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Thread: Backyard Gardens for Food and Spirit

  1. #1
    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    Backyard Gardens for Food and Spirit

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    So happy to see longer days and sunshine!

    Who here has a vegetable/fruit/herb garden? I'd love to learn about what you are doing and where you are with it.

    About my garden:
    Other than the sea-shore, I'd rather be no place else but in my garden. Sometimes it is the only place that life makes sense, and it's more than just a vehicle to grow food, it has become a retreat and a blessing. But of course the food production is the practical key of it. My goal for the yard is to have it be an edible landscape that will be here long after I am not. So permanently planted there are 2 apple trees, 2 plums, 2 cherry, several blackberry and raspberry vines, and some blueberries. The trees are still young and didn't bear last year, but I think they will this year, as they are full of blossoms which smell like a Celtic heaven. (Avalon, Apple-land)
    There is a grape vine we found in the back, covered by years of morning glories and wild blackberries, that I am trying to rejuvenate. I have strawberry beds too, mixed in with some parsley, sage, lavender, and chives. I also have a rosemary bush. Garlic grows in several beds throughout the yard, and now I've started some onions as well. I also add onions and chives to all the beds because they keep away so many pests.

    My garden is 100% organic and I engage bio-intensive techniques which focus on soil health and growing plants closer together to create little micro-environments.
    There is a strong focus on creating the bed as a sacred space in which the conception of the plant takes place- the seed is nourished and nurtured in a soft, protective environment and it sprouts. I did double-dig each and every bed out there, although it was tons of work at the time. I'd dig for a day and have to rest for two! But by enriching the bed with good compost, encouraging the earthworms, and planting wisely, the hard work is pretty much over and now the earth in my beds is lush and lustful, fully supportive of verdant life. The hard work was so worth it.

    Sometimes before I dig, or even do any yard work at all where an environment is to be altered, I find myself just sitting there thinking about the community of life I am about to interrupt. I know some might think it silly but, that's just me. There are generations upon generations of life in an undisturbed area, having lived in harmony for what to the life there must seem like eons of time. There is no way that one can begin a garden without interrupting the life-cycles. So over the years I have taken to meditative ritual before each dig, even each planting, where I... think about things, then cease to think about things, and actually allow myself to merge not only with the life before me, but also on the intent of having the earth produce for me, and of giving back as well.

    As the plants grow and I sit among them, I can feel them... just Being. The birds sing and flit among the bushes, the breeze whispers the trees, and Gardening becomes a Communion. The Garden is the closest thing to a Real Church I'll ever merge with. It's all right there. One reason I appreciate having learned the organic bio-intensive techniques is that together they enrich the soil and give back to the cycle of life, that I merge with.

    That way of being with a garden probably isn't for everybody, and I am sure it is not necessary to grow good food, but for me it just can't be any other way. I do think a healthy respect for the process is a key element in getting good results. It's synchronicity.

    Have you ever stuck a spade into the earth, turn it over, and then just lay there and look at it for a while? Do it in a shady spot so as not to freak out the worms too much. Fascinating, the worms and the bugs. In fact the soil contains its own community of life, all working together in tandem and when left to be in a good environment, the life is self-perpetuating. It's a beautiful thing, dark, rich, humus-y soil. It smells like life itself and it is very grounding to work with.

    There is a lot of companion planting involved, too. For those who don't know, companion planting is based on the observations of fact that some plants do better together while others need to be separated. Some plants act as bee and ladybug attractors, or alternatively, insect repellents or masks to attract a type of insect away from another plant that might be harmed by said insect.
    This can be due to several factors, such as- peas for instances are heavy givers of nitrogen, which cabbages are heavy takers of, so peas either get planted intermingled with cabbages or cabbages follow a pea-bed. Carrots enjoy living close to tomatoes because tomato roots secret a substance that kind of chase off a known carrot pest. (forget which ones specifically)
    There is this whole, beautiful system of balance in the growing, starting with heavy givers, rotate with heavy feeders, then with light feeders, and then back again to the heavy givers. And by utilizing green manures over the winter, a bed only very rarely needs additional fertilizers. (organic- usually fish meal for me, magnesium as in Epsom salts, and calcium as in ground up egg shells or sometimes fish bone meal.)


