Garden

War against weeds – Long overdue update

A campaign was finally launched to regain the ground lost in the garden due to 2 years of neglect. With all of the rain this spring, the garden was overrun by chest-high grasses, weeds and even a few trees consisting of locust, walnut, ailanthus and an elm of some sort. It was in such bad shape that the terraced garden beds could not be located!

Three hours with the weedwacker is what it took to be able to find the original garden beds. Then another 2 hours was spent pulling weeds by hand.

The invasion of one interesting weed seems to have been beneficial. It had a fleshy stem from which many spatulate leaves originated. It formed dense thickets that collapsed into dense mats. Shallow roots allowed single-handed removal of entire mats. The uprooted mass could be rolled into a self-containing bail resembling hay. Some sort of barb scratched the daylights out of skin and caused a mild reaction to the irritation that lasted a few hours. Water content of this plant seemed to be incredibly high as it felt very lush and fleshy, easily bruised but very heavy. They should compost beautifully!

On that note, the massive amount of uprooted plant matter was piled at the end of the garden beds. Or more accurately, the bricks/bails of the aforementioned weed were used in a weird sort of biological masonry. The two purposes of this exercise were providing a marker to locate the garden beds during the next battle as well as to burn out the invading weeds as decomposition produces heat and nitrogen.

Over 3 yards of mulch was used in the garden, to reclaim the boundary mulch bed that contains the grapes and brambles, and to supplement the vacant tree beds created 2 years ago. More grapes and Rubus brambles were added. Five pounds of buckwheat was spread in the garden beds as a biological weapon against re-encroachment of the weeds that were just cut or removed.

Many of those tree beds are no longer vacant!

Those new trees plus a surprising find after completing the cleanup efforts will be in the next posts.

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Garden

Absentee Gardening was more absent than I intended…

Apathy and laziness turned my plans of absentee gardening into a feral patch of land. Installing hops trellises was the last time the garden received any attention whatsoever. Thankfully the individual who mowed the small barn yard area had the foresight to just steer clear of the garden as he did not know the exact locations of the boundary plants. As a result, the grass in the walkways is knee to waist high. I made quite the mess for myself!

Luckily I was able to get some lines in the ground for hops. Otherwise the garden ran wild this year

Luckily I was able to get some lines in the ground for hops. Otherwise the garden ran wild this year

I could blame being busy but the undeniable truth is I just did not make the time to get out to the farm. To be fair to myself, I did make it out for the first scheduled maintenance to find my weedwacker unable to remain running. Blisters and a torso that was sore for a week speaks to my frustrations with having to start the machine so often. After taking it to an expert, I learned it was pretty much shot as too much air was mixing in due to non-replaceable parts wearing with over a decade of use. From then on, I just ignored the problem. Rest in Peace friend (despite requiring a constant battle of having to constantly change line only for it to get stop feeding when it melted together only to run out of fuel when everything was finally working properly).

The major negative points:

  • Pokeweed. Pokeweed everywhere.
  • Ailanthus. Tree of Heaven’s everywhere.
  • Walnuts. Yes…walnut seedlings in the garden. I love walnuts so I may just try and transplant them, but the production of allelopathic juglone in fruit and veggie gardens is concerning.
  • Asparagus are utterly thriving. However it is now apparent that a few of the plants are female despite the nurseries best effort to provide only males. With 47/50 crown survival rate, I’ll still so satisfied with the plants that I am happy to give a recommendation for Nourse Farms.
  • Cascade hops are thriving, centennial are decent, all other are “meh”. No training was done beyond leaving the hops to find the trellises so there are huge ground level mats of hops vegetation which inefficiently consumed large amounts of nitrogen and nutrients. Next year, ruthless pruning will be done.

However a few positives came of my inaction:

  • Where I originally thought invading grasses were knee high in the garden beds, I found most of those were plants from the aisles whose immense weight caused them to lay down over the beds preventing further weed invasions. Similarly, the wild mat of hops growth served the same role.
  • The vast amount of grass clippings created with my borrowed weed wacker gave me plenty of nitrogen and potassium-rich material to pile on the now-unrecognizable boundary bed. The hope here is that the clippings will burn away all the vegetation that has encroached into the mulch.
  • After mowing the aisles I found yet another healthy and happy volunteer pumpkin. I’ve planted exactly zero pumpkins and have had more than 80 successfully grow!
  • I thought a late frost killed my 1 year old mulberry trees, but they rebounded beautifully with nearly full leaf sets. Even the hazelnuts are bouncing back although with much less vigor.

Now that hunting season is back, I have more motivation to go to the farm and generate some fresh content.

As soon as I can get my thoughts written down and organized into a series of posts, I’ll share a hunting trip that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far!

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Garden

First Check on the Spring Garden

Wanting to let the sun heat up the farm and beehives, I planned to perform the desperately needed landscaping maintenance on the garden aisles. However the weedwacker would not continue running instead shutting off a after about 40 seconds of idling, or whenever I opened the throttle at all. The blisters on three fingers and the intense DOMS in my shoulder blade attest to how many times I got it started. Was it bad gas mixture that sat all winter? Was it the carburetor that a knowledgeable mechanic found to be on its last leg a few months ago? Either way, my desire to be independent from petroleum powered machinery was reiterated and the most time-consuming task on my to-do list was not attainable.

