Posts Tagged ‘organic gardening’

First egg

July 28, 2009

I found the first egg today. I am pretty sure it is the first one ever, but not 100% sure. I know that Lula Mae has been making noises for over a week now and that today she was sitting/squatting in the accidental garden, right next to the house. I went out to see what was up and possibly interrupted the egg laying process (is that possible to interrupt it in the same way that a woman’s labor can be interrupted by stress or danger?). All three chickens, including Chicken Joe the rooster, were making lots of noise. That was why I went out to see what was going on. I guess it was as big a deal to them as it was to me.

We also worked in the garden a bit today and picked a couple of tomatoes. One was eaten by the kiddos and one by the chickens when we left it unguarded. Silly chickens! Anyway, more tomatoes are turning red so that is great news. The sugar snap peas seem to be dying off int he heat, which I think is normal. The carrots are finally doing well, but Moira wants to pick one every time we go to the garden, so we don’t really have any to use in meals. I need to plant more carrots for fall and then remember to plant more next spring. The winter squash are taking over the area between the tilled area and the raised beds. I guess they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to spread into the tilled area? Silly squash!

I will post some pictures tomorrow, as soon as I get them off of my camera. I also have a picture of a dead, half-eaten copperhead snake that Tim ran over with the mower. We left it out and something ate some of it last night. It’s a lovely picture and I know everyone will surely tune in to see it once it is posted. Right?

Tilling sucks

June 10, 2009

OK, I suppose tilling has its uses, but I must say that my tilled area looks really bad. I worked on it some yesterday, using a garden rake and a ho to get some of the grass up. There are some weeds in the tilled area, but mostly it’s just the grass growing back. Now to be fair, I haven’t done much of anything in the tilled area. Combine my laziness with lots of rain and that explains why the grass is growing back. However, compared to my raised beds, the tilled area is much worse. It is more work and the grass is growing faster. Even the Pie Bed, (the no-dig bed in which I turned some sod upside down and then filled with some potting soil), which is the raised bed with the most weeds, does not compare to the tilled area. 
 

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

The only complaint I have with the raised beds is that there is not enough room to get the riding mower between them. We don’t have a push mower and I really don’t want to buy one since we have a gas-powered weed whacker (that I can’t start!). Ideally I wouldn’t have grass in between the raised beds. I would like a garden with no grass at all, but how to get rid of that grass? Or, more precisely, how can I get rid of that grass without chemicals and without spending a lot of money? I know that if I put down mulch that will help get rid of the grass, but right now I’m short on mulch since our bagger for the riding mower was back ordered. We can pick that up today, so as soon as I can mow again, I will have mulch and lots of it. I also know mulch would help in the tilled area.

While I like the idea of grass clippings as mulch in the raised beds and the tilled area, I would like something else to put in between the raised beds. This site, Organic Weed Control Methods ~ Mulching, has some great ideas. It has some good information about why mulching is so helpful and has a list of natural mulches, with suggestions on where to get them. None of these mulches jump out at me as easy and cheap and quick (quick as in tomorrow), unless I want to walk around collecting the grass clippings from the last time we mowed. I guess I will just wait until we have the bagger and then let the grass clippings dry and apply them to the tilled area. Then I guess I will use the weed whacker to trim around the raised beds. I think it would be a good idea to put down cardboard and/or newspaper before putting down the mulch, too.

The best idea I’ve had for in between the raised beds is to use broken up concrete. I remember reading somewhere that broken up concrete is a flagstone alternative. It can be laid out so that it looks like flagstone, but has the benefit of being more environmentally friendly. One of our neighbors just up the road has a big pile that’s just sitting there. I’ve thought about asking him if he is going to use it, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe I should stop by and ask him next time I am driving to town. I think I could always do the paper/cardboard with dried grass clippings piled on top and then add the concrete afterwards. The concrete part might be a good autumn project, though. You know, after we build a henhouse for our 24 pullets (though I suspect one of the Buff Orpingtons is a boy) and a greenhouse and a workshop for Tim.

I’d rather be gardening

May 30, 2009

I never have enough time to work in the garden, it seems. I think we only stayed home one day this past week. Unfortunately I was not feeling particularly energetic that day. It didn’t much matter because I couldn’t mow because of the rain and couldn’t work in the garden because we hadn’t been to the nursery to get plants, compost, and vermiculite. Now it is Saturday and I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I think that is probably how spring is. It’s been so long since we had a real spring (spring in Phoenix is subtle and doesn’t last long) that I have forgotten.

I weeded a bit and am grateful that I haven’t had to do more. I think the square foot/raised bed gardening works well at keeping weeds away. I have had some problems with grass growing, but mostly along the edges and the corners. The Pie Bed (rhubarb, strawberries, and blueberries) has had the most grass growing in it. I did not dig in that bed, and then I added turned over sod on top of the partially dying grass. However, even that bed did not have a lot of grass. Soon I will probably be pulling out saplings since the cottonwoods are doing their cottonwood thing. It’s really cool and looks like it is snowing. The muddy areas on either side of the driveway looked like they were covered in snow. 