    Back in February, I started tomato, eggplant, and basil seedlings on a heat mat by the south-east window in my bedroom. They sprouted rather quickly. I planted the tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse a few weeks ago when we had a quick flash of warm weather- only to nearly panic when the nighttime lows dipped back into the 40's. I should of known better! It shocked them into sleep and they stopped growing for awhile. This isn't good here because we have a short growing season for tomatoes, which already have to be grown undercover to grow them at all. It's imperative to get as quick a start as you can on them, so they'll fruit asap, then the fruits will have time to ripen in the sunshine before the fog starts rolling in again towards the middle of August.

    So every late afternoon I've been covering each tomato and basil plant with a cut-out milk jug, and I'm happy to report that this week the tomatoes "woke up" and started growing again.

    It's not yet warm enough to put the eggplant out, so they've been sleeping with me in the bedroom at night, but now they've got 5 true leaves they should be about ready.

    New seeds started in my window that are ready to plant are lima beans and okra. Today I'll probably transplant them, and then direct seed cucumbers and squash, which will grown on a trellis behind the eggplant. This way, the eggplant will get a little shade in the afternoons which is very needed in the greenhouse, because while it may remain 65* outside, in the greenhouse on a sunny day, the temps get as high as 106*.

    It's a little trouble to grow the heat-loving Southern veggies I grew up with, but worth it.

    Outside in various grow-boxes and beds I have cool weather plants- right now, spinach, carrots, a couple of lettuces, fava beans, and a few giant collard plants I'll have to take a picture to show you. I planted them last summer and I always have a hard time letting go of the collard plants because they are a link back home for me. So I let a few plants remain, thinking if they go to seed then I can collect the seed for this year. Along the way I still go out there every few days and pick some leaves to add to dinner. Well they are at least 8 feet tall, with beautiful bright yellow flowers on them that attract goldfinches, who are probably eating the seeds. Oh well, I like goldfinches anyway. I learned letting them go to seed like this that collards produce a seed head much like broccoli, and they are sweet and tender, delicious.

    I need the bed the collards are in because the beds are being rotated this year, and that bed needs to be under a cloche so I can grow Roma tomatoes for sauce- but I don't want to let go of those beautiful collards. I know, though, if I cut them down to just above the ground and let the roots remain, that the plant will grow again keep producing as long as the soil is nourishing. The same is true of kales, chards, and some cabbages, too- making these delicious plants a key component in anybody's survival garden.

    I'm trying to find room for potatoes this year. Every year another area of the backyard is re-created as a growing bed, and I really am about to run out of space. The yard here is small- I may have to go to the front yard soon but there isn't as much afternoon sunlight there.

    I have this little system I am developing using milk jugs with holes punched in the bottom of them to direct-water the roots of the hot-weather plants in the greenhouse. None of them like to get their leaves wet. The jugs are being partially buried in the soil between the plants, and I water the plants by simply sticking the hose into the jug. Far less water should be wasted by evaporation and run-off, and there will be less chance of a mildew taking hold in late summer.

    I'll come back with pictures.
    Last edited by Nu Kua; May 10th, 2011 at 1:33 PM.

  2. #2
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    Yeah... nothing beats home grown foods. I have over a dozen dwarf apple trees, 2 semi-dwarf peach trees, 5 grape vines, over a dozen blackberry bushes/vines, over a dozen blueberry bushes, 2 hops vines, 2 gooseberries, 120+ strawberry plants (about half june bearing/half everbearing), planted 6 cabbages, 12 tomatoes, 10 california wonder bell peppers, 2 pounds of red potatoes, around 100 yellow onions, around 3 dozen garlic, 8-10 shallots, and need to put in my broccoli, corn, more tomatoes, hot pepper varieties, and need to start from seeds my herb garden and get my watermelon patch ready. Also, I need to get the okra and zucchini started as well.

    I have a bad back, so am somewhat limited by what I can do in a day. Yesterday I was outside a bunch between prepping for my solar powered shed, mowing the lawn, weeding, and planting.

    I have an area ~ 55' x 12', with a bit that comes out farther to around 18' in the middle of the long stretch that runs for around 25'. It is the largest vegetable garden I have ever worked in/with, but I wish I had planned it to be larger. I have mine fenced completely in with 6' high galvanized fencing, that is framed with pressure treated wood posts and runners, and then an additional wooden rail about 8" above the top of the metal. It is so high to keep out the deer, which are a major problem where I am. I ended up spending the vast majority of my funds simply on fencing, which sucks because it took much more work to bring up the soil quality.

