Garden, GIS Planning

Perennial Species Highlight: Hops

Beer has been around since some guy in ancient Mesopotamia left grains or bread sitting in water around 10000 BCE. The first appearance in recorded history are in reliefs on Egyptian tombs or in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the first chemical evidence of barley beer is from before 3,000 BCE from jars in Iran. Bitter local herbs have always been used to counteract the sweetness the grain fermentation yields, but in modern times the added anti-microbial properties of hops have made them them almost the sole bittering agent used around the world. The craft beer boom of the last few decades have capitalized on the aromatic and flavor characteristics of some varieties as well.

Hops are vertical vine climbers and will be grown up the front of the barn. While enjoying full sun, they can get scorched with too much afternoon exposure so hopefully they will enjoy the trellises hung from the barn rafters 25 feet overhead while getting some afternoon shade from the structure. If they shade the open section of the barn, awesome! More than anything I just want them to grow UP and not outward on ground level. They will be contained by root barriers like these: 24″ x 100 ft.  or 18″ x 100 ft. Rhizome plantings are used to produce female-only plants as males plants pollinate the flowers causing them to seed which destroys their use in beer.

Same varieties are recommended to be planted no closer than 3 ft’ apart while separate varieties should be no closer than 5 feet apart (source). Soil ever allowed to dry completely will likely kill the plants growth for the year so heavy mulching and regular watering will be applied. I’d like to branch out and see which varieties grow well here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia using organic methods but here is my starting point.

Sticking with my garden theme of focusing on growing plants I will personally use (or help the plants I enjoy), I will grow mostly Cascades and Willamette hops, with smaller plantings of Magnum/Zeus (CTZ) or other High Alpha Acid Percentage (AA%) hop meant for bittering. I’m going to try out a rhizome of Sunbeam Golden hops as the leaves are beautifully yellow and they prefer partial shade. I’d love to grow Simone or Amarillo hops but their genetic information is patented and I could not sell them let alone obtain rhizomes. There are literally zero recommended companion plants as they would most likely get smothered by the spreading hops roots. I plant to toss in some marigolds, a sunflower or two and some potted basil to determine the best companions myself.

Using the growth requirements mentioned above, the mapping part is as simple as adding the data to each grid. Here is a peak into the GIS database which represents where to plant the individual rhizomes.

HopsTeaser

HopsTeaser2

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Garden, GIS Planning

Revisting Garden Planning With GIS

I’ve decided to follow many of the market gardening and urban micro farm literature in preparing my garden. Vertical space and efficient layout are key considerations in planning.

GIS Software mapped the garden beds at 4 feet wide with 2 foot aisles between beds.

bedsOutline

Using a GIS tool that someone published online the garden bed polygons provided the boundaries to create 1×1 ft. grids.  Some unpredictable results were produced from my minorly complex garden bed geometries. I removed all but the two largest polygons to re-run the tool, then copied, pasted and cut the results to replace the other beds.

BedGrids

This GIS tool applied my grid to the garden beds to cut the polygons into 1×1 ft. squares. I ran into the same issue so I deleted all by the western most beds. After running the tool again, I copied the resulting beds and pasted them with 2 foot aisle ways in between. Then I clipped all of the beds to the desired boundary of the garden while adding an additional piece along the main fence. The end result is below

BedsFinal

The point of doing this is that now I can link the individual 1×1 ft rectangles to any piece of data I want. Examples include: plant species, species variety, growth characteristics, water needs, sunlight recommendations, soil preference, composting/mulching/organic fertilizing needs, planting time in relation to frosts, harvest time and ANYTHING else that is even remotely useful. This will help in planning but also garden maintenance and in the future, logging location specific performance over time. With GIS software, I can analyze the latter against 3-D sunlight, elevation, soils, and climatic data when I get bored or want to knock the rust off of the skills of professions past.

 

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Garden

Sustainable, Efficient and Symbiotic Approach to Vegetable Selection (part 1)

My main goal beyond building soil quality is to be self-sufficient. Therefore I am going to focus on growing the staples in my diet and filling out the rest of the garden with vegetables that I enjoy. Maybe I will produce excess to sell but I am not planning on it in the first year. I would like to build an aquaponics system to further stretch waste products, have some fish protein on the menu and further promote soil fertility. Additionally, red wigler worms will be an integral part of composting and will provide winter protein for chickens as well as fish if the aquaponics plans are realized.

