Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Permaculture in Iceland - Update from January: Growing many perennial species indoors!

Hi everyone!

Its January in Iceland, and it has been four months since I have been ordering items for my seed collection and attempting to germinate them. Then, with artificial lights, the challenge is to keep them alive and well, over the dark Icelandic winter.

Since the day is only around 3 hours now, I keep the seedlings indoors, with four conventional energy saving fluorescent bulbs. I switch them on 14 hours during the day, and switch off when I go sleep. 

I also have cheap geothermal hot water (a blessing of Iceland) for radiators above which I try to germinate the tropical species (such as dates, palms, pigeon peas, jícama), in mixtures of peat and gravel, in a plastic kitchen box, sealed with saran wrap plastic, with holes to let the container breath.

Outdoors, I have plastic containers with seeds that need cold stratification. Some of them, I also put them in a moist paper inside a plastic bag in the fridge, for a few weeks. Often, a month is enough time to germinate some of them.

Below are some of the perennial species I am currently growing from seed. For future forest garden projects, in Iceland and in Portugal.

Permaculture in Iceland. Winter keeping alive perennial species, which are still too tender to be outside. 

Wax myrtle. It is possible to boil the leaves to extract the wax and make candles!

A seedling of Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) after being outside in the freezing weather for 1 month.

Carob. A chocolate alternative from Mediterranean countries. Germination is easy indoors.

Silverberry or Oleaster. Another Elaeagnus species with edible berries, which can grow in a wide variety of climates, fixes nitrogen in the soil and increases yielding of fruit crops, if grown nearby.

Groundnut. Apios americana. This climbing species provides a perennial potato-like root crop, even in cold climates, and it is a nitrogen fixing species, well adapted to woodland conditions. Source: Oikos tree crops.

Honey Locust. Another tree that is nitrogen fixing, fast growing and stands very cold winters. And  of course has edible seeds and pods, that can be grounded into a flour, which could be a perennial source of protein.

Chilean mesquite. A trendy superfood. This very resistant tree is well adapted to very dry conditions, and possibly can even be a source of perennial protein (pods and seeds) in colder climates.
Laburnum. I am only growing this nitrogen fixing species, because it is very easy tree to grow, and it is very beautiful.

This is a Phylostachys edulis bamboo grown from seed. It was quite tricky to germinate. I guess I had some luck after having the seed moist in the fridge for a month. This bamboo is not only edible but can sustain down to -20ºC in winter, making it a nice try for an Icelandic permaculture project.

Neem. This tropical tree is a powerful natural insecticide and used in ayurvedic medicine and in production of soaps. The problem is that it can only be grown in frost-free climates.
Vetiver. A perennial grass that is widely used to control soil erosion (in flatland, river edges or slopes) and can stand drought, flooding and is source of a essential oil used in perfumery. I think it tolerates some freezing but not too much.
Enset. A banana-relative and a staple widely used in East Africa, that provides plenty of starch for a family. It germinated after a long while at 25 to 30 ºC. Apparently, it can stand some cold in a warm Mediterranean climate.
Princess Tree. Paulownia tomentosa. This large decorative tree I am only growing for beauty purposes. It comes from China, and it tolerates cold winters, and grows very fast, provides good timber and fertilizes the soil. And it has very beautiful flowers. Germination is easy after cold stratification.

Pigeon peas. A perennial source of protein, from subtropical climates. It produces a pea-like seed that is often used in Indian cuisine. The pea-like shrub grows for about 5 years and perhaps it can be grown as a perennial in a Mediterranean climate, since it tolerates well drought.

Unless stated otherwise, many of these species can be obtained through Ebay or some well known online seed companies such as Chiltern Seeds.

More species will be updated in soon!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I am a new follower, and I am from Alaska and this is amazing! I tried to grow celery around November (indoors) with only a few hours of didnt last long, what kind of synthetic light bulbs do you use? I am new at gardening I typically grow indoor plants (no flowers though) but i would love to try for something edible