Today was a beautiful day and I spent the majority of it ouside playing in the garden. The most progress was made in the longest bed; it hasn't been to difficult to double dig because the top 10" is very nice from where I prepared it last year. Below that, however, is dense clay full of old tree roots from where the fruit trees used to be.
Here is an example of how we have been double digging:
In this picture I had dug down one shovel depth and moved that topsoil to where I had previously dug then I dug down again another shovel depth into the clay and put that on top of what I had previously dug. (I hope I explained that clearly) I then put some of last years leaves and grass clippings into where I had just dug and I step back about 3 feet and start the process again. I have also been top dressing with leaf mold and grass clippings as I go to keep the soil from drying out and erroding.
To put into perspective how much more there is to do in this bed:
way down in the shady part is where I have dug to.
and this is the end that is more or less finished (in the previous picture I was standing next to the green chair in the distance) The method of double digging is a lot of work and uses a lot of compost but I think it is going to be so worth it in the long run.
To demonstrate the huge amounts of compost that have gone into the two beds I have double dug so far, here is a picture of what the pile looks like now:
You can see in the brown area where there used to be compost that had been piled almost as high as the fence. That little bit that is left is all there is now, though, so we are growing the yard grass tall to cut and rake as hay for composting and if anything we will wait until the leaves fall and rake and use those for adding to the double dug beds. I never though, with as big as that pile was, that I would be at risk of running out of compost.
As a progress report on my garden, the hostas look lonely in the shade garden behind the shed:
and some of my zinnias are sick:
I posted to the forums about it; some kind of bacteria or something. Any ideas? My other zinnias are beginning to be infected as well, as you can see in this picture of a different bed :)
I am going to try planting some carrots in a rubbermade bin full of composted dirt, The tote had holes in it and has bulky twigs an stuff in the bottom to keep the compost from clogging up the drainage holes. I haven't actually planted the seeds yet, but this is the tote so far:
I have it positioned next to the bbq shed so that if the weather gets bad I can drag it under the overhang to keep the soil from compacting.
In preparation for next year I am planning a fence and arbor to keep the dogs from running straight into the garden and tromping on everything. Zee still loves getting into pictures:
So I tried again: Here are two views I made in paint to depict how I want the arbor and fence to be:
The brown lines indicate where the edge of the garden bed will be and the black lines are structral; either fence or arbor. I will be digging up and dividing all the iris bulbs and next year this will be a perennial and herb bed that will be protected by the fence, made from yardgard fencing. The arbor will be made out of the similar material and the frame of the arbor will be constructed like this:
These designs are from the book Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cummingham. I am going to use these same designs, modified, to make the portable chicken hoop coop. I am going to begin working on detailed plans on what I will be planting in the perennial bed. I would like to plant loofa gourds on the fence and moon flowers on the arbor.
First things first there was a GIANT brown recluse in the bath room the other day; good thing I had just done my business otherwise seeing this thing would have scared it right out of me:
WHEW!!! My sweet darling of a he-man saved me from it with a big stick and while I watched in terror he really had to put some force behind it to smush this guy (I would like to point out that I am not typically scared of insects, but honestly; with a poisonous spider this big hanging out in the bathroom, who wouldn't be scared?)
Today we finished double digging the new tomato bed that is approzimately 33 feet long and 5 feet wide. We dug two feet down, churning up the subsoil, breaking up the dense clay we are blessed with, and mixing in leaf mold, compost, and grass clippings. We then top dressed it with a similar mixture in an effort to keep weeds down, prevent errosion, and to keep the soil from getting hammered by the rain and baked into a crust.
This bed will be home to 27 tomatoes (only 9 cages are pictured above) that will be companion planted with carrots all around the edge of the bed, basil in the nooks bewteen the cages, and a mix of nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, and tansy planted at the base of the tomato plants.
A quick review on the tomatoes we grew this year:
Amish paste; had three plants, purchased seed in 2011 from Burpee. These guys were ok; initially they had blossom end rot, and then later some of the fruits were deformed, but the ones that came off the plant that weren't rotten or deformed were very good; lived up to the description from the seller. In 2012 I plan on giving this variety another try, but only with one plant.
Brandywine:three plants, seed purchased in 2011 from Park Seeds I always recognized this variety as a standard, but mine didn't grow over three feet tall and I got maybe two or three small fruits off the three plants. I am giving this variety another try next year with just one plant.
Yellow Pear: three plants, purchased seed in 2011 from Burpee. These guys are still producing, even after all the other tomatoes have given up from the drought. I have gotten so many beautiful little yellow pear shaped cherry tomatoes from these three plants that I think I am going to make them a staple Tomato Row. Growing three plants again next year.