    My garden is on a downhill slope, so I have tiered the garden with raised rows . This setup allows me to conserve water and plant more. I have a raised row that gets planted on the outside with more creeping plants like strawberries, and then plant a row at the top of the row, plant more plants in a row in the valley (tomatoes), and then have another row that basically repeats. My garden in this setup comes to around 4' from one row to the next, so I can reach between the raised rows and get the taller growing stuff in the middle. It allows me to get the most space from my garden.

    I almost forgot that I have some pole beans I need to sow, which I plan on putting in the valley between to raised rows. It will keep me busy this summer, but my grocery bill will shrink to only dairy and meats if things go according to plan.
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    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    Sounds good. You can pickle the cucumbers really easily, making for year round pickles. The problems come more from lack of storage space.

    We had a very small garden last year, and expanded to the current size back in late summer. I finished with enough time to plant some lettuce, kale, and mustard greens. We ate some of the salad, and left the rest to act as a green manure. We cut about 1/3 of our mustard greens and blanched them and froze them, or simply boiled them fresh. The rest we either cut and placed around the garden to also act as green manure, or left in place. The kale looked great, but after trying it we were not really excited to eat it a second time. We left the majority to act as a green manure. I then tilled it all about a month back, so this will really be our first true experience with such a large garden. I have been the sole caretaker up to this point, but now that my wife is out of school, my back can get a bit of rest. When my kids have free time this summer, they will have chores to do in the garden.... weeding and watering, until it is time to harvest.

    The slopes do well, and what is funny is people seem to not be aware of planting in raised rows here in Iowa. My neighbor who was raised on a farm looked at me like I was nuts when planting the fall stuff, but it came up with a fury.

    The key is to find out what works and plant it accordingly. I am not sure how well my peppers will do this summer. Last summer we had too much rain, and even though I had them on a slope, they did lousy.

    I need to get my bird netting up, as the birds are all through the beds the last few days, since I turned over some spots again with a shovel, which exposed my beloved earth worms. I also have some spaces rabbits could get thru under the fence, which I need to close in with small boulders. They will let water through at least for a few years, but keep out the rodents/varmints.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

  4. #4
    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    Your garden sounds verdant and wonderful. I'm hoping to have more food this year to actually put up for the winter. So far I've just kept a few things growing, like the cruciferous veggies. Also last year we did have fresh carrots until well in the winter.
    You know you might consider constructing small cloches over your hot weather plants, if this year also proves to be rainy. They needn't be elaborate, even if they don't keep it much warmer, they'll keep the peppers drier, and that alone ought to help tremendously!
    I have found the older kids don't want to do much in the garden, but the younger ones practically live for it. One little guy who just turned two tells people all the time he works hard in the garden. :-) He digs for worms mostly- loosening up the soil! And waters, too.

    As for needing something larger- wow isn't it the truth. The more beds i prepare, the more I need. I still haven't eked out a spot for the potatoes this year and time is running out fast. Plus I have 10 more tomato plants just sitting in pots, waiting to be transplanted, as well as some eggplant. I really don't know yet just what I'll do. Maybe we'll have to start digging up the front yard, too! Fine by me. I think a grassy lawn is just a huge waste of space and water.

    Here's my collard tree.


    On the other side of the bed there are fava beans, and also the chives I just let live there permanently. The favas are short because I am keeping them pinched back to encourage the plant to grow fat instead of tall, hoping that way when they are loaded with beans they won't fall over so much.

    This is that bed last year, when the collards shared the bed with broccoli, kale, chard, cabbage, and chives. Those are potatoes in the back; that bed this year has tons of garlic growing in it.


    The broccoli pictured here grew quite tall, too, and we were able to eat fresh broccoli well into winter as well. This year that bed was supposed to be another tomato bed but like I said, I am feeling too sentimental for the collard tree; plus the favas are taking their sweet time and they are taking up the other half of the bed. Maybe I'll dig up a new spot beneath the bedroom window, it gets lots of sun there.

    This is a milk jug I poked holes into the bottom and sides of- to water the tomato plants as noted in the OP.



    So far it is working well. I've two more jugs today to poke full of holes then set in the ground like that.
    You can see a little nasturtium has come up behind the basil seedling. I love thinking about how big these plants are going to be in just a few months.

    Can you believe how tiny that tomato plant is? And it is among the largest. It's grown lots since planting it but I am really wondering if we'll be eating mostly fried green tomatoes this year instead of red ripe ones.
    We've had the rainiest spring on the Oregon coast that we've had in ages. Twice the amount of rainfall as well as cloudy or foggy days. I am just hoping the tomatoes can catch up later in the season, assuming we aren't going into a 20 year "wet" cycle for summers, too. God help me. So far it looks like this will definitely be a "cabbage year" for gardeners on the NW coast. The lettuce seedlings are doing great, and as of yesterday we have fresh spinach ready for the picking. Already I've made sandwiches from it, and have eaten it outside, fresh picked, with the taste of fresh air and earth still on it.

