Garden

Sustainable, Efficient and Symbiotic Approach to Vegetable Selection (part 2)

I won’t bore you with justification every single companion I am selecting, but I will provide a list and highlight some of the major players. Wikipedia has the most extensive and well-cited collection of companion plant knowledge and is the tool for formulation of my decisions.

Trapping Plants are species used to lure potential pests away from the important crops.

Sunflower: In addition to being grown to provide winter feed for the chickens, Sunflowers have been used in North America far before europeans arrived to increase the yield of maize. They have been proven to act as sinks for both pest insects and their predators when intercropped with peppers (Source 1, Source 2). Peppers, cucumber, tomato, corn and soybean all benefit from sunflower. I am adamantly against corn and soybean monoculture, but both have potential to be grown in my garden for winter chicken feed.

Marigold: helps just about any garden vegetable imaginable. The wikipedia entry lists that marigold especially help tomatoes and peppers, cucurbits (cucumbers, gourds, squash), potatoes, roses, alliums, brassicas, zucchini while deterring or trapping many pest bugs and potentially suppressing perennial weed species. The studies listed are vast and needless to say, these will be going into any open crevasse in the garden.

Nasturtium: another powerhouse of companionship for garden vegetables and one of the best for encouraging predatory insects. The list of bugs that this plant repels is huge and it will be planted with all squash with consideration given to other plants.

 

Three Sisters Technique is a traditional method developed by the native americans over a period of 5,000-6,500 years. Corn is planted first to provide a structure for climbing beans. Squash or pumpkin is planted as well to shade the ground and provide a living mulch. The corn will be used as a winter feed for chickens.

 

Other general companions:

Broccoli and spinach will be companion planted in the early and late season as they are cold hardy. Phacelia flowers will be planted as well if aphids prove to be an issue for the spinach.

Peas to climb on tomato cages will be physical companions. Further companionship between tomatoes and asparagus or peppers will be considered.

Campeche squash for winter chicken feed and spaghetti squashes for human consumption. In addition to experiments in the three sisters method, they will be grown with Marigold Flower for pest repelling.

Onions and carrots are mutually beneficial for cold hardy planting in late season.

Standard
Cattle, Forestry

Carbon Medium for Nutrient Absorbtion in Compost while Wintering Animals

Follow up to Wintering Animals = Backbone of Soil Building

Capturing all of the nutrient rich excrement from the wintering of animals is going to require a huge amount of carbon. Skills I have gained while studying forestry and the associated graduate projects I assisted will be called upon in order to accumulate the carbon biomass I will require. I’ll write a well-cited post on my sustainable forest management plans once I have finished collecting and amassing my research. The gists of my strategy will be to provide the canopy disturbance necessary to have a healthy, sustainable forest.

Good points were made in Joel Salatin’s book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal. Starting around page 182, Salatin asserts that soil is built and carbon sequestered more efficiently via grasslands opposed to forests. Trees grow very slowly, then die. As they decompose, much of that sequestered carbon is released right back to the atmosphere. Grasslands grow, die and decompose every year; multiple times a year if serviced by grazers and herbivores. However the sequestered carbon in the grasslands us more fully absorbed by the soil and stored in the animal tissue of grazers. Salatin’s assertions seem to be backed up by this study I found.

To minimize the negative impact of forest land on the atmosphere, I plan to eventually harvest the dead, diseased, crooked or otherwise undesirable trees from the forest to make room for subsequent generations of oak and hopefully someday soon, American Chestnut. Despite my minor in forestry, I have a lot more to learn about sustainable harvesting. Fortunately, there are many pioneer trees in the pasture that need removed, and the unmaintained forest has many dead trees that should sustain me for at least a year while I broaden my forestry knowledge.

I will likely invest in a wood chipper to process the farms own biomass to provide the winter bedding. I may also seek out locally discarded christmas trees, shredded paper/cardboard, peanut hulls (suggested by Mr. Salatin in our correspondence) or any other source of easily attainable carbon material.

Note: If you plan to store wood chips on your farm, please be sure to do so in a manner that accounts for the heat generated as they naturally decompose. Limit the height of piles to prevent a fire hazard in your structures and to ensure that the chips dry fully.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Back in the Middle East, Back to Posting

I have returned for a few more weeks on my current work project. I figured that there was not much I could do in December on the farmstead so I might as well earn enough to get some more animals, gutters, etc debt-free.

Over thanksgiving break I was able to top up my freezer by harvesting a whitetail off of the farm land. Now protein needs are taken care of for 6-7 months while I don’t have an income. The liver will serve as a multivitamin to supplement my diet!

In between the morning and evening hunts, I started laying out the vegetable garden. I used some nice scrap lumber milled right on the farm to level the beds. I covered the turf I want to kill with wet cardboard then backfilled with mature horse manure/bedding compost sourced from a farm I worked on all through high school and college. This is a shortcut I will not take in the future as my goal is to not import any biomass. But the barren soil needed help if I want to produce produce (how is that for confusing english wording?). Unfortunately, the snowstorm beat me to taking pictures! Vegetable garden siting and planning will be in a series of future posts.

Interestingly, I found myself in a totally different mindset that I have ever been while hunting. Due to my forestry minor, I kept mentally noting diseases, dead or otherwise harvestable trees. I’ll touch more on this in a future posts regarding the goals to build soil.

There are lots of stands of Persimmon Trees (Diospyros virginiana). Additionally, there is one massive lone-wolf white oak tree on the property that has a crown with of almost 100 feet and is still abundantly producing fruit. Both tree species are historically excellent feed stocks for pigs and turkeys. I will rearrange my paddock mapping to account for this.

For now, back to this:

PANO_20141009_211354

Standard
Garden

Siting Vegtable Garden

To get the most from the relatively small farm, a greenhouse will be built for season extension and to winter the laying chickens while they fertilize the garden (more on this later!). Ideally this will be in a South or Southeast facing location in the barnyard. Unfortunately, the only south facing slop in my pasture is covered in trees. Good news for the wild deer and my goats, but bad news for veggies. So I will work with what I have!

Aspect Map of Barnyard Created from LiDAR Data

AspectGarden

The east facing exterior of the barn looks like a great location. The downward slope to the road in the pasture provides a good location to build a raised bed that will slowly accumulate soil as the farm builds it.

Garden Location:

gardenLocation

The next step is to plan the rows. Avoiding soil compaction when tending to the plants limits the row width to four feet. Incorporating the 2-foot aisles for foot traffic resulted in parallel lines spaced 6 feet apart. The result is shown below

Garden Rows Mapped

GardenRows

Now to plan the vegtables themselves!

Standard