Since it’s officially spring according to nature, it’s now also officially really busy on the homestead. (Though, it’ll still be a few weeks before our flowers look like the header photo from spring last year). This week we had 15 yards of double shredded hardwood mulch and 20 bales of straw delivered, along with some rail ties, gravel, and fence posts for upcoming projects. You can read about how we use these materials in these two posts: Mulch Madness! and Creating Boundaries in the Permaculture and Edible Landscape.
In addition, I finally finished moving all the manure I’ve mentioned in other posts and completed all my pruning.
Following is a list of what I planted in the garden. I plan to update the list regularly so that I have a full list for the whole garden by season. So, I hope you don’t mind seeing repeats in these updates.
In my numbering system, rows are 30′ long, 3′ wide, and run West to East, there are 10 of them, grouped together as rows 1 -5 and 6-10. Beds run North to South. Beds 1-6 are 7′ long and 4′ wide. Beds 7-11 are 21′ long and 3′ wide.
This is a little different than I originally planned, but I decided not to move my entire strawberry patch this year, so, some of it’s taking up room intended for other crops down the road. I’ll work on moving it next year. However, since spring came early and the mature strawberry plants already have a lot of leaf growth, I figured it can wait one more year. Also, I’ll be posting a separate update on irrigation but I realized I could solve some potential pressure loss issues by changing the orientation of my lower beds so they ran from uphill to downhill. I’ll post an updated layout down the road.
So, here’s what’s been planted so far.
- Row 1 (on 2/23): Outer edges of beds full length of Northside – Chantenay Red Core Carrots, Southside – half length of Ox Heart Carrots, and half length of St. Valery Carrots, both rows interplanted with Cherry Belle Radish, Lettuces along center of row – Buttercrunch, Bronze Arrow, Black Seeded Simpson, Linux.
- Row 2 (on 3/1): Outer edges – Northside – 70 – ‘Candy’ Onion Plants from Dixondale Farms compliments of Robert (Onion Growing Guru from The Art of the Onion), Southside – 80 sets of Red Onions. Inside – Northside – Detroit Dark Red Beets, Southside – Early Wonder Beets (soaked beet seeds for 24 hours before planting to speed up sprouting).
- Row 3 (on 2/23): Daikon, Golden Ball Turnip, Early White Vienna Kohlrabi, Purple Top Rutabaga.
- Row 5 (on 2/24): Red Norland Potatoes down center (20 sets).
- Bed 4 (on 3/1): Hollow Crown Parsnips.
- Bed 5 (on 3/1): Giant Musselburgh Leeks.
- Bed 6 (on 2/23): Arugala.
- Row 7: Inside – Northside – Detroit Dark Red Beets, Southside – Early Wonder Beets.
- Row 10 (on 2/24): Red Norland Potatoes (13 sets), Kennebec (9 sets).
- Bed 7 (on 2/24): Yukon Gold ( 17 sets) and Blue Potato ( 10 sets) – This bed had some sections with my winter plantings like garlic and some lingering lettuces, so I lost a couple square feet for potatoes this round.
Spring and fall are the two best times to plant perennials and trees. We have about 2.5 acres of cleared land. The rest is woods. We’ve been working on planting the cleared area with edibles, and plants that support edibles, to make good use of the space. Without good soil, this is a slow process. We start by building soil and planting annuals to make sure things grow well. Then we do more soil building and begin to plant perennials. You could go straight to perennials, but planting annuals and seeing their struggles or strengths gives us a good idea of the conditions we are dealing with before we go plopping expensive fruit trees and bushes in the ground.
Last year we turned half of our front yard into meat duck paddocks. I’ll be improving the paddocks between now and fall. But the other half was used to grow buckwheat, mustard, daikon, a mix of flowers and winter squash. Since everything grew exceptionally well in the annual area, we know it’s ready for perennials. This week we called 811 and had them out to mark our utilities.
Once I knew my area was safe, I created a few rain craters near the perennial planting areas and mini-swales uphill of where trees will be planted to catch and drive water to their roots. I back filled these ares with manure, straw, and mulch. Then I placed my tree order. I also pre-dug my tree holes and mixed our clay soil with compost. Then I filled the holes back in with the mix, covered them with more compost, and watered well. I find that preparing holes early and letting the soil and compost mix for a while ramps up biological activity and helps new plants settle in faster than mixing at the time of planting. In a bind, I’ll amend and plant at the same time, but if I can give the soil a few weeks head start, I get better results.
I’ll start dividing perennials and putting them into place this week and applying a heavy layer of mulch all over the planting areas. Then, when the trees are delivered, I can just dig the loose soil I mixed, drop them in, and top dress with a little more mulch.
Odds and Ends
I am a pretty active Master Gardener Volunteer and our classes are now in full swing. I was part of a gardening panel last Tuesday answering gardening questions for the community. The turnout was a little light, but the people who attended were very excited about their gardens and eager to overcome challenges they had last year. I think we offered them some good solutions and gave them new ideas to consider as well. And I always learn something at these events too. I learned, from Joe, to plant beans straight up and down so they emerge faster since they don’t have to go over and up first. Seems like I should have figured this out a long time ago, but I always just drop three in a hole and cover. I am excited to see the difference this year.
It was a pretty emotionally challenging couple of weeks. We had to put our dog Honey down. He was almost 15 and had a good life. But he was with me for so long and through so much that I had a really hard time letting go. Every morning I still get up and expect to see him on his rug in the hallway, ears perked, ready to get up and start the day with me. It will get easier, but for now, I’m just trying to stay busy.
We learned how to castrate pigs and discovered first hand why many new farmers like us question the necessity of it. When it goes well, it’s about the same as banding male goats. Not pleasant, but not nearly as tough to endure (as a spectator) as labor. But, we unknowingly castrated a pig with a scrotal hernia. I won’t go into detail about the event. However, I did add a warning to my blog about pig castration for those who are new to castration. Trust me, this is not something you want to learn about the hard way. Don’t make the cut if you come across an enlarged testicle until you have done your research.
I also wrapped up some writing projects. I think one of the eBooks I worked on will be out in the next month or so. When available, I’ll forward the details.
Finally, another Master Gardener, Christina, gave me copies of the new Permaculture Magazine for North America. Matt bought me a subscription to the UK version which I loved, but I am so excited that we now have our own North America version. Starting a new magazine is a huge amount of work and a really risky venture and it takes good support to keep it going. If you are interested in Permacutlure, I encourage you to check out their website and subscribe, if you have the resources to do so.
That’s all from the homestead for now. I have reLuxe duck legs in the oven that need tending!