The Herb Bed is beautiful and mostly full. It has three squares of dill, four squares each of oregano and parsley, one square of chives, and three squares of cilantro. The final square was a dill transplant that I started from seed, but it didn’t survive. I have more basil to transplant, as well as some lavender, mint, and rosemary. I will grow the mint and rosemary in containers so that I can contain the mint and bring the rosemary in during the winter. 

The tilled area of the garden is doing OK. The bad news about the tilled area is that the grass is starting to grow back in places. The good news is that the soil is still nice and loose, so it’s quite easy to pull or rake the grass out of the soil. I spent some time making more mounds for the corn, beans, and squash (Three Sisters) so that I can plant some more. Some of the corn is about 4 inches tall, which means it is time to plant the beans and squash, according to Renee’s Garden, which is the plan I am using. You can do the Three Sisters in a square foot garden, too. Since we have plenty of room I figured I would used the tilled area instead of using more wood to make the boxes. 

I posted a few pictures of the garden on the May 2009 page, where you can also read my incredibly detailed garden notes if you are so inclined. I’m not sure it makes very interesting reading, but it will prove useful next spring, I’m sure!

Added new page

April 17, 2009

I had so many pictures I wanted to post, but I didn’t want to post them all on the same page, so I started a new page about our garden, including pictures. Click here to go see it, or click on the Garden in Progress link to the right. I’ll update it and add more pictures as I do more garden stuff, which should be daily at this point.

Today I plan to work on the garden layout some more. I got a lot done on that yesterday, but need to flesh it out a bit more today. Then I need to check the seedlings and take some pictures of them. I’m really excited that some of the herbs are sprouting now! I noticed the oregano was sprouting a couple of days ago, then yesterday saw that the chives and dill were sprouting. Hooray!

I need to go buy a ton of potting soil so I can at least get a 4′ X 4′ square of lettuce and radishes planted (is it too early for radishes??). I can’t do that without Tim’s truck, though, so I will have to wait. In the meantime, I think I will cut up the old vinyl blinds and use them for grids to mark the squares. I think the kids might help with that because it could be fun.

Killing grass

April 11, 2009

For some reason, I forgot to link to this blog post which got me all excited to research no tilling last night. I think I got to Hot Belly Mama through The Compost Bin.

Anyway, the thing I liked about this post is that she is just using mulch, straw and leaves, to kill the grass underneath and then using raised beds. So simple! No digging or tilling or chemicals. It was inspiring. I love the Internet!

Garden plans

April 7, 2009

I planted some more herb seeds today (chives, rosemary, dill, and oregano). This time I also washed out the pots, which I should have done when I planted the first batch of herbs and spinach seeds. I will have to find more containers before I can plant anything else! I am reluctant to buy anything else because consumption is not good for the environment and because I saw some great ideas for reusing containers to start seedlings. Eventually I will probably start an area outside for the herbs, but for now I was planning on having them indoors. I have a nice, big window sill above the kitchen sink that should work nicely for herbs, assuming I can find a different home for all the other plants currently live above the sink.

As far as the garden goes, we are still waiting for the people from the nursery to come by and till our garden area. It’s been cold and rainy and wet, and it’s really a bit early to plant outside anyway. Everyone keeps telling me it’s still early and I know they are right, but I am excited/anxious to get started. I feel like I need more of a plan for the garden, though, so I need to work on that. I have figured out some things already. I plan to use square foot gardening, which I read about a few years ago, based on the suggestion of a friend in Phoenix (Hi, Joline!).

Square foot gardening appeals to me on many levels. First, the author, Mel Bartholomew, mentions that using rows is really good for big farms where they use big tractors and need room to get down the rows. Well, I don’t have a tractor and neither do most gardeners. Also, square foot gardening is a type of raised bed gardening. Raised beds are supposed to be good for a lot of reasons: more productive per square foot, and better soil because it is not compacted by being walked on, for example. Another great idea he has is to plant only as many seeds as you need, instead of throwing down a bunch and then spending all that time thinning them out later. That makes a lot of sense to me, as it seems so wasteful to spread a bunch of seeds (even though they are incredibly cheap) and then pull up half or more of the plants later. He also talks about successive planting so that you don’t have to harvest everything at the same time. There are a lot of good ideas in that book, and I hope to be able to put those ideas to good use and have a good, productive garden. Now, I say all this but I have never really had a garden, so who knows how it will work out. I just know that when I read the book, his ideas made a lot of sense.

The other plan I have is to grow things organically. I did not buy organic or heirloom seeds. Instead, I bought seeds from the local farm supply store. I know this is not the best option, but I figured it will do for this growing season. Other than the seeds, everything else will be done organically. So far, I’ve used organic potting soil for all the seedlings I’ve planted. We won’t spray or use chemicals. Luckily, I know an organic farmer who can give me advice if we have some problems and need to get rid of some pests. So my garden will be organic, even if all the seeds were not organic.

So that’s the plan so far. I will, of course, write about the garden more as we do some more work and get things going. Maybe tomorrow we will put the chicks in the movable coop and make some more boxes for the garden. I can keep an eye on the chicks while making the boxes, so that if they get too cold we can bring them back in the house. I know the will absolutely love the fresh air and having more room!