Big Rainbow: three plants, purchased seed in 2011 from Park Seeds. I was not impressed with the color verigation on these tomatoes and they have suffered from pest and pestilence all year; mostly stink bugs sucking on them and blossom end rot. Making a note to add ground egg shells to the new bed this fall and again in the spring to try to prevent blossom end rot. The tomatoes that I did get off the three plants, though, did taste good and were nice on sandwiches, even though the fruits were small (2-3 inches in diameter) Very meaty, though, with few seeds. Trying again next year with one plant.
Gardeners Delight: three plants, purcahsed seed in 2011 from burpee. These cherries were very sweet and, while not as prolific as the yellow pear, they were still pretty good. Will try again next year with just one plant.
For 2012 the varieties lined up are: (two plants of each, purchasing seed from Seed Savers Exchange)
Brown Berry: A brownish red cherry tomato
Cherokee Purple: A purple and red bi-color big ol' mater that is popular in this part of the Tennessee valley. Figured i would give it a try.
Gold Medal: I am trying this variety in place of Big rainbow, hoping to find a red and yellow bicolor that pleases me.
Hungarian Heart: a big, pink, oxheart tomato that is good for processing and fresh eating.
Isis Candy Cherry: A yellow and red bicolor cherry tomato with stars on the blossom end; recommended by a good friend so I though to try it.
Moonglow: Bright orange tomatoes that have few seeds and keep well. Highly recommended by my good friend so I am going to try it.
Plum Lemon: I was torn between this variety and cream sausage, but decided to go with this one since the cream sausage can be difficult to determine if it is ripe yet.
Speckeled Roman: 5" long fruits that are red and orange striped. Good for processing and fresh eating, and looks unique.
Ukrainian Purple: I was toen between this variety and black plum, but the 4" length of the ukrainian purple sold me; with as many cherries as I will be growing, I need some bigger fruits.
Snowberry: purchased in 2011 by my good friend from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. A very light yellow, small and sweet cherry that is popular in europe but difficult to find in the U.S.
Thats that for tomatoes, now moving on to my pumpkemon pumpkins:
The plants started out wonderfully; they were pratically unphased by squash bugs and cucumber beetles and each plant had one little pumpkin on it. Then I became inconsistent with watering, my other squash plants died off, and the weeds started to take over and neglect killed my poor little pumpkemons. I think better bed preperation would have helped a lot in weed control. I am saving seed from all of these pumpkins pictured above that I let get over ripe on the vine. I have also saved seeds from my first loofa gourd, lemon cucumbers, and some wild morning glories that have tiny white flowers.
Pictured above is my current system for saving rain water. Just any solid vessel I can find to hold water set on the drip line of the BBQ shed next to the garden. Next year I intend to instal a length of gutter and a rainbarrel with a hose hook up to make life easier (and more efficient!)
My newest endeavor is raising laying chickens. I dont have any chickens yet, but I am doing lots of research and have begun the planning stage:
Using 5 gallon buckets, remesh, chicken wire, 2x4's and a tarp or two I think I can make a portable chicken hoop coop, styled both after a chicken tractor or ark and a hoop house for plants. The bottom will be open to the grass to let the birds more or less free range with a solid protection provided overhead and on the sides. The unit will be moved at least every day and passive solar heating techniques will be used. The tarps I have in mind are silver on one side and brown on the other. In the summer the silver, reflective side will be facing out and the unit will be kept in the shade. In the winter the dark, heat absorbing side will be facing out and the unit wil be placed in sunlight with the side with the door facing south to let as much light and heat in as possible. I messed up in my calculations of how much remesh would be needed, so the materials cost is off, but since I was going to be purchasing another 150ft roll of remesh anyways, I think it will all work out in the end.
Tomorrow we will start digging the bed that will be the permanent home to the blue berries and ground cherries on one end and various other rotated vegetables on the other. Progress updates will be made, and in the mean time Happy Gardening!
We went to the county fair today and has a great time; talked to a nice lady about her draft horses and watched some cart races. The rides were very fun until I rode the gravitron and started to feel sick. Randy got me what was probably the best funnel cake that I have had in my entire life.
The most interesting part of the fair was looking at the produce submitted by local farmers and gardeners. Next year I think we will submit some of our produce to the fair and see if we get any ribbons or anything of the sort. Also next year I would like to see the rabbit and goat shows.
I got the most epic straw hat today for $6.00. I think I will get a picture of me in it and make that my new profile picture.