Archive for Garden

Gardens Continued: “Wild Gardens” or “Wildcraft” Gardening

“Wild gardens,” of “wildcraft gardening,” is just as interesting as it sounds. Wild gardening works off the premise that all gardens can be fed and nourished on their own in a wild setup, needing minimal attention and yielding optimal production.Wild gardening is the practice of simply planting in the land around you and letting things grow, well, wild. This practice utilizes the natural weed growth as a protective barrier that provides shade and helps build the soil. It also allows insect populations to naturally help protect, pollinate, and tend the plants as well.

There are three key rules to the practice of wild gardening.

1. No cultivation. – Cultivation is still considered a more modern practice when it comes to growing crops. It is well known that over cultivation strips the land of the topsoil which in turn causes nutrient loss and is the primary reason while fertilizers need to be added back into the soil.

2. No chemicals. – No chemicals can be use. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or additives can touch either the soil or the plant. Using these can upset not only the seedlings in the wild garden, but the surrounding weeds and insects as well.

3. No weeding. – Obviously, in a wild garden which is purposely grown among the weeds, weeding out said weeds would be a bit of a shot in the foot as it breaks down the ecosystem that you’re borrowing to grow your garden.

The most important piece in planning a wild garden is in investigation work that is done before hand. The season following the start of your wild garden is a season of observation and discovery. In order to plan out a wild garden, watching the weeds that you plan on planting among is necessary.

By watching and recording the health and vigor of the different types of weeds it is possible to determine if there are any soil deficiencies that need to be addressed first. As with any garden, crops will grow best if the soil is ideal. Being able to prep the soil in the fall leading up to planting season is the easiest way to ensure the produce will being growing in the best soil conditions possible.

Tracking down when the two different sets of weeds sprout and die out is also important for planting the wild garden. Many areas exhibit two sets of weed growth, a summer growth and a winter growth. The best time for planting your spring and summer produce is just when the winter growth is done dying off and the sprouts for the summer weeds have yet to start growing. The reverse is ideal for the winter crops – summer weeds should be dying off and winter weeds sprouting when the seeds for the winter crop are planted.

While I would love to be able to give a list of what plants grow best in a wild garden, it would all be conjecture. We have yet to attempt a wild garden, though I think we might be game for one this spring. I can say that, in my readings on wild gardens, I have noticed that there seems to be a pattern. It seems that the produce more apt to grow haphazardly in the garden – such as tomatoes, squash, lettuce, bush peas – do well in wild gardens. Potatoes do so well that many folks simply leave them in the one spot for years on end, leaving enough in the ground for the next season’s garden.

If any of you have practiced wild gardening or are planning to do so, please comment with your experiences! This is a topic that I would love to learn more about from those who have actual experience with the process.

 

Gardens Continued: Raised Bed

One of the most prolific forms of gardening is the raised bed method. The raised bed method sinus tad it sounds: you are literally raising your garden bed.

Raised bed gardens start with selecting an area to fencing, or boxing in, with wood timber, cement blocks, or anything else that may be fashioned to hold soil. 

The height of the bed can vary form only a few inches above ground soil to a height tall enough to accomadate the elderly and handicapped. The minimum height is based off from whatever crops you are growing in the raised bed. The minimum height for growing lettuce allows for a very shallow box. Carrots, on the other hand, creates the need for a minimum of 12″ of raised bed depth. 

The width of the bed can vary just as much as the depth, from one row up to the entirety of a garden. The basic rule of thumb is this: make sure your raised bed isn’t so wide that you can’t teach to the middle for easy weeding. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that you leave enough space between the plants and the box framing to assure that the roots aren’t short on space. 

Some people plant their crops extensively in raised beds. While that is a possibility, depending on the size of your garden, it’s an expensive possibility. For our homestead, where we try to grow as much of our food as possible, raised beds serve a specific purpose. We save our raider bed ares for herbs, shallow root crops, such as lettuce and time intensive crops such as broccoli.  Not only does it make the certain crops more easy to notice in a large garden, but it also allows for easier access. The more thourough drainage of the raised bed is also a plus, prohibiting drowning and molding during wet seasons. 

Gardening and It’s Many Forms: Square Foot Gardening

PlantView

For the month of January, I have decided to do a series of weekly blogs looking at the different components of gardening that I take into account when setting up plans for any given season. I’ll still be adding in random posts here and there, but these gardening posts will be scheduled ahead of time.

This post starts off the series by looking at the many forms of gardening. When most people say they “have a garden” most people tend to think of the standard garden of valley and hills. While that method of gardening is “tried and true,” there are many different methods to gardening that can be practiced. Four of the most common methods of gardening are square foot, raised bed, “wild,” and companion planting. Each methods comes with positive and negative aspects. Many homesteaders tend to eventually use a combination of these methods, along with others.

SQUARE FOOT METHOD
The square foot method is ideal for small gardens when a lot needs to be grown. The square foot method literally takes one square foot of dirt and places into it as much produce as possible. In order to do this, you take the width between seed placement, not rows, and use this as a guide.

For example, if carrots are to be grown two inches apart after thinning, you take this 2″ spacing and apply it to the square foot that the carrots are going to be planted in, ignoring the recommendations for rows 8″ apart. Here’s how extensive this is: if going by a traditional recommendation of carrot seeds 2″ apart with rows 8″ apart only 12 carrot seeds would be planted in a square foot, where as carrot seeds planted using the square foot method of spacing 2″ from every other seed (so 2″ seed spacing and effectively row spacing) allows for up to 36 carrots to be planted in one square foot, 3 times the amount of traditional planting recommendations. 

