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Cover crops explained
At the edible landscaping workshop, Ms. Maruskin also explained cover crops. Now, I have to admit I’ve never given this term much thought. I knew that farmers would often plant a crop during the fall to help cover during the winter and early summer but never stopped to wonder why. Cover crops are chosen because of their allelopathy. Rye, clover, sorghum, and vetch are a few that are commonly used. These plants produce chemicals that inhibit growth of other groups of plants. They truly help cover the tillable agricultural space as the seasons change. In addition to warding off potentially unwanted plant species, these cover crops also manage soil fertility/quality, water, pests, diseases, biodiversity, and wildlife.

Cover crops explained

At the edible landscaping workshop, Ms. Maruskin also explained cover crops. Now, I have to admit I’ve never given this term much thought. I knew that farmers would often plant a crop during the fall to help cover during the winter and early summer but never stopped to wonder why. Cover crops are chosen because of their allelopathy. Rye, clover, sorghum, and vetch are a few that are commonly used. These plants produce chemicals that inhibit growth of other groups of plants. They truly help cover the tillable agricultural space as the seasons change. In addition to warding off potentially unwanted plant species, these cover crops also manage soil fertility/quality, water, pests, diseases, biodiversity, and wildlife.

Final species from Edible Landscaping workshop!
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Sassafras is an understory tree like the pawpaw. It prefers the company of larger species for partial shade. The leaves of the sassafras may be substituted for bay leaves in recipes since they are related. However, don’t eat the fruit! It’s fruit has a dark red peduncle is a deep, dark indigo-blue color.

Redbud (Cercis spp.)
Redbud is relatively short-lived (45 years or so). It’s flowers can be eaten. Vinegar can also be created from redbud. The pods can be eaten raw or lightly steamed like snow peas. Redbuds attract honeybees.

Mulberry (Morus spp.)
Both red and black mulberries are edible. They are one of the most common in Kentucky. Mulberry jam can also be created from its berries.

Lindens (Tilia spp.) 
Lindens are considered “good neighbor” species. Tea can be created from its flowers. The flowers are also very attractive to honeybees.

Final species from Edible Landscaping workshop!

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras is an understory tree like the pawpaw. It prefers the company of larger species for partial shade. The leaves of the sassafras may be substituted for bay leaves in recipes since they are related. However, don’t eat the fruit! It’s fruit has a dark red peduncle is a deep, dark indigo-blue color.

Redbud (Cercis spp.)

Redbud is relatively short-lived (45 years or so). It’s flowers can be eaten. Vinegar can also be created from redbud. The pods can be eaten raw or lightly steamed like snow peas. Redbuds attract honeybees.

Mulberry (Morus spp.)

Both red and black mulberries are edible. They are one of the most common in Kentucky. Mulberry jam can also be created from its berries.

Lindens (Tilia spp.)

Lindens are considered “good neighbor” species. Tea can be created from its flowers. The flowers are also very attractive to honeybees.

Starting Tree Seedlings
PVC pipe is a great idea if you would like to try to start your own tree seedlings. A few species including those in the oak family, persimmon, and pawpaws send a long root down as they are growing. This makes them perfect for growing in a PVC pipe. If you’re going to start trees from seed, use peat-free soil. It may also be in your best interest to scarify the seed for 15 seconds before planting it. Seeds have a tough, hard coating that helps protect the seed. However, to start seedlings from these seeds, many seed coats need to be prepared for germination. You can use a small file or sandpaper to rub the outside of the seed coat. Do this only for 15 seconds or so.
 *Photo courtesy of Michael Carlson of the BC Ministry of Forests and Range*

Starting Tree Seedlings

PVC pipe is a great idea if you would like to try to start your own tree seedlings. A few species including those in the oak family, persimmon, and pawpaws send a long root down as they are growing. This makes them perfect for growing in a PVC pipe. If you’re going to start trees from seed, use peat-free soil. It may also be in your best interest to scarify the seed for 15 seconds before planting it. Seeds have a tough, hard coating that helps protect the seed. However, to start seedlings from these seeds, many seed coats need to be prepared for germination. You can use a small file or sandpaper to rub the outside of the seed coat. Do this only for 15 seconds or so.

*Photo courtesy of Michael Carlson of the BC Ministry of Forests and Range*

Walnut (Hickory) Family (Juglans spp.)
Walnuts require two trees to be close to one another in order to produce their mast. As mentioned earlier, black walnut trees are allelopathic. Black walnut contains a toxin called juglone. Its allelopathy wards off many other plant species. Planting near a black walnut tree should be avoided unless you are absolutely certain the juglone will not affect that particular plant species.
*photo courtesy of Norman G. Flaigg* 

Walnut (Hickory) Family (Juglans spp.)

Walnuts require two trees to be close to one another in order to produce their mast. As mentioned earlier, black walnut trees are allelopathic. Black walnut contains a toxin called juglone. Its allelopathy wards off many other plant species. Planting near a black walnut tree should be avoided unless you are absolutely certain the juglone will not affect that particular plant species.

