of insects. The cedars are useful in windbreaks. They provide habitat. And they have medicinal uses (semi-low dose). I rank them highly.

 

STEALTH: My cottage garden intermixes edibles, culinary herbs and medicinal herbs (including low dose botanicals — useful medicinals in very low doses but poisonous in high doses). I have a huge variety of fruits, both commonly and rarely eaten: roses, elderberries, highbush cranberries, maypops, and hawthorns are grown along with the more familiar apples, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, etc. A city marauder headed to the country to find food would have some difficulty discerning many of my edibles I have growing here, as not all edibles are growing in raised beds, and some raised beds have low dose botanicals intermixed. What is edible? What could kill them? Do they dare? Many edibles are scattered in the landscaping. There are pots of pretty annual flowers intermixed with pots of edibles. It does not look like a grocery store nor even like an expected standard American garden. I don’t like straight rows! A gardener would recognize many of the edibles, but other folks likely would not. Thus, my flowers and herbs serve another purpose, to confuse a would be food thief in a post SHTF situation.

 

Echinaceas are gorgeous native flowers that attract bees, butterflies and birds. They are also medicinal in addition to being gorgeous. I have a small bed at the front of our house with daffodils, violas, irises, day lilies, peonies, daisies, Black-eyed Susans, echinacea, asters, and boxwoods. In one small bed I have blooms that attract pollinators all season long. The daffodils are not super pollinator attractors, but I love them anyway. They have uses in discouraging animals from wintertime damage to their neighboring plants, though - so daffodils are USEFUL too, in their own way (good in an orchard also).

 

So, the flowers serve a myriad of purposes. They help to create a favorable ecosystem for raising food —my fruit production would be paltry without the populations of bees they support. They provide great enjoyment, both through their beauty and through the wildlife they attract — butterflies and birds are drawn in by them. Many of those birds also do double duty eating bugs, including copious amounts of mosquitoes! And they help to disguise the food to the ignorant. And, many of them have broader uses as edibles in their own right, or medicinal uses. 

 

In short, flowers are a mostly overlooked but important part of the survival garden. Plant some now. 

Edited by Cowgirl
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