So I spent the time wandering and weeding the garden beds. The hops and asparagus were already sending shoots out of the ground while the buds of grapes and blueberries were beginning to swell.

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Emerging Asparagus

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Emerging, nitrogen hungry hops with symbiotic, nitrogen-providing clover companion planting

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Swelling grape buds

Notice the similarities between young hops and asparagus shoots? They can be harvested and prepared in the exact same manner. I will elaborate on this more in the future.

 

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Garden

Absentee Gardening

This year the plan is to set and forget. I am going to deeply mulch the garden beds and leave them be as I will only be able to check in once or twice a month. I’ve got a plan for produce self sufficiency that I will expand upon in the future.

Other than groundhogs, water will be the anticipated issue, does anyone have any suggestions for plants don’t require much in the way of thirst?

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Garden

Planting Garlic

I meant to plant this at the beginning of October. Out of all the factors that cause garlic failure, rot is the most responsible. As the farm received an extraordinary amount of rain around that time, garlic planting was postponed.

Then I got very busy as the slowdown of posts on this blog indicates. Garlic just fell off the to-do list until it was finally planted at the beginning of November.

Garlic basics

Individual garlic cloves are planted in the fall where they begin root growth. During the following spring, green top growth takes place yielding a full bulb in summer.

At this point, most garlic varieties will taste similar. Differences are developed as the bulbs cure. When the time comes, I will post on the harvest and curing process in greater depth.

Variety selection and pest deterring uses are covered in this previous post.

Planting process

Some recommend to pull the cloves apart from the bulb to be stored in a paper bag for 2 days before planting. I just yank them apart and put them straight into the ground. However, do your best to keep the papery covering around the cloves intact!

  1. Dig a small hole 2″ deep
  2. Place the garlic clove into the hole with the pointy side upward
  3. Refill the hole
  4. Repeat the steps with a 4″ spacing

I photographed the process thinking the immense size of my amazon-sourced Elephant garlic would help to demonstrate the process. Now I realize the single clove is the size of most entire bulbs of garlic and could introduce some confusion as well as change the needed planting dimensions.

Oh well, I’ll re-do this next year will appropriate sized bulbs.

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Garden, General Pasture

Agriculture caused global warming…7000 years ago

Shifting scientific consensus are fascinating trends to follow. Mounting Evidence Suggests Early Agriculture Staved Off Global Cooling published in the University of Virginia’s UVAToday demonstrates that exact type of change.

After analyzing ice core samples for carbon dioxide levels as well as pollen deposits, researchers have found that agriculture first started affecting global climate 7,000 years ago by preventing the expected cooling cycle.

Beginning 7,000 years ago, carbon dioxide levels began rising. The author attributes this to slash and burn techniques of clearing land for farming.

Beginning 5,000 years ago, methane levels started rising which coincides with large scale rice production. My assumption is the flooding of rice paddocks caused anaerobic decomposition conditions resulting in the release of large quantities of methane which is a greenhouse gas four times as potent as carbon dioxide. The author also states that domestication of ruminants could also be a factor or it could be a combination of both rice and ruminant husbandry practices.

After 12 years of debate, the consensus is shifting to agriculture being the main cause for staving off expected cooling trends.

Citation:

Samarrai, Fariss. “Mounting Evidence Suggests Early Agriculture Staved Off Global Cooling.” UVA Today. University of Virginia, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

 

I need to write a post on a relevant and absolutely eye-opening article published in Acres USA magazine about using soils to bank carbon. The interviewee is phD in soil sciences that explains the only way to build carbon (organic matter) permanently in soils is to keep plant roots pumping sugar into the soils to feed the symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi then leaving the soils undisturbed so the fragile humic globules are not destroyed. She asserts that all carbon from compost will eventually oxidize into carbon dioxide if plants do not constantly utilize those products of decomposition. Same goes for nitrogen in the form of off-gassing ammonia.

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Books, Garden

Changing tactics as new material is learned

Previously, spent wood ashes from making own lye were disposed of into the compost pile.

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After digging into the new book, The Humanure Handbook, no substance that significantly alters pH including liming agents (eg: agricultural lime, wood ashes; sulphur on the other end of the pH scale) should be added to the pile. Instead, these substance should be added directly to the soil and can be added at the same time as compost. The issue lies in how the pH affects the microbes responsible for the process of active composting. Thus I would see no problem with ashes being added to entirely mature compost once the biological processes have terminated.

In fact, the book presents a finding that liming agents as well as other soil amendments like acidifiers and fertilizers are more fully utilized and reach deeper into soils that have been dressed with compost compared to untreated soils. The author asserts that increased organic matter is like responsible for the observations.

Composting any organic scraps from paper to veggie peelings to bones (and yes, human manure but we can take steps one at a time!) is an easy way one can take to lessen their environmental impact and keep precious nutrients from be lost forever to the anaerobic landfill. That compost can help any plant from lawns to veggies to potted houseplants to landscaping plants and everything in between!

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