Today I’m going to start a segment where I identify plants for use on the homestead, their benefits, as well as how I am using them on our homestead. So without further ado I’ll start with our first Homestead Hero:
Daffodils? Really? Those pretty yellow flowers that come up first thing in the Spring? Sure why not! So what makes them a hero on my homestead? What exactly is this plant’s promise? Well I’ll get to that but first a some background on this little garden beauty:
Daffodils are a perennial plant with origins in the Western Mediterranean with the greatest diversity on the Iberian peninsula. The humble daffodil is often considered to be the first harbinger of Spring. They are part of the the greater grouping of plants in the Narcissus family. When I say perennial I mean these suckers last forever (well a really long time anyway)! I can speak from experience that the last remaining bits of local abandoned homesteads are the daffodils, or the last remains of an old family graveyard is a few daffodils where the headstone was. These sites are well over one hundred years old, and the daffodils are still going strong! That’s some longevity folks.
Planting and growing this hardy perennial is as easy as dropping the bulb in a hole and pushing some dirt over the top. Just plant them in the fall and next spring you’ll have a beautiful bouquet of golden goodness. To be quite honest I got a little behind last fall and the ground froze solid with me holding a bag of around 100 daffodil bulbs with no home. What was I to do, I couldn’t really dig the holes without a pick axe, and I didn’t want to waist them or risk spring planting. Well it just so happens that I had a pretty heavy rodent infestation (subject of a future post) and they had plenty of holes dug that were just the right size to fit a bulb, so… down the hole goes a daffodil bulb. Every place I find a mouse hole I drop in a bulb. Easy plant planted easily. Propagation is as simple as digging up and separating the bulbs then replanting them… wash rinse repeat and you have an endless bounty.
I know, I know… Flowers are nice, but what do they do for me? Well let me tell you how I am using them. I mentioned earlier the rodent infestation, well it just so happens that daffodils contain an alkaloid that is fairly toxic to the little buggers. So when I drop the bulb down the hole it acts as a natural mouse and vole deterrent. Everyone of those haphazard, lazily planted bulbs has come up by the way. One planting that I did manage to get in before the ground froze solid was to encircle one of our fruit trees with a border of daffodils. Not only is this attractive, but it acts as a barrier to the rodents girdling the young trees. This border is also said to have a similar effect on deer. They are also a powerful indicator of micro-climates in your yard or garden. As I walk around I take note of the stages of development of the daffodils in my garden. The random planting of bulbs in mouse holes has given me an unexpected visual cue as to what areas are warming up sooner, thus earlier sprouting, blooming, etc.. Another advantage is the early attraction of pollinators to your garden. Lure them in with the daffodils, keep ’em hanging around with some early fruit blossoms, then they’re ready to go full bore once the produce arrives. The final benefit that I’ve been reaping is a little diversity in what can and will grow in the garden right now. Honestly after four months of winter dearth it really does my spirit good to have a little rebirth in the garden. Aside from some garlic and a couple stinging nettles (yes I encourage nettles in my garden!), the daffodils are the only thing coming up right now, and the splash of color is nice too. I’m sure there are plenty more uses for this wonderful plant on the homestead, but that’s all I’ve been able to muster for now. Just remember when you see those little brown bulbs in a sack next fall that the daffodil is not just another pretty face… it’s a Homestead Hero: Plant of Promise!
Stay tuned for the next installment of Homestead Heros, Plants with Promise. I’ll introduce you to my take on the dreaded Stinging Nettle!