Tag Archives: raised beds

Busy Busy

4 Apr

Yikes!  It’s been two weeks since my last post.  Daily I told myself “Today will be the day!  I will write again!”  Lies, all lies.  But, after a particularly harsh night of pouring rain and thunderstorms I find that I actually have time to stay inside and catch up on the fortnight (we’ve been watching some period pieces).  I should be doing laundry, cleaning out the bunny cage, loading the dishwasher, scrubbing things, etc., but I would much rather be here, posting about HoneyBea Farm.  Those other things will still be there later…Those things will always be there later…

I have planted potatoes in three beds.  I finished out two more of the raised beds, filled them with beautiful well aged leaf compost and planted Green Mountain, Red Thumb and Sangre (my favorite).  Last year I tried planting potatoes in straw and had some really mixed results.  My German Butterballs did well, my Rose Finn Apple did not and the blister beetles were so bad on all solanaceaes that I got almost nothing from all other nightshades.  The Butterballs were in new soil, apart from the main garden, and mulched heavily with straw.  The Rose Finns were in the main garden, in soil absolutely teeming with morning glory seeds, and mulched heavily with straw.  Consequently, once the morning glories and hayseeds germinated there wasn’t much room left for the Rose Finns, which aren’t heavy producers anyway.  Very poor results.  So this year I tried the Green Mountains in a deep raised bed, placed on a bed of compost, covered lightly with compost and mulched with straw.  I topped off the compost with a treatment of corn gluten meal to deter the hayseeds from taking over.  It seems to be working.  There is germination, but the CGM works by drying out the sprout once it has formed.  From what I’ve read I can expect up to a 50% reduction in weeds with this application, plus it’s 10% nitrogen.  The hayseeds that have germinated are not growing like last year, and are decomposing under the mass of mulch.  As long as that doesn’t harm the seed potatoes, which it doesn’t seem to be yet, I think that’s a success.

The Red Thumb and few of the Sangres I planted in a shallow (8″) raised bed filled partway with leaf compost.  I put the seed pieces on top of a few inches of compost, covered them with about an inch of compost and added some CGM.  I will wait until the potato plants actually pop up to mulch with straw and see if that makes a difference.  The bulk of the Sangres I planted more traditionally in a trench down the middle of my cattle panel trellis.  I tilled and then furrowed a single trench, placed the potatoes and covered with compost.  As they grow I will hill up around them with more compost.  We’ll see what happens!

I have also planted more carrots, bunching onions, baby bok choy, mustards, turnips, beets, spinach, kale, broccoli rabe, and a second round of peas.  My favas have been in full bloom and hopefully will set pods soon (fingers crossed that it doesn’t get too hot too soon).  I even dreamed last night that I went out to the garden and found fava pods on all my plants.  I love those meaty wonders!  All parts of the plant are edible and I often pinch off leaves and shoots to use in salads like pea shoots.

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This is early in the process, before the cardboard, mulch and stones went down. The rough twig fence in the background has rooted, bloomed and leafed out now. There are plum, apple and peach prunings in there, so who knows what our little fence will do!

Another project that is well under way is the revised herb garden.  My dad drug out our old strawberry pyramid (and I do mean old — I think we might have used this when I was in my early teens, more than 20 years ago!) and fixed it up a little, then brought it to me to use somewhere in the garden.  I decided this was the perfect opportunity to fix that awful weed patch, eyesore, sorry excuse of an herb garden.  This poor plot seriously looked like the neglected gardens of crazy spinsters that neighborhood kids think are witches.  So I dug everything up, separated the really dense things, shared some items I had way too many of, and began the rework.  I weeded out the really nasty stuff and laid down cardboard over the rest.  I placed the pyramid in the center of the plot and filled the middle of it with branches, leaves, a couple of old twig baskets, anything biodegradable I could find lying around that needed to be done away with, and then topped that off with leaf compost.  As it rains and the filling settles I will need to add more compost, but that’s okay.  Bordering the pyramid I filled and leveled with some sand, placed stepping stones and mulched.  I also filled some large pots with herbs and perennials and placed them around the borders.  I have planted about a quarter of the pyramid so far, and still have filling to do on the upper levels, but like what’s happening immensely.  Adjacent to the herb garden are the brambles, which also have that overgrown, fairy tale appearance, so this has prompted work there as well.  I have weeded out around the raspberries, and have some new blackberries to plant.  The plan is to use the blackberries to extend this plot to the currants, making it a cohesive fruit area, all neatly ordered, mulched, and trellised.  The danger in this is that there are also grapes and figs close by, and there is the temptation to just keep planting new fruit until it’s ALL a cohesive fruit area.  Of course, that would be less mowing…

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I know this is a terrible photo, but it gives the idea. I framed out the box, wrapped it in poultry fence - the plastic kind - and topped it off with a lid of corrugated roofing.

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The Chicken Condo. The chickies seem to think this is great fun.

