Tag Archive for Garden

Quick Little Update

This year has been a bit of a chaotic one, but in a good way. We started off our growing season with the massive project of re-doing the fencing around both of the gardens. Originally it was a mess of pulp-wood posts and hodge-podged fencing that was constantly falling in due to snow load and getting pushes out of place by the groundhogs. Brand new cedar posts and welded wire fencing fixed that. We now have a fence secure enough that we can use it as a trellis and actually did use it as a make-shift clothesline while ours needed to be replaced.

The garden itself has preformed admirably thus far! We’re up to 7 quarts of snap beans in the freezer, a batch of salsa, sauce, and ketchup from our own tomatoes, enough zucchini for stir-fries and a few loaves of zucchini bread for the freezer, roughly 80lbs of potatoes from the 12lbs that went in, and more than enough fresh produce to have kept our bellies happy over the course of late-summer. I did purchase “ugly seconds” tomatoes from a local farm to make additional pasta sauce and salsa with. I also found a wicked deal on cucumbers (40 lbs for $25) to stock the shelves with pickles and relishes.

On top of what our own garden has been producing and the deals I’ve found via local farms, blueberry and strawberry picking season was also I huge success as this year we weren’t impeded by the hunt for a new vehicle in the midst of it all. Up next is apple picking season, which has just started, and then what I hope will be an annual trip for a trunk full of pumpkins.

Chicken wise, the basement chest freezer is half full of poultry. We have enough for at least one roasted chicken a month, and given that each bird provides a week’s worth of meals for the four of us, I’m more than happy with that!

In another month, however, we’ll have to make a decision as to which of the new six roosters to keep over winter as an assistant to Greenleaf, our head rooster. We have a couple young cocks we’re keeping an eye on, so we might end up with two. As long as the fox doesn’t snag any more birds, we’ll also have five new hens to add into the flock for the winter. We lost seven hens total this year – five to the fox, two to illness – which is higher than most years, but still fit within the 25% margin that we try to work with. (We always try to keep a flock 25% larger than we absolutely need so that when losses do occur, and they will, it’s not such a blow.)

Schemes and dreams are already in the works for next growing season as we’re currently ahead on firewood and has reserved energy from not having to stress about that. I’ll post more in the future about our goals for next spring, but right now I’ll say that we might be working out a farmstand here at the homestead to bring in a little extra and we might be adding a porcine or two for meat raising. While next year remains simmering on the backburner, the fall garden is slowly filling in, a new placement for the blueberry bushes and irrigation for said plants is in the works, and garlic cloves are waiting impatiently to be planted.

Gardens Continued: Marigolds, The “Power Companion”

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One of my favorite flowers, by far, is the marigold. Tangerine and lemon gems, like those shown above with the colorful signet marigolds, are by far my favorite of all time. They are cute, decorative, and are a wonderful addition to any selection of flowers. Most importantly, they are the “power companion” in any garden. Typically thought as having a more carnation like flower that the French marigold boasts, traditional marigolds are the beautiful little gems that sprinkle containers and gardens with very little work. It might seem silly, but I prefer these “rock marigolds” to all else.

Marigolds are a gardener’s best friend. While you need to make sure to plant them in direct sun, the do well in practically any soil condition, as long as things aren’t too wet. Once they start growing, the roots work their way through the soil, killing nematodes with the oils the are produced from the roots. Marigolds can be tilled in at the end of the season and the roots will continue to work their magic, poisoning the soil to nematodes, protecting your potatoes, tomatoes, and other nematode prone produce. When their blooms finally grace the garden, the flowers work their magic, repelling aphids, mosquitoes, squash beetles, greenhorn worms, and white flies.

There are also some garden munching animals that don’t find the scent of marigolds pleasing. Deer are well known for staying away from the flower, as are groundhogs. There are even some people that don’t like the scent of the flower (which I find surprising!), but it may help ward off illegal foragers. ;-)

In areas with short growing seasons, like Maine, it’s essential to start marigold seedlings at least six months before the last the soil warms up. Each year we try to start our marigold before the first of February. Let’s see if we actually make that deadline this year! With very few garden nemesis, it’s almost impossible to plant marigolds in the wrong spot, but when in doubt, research!

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

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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.

Asparagus Has Been Planted

Asparagus 2014_1We had to swing into the local hardware store today to pick up more screening and staples to chicken/groundhog proof the gardens. While I there I decided to buy myself a Mother’s Day gift: asparagus roots. Last year we planted a crown from my FIL’s old asparagus bed, but I know better than to think one crown could ever produce enough for us. When I saw the bin marked ASP – JERSEY SUPREME 25/$12.99, I couldn’t resist. In the top photo here you can see the asparagus bed is, marked out by the bright orange posts, and the five brambles that we transplanted last year (2 wild and 3 bought). This is down on the peninsular that our stream floods over every year. It’s the only area that has enough sun and drainage for both the brambles and the asparagus, so we’re hoping all will do well.

Asparagus 2014_2Here’s a picture of the bed itself. It’s about 6′ long and 2′ wide. After cutting the top soil with a spade, I flipped the chunks of sod over to help kill off the grass. I then added a wheelbarrow full of mulch that we had kicking around from another project. I placed the small root bundles in groups of two (and one of three) rows and placed a wheelbarrow full of compost on top of that. Hubster helped me cut a strip of chicken wire and peg down on top to help deter the chickens and groundhogs from investigating. On top of the wire we placed some grass that had been scalped from where the new garden bed will be.

All in all, I feel pretty confident in it. We’ll see if anything comes up this year, and more importantly, what comes up next year .