Remember how I said every method has it’s positive and negative attributes? Obviously, the positive here is the amount that you can grow in a small space. The negative? Well, when plants from grown so tightly together there is a higher rate of mortality due to insects and disease. The square foot method is one that needs to be done by those willing to put in the research as to which plants benefit from this. Also, plants that need more space, such as tomatoes and pumpkins, do not benefit from the square gardening method, if anything planting these so tightly to one another more often than not ends in catastrophe.

Having played with the square foot method, I feel that the plants that this method works best for are for those with broad leaves, such as beans, or plants that don’t tend to get waylaid by disease, such as carrots. Tomatoes will be attacked by blight, lettuces will choke each other out, and pea plants will become a tangled mess.

‘Tis the season

Things have geared up full force for spring.

Saturday we went fiddlehead picking. In the course of a week, the fiddleheads have poked their lazy heads out of the sandy stream banks and bolted. They’ve gone by. Normally the picking season is just gearing up for the second week of May. This year, it’s done and over with all ready. We didn’t even get a quarter of what we picked last year. Tonight we’ll cook off the few pounds we have, enjoy some for dinner, and freeze the rest of the cooked ones to be added by the handful to pasta and other dishes. We still have four frozen servings from last year, so we’ll have some throughout the summer, just no Yule time fiddleheads from the freezer this year.

The next thing on the list for foraging and trying is a tie between Japanese knotweed and dandelion greens. I know, what type of homesteaders are we that we haven’t tried either yet? Insane! ;-) Both are things that I think I’ll be trying solo as neither Hubster of Little Mister seem too enthused about the idea. Regardless as to whether I get to try the greens or not, I need to start harvesting dandelion root as I’m almost out. At least I have more of a plan this year, so it should go a lot smoother than in the past.

Saturday we were also able to sell our original, and now unused, chicken coop, which gave us the funds to purchase our first blueberry bushes. I’m hoping to get them in the ground this weekend at the latest. I’ll be doing a more in-depth post on those later, but needless to say, we’re all excited! They’ll be going in down amongst the rhubarb and will really help pull that piece of the yard together.

Sunday saw us outside practically all day. Hubster, bless his heart, was devoured by black flies in the morning while beginning the tilling on the gardens. The large garden that we added last year as been extended a bit and we mergered two older gardens together and expanded those as well. We also tilled a 6×10 plot for Little Mister to have as his own first garden. He and I will be working on the fencing for that this weekend, most likely. He’s super excited about it. Now if I could get him to understand the blueberry plants aren’t for his garden….

Given the crazy season, updates on here might still be a bit more sporadic than what I would like, but I’ll try to share and re-link past posts from our excursions and adventures in order to keep things more entertaining.

And so comes spring…

A lot has changed in the past two months since I have had time to update here. Personally, I’m suffering the set back of having to extend my Master’s work yet again, but this will be the last time, thankfully! The time that I’ve had to devote to my writing, the mental prep and planning for planting season, and the physical exertion of growing another farm hand has left me with very few chances to get onto the blog. I’m stealing a few minutes to update everyone about what we have going on and what’s changed.

We decided to rehome our white crested Polish rooster, Jovi. No sooner did we than his immune system apparently shut down on him. He passed away only after a week of living in his new home. It killed me to hear that he had moved on. I just hope that depression and being away from us did not exacerbate his health issues. His new owner did say he didn’t seem to be in pain when he passed. It’s hard, though. You can say as often as you want that you won’t get attached to the live stock – the breathing beings that provide you with food – but it’s hard not to.

Our only rooster now, Gimp the Rhode Island Red, has been dealing with some health issues of his own. At a later date I will do an entry on both of the specific ones he went through and how we treated each, as it’s very important information that I feel many chicken owners, including myself, tend to over look. Needless to say, he’s lost half a toe and two toe nails due to frost bite issues and is allergic to hay.

We’re also looking to rehome a few of our hens who just aren’t fitting into the flock as well as we would like. they are great layers and barely a year old, so I can’t see just sending them to freezer camp. We have a few people interested, we just have to decide when we need them gone by.

It’s also chick season around here. We bought 6 Black Australorps pullets from Aubuchon’s since we couldn’t get the from the hatchery. While there, I entered for their Chick Days drawing, which ws a chick starter kit. For once in my life, I won something! Not only did we get a tote with all the fixings (water font, 2 feeders, heat lamp and bulb, treat stick, and themometer), but it came with six free chicks (one mystery chick and then I chose the rest), a bale if shavings, and a 25 lb of feed!

We now have the 6 Black Australorps, 5 Jersey Giants, and one mystery chick (most likely a Brown Leghorn or Welsummer roo) in one brooder box. The other brooder box has 10 Buff Rock roos, 2 Buff Rock pullets, 2 Blue Andalusian Pullets, 2 Silver Laced Wyandotte pullets, and a mystery bird, which I’m pretty sure is a Cochin. Our basement is very lively right now!

We also have expansion plans for the gardens and will possibly be adding in blueberry bushes this year as well. Oh, and let’s not forget fiddlehead season is in a few weeks! Let’s hope this waddling mama doesn’t fall into the Sandy Brook when fiddlehead picking!