The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Daffodils in the forest garden

Daffodils in the forest gardenI've been struggling with daffodils in the garden for years.  You see, they come up as weeds in my raised beds and cover ground I want to farm.  For years, I've been giving bulbs away by the hundred, but we still have scores of them blooming beside the old house, as well as two thousand in straight rows by the driveway where I transplanted them out of the way our first spring.  I can't bear to just weed them out and be done with it --- the blooms are just so pretty.

This past winter, I read that early spring ephemerals are useful in the forest garden since they suck up water-soluble nutrients when nothing else is active.  When their leaves die back in the summer, the plant matter rots down and releases those nutrients which might have otherwise washed away.  In essence, the ephemerals have acted as a nutrient bank, holding onto nitrogen until the trees are actively growing again.

Given that bit of information, our daffodils finally found a purpose on the farm and I transplanted about a hundred of them into the soil around our fruit trees.  I know you're not supposed to transplant daffodils in the spring, but I've honestly had a hard time killing them and I like to move the bulbs when I know I'm getting ones big enough to bloom immediately.  And bloom they did --- the yellow flowers have been unfurling all week, brightening my day every time I look in their direction.

Our homemade chicken waterer is working like a charm with our new chicks.  Try one and you'll never go back to poop-filled waterers!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Thanks Anna for the information about understory plants, especially daffodils. Being my favorite flower, now I have an excuse to plant more of them in my shade areas.
Comment by Kelly Jo Thu Mar 25 10:14:21 2010
We've had daffodils (and crocuses) coming up in our vegetable garden ever since we moved into our old house . . . and we've been here for 14 years now! I always move them when they come up in the spring (by the time their leaves die back, I'm too busy with other garden chores . . . and somehow by fall, when you're supposed to transplant them, I've forgotten where they are), and it's never done them any harm that I've noticed. (Of course, it hasn't actually gotten them out of the vegetable beds either - we still have them coming up every year despite moving them - daffodil bulbs are tenacious things: good at hiding in the soil and prone to proliferation, heh.) I'm glad to hear about them acting as a "nutrient bank" - I can use that to justify the fact that I have daffodils absolutely everywhere in the garden! (Of course, the real reason is that I just can't bear to throw them away - I've even been known to sneak out at night and plant them surreptitiously all along the nearby roadsides - just call me Jenny Daffodil, I guess . . .)
Comment by Ikwig Thu Mar 25 10:25:30 2010

Kelly Jo --- I can see why you'd like them. They are certainly cheerful! :-)

Ikwig --- glad to know I'm not the only one fighting off daffodils. I've given so many to my friends that they won't talk to me at this time of year. :-) Like you said, by summer I don't know where they are (and can't be bothered to find them.)

Comment by anna Thu Mar 25 14:06:38 2010
I read last year that daffodils will grow thick enough to stop the grass from growing through them. So I bought 100 bulbs last fall and planted them tightly in a circle at the drip line of my peach tree. Hopefully they will keep the grass on the outside of the ring. The nitrogen accumulation is a bonus also.
Comment by John Wed Mar 31 17:43:01 2010
Interesting! I hope you'll let me know in a year or two how they do. We've definitely got enough daffodils that we could use them as a weed barrier.
Comment by anna Wed Mar 31 18:01:24 2010

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