If you remember back to an earlier post about chicks, our teeny babies are now teenagers, and are now living outside.  I finally got around to the chicken tractor!  It’s kind of a chicken tractor on blocks right now, but it will have wheels soon.  I don’t have pictures of the last chicken coop I tried to build, but take my word for it, not a right angle in the whole damn thing.  I can say with pride that my carpentry skills are really improving.  I moved the six chicks out a week and a half ago and they seem very happy in their new digs.  The Friday after Easter I will be getting a shipment of 25 broiler chicks, and after their time in the brooder, they will move into the chicken tractor and the older chicks will be combined with the layer flock.  I’ve been trying to get them all acquainted with each other so that the transition isn’t too hard on the older chicks.

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Just fresh eggs, mustard greens thinnings and salt and pepper, fried in butter, of course.

And, since this is a working, living and eating farm, I have to include my new favorite egg dish – the baby mustard scramble.  I simply took the thinnings from the mustard greens and scrambled them into some eggs with grated cheese.  So simple and SO tasty.  I see lunch on the horizon!

I wonder sometimes if I’m doing right by the HoneyBea, keeping her home with me and raising her like a wild child, but then I get positive affirmation and know that I’m doing some things right.  Last week I was sharing a bottle of wine with some girlfriends, and was telling about Bea and her new fascination with earthworms, when one of my friends blurted out “Your kid is going to be so awesome!”  In that same evening Bea encouraged another friend’s son to get absolutely filthy playing with wet potting soil and chasing kitties, but she also got him to eat his veggies, which is no small task.  So yes, maybe I am on the right track.  At least I don’t seem to be doing any harm.

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I found this little guy in one of the beds while weeding. He was covered in mud and at first I thought he was a toy, then he moved. Bea has so many exciting discoveries to look forward to!

 

 

As promised, part the second

15 Mar

I know it hasn’t really been that long since I last posted, but it seems like so much has happened.  For one thing, it’s unnaturally warm and sunny out, which makes me dread summer for the first time in my life.  If MARCH is like this, what does the normally oppressive July-August season hold for us?  Summer is my favorite time of year, hands down, despite our Carolina weather, but this summer in late winter thing is really not my cup of tea.  I need it to still be cool for a couple of weeks (and not just because I’m not ready to mow the lawn).

I’m still getting in my cool season crops, and would like to give them a chance to produce without simply bolting in the heat and checking out for the season.  In the past week I  have scraped together a few afternoons to work in the garden and have managed to accomplish quite a bit.  I worked more on the raised beds, and fully planted one.  I weeded the much neglected asparagus.  I started seeds for lettuce, bok choy, carrots, turnips, bunching onions, spinach, mustard greens, beets, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.  I also transplanted a boatload of onions and some cabbages.  I dug up everything I wanted to keep from the kitchen herb garden and weeded that area to prep for an herb pyramid I’m putting in.  And I harvested a 10 gallon bin of mixed veggies and made roasted turkey soup.

The raised beds are 10 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and 16 inches deep, which is a whole lot more dirt than I thought.  Especially considering I didn’t actually have any dirt.   I lined the bottom of the bed with heavy cardboard and some old pizza boxes that the recyclers won’t take, then laid in a layer of leaves that were mulching themselves nicely in the side yard, topped that with a layer of chicken litter from the compost, topped that again with some very composted horse manure, and finished with a thick layer of well composted leaf mulch.  No dirt, just very rich growing medium.  I planted 4 varieties of onions into this — from Dixondale – Red Candy Apple, Candy, White Bermuda and Red Creole.  I broadcast radish seeds across the bed and stuck a couple of rows of turnips in one end, just because I had the room.  I figure the radishes will grow so quickly that I can pull them well before the onions need all that room, and pulling the radishes can help keep the soil good and loose for the bulbs to develop.  That’s my theory anyway.  I also planted the onions a little on the tight side, with the idea that I would be pulling some as spring onions, thinning things out enough for the rest to develop into good heavy storage bulbs.  Except for the Red Candy Apple.  The only reason those are in the garden is for pickles.  These pickles.  We blew through all the jars of these I put back last summer in a shamefully short time, and have been missing them ever since.

I tilled up some more beds and worked more compost in, then planted two varieties of carrots, three kinds of turnips, three kinds of beets, spinach, bok choy and mustard greens.  I needed a new hose nozzle, and a trip to the local hardware store also produced two packages of bare root cabbages for transplant.  Those went into the ground this afternoon, in two rows with more onions in between.

Yesterday I harvested onions, carrots, chard, cabbage, and turnips with greens.  Enough to fill a 10 gallon tub.  It’s mostly carrots, and I want to do something exciting and new with them.  I’ve had good luck with pickled baby squash and bread and butter squash, so I was thinking maybe bread and butter carrots.  If I try it I’ll be sure to post about it.

It’s exactly one month until our last frost date here, but already everything is in full bloom.  The flowers at the top of the page are the peach trees in our backyard.  The plums are exploding with flowers, and the apples are budding like crazy.  No time like now for a good old fashioned ice storm so  I’m keeping my eye on the weather, just in case.

And an observation — I’m fascinated by the idea of companion planting and I noticed this afternoon that the favas I planted alongside arugula are doing WAY better than the favas with carrots and radishes.  So the next beans I plant, I will interplant some arugula and see what happens.