*photo courtesy of Norman G. Flaigg
Oak spp. (Quercus spp.) 
The acorns of all oak species are edible. There are two separate groups of oaks. If you can distinguish between the two, you’ll find a sweet variety of acorn and avoid the bitter type (unless that’s your preference). White oaks have the sweet acorns while black oaks have bitter tasting acorns. Black oaks contain more tannin than the white oaks do. There are many oak species in Kentucky including white, burr, overcup, chestnut, chinquapin, blackjack, shingle, and willow.
This site explains the process of creating acorn meal - http://askville.amazon.com/acorns-edible/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=17756711.
*photo courtesy of USDA*

Oak spp. (Quercus spp.)

The acorns of all oak species are edible. There are two separate groups of oaks. If you can distinguish between the two, you’ll find a sweet variety of acorn and avoid the bitter type (unless that’s your preference). White oaks have the sweet acorns while black oaks have bitter tasting acorns. Black oaks contain more tannin than the white oaks do. There are many oak species in Kentucky including white, burr, overcup, chestnut, chinquapin, blackjack, shingle, and willow.

This site explains the process of creating acorn meal - http://askville.amazon.com/acorns-edible/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=17756711.

*photo courtesy of USDA*

Maple spp. (Acer spp.)
Maple trees can be tapped for their syrup. Kentucky represents the southernmost fringe of the syrup industry. On average, it takes 40 gallons of sap to create approximately 1 gallon of syrup.
Maples do have mild allelopathic tendencies. Allelopathy, as mentioned in “9 Reasons Why You Should Consider Native Landscaping” post, is the suppression of growth of another plant or species because of a toxin released by a nearby plant or species.
If you want to spare yourself the mountain of work in creating maple syrup, you can actually consume another part of a maple tree. The helicopters! The seeds encased in the helicopters can be eaten raw. They can also be roasted. Some describe them as similar to soybeans while others explain they’re like green beans.
*photo courtesy of USDA*

Maple spp. (Acer spp.)

Maple trees can be tapped for their syrup. Kentucky represents the southernmost fringe of the syrup industry. On average, it takes 40 gallons of sap to create approximately 1 gallon of syrup.

Maples do have mild allelopathic tendencies. Allelopathy, as mentioned in “9 Reasons Why You Should Consider Native Landscaping” post, is the suppression of growth of another plant or species because of a toxin released by a nearby plant or species.

If you want to spare yourself the mountain of work in creating maple syrup, you can actually consume another part of a maple tree. The helicopters! The seeds encased in the helicopters can be eaten raw. They can also be roasted. Some describe them as similar to soybeans while others explain they’re like green beans.

*photo courtesy of USDA*

You can use osage oranges (hedge apples) to help combat problems with mice, spiders, or ticks in your home. Place them near where you think the unwanted critters enter your home to help ward them off.
*Photo by Bruce Martin*

You can use osage oranges (hedge apples) to help combat problems with mice, spiders, or ticks in your home. Place them near where you think the unwanted critters enter your home to help ward them off.

*Photo by Bruce Martin*

Julie Maruskin, Director of Clark County Public Library, discussed several of Kentucky’s native and naturalized tree species during the Edible Landscaping program on April 30th.
Edible families and individuals species in Kentucky include

ebonies (persimmon)


maples (sugar & black)


oaks (all species, including beech & chestnut)


walnuts (hickories & pecans)


laurels (sassafras)


mulberries (red & osage orange)


rose (crabapple, plums, cherries, serviceberries, hawthorn, berries)


honey locust


redbud


lindens (basswood)

Julie Maruskin, Director of Clark County Public Library, discussed several of Kentucky’s native and naturalized tree species during the Edible Landscaping program on April 30th.

Edible families and individuals species in Kentucky include

  • ebonies (persimmon)
  • maples (sugar & black)
  • oaks (all species, including beech & chestnut)
  • walnuts (hickories & pecans)
  • laurels (sassafras)
  • mulberries (red & osage orange)
  • rose (crabapple, plums, cherries, serviceberries, hawthorn, berries)
  • honey locust
  • redbud
  • lindens (basswood)

Saving Seeds (HTW Tip)

Julie Maruskin shared a very detailed seed-saving technique at the Heirloom Tomato Workshop. Warning – not for the faint-hearted. “The seeds of fleshy tomatoes benefit from the fermentation process, which helps clean the seeds of bacteria.”

To save seeds from tomatoes through the fermentation process, you must follow a set of tried and true steps, which Ms. Maruskin explained to us.

  • Choose a pretty, tasty fruit from a healthy plant.
  • Cut the tomato open (halves are fine).
  • Scoop out the seeds and pulp. 
  • Place in a jar with as much water as pulp.
  • Cover the jar loosely with a lid. You want a little air to get in.
  • Label as you go.
  • Keep at room temperature and out of direct sun for 3-7 days.
  • A layer of good mold will form on the surface. This moldy plaque forms a bacteria-killing anaerobic environment that also boosts germination.
  • After the mold forms, scoop it off, and dump everything else into a strainer under running water.
  • Rinse the seed and spread them out on a paper plate.
  • Label the plates as you go.
  • Let the seeds dry two weeks at room temperature.
  • When dry, pack the seed in paper packets or envelopes, and label as you go.
  • Store in the refrigerator if possible. If not, store at room temperature.

I don’t grow it unless I can eat it

Julie Maruskin, Director of Clark County Public Library