    Since the greenhouse still looks so empty, I'll share some pics from last year.

    This is an example of bio-intensive and companion planting.

    Carrots love tomatoes and they all love nasturtiums. Planting them close together creates a little micro-environment and the extra low-grown shade means I water less.



    I also love nasturtiums. They have great staying/returning power are already coming up between the seedlings I have going in the greenhouse. I just let them go. Not only do they attract beneficial flying insects as well as repelling some of the nastier garden bugs, they are simply bright and beautiful, and tough, making them one of my favorite flowers. Plus the leaves are edible in salads. They are slightly peppery, similar to rocket salad. (Arugula)

    I love the packed and lustful 'english garden" look of bio-intensive gardening. I have never been much of a "row by row" person, not that there is anything wrong with that! I admit the orderly rows of things can have their own kind of beauty.


    That above is a pic of the greenhouse from last summer, probably late June. This year a floor has been added in the back, along with some trellis's for the squash and cucumbers. Also I've changed the curtains, and created more of a work space, with better storage. (That area is becoming my own little spot.) Actually maybe I'll post a pic of that today, all empty looking, to compare to later in the year when everything is green and bursting with life and fruits.

    Yesterday morning when I checked, the cucumber and squash seedlings had not come up yet; but by the afternoon when I had the trellis's put up, 3 cucumber and 2 squash seedlings were born! I'll get pictures of those, though right now being so small and everything, there is not a whole lot to see. I used to have a better camera that took good close-ups, but this camera simply does not.

    This is a cloche made with 6 mil plastic and PVC pipe. It is not so hard growing under-cover, but it does tie me to the house some. Like, right now it is foggy and cool, and it might stay that way all day, who knows- if it does, then anything covered like that would stay covered. But, the cloches (as well as the greenhouse) heat up very quickly once the sun is out, and the temps can soar easily and quickly from 70 under there to 110+. More than once I've been out and about town when I had to dash home to uncover my plants. So I've taken now to just uncovering them before I leave anyway, reasoning a little bit of cool is better than being flat-out baked.
    These tomatoes are from last year.



    *edit
    Ok, below, this is the greenhouse as it looked about 20 minutes ago- not much to see. But as the summer progresses, the trellis's to the left will be supporting cucumbers and squash; the trellis to the right will be holding glorious and most wonderful Moon Flowers, a favorite of mine, a wonderful, heavily scented gift that only blooms at night. I've tried growing them on the coast here several times and they never made it, because they really love hot weather I suppose. So we'll see how they do in the greenhouse.
    Obviously I need more burlap to make the "walls and roof" of the work area- as everything in my life this is a work in progress. The shade is needed and much appreciated on those sunny days. I'm also scouring the thrift stores for an indoor-outdoor bamboo rug for the floor.
    That part of the greenhouse is "temporary"- I can't afford just yet to use the panels on (other than the ones at the very back) it so every year it gets re-covered in 6mil plastic. That is why whatever I put back there has to be indoor-outdoor, and the materials used are not "investment" materials. The floor was built using scrap wood, but luckily it was quite good quality. I needed it igher anyway because tends to get wet sooner and stay wet longer on that end.
    I'm thinking of boarding up the sides back there anyway, but leaving windows. Just not sure yet how much time I want to put into it.

    Last edited by Nu Kua; May 10th, 2011 at 11:59 AM.

  5. #5
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    That is a mighty nice setup you have going NK. I should construct a greenhouse similar to yours, as it would allow me to get much more planting done much later into the season, and also get a jump on things in early spring.

    I'll try to get some pictures up after the weekend, as I will be putting in my solar panels and finishing up the plantings.

    My stuff is nowhere near as large as yours, as we have had a much cooler spring so far, although we had a record high yesterday. Our highs will be back in the 60's by the weekend, although yesterday my car thermometer said 101... more likely mid 90's. Anyway, keep it up.
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    Dead Meat
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    Reading all this makes me realize how badly I need to tend my garden. Love the pics.

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    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    Pico, some of those were from mid last summer. The plants this year are still very small-except for that collard of course.
    I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures. :-)

    What do you like to grow Adema? Seems there is always something to do, doesn't it.

