There is nothing quite like planning the garden to make you ready for spring to hurry up and get here! So this past week, as we watched December's snow melt and some warmer than average
temperatures tease us - Mary and I put the finishing touches on our 2013 garden plan.
Many old standby's remain in this year's plan. A healthy planting of Roma (24 ea.) and Celebrity (8 ea.) tomato plants that are the staples for our pasta and pizza sauce, salsa and ketchup that we make and can. Also back: hot banana, jalapeno, cayenne and Cajun Belle peppers that we use in our hot pepper grinds, powders, and of course Mary's famous hot pepper mustard.
New editions to the garden this year will be rows of head lettuce and cabbage, the multi-colored sweet mini peppers that are becoming popular, and a small row of popcorn.
We always leave a row empty for trying new plants we might find at a nursery or greenhouse. It seems like we are always coming home with at least one unplanned plant at every stop! It is, after all, how we stumbled upon the Cajun Belle a few years back, an amazing appetizer and salsa pepper. And last year it led to finding the Italian Roaster, a great tasting and grilling pepper. They both have become two of our recent favorites. If we can get our hands on a ghost pepper this year (one of the hottest peppers in the world) - we will definitely plant one - but then that just makes for some tense moments this fall when we have to try it!
As we do each year, we rotate the garden rows to use new areas for last year's plantings. Our peppers and tomatoes will move from the top rows down to the bottom section of raised beds, and our greens, potatoes and beans to the top. In addition to rotating the sections - we also flip the rows from where we planted them the last time they were in these beds - so it becomes 4 years before the same plant goes into the same space.
We will also be changing how we plant our cucumbers and zucchini this year - using the straw bale method. We will fill the two rows used to grow them with a line of straw bales. Then, we will dig out (3), 12" deep and 12" diameter circles in each bale and fill them with a rich topsoil/compost soil mix to plant the zucchini and cucumbers in. The plants can then grow above and off the ground, with the straw helping to hold their moisture in. The bales also provide a cascading support for the vines and hopefully, lots and lots of cucumbers and zucchini.
One new edition will be the installation of the 5' post and board fence all around the garden. Up until this year, we only had the fence along the front - more as a decoration than anything. But the deer have found our garden to their liking over the winter. Moreover, I think it might be the lush green cover crop of winter rye that they found under the snow that they love! Deer have never really bothered the garden too much in the past, but we figure fencing it will keep it that way!
When completed, we will also have the garden silo. It will hold tons of shredded leaves collected from last fall to use as mulch on garden plants and rows - and to add organic material to compost batches throughout the season. Along side of the silo will be the double compost bin and one of our 275 rain water collection tanks. The tank holds enough rainwater to water the garden for 20 days, and is filled from our rain collection tanks from the barn roof.
No matter what happens, one thing is for sure - we will have fun with the whole gardening process!
Happy gardening! - Jim and Mary
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Our Two Bin Compost Bin System that we made and use non-stop at the farm was made entirely from left over pallets. The system works great for us - we keep one compost bin for fresh and
"cooking" compost - the other bin holds our finished compost to use in our garden and landscape. You can read more about all of our recycle and re-purposed ideas that we have used at the farm by clinking the link to the rest of the post below.
Here are 3 simple plans to get you growing vegetables next year! A Salsa garden - A Salad
Lovers Garden , and an All Purpose Garden. All raised in a low maintenance way on a simple 10 x 15' plot of ground!Some Simple Tips:Protect your plants by planting after the recommended last frost date in your area - we usually get our plants in the ground here in Ohio around mid-May. Seed crops like lettuce, cilantro, peas, radishes, carrots, and onion sets can be seeded earlier– they both prefer the cool weather and can handle a light frost as they emerge. We usually will plant a second set of those crops in late summer / early fall - as many cool weather crops bolt and die off in the summer heat. You can click to enlarge the 3 pictures to view the plan.PLANTING:Plant spacing is critical for the overall success of whatever you plant. As a general rule of thumb - I like to plant my main plants (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc.) about 24" on center between each plant. That's enough room to easily work around the plants and to allow for good plant growth. When you plant - spread the topsoil aside and plant the small plants directly into the straw below. With a raised row bed - the straw and topsoil act as a great moisture retainer for the plant's roots, and allow them to spread and grow quickly. As the roots grow into the straw - they will go even deeper in to the loosened soil and give great results! As we plant into the hole - we will fill in with a little more topsoil, or even better, compost at the bottom of the hole, mixed into the straw layer. Then fill in around the entire plant with the topsoil and gently press the soil - making sure to just easily depress the soil around the surface soil so the plant is in place. One thing that Mary and I do at this point before we mulch the plant - is to create a little 1/2 to 1" deep circular depression about 3 to 4" around the plant. Why? it makes it easier when you are watering to allow the water to soak in around the root zone and not run off. Once that is done - we will mulch with about an 1" of compost covering up right around the 3 to 4" depression. If you do not have compost - you can certainly use shredded leaves or straw - but use something to keep the soil covered around the plant.
