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Denver Berth Gardens
Denver Berth Gardens
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2815 S. Cook St., Denver, Colorado, US
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Cool Temperate

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Jerusalem Artichoke - Real Deal Resilient

Project: Denver Berth Gardens

Posted by John Lee over 8 years ago

   A consistent goal in my gardens is lining or boxing in any growing spaces with perennial borders.  This helps reduce soil and water erosion, provides a grass and weed barrier to the growing plots, and improves levels of organic matter in the soil in and around the beds.  Not only that, but it creates much less work from season to season as these plants mature and leave less room (and need) for annual crops and tilling.

   Some of you may be familiar with Jerusalem artichokes (or as I call them, J'arts), but 2015 was my first season growing them and today I turned out a 9" square area about 4" deep in one of the three areas I planted.  

   In Spring 2015, I picked up a single, small J'art tuber with three lobes to it from the the Growhaus' Seed Swap.  Going with my intuition and against the advisement of the urban farmer from whom I'd received the tuber, I split it into three nubs to plant in three different areas.

   To my elation, all three sprouted and put on a beautiful 6'-7' stalk of sunflowers with a peculiar, spicy smell I can't describe, but it is a welcome note in the palate of scents about the garden.  Only one of three planted areas were dug up today, but the yield shocked me!  One (0.5 oz or so) portion of a tuber formed a complex, tangled mass of tubers in it's first season, weighing 2 lbs 11.7 oz.

   If the other two planted areas yield similarly, I will have just shy of 8 lbs from a 1.5 oz first year planting, or over 8500% gain in weight in the first year.  If that percentage sounds impossible to you, it does to me too!  Although at a recent Restoration Agriculture workshop with Mark Shepard, a guest speaker named Wayne Dorband, Dr. of Ecolonomics, discussed research into different steppe climate crops and their economic viability in ecologically-sound farming systems - can you guess what crop he named as the victor for land production?  Jerusalem artichoke.

   J'arts are 10% protien and contain inulins which are polymer chains of fructose molecules (sugar)...  I know, so boring.  Fructose happens to perform two functions really well though, both of which might be of interest to you.  1) Unlike Sucrose, fructose can be processed easily by diabetics, particularly those with type 2 diabetes.  2) Inulin (and fructose) are concentrated sugars which makes them sweet, but prime energy stores to survive cold weather.  This is the reason J'arts are so cold climate hardy and thus a prime option for cold climate permies and gardeners.

   The real kicker is that this plant asked nothing of me whatsoever.  The particular plant whose tubers were harvested today had grass, violets, violas, and lilac invading the root zone from one direction, while boxed in from the other direction by perennial oregano and bee balm, with arugula seeded as ground cover directly over the tuber zone which to my delight looks to have perennialized.  The hardiness of all of these plants can be attributed to my tough love gardening.  Sage, thyme, lavender, and moss rose are all new additions to this garden edge, just on the other side of the bee balm, who seem to be happy and snug as well.

   Some folks' jaws drop when I tell them how little I care for plants that NEED care.  If you are like me and want to plant, then (other than enjoying observing growth) pretty much forget about it until harvest comes along, J'arts or Jerusalem artichoke are a resilience winner!

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