Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Finally some success with plant propagation...

In the Food Forest

I have tried the past 2 years to propagate some woody shrubs (currents, honeyberry and elderberry) with absolutely no luck.  I tried a new method this year that involves putting cuttings into wet sand.  I started this project on the 4th of July.

First, I drilled holes into the containers.
 Then, I took cuttings from my plants.  This is a honeyberry cutting.
 You strip off the lower leaves and I dipped the stem in rooting powder.
 Then, you stick them in the damp sand.  These are the cuttings from the honeyberry bush.
 Put them in a white trash bag (it has to be white, not clear and not black).  Put it in a shady spot and let it sit for a couple of months.

 These are not the best pics but I wanted to explain why I wanted to propagate certain bushes.  This black current was loaded down with big currents the size of grapes!  The branches were literally hanging down with all the fruit.
 This white current bush is all bushy with leaves and only had a few small, pea sized berries.  

I had bought 4 different current bushes when we moved to the property a couple of years ago.  Only the black current seems to be super productive.  I am glad I decided to try several different ones to see what would be best.

On Labor Day (early September), I decided to see how the cutting were doing.

These are the black current.  I had put 15 cuttings in and I had 4 that looked okay...not 100% sure they will make it...
 The honeyberries did the best.  I did 2 different bushes and I got about 12 new seedlings in each container.
 Check out the roots on this new seedling!
 I also tried to propagate Elderberry but had no luck with that at all.

There are lots of different ways to propagate bushes and some methods are better than others for certain plants.  I am going to try and do some stool layer on the current bush.  Basically, it involves putting good compost and mounding it up at the base of the plant and then let it sit on the branches and they should root in the compost.

Here is a nice video describing the stool layering technique:

Another type of propagation that is good for plants with arching canes is tip layering.  Here I took the end of a blackberry and stripped off the leaves at the end and covered it with compost.  Over winter, it should root and I can dig it out in the spring and transplant it to a new area.
Here is a great video about tip layering:
It may go without saying, but propagating your own plants can save you a lot of money.  One year old honeyberry plants can sell for $15-$20 each.  I was able to propagate at least $300 worth of plants for free.  I have seaberry plants that I want to try and propagate next.  These plants cost $25-$30 each!  I have one male and one female.  The first ones I bought did not grow and the company replaced them (yeah!).  I had planted the second ones last fall and they did really well this year but they were not big enough to take any cuttings from this this year.  I bought my honeyberries and seaberry from Honeyberry USA.

I will still work to propagate more plants.  If anyone knows of a fool proof way to propagate elderberry, please, clue me in.  I have heard it is super easy to propagate but I have failed 3 times to get any to grow!


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Happy accident...sunflower seeds for poultry!

On the Farm

I know we have been planning Mark's poultry egg business for a while now.  One thing that was in the back of my mind was maybe growing some sunflower seeds for the poultry.  I actually did plant some black oil sunflower seeds specifically for the purpose in the spring.  Unfortunately, I did not do a good job of marking where the black oil sunflowers were growing.  When I went to harvest the cut flowers, I just took the black oil sunflowers too!  Whoops!
A Brazilian study found increased egg weight in hens fed sunflower seeds. Its researchers stated that increasing levels of sunflower seeds in daily rations did not affect feed intake, feed conversion or yolk color. 

Example of black oil sunflower field and seeds
As the season progressed, some of the sunflowers in the middle of the row grew REALLY big.  Too big to even use as a cut flower.  I just left them because they looked so pretty.  Then, I started to realize that they were putting on seeds!
Sunflower showing seeds under stigma part of flower
I wasn't sure if I would get seeds because the type of flowers I grow are pollenless.  You have to have pollen present to fertilize the ovules to get seeds.  Let's talk about sunflower sex...

Taken from hunker.com: Sunflowers are known as composite flowers. The large flower head at the top of the stalk is often referred to as one flower but is actually hundreds of small flowers. The dark center is made up of disk flowers that have five brown petals fused together into a tubular shape. The male, stamen, and female, stigma, are both present in disk flowers. The stamen is composed of filament and pollen-producing anthers. The stigma houses the style, which receives the pollen and allows it to travel down to the ovary, where the unfertilized seeds, ovules, are located. This is the process of pollination that enables the flowers to produce seeds.

Pollenless sunflowers do not have stamen to produce pollen.  HOWEVER, the black oil sunflowers that I had planted were NOT pollenless.  I am thinking that the pollen from the black oil sunflowers was used to fertilize the other flowers.  There are always tons of pollinators buzzing around the sunflowers.

As the sunflowers started to dry down, I cut off the heads to dry out.  At first, I thought I would just dry out the heads and store them.  This still might work if I can get them dried down enough.  The struggle is to get them dried down enough so when you store them, they will not mold. 
I started to "shell" off some of the seeds and put them in my dehydrator overnight to make sure to get all the moisture out.  There is a wide variety of seed color because of the different flower colors.  I love the brown seeds (at the top of the pic).  There are also black and white seeds.
More benefits of feeding sunflower seeds to poultry:
Taken from beginningfarmer.org: Since sunflower seeds contain oil, they are a great source of fat and will therefore add a little weight to birds. This is a good thing going into winter because this extra fat will translate into warmth when temperatures drop. Another physical change will come in the form of feathers. The very same oil that adds fat to their diet will make feathers glossy and shiny. 

I have read that sunflower seeds should not be more than 1/3 of the hens diet.  We definitely won't have enough to feed that much but we should have some to feed a little each day as a treat.

Next summer, I may plant some of those big mammoth sunflowers so we can get LOTS of sunflower seeds!!!