#9 Tongues in Trees
Children in Nature, Blazes of Excitement, Solar Good News, Benefits of Integrating Food Plants and Sweet Potatoes!
Welcome to the 9th Tongues in Trees Newsletter!
Great news for developing sustainable energy using the sun
In Permaculture, we examine the principle “Integrate rather than Segregate”
This week’s plant profile is the hardy and versatile Sweet Potato Vine
Give your children moments of wonder with insect pets!
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Solar Energy Storage Solutions Reach New Targets
Scientists at a Swedish University have found a way to store and release solar energy through a thermoelectric generator. In 2017, they developed technology to store the energy for 18 years and this new development could be a key step in creating self-charging electronics reliant on solar energy.
This technology will allow solar energy to meet demand regardless of the weather conditions or time of day. Also exciting is that this energy is stored on a tiny chip that has been already been tested in China.
The closed circular system produces no CO2 emissions, making it a potent renewable energy solution.
With any luck, this technology can now be developed to power any number of small devices! Read more in a scientific report here or a news article here.
Sweet Potato Vines are versatile and hardy.
Did you know that the leaves are edible?
I grow Sweet Potato for the following reasons in order of importance (to me).
The leaves are edible.
It’s a great living mulch. (Can be invasive, so harvest often!)
It produces edible tubers.
With Sweet Potato in my garden, I never have to worry about salad greens being available. In my subtropical climate, they grow all year round and, the new growth especially, the leaves are palatable enough for my fussy children to eat them.
Being a plant that produces large tubers, the vine requires soil soft enough to develop the underground growth and well-draining enough to prevent fungus and rotting. The vines prefer moist soil, but I find that they will survive dry weather by dying off and returning.
A full sun position is best but the vine will tolerate a partly shaded position. In warm climates, it can be grown all year, but it is not frost-tolerant and will struggle over the cooler months in cool or cold climates.
The vines will attempt to climb trees or plants, so the home gardener needs to keep an eye on it and cut back when necessary. It can be very invasive and hard to get rid of, so position is a key decision.
Sweet potato vines rarely flower, but occasionally in exactly the right conditions, they will produce pink and purple blooms that are as pretty as they are delicate.
When the leaves are yellow, it’s time to harvest those nutritious tubers! In the right conditions, this can be as soon as 100 days after planting.
My sweet potato plants came from Organic sweet potatoes purchased from a farm gate that sprouted in the cupboard. I simply chopped off the end that was sprouting and shoved it into the ground and ate the rest of the tuber!
Integrate for Great Results!
Permaculture Principle Eight is “Integrate rather than Segregate” and it’s a great way to prevent crop loss from pests and diseases.
Regardless of the size of your garden there are many ways to integrate plants to benefit the whole space. Segregated monocultures tend to succumb to pests and diseases more easily due to the easy proximity of the rest of the crop.
When plants are integrated, pests and diseases are separated from the whole crop of a certain species by other plants and structures.
There are many plants that help repel pests such as Wormwood, Rue, Thyme, Lavender and Geranium. When integrated these plants can protect leafy greens, brassicas and other crop-bearing plants from infestation.
Some plants are also useful as distractions. A good example is using Nasturtiums to distract pests from plants in the Brassica family. Generally, the white cabbage moth, which can devastate a brassica crop very quickly, will prefer Nasturtiums and therefore have less impact on the other crops.
Before planting, decide what you want to plant and research possible pest deterrents and distractions. This way, you cut down work fighting the pests and maximise your crop at the same time!
Creepy Crawly Pets
Last year my daughter’s teacher brought a number of insect pets into the classroom to help the children learn about life cycles. My daughter was instantly fascinated and began teaching us things we didn’t know.
In the classroom, they had Monarch Butterflies and Mealworms. After the Mealworms had pupated and turned into beetles the children were allowed to take them home if their parents agreed. Since then we have had a cage of Mealworms outside on the patio.
The children watch them intently and name them as they pupate and become beetles. When the beetles die they bury them respectfully and watch their offspring go through the whole cycle again. As pets, they are incredibly easy to care for and teach valuable lessons about the cycle of life.
We also raised caterpillars last year and again. The children learned valuable lessons. More about that in this week’s free read.
The most exciting pet, however, has been the stick insects. They are in an enclosure inside as the birds started trying to break in for a snack when they were outside on the patio.
Watching these weird creatures go through molting and growing has fascinated the children consistently. There’s also been some grief as molting is perilous and some don’t survive. We now have two adult females who are healthy and appear happy.
Did you know that female stick insects can lay eggs without a male? Each egg contains a tiny clone of the mother.
They are reasonably easy to look after, requiring a few water sprays a day to maintain humidity and a fresh supply of leaves once a week. Each week, when the leaves are replaced the children handle them carefully which is another valuable lesson. We’ve learned that the trick is to let the stick insect handle the human rather than the other way around.
My daughter collects the eggs and distributes them outside. Both species are native to our area.
If you want some pets that are easy to care for and teach children all about the natural world, consider some insects! They supply countless moments of wonder, don’t smell, take up very little space and can even be left at home unattended for a week if you are going away!
You can watch videos that the children created about the butterfly pets here and here.
This week’s free read is inspired by the Children in Nature section. Which pet creates “blazes of excitement”? Click here for a one-minute read!
Last week I asked for TESTIMONIALS.
I still need at least two more. If you are willing to write one I would really appreciate it! You can leave it as a comment or email email@example.com - please indicate if you would like to remain anonymous!
I’d love some feedback and you’re welcome to make requests for particular plants or garden advice or anything relating to the content.
Lovely, well organized, loaded with information, an dfun to look at. Thank you, Jane.