DH and I finally agreed after we finish fixing up our current house and sell it, that we'll buy some land and start building our dream house and we want to live as self reliant as possible. I'm so excited and already started planning out details! I definitely would love to grow a large portion of our food. I would love to have fruit/nut trees, berries, and veggies. What are you favorite, most bountiful, easiest to care for plants, or unique plants that you've enjoyed growing and would like to share? If they supply something different like for homeopathic medicine, or basket making, etc, basically anything you could use, I would love to hear about that too! Oh, I live in New England so cold tolerant please!
What are your favorite plants to grow for use in homesteading?
I really adore my lavender. It doesn't grow well in pots so it has to be outdoors but there are ways to prepare it for winter and help it survive. Indoors I grow rosemary, cilantro, parsley, aloe, mint, basil, and oregano. I grow green onions simply by keeping the roots attached and keeping them in a bit of water and changing the water daily. In the summer we grow our own tomatoes, carrots, onions, jalapenos, chamomile, calendula, radishes, cucumbers, melons, watermelons, poblano peppers, green and red bell peppers, and then whatever else we have room for or would like to try growing for that year, we always try something new every year and stick with it if we were successful or can find a solution for whatever may have made us unsuccessful previously. I'd love to start having chickens and getting my own eggs too. Anyways, a good tip is to only grow plants that you will use for something and make them apart of your landscaping. For example, we plant the chamomile in a nice sized rectangular bed in front of large dining room window, so it looks like this beautiful bed of tall flowers. My lavender is a nice centerpiece to four bushes of calendula. Does that make any sense? LOL
Lavender, lavender, lavender! I LOVE lavender and use it in so much stuff- sachets, crafts, etc. I'm going to be putting it in my homemade soap as well. My plants are a few years old and not doing well, so I will probably try to start over this spring with new starts.
Peppermint for scrubs and tea, but I had to rip it all out last summer because it was infested with a fungus. That is why they suggest you grow it in pots! Wish I had listened... Oh well, I will start over this summer too.
Garden veggies of course...
I plan on purchasing one or two witch hazel trees this spring! I will have to research how to harvest and utilize it, but I also just think they are so pretty.
Chammomile for tea. I don't think mine survived the winter though, so again I will probably start over with new plants.
Rosemary. That bush has THRIVED. It's the only herb plant that has done well in my herb garden.
We are forever amazed by our quince trees. Rhubarb. Red currants. I would mention bamboo, but you'd have to find some hardy bamboo to survive NE temps. It's great for around the yard and garden. Hardy kiwis. Asian and European plums (though we are having troubles with stone fruits in the PNW these last years.) Veggies: kale and collards we can't get enough of. Extremely cold hardy.
Calendula, chamomile. If I had to choose one mint, I would make it a spearmint-type (though not mentha spicata specifically, just not peppermint) because those are more flexible and work in middle eastern and central asian foods. English thyme is fairly hardy, though you might still need to treat it like an annual there. (I have no experience with extended freezes, but I do know about short winter days and cool summers.) Thyme is *the* herb that I cannot do without willingly. And garden sage (which is indispensable on those occasions), which I know can be hardy in well-drained soil. For mediterranean herbs and other plants, you can increase the hardiness by making sure that roots are very well drained.
Chicken fruit is cold hardy. And addictive. Big-bodied hens with small combs will withstand winter temps. The Chanticleer breed was bred for Canadian winters, with a cushion comb tight to the head, and a heavy, well-feathered body.
Lately I've been putting my focus on perennial fruits. Two of my favorites - based on taste, ease of growing, and deer resistance - would be the goumi and gooseberry. Goumi is a large shrub with beautiful silvery green leaves. It produces sweet red fruit about the size of grapes that can be picked and eaten fresh or used for wines, jellies, etc. Many people are more familiar with gooseberry, which is a smaller shrub with pretty rounded three-pronged leaves. It produces berries that may be yellow, red, or pink. They taste most similar to grapes I would say, and are also awesome for eating right off the plant.
I think that Michael Judd's book Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist is a great reference for the more uncommon fruits that are easy to grow and very productive for the homestead - the book covers care of persimmon, paw paw, hardy kiwi, mulberry, jujube, cider apples and perry pears, goumi, sea berry, gooseberry, currants, and jostaberries. http://ecologiadesign.com/2013/07/03/new-book-on-edible-landscaping-by-ecologia/
I love goumis, too. I find they are can be acquired taste for some. The flavor is incredible, but they have an strong astringency that some people dislike, that fades with ripeness but never goes away. Easy to grow in sun or a good deal of shade as well.
I also love garden sorrel, but no one else in my house does, and it's not something that is going to make a up a huge portion of your diet. But mmmmm sorrel soup is divine!
I second looking into permaculture books for inspiration.
I love all the great ideas!
I definitely am going to plant lavender, I can't wait to be able to make my own essential oil. Also I never even thought of planting a witch hazel tree, which is ironic since I use witch hazel so much at home, it would be great to be able to make my own! I'm definitely going have to look into the book Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, and other permaculture books. I definitely want to plant gooseberries, and I haven't heard of goumi before but will definitely try to find some to taste this summer. I was looking up quince trees because I also never heard of them, but I was confused do you have to cook them to eat them?
Oh and good suggestion on the chickens! Do you have to build a heated coop though?
We planted a little veggie garden the past two years, but we know we're going be selling soon so we didn't want to invest in planting trees/bushes etc until we know it will be our forever home. I do have a ton of plants in pots so I can take them with me. I brought some non-cold hardy plants in pots inside for the winter and put them in the not often used spareroom and forgot to water them, so they didn't all make it.
One plant that amazed me was a little stevia plant I bought from a nursery that was probably about 5 inches tall when I got it, repotted it and it grew to three feet! My daughter would always go pick a leaf to chew on when we were outside this summer.
I'll definitely have to do a lot of research and planning! Thanks for all the awesome suggestions!
There is debate on the benefits of raising the coop temperature *slightly* vs not, but you definitely don't want to heat the coop. Many people have heated waterers, especially when the temps are continually below freezing. Proper ventilation is important at all times. The folks who do raise the temperature of the *roost* say it helps with winter laying, but that is debatable. Choose your breeds well, and in general you will have no problems. Frostbite is probably the greatest concern, which is why a tight comb is better. Roosters are particularly vulnerable, but you don't need a rooster. Many with flocks in the cold-winer regions do nothing but protect their flock from the elements and keep the water liquid.
ETA: Here is a 2008 thread from Backyard Chickens covering coop heating or not. It's just the tip of the iceberg (ahem!) on the subject.
It got unusually cold last week and I brought my birds into the basement a couple days. For teens and warmer (F) I don't worry too much but below like the -10F we had that I'd like heat for them.
As for plants, I love blueberries and asparagus. I don't like growing annual fruiting veggies, it's too hit or miss for me. Except green beans, they are pretty easy.
We also had an unusual cold dip before Christmas and I did flip on a heat lamp by the roost, because it was unusual and wasn't going to stay that cold.