Dual Purpose, Permaculture Lite, or Hidden Farm?
I’m not all that enamored with dual purpose animals, because usually they end up being single purpose, like a dual purpose milk cow, in lots of cases the cow only gives enough milk for her calf, which really needs all that milk to grow into a healthy bovine, once humans start
sneaking milk milking the cow for household use, the calf gets shorted. Not enough for house, and not enough for the baby. But dual purpose in the garden is a much easier do, it just requires a little more planning, or letting go of our produce aisle notions of vegetables and how they look and perform.
I think Eliot Coleman of Four Season farm calls it the hidden farm, and permaculturists call it stacking, I am especially enamored with Joel Salatin’s take on stacking of animal species.
It may seem like I have unlimited space to garden, but that’s not really true. To enlarge my gardens I would have to take out pasture, which I am not willing to do. So I have to make more use of my space. I do a lot of succession planting, but after a while that gets to be a job in itself. I have taken a more passive approach by thinking of multi-use varieties, or rather vegetables that serve more than one purpose. I can grow mangels for the chickens and milk cow, and I can use the tops in the place of chard. I grow chard and beets too, but if I was hurting for space I could rely on only the mangels for my chard type greens, leaving the roots for winter feed for the stock. Mangels not your thing? Consider Lutz aka Winterkeeper, or Early Wonder Tall Top, both beet varieties grow nice roots and luxurious tall tops for greens.
Another stacker in my garden is celeriac. Usually seen in stores with the roots and tops trimmed, you almost wouldn’t recognize this ugly duckling turned kitchen swan in its natural state. Not as fussy as its succulent cousin celery, it does real well in my dryland/low irrigation garden.
Celeriac has an extensive root system which allows it to forage for water without much more than an initial mudding in at transplant time. I use the tops for cooking every day, making the top portion almost more valuable to me than the roots. It’s a good cold weather keeper too, sometimes surviving the winter, at least here on the wet side of the Cascades.
Sometimes the dual purpose comes into play with our farm workers. While we dined on brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, the hens got the rest of the plant. Earlier in the fall we dined on the tops cooked like collards or other hardy greens. I always top the plants in late summer to encourage the sprouts to even up as they finish growing. The tops are tender and delicious!
This cabbage plant above looks a little rough, but it has been in the garden since June. I harvested the main head for kraut some time ago, and by leaving the plant it has mustered eight more tiny lateral heads in the leaf axils, looking like brussels sprouts on steroids, they are delicious too. After harvesting these mini cabbages I can pull the plants for hens or leave it for fertilizer for the garden. Is the yield as high as succession planting? Probably not, but no labor is required, and these cabbage plants are well established and do well during our dry summers, coming into their second wind during the cooler fall temperatures.
Be flexible, and observe your plants…that bolted broccoli that looks so unkempt in your garden may just be the last meal a honeybee gets before the cold weather sets in, or some good greens for your chickens, or even an unexpected meal for you if you wanted to harvest the seed pods. Just sayin’.