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Ramps in the forest garden

Burdick's wild leek (Allium burdickii)Ramps are a prime candidate for forest gardening.  They are an early spring ephemeral that will keep nutrients cycling through the soil before trees leaf out, they prefer growing in shady spots under deciduous trees, and they are considered a delicacy by many.  Once a patch gets going, it can outcompete other herbs and turn into a solid groundcover, as this photo from the wild shows.

There are two species of ramps in our area --- the stereotypical Allium tricoccum and the slightly smaller Allium burdickii, sometimes known as Burdick's wild leek.  I know spots where both of these grow, but the latter is found at a lower elevation in conditions more like those in my garden, so I thought I'd give it a shot first.

I'd prefer to plant ramps from seeds, but the fruits are difficult to find in the wild, so I dug a few seedlings from the edges of a wild clump.  When digging wild plants, I never take more than 10% of a population (preferably much less), and try to remove plants that are already threatened in some way.  The plants I dug were in the middle of a trail and were already damaged by hiking boots, so I figure they'll have a better chance in my garden than if left in place in the woods.

My Burdick's wild leeks have found a new home nestled amid the leaf mold under my oldest peach tree.  If this experiment works, I may try for some Allium trioccum in a few weeks when the higher elevation plants are out.  I hope to expand the clump by seed once the ramps become established, and to begin to harvest leaves in a few years.

For more information about ramp cultivation, check out this
extension service factsheet.  To see the masses of wildflowers I stumbled across during my ramp hunt, visit my
Appalachian ecology site.

Interested in other ways of adding permaculture methods to your farm?  Our homemade chicken waterer is the first step in giving your chickens a healthy, happy life.


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