The nine plants of Sambucus canadensis exceeded my wildest expectations. After two years, they outgrew their space in the garden this summer. My sense is that they can be as vigorous and prolific as bamboo, but more gentle and forgiving. They, along with the passion vine, turned the garden into a jungle.

These were harvested on July 28, 2018. I lacked the organization to make a syrup for winter enjoyment.

The jungle, before culling begins.

08242018 elder JUNGLE 1
This and the following three photos taken on August 24, 2018. The majority of berries have been harvested at this point, though a few branches were still flowering.

08242018 elder jungle 00

08242018 elder JUNGLE 3

08242018 elder JUNGLE 4

Once the shrubs have been sufficiently topped, they must be dug up and transplanted to a more amenable situation.

09232018 elders WHEELBARROW
Resting in the shade awaiting their new home.
09122018 elder in pit
Being situated in their new location.
09172018 elders TRANSPLANTED
Hopefully they’ll be just as happy at the forest’s edge. The birds certainly will be.

Garden roll call

Redbud, Cercis canadensis, in flower. Photo taken April 3. Previous post – redbud in bud, around March 22.

04032018 redbud

April 14. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Gou qi zi 枸杞). I’m experimenting to see how much fruit all of this new growth will produce. Also, I’ve heard anecdotally that the dried goji berries at the store are treated with a colorant to give them a redder hue. I will investigate this further.

04152018 goji

April 14. Jewels of opar (Talinum paniculatum). They survived the winter!!

04222018 jewels of opar

April 22. Heuchera spp. Enjoys the shade of the elderberry.

04222018 heuchera

April 22. A bit washed out due to the overcast sky, I suppose. A nice perennial polyculture, front, from left: figwort (Scrophularia marilandica), comfrey in flower (Symphytum spp.), back: Carolina lupine/Blue Ridge buck bean (Thermopsis villosa).

04222018 polyculture

The garden takes shape

Alley cropping is either more exciting than it sounds or less exciting that it sounds, depending on one’s disposition.

04302017 alley between rows

The above image, taken on April 30, depicts two rows of veggies, occupying the alley between two rows of elderberries and blackberries (elders in foreground).

This is definitely alley cropping on the small scale, but even so, I continue to be surprised by the amount of produce put out by these two rows. The kale (Red Russian) will continue to provide babies for salads and braising. The lettuce (black-seeded Simpson) needs to fill out a little more. Their harvest may be hampered by the numerous echinacea seedlings that came up amongst the baby lettuces. It will be a tough call, because honeybees like the coneflower, and it will undoubtedly impart a unique flavor to their honey.

The alleys of blackberries and elder are where the art of agroforestry comes into play. Interplanted among these shrubs, the farmer can locate plants of shorter stature that suit a broad array of functions: medicinal, native, pollinator, insectary, nectary, food, forage, soil building. Rest assured, you have not heard the last of alley cropping in the agroforestry system.