    Does anybody know of unique ways to grow potatoes when space is an issue? I remember reading somewhere of how you can grow them in a large container filled with straw. I planted some in a barrel but not nearly enough.

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    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    I only planted 2 pounds this year... not enough when we eat potatoes in some form nearly every day.

    I have heard of growing them in tires, and also in similar beds made from stacking square forms on top of one another, like the stacked tire method. You plant the bottom layer, and then add the next layer on top, and so forth. You can enjoy potatoes all season long from limited space.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

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    Leader of the bomb shelter Contributor one14am's Avatar
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    Nice thread. I was just dealing with my garden today. I didn't really have a handle on what to plant next to what or after one another so now I have a bit more knowledge. All i knew was not to plant my potatoes next to the tomatoes.

    My carrots didn't come up well in the front and are not faring much better in my back garden but perhaps a third planting by the tomatoes will be good. I would then have a nice row next to the peas for the cabbage. Onions do good here it seems year round so that was a good experiment last year. And I have no idea why anyone ever needs to buy lettuce (of any type) in a store. It grows well in very little soil indoors or out. Here in N. Ca it is something that I was able to feed many people on during a long lasting group project in which we had many weekend BBQ's. I provided the greens to which everyone replied they had never had such good greens.

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    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    I am having a lot of growth with my potatoes in close proximity to my garlic and shallots. I was able to plan ahead for my potatoes and pretty much everything in my garden by planting mustard greens in the fall and leaving much of the crop to act as green manure. Supposedly mustard greens are a great way to protect soil potatoes or any root crops are going to be planted, as nematodes will not reside in the same soil as the turned in mustard greens, or any soil the mustards might have been in the previous season.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

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    Survivalist! krakatoa's Avatar
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    We will plant soon, we had to wait because of the weather, it is the same for farmers.

    Now we learn, on the weather news, that we will have rain starting tonight, till at least Tuesday.

    The soil is already saturated, we will try our best, under these circumstances.

    Our garden is for my husband and me and also my parents.

    Tomatoes and other vegetables plants, will be bought, in a sale, happening at the library I am working for, not this weekend the next one.

    I hope everything will be in place so that we can plant that and take care of it.

    I wish you all luck on your gardens.

    Nice one, you have thre Nu Kua

    Krakatoa.
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    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    Krakatoa, isn't it exciting to get it started. I take it you guys are having a long rainy season too? All sorts of gardeners and farmers in our area are looking towards the sky in a worried manner, nobody can till here, either! I do not know what people with larger, more extensive farms, or commercial growers, will be doing this year.

    If you have room for a tent cloche or two, and a raised bed to go with it is possible, next year you can dry a few beds out earlier for some of your plants. That's what we have to do here, otherwise we'd never be able to grow anything but cabbage.

    One 14, I don't know why people even buy salad greens, either, but it must be because they don't realize how cheap and easy it is to grow salad greens all year around. They can grow in containers sitting on your patio or porch, they can grow among flowers in a flower bed, they can grow in some people's windowsills (good strong south-east light) and yes, they are easy. I see you live down south from me a bit. I wonder if Steve Solomons book "Growing Organic Vegetables West of the Cascades" would be of benefit to you?
    Another awesome book is John Jeavons "How To Grow More Vegetables- than you ever thought possible, on less land than you could imagine". That book is a beauty and is good for all locations. I learn a lot about the soil health from it, and especially about how to plant and relate to seedlings, something I direly needed an education on.

    My Mom gave me her old copies, and they are like friends to me now. You can see how they are barely held together with scotch tape!



    There are also some good books at the libraries on organic container gardening. My daughter, who is thrilled to be moving to the country this week, has lived in the city for a few years and she grew not just salad greens on the back patio, but peas, tomatoes, garlic and strawberries! The biggest caveat with containers, we've learned, is keeping them watered well during hot spells. They dry out so much quicker, easily getting baked in the containers. So she came up with a great idea that I use now. She puts one container with holes in the bottom, of course, into a large container that has been lined in plastic. The extra container slows down the evaporation considerably, and she just waters by slipping the hose between the containers and filling up that space until the water doesn't soak all in. By the next day the extra water has usually been "drank" so what happens is instead of having to water twice a day, she only has to water once.

    Your cabbages will appreciate being grown by the peas. :-)

    It's true that garlic, shallots, and onions help near anything grow better and with less disease and pests! Where would we be without them. I have planted some onions and leaks around roses. And in what was the potato bed last year, this year is a garlic bed, and on either side of that now are raspberry vines I'm training. Chives, too, are mingled about various beds. I just work around them. Plus their purple flowers are gorgeous.

