July 6, 2009

Garden Tour

In the foreground is the first proper compost pile of the season. It's currently hosting a hill of Atlantic Giant pumpkins. The pile in the background was assembled the day before this picture was taken and already you can see that it has shrunk significantly from the top of the chicken wire. At the depth of my soil thermometer it was 50 C.

This picture shows the wooden raised beds filled with soil as well as the strawbale beds. I've planted strawberries, winter squash, peppers, tomatoes, salad greens and herbs in strawbales for the first time this year. I did this because there are only a few inches of sandy topsoil on top of limestone bedrock throughout most of the garden area, and I blew my wood and topsoil budget last fall while building the 9 raised beds. So far, most things are doing well, but I'm reserving judgement until I successfully harvest everything.

A closer look at the wooden raised beds. They're simple 4 ft. by 8 ft. rectangles the height of two 2 x 6's. The standard size makes it easy to move my portable 4 x 8 ft. hoophouse onto any bed in the fall. The chicken coop is also designed to fit on top of a bed so I can enlist the chickens' help to clean and fertilize.

My Delicata squash plants appear to be doing well in their strawbale. There are lots of male and female blossoms, as well as a couple of small fruits already.

The cabbages are just about ready to eat. I had carefully covered them with row covers to keep out cabbage moths, but I wasn't diligent about making sure the edges were securely fixed as they grew, so moths did find their way underneath. I removed the row covers to allow birds to find the tiny caterpillars and I picked a few myself. So far, it appears that only the outside leaves have holes, but I will wash them carefully.

I planted two hills of summer squash from a seed packet promising a mix of varieties. So far it looks like patty pan, crookneck and plain old zucchini.

I have one bed devoted to garlic as well as a couple of smaller plantings. We've been eating garlic scapes for the first time this year and I have a new favourite vegetable. Perhaps this fall I'll plant more, as garlic is something I can never get enough of, and the Chinese garlic in the grocery store pales in comparison to the locally grown stuff.

My tomatoes got off to a bit of a slow start in the very cool basement and still aren't the great leafy jungle plants I'm used to growing. However, they are loaded with blossoms and small fruit as are the peppers. I expect that this may be because my home mixed organic fertilizer which I've been using with manure tea may be particularly slow release in the nitrogen department. I started fertilizing and watering the strawbales about a month before planting anything in them to start them breaking down.

I'm growing Penta potatoes in straw mulch right on the ground. I flattened last year's weeds, sprinkled some organic fertilizer and tossed the seed potatoes on top. I covered the whole thing with straw and have added straw as the plants have grown. This is another experiment inspired by a lack of topsoil and aversion to hard work. So far I can report no major bug problems, but no major potatoes yet either.

The portable chicken coop is currently in the garden, but the chickens spend their days wherever they want. I occasionally shoo them out of a bed or the garage, but they generally occupy themselves foraging in the grass, or resting amongst the trees.

The bare looking bed has recent sowings of beets, chard and carrots. I had Asian greens and spinach, planted in mid April, there throughout the spring.

I've started a few cabbage plants which are waiting for a spot to open up somewhere for planting out.

I started everbearing strawberries (Temptation) from seed and I'm pleased to see that I have a few blossoms. They seem to be doing fine in the strawbales and are not bothered at all by weeds there.

Apparently you can get good help these days.

Lisa the chicken keeps an eye on things. I think of her as the spokeschicken as she is certainly the boldest and most vocal of the gang. They're almost 10 weeks old, so we have a few weeks to go before we see any eggs. I'm a little concerned that they're getting so comfortable all over the property that they'll lay their eggs everywhere, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.


  1. Many GOOD ideas here; and I like the "good help" too!

  2. I love how you are growing some of your plants in straw bales. I would love to try that someday, especially with squash plants. Very nice garden and blog.:)

  3. Thank you! I didn't get the yield I was expecting from the squash. It was a cool and wet summer, though, so I can't say for certain is was due to the strawbales. I didn't get a lot of ripe tomatoes or peppers, but I got lots of green ones, and I think I was the only person I know of that didn't get blight on my tomatoes or potatoes last summer.

    This summer, because we moved in June, I didn't plant any strawbales. It takes a month or so to water/fertilize them so they're ready for planting in. Next year I will definitely do it again as I have the same soil challenges at the new place as I did at the old.

    This blog is inactive now, but I spend more time on Shack in the Middle, my general purpose blog.

    Thanks for dropping by!