A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Friday, October 22, 2010

Still hanging on...

I still have a couple of summer plants that are hanging on...despit being only 1 week away from November. The mid-thirties last night may have put an end to them...but I am still hoping!

One zucchinni...

2 zucchinni!!

A few Wisconsin 55 tomatoes...despite a lot of dead plant.

Of the 4 Siberian tomatoes that I trialed, this one was the best. I thought that potting it up would let me keep it protected from the cold nights. Looks pretty good!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Late Fall Prep for Earlier Spring Planting

I don't know about you, but here in the midwest, after we've waited for months for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw, us growers want nothing more than to go out and get our hands dirty! Every year we try to push the calendar a little bit farther. The nip might still be in the air; our fingers might be stiff with cold as we dig through the earth with the same emotion as if we were seeing a long-lost friend but our excitement simply can't be contained.

Then, like a bad dream, we are jolted awake but the reality of soil prep. As the dissapointment sinks in that we can't plant just yet, we set to work on digging and adding compost.

But is doesn't have to be this way!

Right now, with autumn in full swing, you and I have a huge opportunity - we can prep our gardens now!! If you've got trees in your yard...even better - FREE COMPOST!!

As trees drop their leaves in fall, there is a wonderful opportunity waiting for us. With some of these

and one of these

amazing things can happen!!

Here's the scoop. The tool made by Toro is typically used as a leaf blower. With the added attachments, though, it functions as a leaf vaccuum!! The best part is that as it sucks the leaves up, it also shreds them. This not only condenses a leaf pile tremendously, it also speeds the breakdown of the leaves (i.e. faster dirt!!).

I don't have a big yard (though I do have a huge oak tree) so the handheld tool works fine. If you have a bigger space, you may need something larger.

Ok...on with the bed prep. First, the top layer of soil needs to be dug up to make room for the leaves

Here's another look at the difference between a dug bed and a full one

Where did all of that dirt go, you might ask. Onto another part of the garden, of course (but only temporarily).

Ok - now it's time to vaccuum leaves. After sucking/shredding the leaves, thay are dumped onto the garden...

...in a layer, in my case, about 8 inches deep!!

After dumping the leaves and spreading them out, they need to be covered with a layer of dirt to speed up the dirt-making (use the dirt which was dug out earlier)

Here it is completely covered

and again (vs. the dug area)

The only thing to remember about leaf vaccuums - they don't like sticks, twigs, or bark. For those, you'll need a bigger tool. Until then, though, I will be left with a pile like this

So...just a few more leaves to collect this year and then I'll have the whole garden prepped. In a few weeks, right before the freeze, I'll add a little menure and, after the winter freeze and spring thaw, this garden will be ready for an early spring planting!!

Note: over the winter I'll be doing many posts on prep, planning, and garden wisdom. I'll be referencing this post as I explore the concepts of intensive and extensive gardening/farming.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A week in Pictures

It's been a while since I did an update of my own kitchen garden.

To begin with, I learned the value of a little protection for seedlings. I have been planting lettuce about once a week for a solid winter harvest from cold frames. Here are some of the first:

The problem here is that I didn't protect these from the wind while they were first sprouting. They got blown all over the place and became weak. I'll probably just dig them under because they won't become much more than what you see here.

These are a little stronger because I used just a little protection:

These should grow into some nice lettuce for the winter harvest. I wish, though, that it would already be as mature as this:

I planted this on August 29th for a fall harvest. The lettuce in the first two pictures I started seeding a week later on September 6th (following Elliot Coleman's planting charts.)

Here's what I've learned: not only does one week make a huge difference, so does the amount of sunlight. Elliot Coleman talks about thte sunlight that he receives in Maine vs the sunlight in France, the country from which he learned much about planting systems. He stresses the importance of the amount of sunlight that plants receive but I have now seen it first hand. My coldframes get flooded with sunlight in the spring but are quite shaded in the fall. This has apparently made a HUGE difference (the best looking lettuce in the third picture is planted in a different location that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight each day.)

On a more positive note, here is some nice arugula:


And, although tired, a still producing tomato (Wisconsin 55):

Finally, I've got two questions for ya'll...

1. Anybody got a greenhouse? Here are some strong Siberian Tomato seedlings that I threw into the garden on August 25th.

They are 6 weeks old and would probably still work in a greenhouse given their cold tolerance (down to 38 degrees!!). I planted the seeds on August 25th simply so that I could establish a baseline for seeding in coming years. I think that in the future, August 1st could work well. That way, I might be able to get tomatoes 'til November!!

2. The second question and last pic - anybody need parsley? Look at this monster:

Monday, October 4, 2010

OMG (or Holy Harvest Inspiration!!)

Ok Ok - I know that it's been a week and a half since I posted. Apologies but life got in the way!

Anyway, while reading one of my favorite blogs, I saw this posting a few days ago.

Here's the scoop - this family lives on 1/5 of an acre (a rather typical city lot size...its 66ft x 132ft) in Pasedena, California. Getting rid of their house, garage, driveway, patio, etc, they have about 1/10 of an acre left.

Thats 4356 sq ft.

66ft x 66ft.


They garden it all.

If you get rid of the walkways and such, there are actually 3900 sq ft left to grow plants. 3900 sq ft. 50 x 78 ft. It's so tiny!!! Here's how the garden looks:

Here's the thing, though...they call their little piece of the world an urban homestead and they maximise it's potential so much that they have peaked at 6000 pounds of fruits and vegetables harvested in a year!!!

For the last few years, they have hovered at around 5000 pounds... ...but the post that just went up tallied their harvest this year at 5500 pounds...and they still have 3 months to go!!

I am sooooooo envious :-)