For planting seed portions of the bed - such as lettuce, carrots, peas, etc. - plant right into the topsoil that is above the straw. Just use your finger or a hoe to make a small depression in the topsoil and spread the seeds according to the package, and cover. I do not mulch my seed crops, allowing for them to germinate and come up through the soil. Once our peas and green beans come up - I will then put down a 1/2" layer of mulch around the plants.
Make sure you gently break apart the root ball when you pull a plant out of your container. It allows the roots to expand more rapidly into the new soil. Don't break it completely apart - just gently loosen the tightly wound root ball to give it room to expand. One final tip - it's very important to provide some support for your tomatoes and for your peppers as they grow to keep them off the ground. Whether you stake, use a cage, or use a combination like we do – (Stake-A-Cage) get them supported early!
Once you have your garden planted - now comes the time to mulch and water.
Mulch Your Plants
It doesn't matter if it's a pepper, cucumber, or tomato plant. Applying a healthy amount of mulch around the base of the plant really helps. It helps the soil temperature around the plant stay regulated and helps keep out weeds that compete for nutrients. It also helps hold in the water to the plants when it rains or when watering.
What to use as a mulch? Old grass clippings, shredded leaves, finished compost or straw work great. We have used all at one point or another - but have really settled on the compost. Not only is it great at building your soil up and retaining moisture - it also serves as a bit of organic fertilizer to the plants every time it rains leaching the composted nutrients into the soil and into your plants. If you are new to gardening and don't yet have large amounts of compost on hand - don't worry - the straw, grass or shredded leaves work great as a mulch.
MULCHING YOUR WALKING ROWS
Make sure you apply a healthy 3" to 6" of straw or shredded leaves to your walking rows. It keeps the weeds suppressed - and by covering the bare dirt - you are preventing blowing weed seeds from getting a start in your garden. This is a huge time saver and keeps weeding and the time you spend in your garden to a minimum. When we do get a few weeds starting to pop through - we will run the weed-eater through the walking rows and cut them to the ground - then apply another heavy layer of mulch. We do this about once a month through the season.
Below you will find our 3 simple plans for some 10' x 15' garden layouts. They can be used as is - or-make them your own and substitute plants that you want to grow and eat. Next week, in the final segment called "Keeping The Beds Productive" - we will cover the final topics in raised row beds: Amending your soil, rotating your crops, and planting cover crops over the winter to build super soil.If you would like to follow along with the series and receive our DIY and Gardening Post each week – be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the right column.- Jim and Mary
There are few things that can make your garden more successful than compost. Compost, or "Black Gold" as it is so often called, improves soil vitality and structure – and significantly
bolsters your plants health and yields. The best part of all – you can use your own coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and leaves to make great compost right in your own backyard.
The market place is flooded with all kinds and type of compost making systems – from wood and plastic bins, to compost tumblers, barrels and buckets. Although they all work – they also can be expensive to buy. So here's a way to use a few a pallets and 2 x 4's to make a great looking double bin system for under $15.
The double-bin pallet composter is a simple structure that looks and works great! We built our 2 bin system from 3 free pallets and (5) 2 x 4 x 10' boards in just a couple of hours.
Here's how we did it:
3 or 4 pallets
5 ea. 2 x 4 x 10' lumber - cut into the following lengths : 2 ea. @ 72" long, 9 ea. @ 27" long, 6 ea. @ 30"
2 ½" screws or nails – approx. 40
1.5" screws or nails – approx. 50
Tools Needed : Reciprocating saw, screw gun, tape measure and hand saw or circular saw.