    So back to potatoes, I decided to use a barrel for at least one batch. What I did was lay about a foot of soil in the bottom of the barrel,and then shallowly plant some potato 'seeds'. Now what you do is, when they sprout and as they grow, continue to mound dirt on and around the stems, up to the leaves; the plant will continue to grow. Do this till you're at the top of the barrel and let them leaf out, flower, and do what they do. The thing with this is, every bit of stem you cover, grows more potatoes! So according to this article I found on it (with step by step instructions, you gotta check that out) you can grow 100 pounds of potatoes in this bio-intensive method.

    Other methods I am looking into are growing them in sawdust- as it just so happens I have several huge bags filled with fresh sawdust in the garage, or growing them in hay. I've read that either method means you grow clean potatoes that you don;'t have to even dig for. Score!
    Also a few years back I was reading a gardening book on "lasagna gardening"- basically sheet composting that you also grow your veggies in. It seems like a great no or low dig way to grow anything- well the author planted her potatoes in the sheet composting but she did so in layers of hay I believe, so she also did not have to dig much for her potatoes.
    Ah, heart the internet! Of course there is an article on lasagna gardening.

    Pico- Love the idea of using the mustards as green manure. I did not know they have that affect on nematodes. Do you chop them up first before turning them in, or just let nature take its course?
    "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me..."

  13. #13
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    NK, I left some in the ground over the winter to keep the soil in place, but trimmed much and spread the clippings over the vegetable garden. When things dried out a bit back in march, I ran my tiller over the area, breaking them up more and turning them into the soil. I also used a lot of dead leaves to loosen the soil. Thrown over the top just before the first snowfall, they break down a bit and really help loosen the soil far better than gypsum pellets.

    Anyway, today is overcast after raining the last two days. It is also very windy, so I am not going to put in my solar panels until the winds die down a bit. I am a bit disgusted with the weather here, as it is also in the mid to low 50's... not good outdoor weather. I guess I can't complain too much, as others around the country are getting flooded or have had their homes blow away from tornadoes.
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  14. #14
    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    Yeah I'm pretty annoyed with the weather here, too. It always blows my mind, even after 10 years here, how it can be the middle of May and still be cold, gray, and wet. Gradually, however, the warm sunny days are weaving in with more frequency. It was 101 in the greenhouse for a brief time today. I just watered everything and then sat there for a while, like a sauna.

    So potatoes. I did three different things. In a large barrel that sits in the center of the yard, I have potatoes started in a mixture of compost and dirt, about half and half. The dirt is full of earthworms. The barrel is about 3 feet wide and maybe 2 or more feet deep, but that's a guess. The potatoes are in about 8 inches of soil for now.

    I also have potatoes started in sawdust in a big plastic can. I punched holed in the bottom and lined it with porous material, and the potato seeds are in maybe 8 inches or so of sawdust. I can't wait to see how this turns out.

    Finally, in a large patio pot, I planted one potato seed, maybe 5 inches from the bottom. I am curious to see if a person with a patio garden could grow a few pounds of potatoes.

    So as directed, as the potatoes sprout, I'll just cover them again, until it all gets to the top of the container. Then I'll let them leaf, flower, and start to die back like they always do.
    "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me..."

  15. #15
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    By the way, last year and this year I have been using organic compost only and absolutely NO chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The amazing difference I have found is that I have plants without any insect damage...or very very minimal. The plants do seem to take longer to produce, but I think the plants appear to be stronger and surely the food will be healthier than chemical laden stuff.

    Also, I decided not to use horse or cow manure. These animals are given medications for parasites and I do not know about the residuals that might be in the manures. I have lots of earthworms in my compost and do not want to kill them. Earthworm castings are like gold for your garden.
    Last edited by acacia; May 17th, 2011 at 1:25 AM.

  16. #16
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    When I started my fairly large garden towards the end of last summer, I used lime, gypsum pellets, composted manure, grass clippings, and eventually leaves and mustard greens to improve the soil. The dirt was not good at all from the start, and while I did in fact spray my grass with liquid and pellet fertilizer, and while the horse and cow manure might be tainted with residuals, it was worth it, IMO, because my soil was that poor. Now, I have not used any fertilizers at all, and my plants are thriving. I would like to get some fish based fertilizer to put around the plants to give them a bump in a few weeks, but probably won't find any and won't need it anyway.

