As many of you know, Mike and I live in the Convivium Farmhouse, the yellow house right next door to Convivium. So it was important to us when we remodeled the house in 2015 to incorporate a landscape design that not only looks good, but was also in keeping with the principles and ideas that we are trying to teach through Convivium. Mainly, that with some forethought, you can grow A LOT of food in small space and make it look good too.
Luckily, we have AJ to help us with all of this, because as eager as we are, he is much, much more knowledgeable in this arena than we are. It’s important to note that we have a very small yard – a small patch in front of the porch and then on the side, the rest is taken up with our side deck, so when we say our entire yard is edible, we aren’t really talking about that much space. That said, we are able to produce a lot of food year after year.
We have broken up our yard into some distinct areas and planted a mixture of perennial fruits, fruit trees and herbs (those that come back year after year) and annual vegetables (those we have to replant every year).
Strawberry Hedge This hedge is right along the sidewalk in front of the house. We planted it with two varieties of ever-bearing strawberries — Toscana and Berri Basket Hot Pink. These plants have been prolific, even the very first season we grew them. Because they are ever-bearing, they do not produce a ton of berries all at once, but rather produce berries throughout the entire growing season. So we are enjoying fresh strawberries from this patch from mid- to late June all the way through the first hard frost in the fall.
A lot of people ask us – in fact, this is the most common question we get – aren’t you worried about people taking the berries/tomatoes/broccoli, etc? NO! In fact (ahem) that is sort of the point. We want people to try and taste everything we are growing – and maybe, just maybe be inspired to try it themselves.
Rhubarb Hedge. I wish I would have taken photos of the tiny plants that we put in the ground. They were in four-inch square pots if that gives you any perspective. These rhubarb plants have gone bonkers! (This photo is from 2016, the first year we planted rhubarb.)
Side Gardens If you follow the Rhubarb Hedge along the side of the house, you will see a our raspberry patch. Boy, oh, boy…this southern exposure if perfect for these plants. And the variety that we planted ‘Heritage’ is also ever-bearing if you prune it correctly. Each fall we cut the plants way back, but leave some older canes. These produce berries in late June and then the new canes for the year, will produce in August/September. So we always have two very nice crops of raspberries each year that we use to make jam.
Box Gardens We have three larger, lower box gardens which are each home to a fruit tree – apple, peach and cherry. We have herbs and other cover crops planted in the fruit tree beds. And then we also have eight 3 ft x 3 ft box gardens that we plant annual vegetables and herbs in each year. It is so great to just step outside and pick some herbs or a tomato or cucumber for a salad. So far this year, the rhubarb has been up for quite a few weeks. We are getting ready to harvest some soon and these muffins are a great way to enjoy one of the first crops of the season.
The Best Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
Yield: 15 muffins
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
1/3 c. canola oil
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 c. flour
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
¾ c. chopped rhubarb
¾ c. shopped strawberries
Raw sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease or line muffin pan. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix oil, egg, milk and vanilla by hand or with a mixer until well blended.
Add dry ingredients to the large bowl and mix until well incorporated. Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.
Fill muffin cups ½-2/3 full of batter and sprinkle tops with raw sugar. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.