Building The Frame:
You will want to try to find 3 pallets that are in decent shape and similar length and size. First - disassemble the pallets to end up with about 30 or so slat boards. It's an easy process and can be accomplished in minutes with a reciprocating saw.
(Click Here to view our post : How to Easily Disassemble A Pallet In Minutes)
The frame is a simple assembly of 2 x 4 rectangles and squares. A 6' front rectangular frame, and 3 smaller square frames attached to it to make up the 2 bins. You will want to use regular framing 2 x 4's and not treated lumber. We get a lot of questions about using treated lumber – but we use standard everyday framing lumber. I don't like to use treated because we are making compost to put on our garden plants - and I don't like the thought of any chemical byproducts leaching into the soil and compost.
The front frame is made from 2 pieces of 2 x 4 that are each 72" long. They will lay flat and make up the top and bottom of the frame. In between we add three sandwich boards that are each 28" long. Simply screw the top board into the three sandwich boards on the top and bottom. When all assembled - your front frame will be 6' wide x 30" high.
Next – we need to make the three square frames for the two ends and the middle section. Once again – it is simple assembly. Using two (2) 30" boards for the top and bottom and two more 27" boards on each end. Assemble all 3 squares, and your ready to put your quick 2 bin compost bin together.
Simply assemble each of the 3 squares to the front frame with a few screws. One on the end of each side, and one directly in the middle attached to the middle support of the front frame. The flat 2 x 4's should be centered right on the middle of the vertical front board.
Now you have your compost bin carcass. The rest is easy. Starting on the front side - lay out your pallet boards all along the front – leaving about ¼" to a ½" space between boards. I lay all of mine out first so that I can get it to work out perfectly even on the ends. You want the spacing so that your compost can get air flow.
Once that is done – I lay out the boards for each side using the same method - and finish by putting up a double set of board in the middle section to separate the two bins. With a two bin system - you can make twice as much compost. Or, even better, you can have one side to store finished compost - and the other to keep "cooking" the next batch!
When finished - you can leave the compost bin completely natural and unstained and it will weather to an "old barn wood" grey.
To make it even more pleasing to the eye – you can paint or stain the outside of your pallet boards. We never stain anything inside – once again to not allow any paint or chemicals near the pile.
There you have it – an inexpensive yet beautiful 2 bin compost system that you can use for years and years – all for under $15!
If you would like to follow along through the coming year and receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Posts – be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the right column of our blog. - Jim and Mary
A few years ago I bought a new dishwasher. It was very exciting. It is super quiet, which is really important to me. I do so much cooking that there are often two loads a day. After dinner we like to watch a little TV. With my old washer I used to have to remember to start the dishwasher as we went to bed. Otherwise it was so loud we couldn't hear the TV. Sometimes I forgot and would wake up to a dishwasher full of dirty dishes.
My kids tease me about my sense of smell. They say I am hypersensitive in this area. I will tell them to take out the trash because it reeks and they tell me they don't smell anything!
Ditto for cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, rinsing out dishrags. As I type this I am stringing things together and getting the feeling they have a selective sense of smell to go with selective hearing. Teenagers! Have you ever had a phantom smell in your house? Come on, admit it, I won't tell. You know what I mean. It is when you can smell something is funky somewhere in the house, but you can't find it. That is when you need me for a friend. I can find it.
I absolutely love this idea. Your children are growing up and it may be hard for you to throw their old bed. Rather than stowing it away in an attic, because you just can't part with
it, re-purpose it into a fabulous bench! This can be done with any size bed, but is probably easiest with a twin. Use the headboard as the back of your bench and then cut the footboard to make the both sides. Build the bench part in and . . . voila! A great re-purposed heirloom.
We are starting to get excited about our garden. Well, my husband was getting excited before Christmas even got here. Since I do the canning...the winter break is enjoyable for me. My question to you is this: Do any of you have trouble getting a good crop of potatoes? We have tried a couple of different methods of growing...but they just don't do very good. We have the normal garden that seems to take turns producing a bumber crop of various things from year to year. The potatoes just
don't put on much of a show though. Any pointers? #gardening