    I also do not have any harmful insects in my garden, but attribute my good fortune mainly due to the large numbers of ladybugs. I think they are one of the best friends a gardener can have, along with the earthworms you mention. I find a great way to bring in earthworms is to place grass clippings in the rows between plantings. These clippings reduce weeds, and they also seem to bring worms in below. I am not sure why, whether it is perhaps a difference in soil temp there or moister soil or something in the clippings themselves, but it works. My soil has gone from packed clay to rich dark brown (working towards the black gold), and it is very loose and loaded with worms, which were not present before in any quantity.
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    I am getting desperate, it's raining and cold every day, I hope it will be better by next weekend and beginning of next week. Next Saturday, like I said earlier we will have the plants, tomato's and other vegetable, lets hope it will by ok by Sunday. We did not even plant the seed yet because of the weather. Same for the farmers.

    Krakatoa.
    At all time, there is treath of danger and chaos, it can be natural or man made, I aware of this...are you?[/B]

  18. #18
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    I was driving thru rural Iowa this morning and thought it seemed a bit different. The farmers' corn fields at most have 2"-3" corn rows.... not the normal stuff. The season has been far wetter and colder than normal so far, so I cannot fathom how futures traders are betting on lower priced corn with surplus' this year.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

  19. #19
    Survivalist! krakatoa's Avatar
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    They are talking about the rain and cool temps, here in Canada regarding the farmers, and the garden, it is confirmed that everything is late, and the farmers are worried, depending where they are, some region had more or less rain, it was on Radio Canada counterpart of CBC in Canada, that I saw this yesterday.

    Krakatoa.
    At all time, there is treath of danger and chaos, it can be natural or man made, I aware of this...are you?[/B]

  20. #20
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    I was watching the agribusiness report on the morning news today here in Des Moines and they were discussing corn and how Iowa is leading the nation with over 95% of the fields to be planted with corn having been planted. They were saying North Dakota was expecting a good corn yield, but only has 14% of the land planted. Some states were even worse. I would imagine Canada is in worse shape, as some of your area was colder and wetter for far longer than the norm.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

  21. #21
    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    In other words- stock up on cornmeal and masa now.

    For home gardening, the biggest benefit of gardening under cover is that you can dry out your beds a bit and can plant them even while it is still wet most everywhere else. You can also generate more warmth which helps things grow. Of course, there isn't a whole lot one can do about the lower light levels.

    Sounds like this will be a "cabbage year" in more areas than just the Northwest coast!

    Re the grass attracting the worms- the book "Lasagna Gardening" covers that. Basically, the reason why sheet composting can result in less need to dig deeply and turn the earth is that earthworms are attracted to decaying material- the sheet of material- grass, compost, newspapers, whatever- of course create a shadier, cooler situation closer to the surface- so the worms crawl and eat their way on up there, after all that decay. Let the worms do the work~! This results in better soil closer to the surface. So yeah your grass clippings idea is working wonders on so many levels!
    I understand decaying grass clippings release a lot of nitrogen, too.

    Speaking of decay, grass clipping and worms- makes me think of home composting. I am hoping to incorporate that into my backyard garden this year. Do any of you do this?
    "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me..."

  22. #22
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    I have one of those tumbler compost setups sold in magazine adds. I bought mine used locally on craigslist. It works, but not as fast as the adds claim. Anyway, I ran out of room in my compost bin and used a large black plastic bag. It took about 2-3 weeks, and everything turned to mush. I just tilled it into the garden this morning, and the stink was nearly unbearable. Other than that, lots of nitrogen. I need to get this last section planted before the weekend rains. Yes, likely to have another wash out this weekend here. Every damn weekend we are getting rain.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

  23. #23
    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    We're looking at a week of rain. WTH? It's almost June!
    I'm kinda bummed about it. Tired of forcing myself to "look on the bright side!" :-| bah.
    but then I think of those poor folks in Tornado land and Flood land across the country and feel ashamed for whining about it.

    Anyway, do any other gardeners grow okra? I am trying it in the green house but I think the nights are too cool for it. It sprouted very quickly, grew to 4 inches in no time, but then the second leaves came in all weird and they yellowed up straight away. I'm not sure if they are supposed to be yellow or now. I cannot seem to remember what they looked like in my Grandma's garden.
    I think I might take it up and plant something else there.

    (My greenhouse isn't heated or anything- really it is a glorified, tall, and big cloche!)

    My first cucumbers had a low sprouting rate- well really Armenian cucumbers are not actual cucumbers. But anyway I replanted lots extra not expecting so many to sprout, and all the extras I planted have sprouted well and strong so now I'm going to have a huge haul of cukes. I hope they pickle well!
    "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me..."

  24. #24
    GEAUX SAINTS! Contributor pico's Avatar
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    I have okra coming in now. I planted not too long ago, but the sprouts are starting to poke thru the dirt. My wife and daughter like to eat breaded and fried.... not me. We use it to thicken gumbo. I am not a huge okra fan, but it works great in chicken and sausage gumbo. I would suspect it would work well in vegetable soup too. Just be sure to pick the okra when it is around 3 1/2 to 4" long... any longer and the fibers make it very tough.
    I'd Rather Be A Right-Wing Nut Job Then A Liberal With No Nuts And No Job

  25. #25
    Fuq Haters Contributor Nu Kua's Avatar
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    My okra and lima beans finally just gave up. It is simply too cool in the evenings here to grow the strains that I tried to grow. Maybe next year I can find something more suited to our area.
    In their place now is more eggplant and tomatoes. I do not know what I will do with all that eggplant! sure I love it and could eat it nearly everyday, but how to put up the excess? Does it freeze, or can well? I don't even know.

    And, not only that- APHIDS are having a total party in my greenhouse. My oregano is so infested that I am taking cuttings from it to root for starting all over, and just pulling the entire rest of the plant from the greenhouse.

    I understand aphids are actually farmed and herded by ants, who love to keep aphids happy because they get something sweet from the aphids. So my first line of defense will be to mix up this dish soap and water recipe I found to spray on the infected plants. The guide emphasized to use soap and not detergent.

    Then I will have to work on chasing out the ants. I've read of several suggestions... the one I am trying first will be the capsicum- hot red pepper powder, liberally sprinkled all around my plants and the greenhouse.
    I am totally open to organic suggestions here.

    We're getting fresh spinach, romaine and red lettuce from the outside beds every day. I actually should get some more seedlings started because these beds can't last forever. I've learned for lettuce, you can harvest the leaves and leave the plants for a subsequent harvest like you do cabbage, but unlike cabbage, after the second harvest, the lettuce starts to get bitter. The onions and garlic are coming along very nicely, too, as are the favas. Yesterday I transplanted some Zamboni broccoli seedlings, and I cut back the collard tree to about 4 feet. I know I'll need to cut it all the way back eventually but still am feeling foolishly sentimental about doing so.

    I have a bunch of mammoth sunflower seedlings to plant today, too. I want to plant them all about the yard to make a sunflower forest. Wouldn't that be cool? These get about 10-12"tall. I tried to do it last year but all the ones in the front yard became late night dinners for slugs. This year I'll have to put up a barrier for them or something.

    A couple of years ago a friend of mine started some artichokes from seeds, and set the plants out in front of the hedge in my front yard. Last year they barely grew at all, while this year two are growing well and the all the rest but one are alive but not exuberant at all. However, the two that are growing well each have an artichoke started! I think in time they all will produce, just have to be patient. The full plants are beautiful, with bold purple flowers if you allow them to flower.

    The strawberries are all flowered up with some little tiny green ones just coming to be; the raspberries too. The blueberries are just about to start turning blue and I just hope we can get to them before the birds notice the delectable plump and juicy goodness.

    We are finally getting some warm sunny days- it was in the upper 70's yesterday! And hardly no wind. Rare for this time of the year, to have sun but no wind, that is for sure. You should see everybody fanning themselves and talking about the heat. They don't know what heat is! I'd love to take them to eastern NC for one summer and see if they can live beyond a shaded room with an air conditioner running full blast. :)

    Oh yeah- asparagus- two years ago I started a trench with them, last year I got maybe 2 asparagus. I actually forgot about the bed until yesterday when I noticed maybe 10 asparagus shoots and some fern coming up, so maybe by next year the bed will be vibrant and fruitful. Sure hope so, fresh asparagus is so sweet and wonderful.

    My potato experiments seem to be taking off well. I've already had to cover shoots in all three containers. Just cannot wait to see how this goes.

    Birds started singing merrily just before first light this morning, and are still going full blast. Yesterday around 10 am the bees started coming in droves, thanks to various flowering bushes I do not know the name of, and there are several herbs in the herb bed full of flower, too. I love it, today is a beautiful and peaceful morning, just right for a Sunday.
    Last edited by Nu Kua; Jun 5th, 2011 at 9:29 AM.
    "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me..."

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