In terms of staples, sweet potatoes make up most of my carbohydrate intake so they will be the largest portion of my garden. According to the study “Effect of intercropping varieties of sweet potato and
okra in an ultisol of southeastern Nigeria”, Okra and sweet potato planted together potentially increases yields of both plants. I’m not much of an Okra eater, but they pickle well for preservation so I’m willing to give them a shot. I am going to space each plant out 18″ from its nearest neighbor of the same species which means each plant will alternate every 9 inches. Low vines of the sweet potatoes will act as a living mulch for the erect-growing okra.

Granted, 45 specimens of each plant shown below is more that I need. I will build the garden to its full extent as composting on the farm yields new soil. The plant locations were determined by the same “Construct Points” that I used in mapping fence posts.

Sweet Potato/Okra Symbiotic Planting

Okra_SweetPot_Plants

Next on my list is to get a perennial asparagus bed started. Asparagus will get the fresh veggies going early and are freezable post-harvest. For now I am planning to plant it on the rows closest to the barn where it can be left undisturbed year after year. Basil seems to drive away common pests of asparagus and also is an all around good companion plant in the garden. If basil attracts slugs or snails, I can capture them in a beer trap to give the chickens a treat!

Asparagus/Basil Symbiotic Planting

AsparagusBasilPlants

Thats it for tonight! Any recommendations for the rest of the garden?

Note: When beginning construction of the garden beds, I switched my plan by siting the beds parallel to the west boundary of the garden rather than the east. When I was on location It was easier to determine the best way to work with the gentle hill. I will update the maps soon!

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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!

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Bees

Siting the First Beehive

An unintended use for the LiDAR data has been made apparent. During my research for beginning beekeeping, I found the consensus among beekeepers was to locate hives where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. I have not found a scientific source for this so I won’t go into the justifications just yet.

Using the LiDAR data in GIS software, I can create hillshades that show where sun reaches the ground at various points in the day as well as aspect maps. Aspect is the direction the land faces. Using hillshades and verifying with aspect, I found a good spot for the first hive plus solid locations for other hives!

Morning Sun:

HillShadeMorning

Afternoon Sun:

HillshadeAfternoon

Aspect Map with 3D Trees

3dTreesAndAspect

Note that the trees will cast shadows to the NorthEast in the afternoons!

For the initial hive, I chose a small, SouthEast facing clearing in the woods. The sun exposure factors are correct and they will have peace from livestock, laboring farmer and equipment back in the forest. My plan is to grow a perennial, spring food plot in the clearing to give nursing Doe nutrition for their fawns. Clover and Chicory will be the most likely seed (and the only seed I will plant outside of gardens) so hopefully the bees can find enough food year-round with the forest, pasture, vegetable gardens and food plots!

Decision is made!

BeeHiveSite

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General Pasture

Calculating Fencing Costs

Full digitization of fence lines and posts in GIS software makes the basic calculations simple. GIS provides geometry of the digital features including fence length:

Total Length of Permanent Fencing

(In “Sum” field)

FenceLength

Also determined by GIS, I have 26 wooden corner posts and 162 steel line posts in the full phase fence plans. Breaking it down to Phase 1-only shows a need of 23 wood and 119 steel posts.

Those figures alone let me derive most of the other materials needed in simple excel formulas. For example, each wood post requires insulators for both the spark and ground wires, while the leaving the steel posts uninsulated to the ground wire acts to ground it! However I am still trying to research if it is desirable to only leave the steel posts uninsulated at specific intervals. I am also debating if I need to install a gate at every paddock. For now the last question is factored in as affirmative.

For Phase 1 Fencing:

Fence Calc P1

Now with 3 wires added for phase 2 plans, the calculations are as follows:

Fence Calc P2

Other than buying the animals themselves, this should be the biggest investment I have to make!

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Side Projects

Fun With Lidar and Local Lore: Sinkholes!

I decided to have a bit of fun to further research a bit of unsubstantiated lore regard the karst land I will be farming. The previous owner mentioned that local lore told that one of the many sinkholes on the farm opens to a 20′ x 10′ cavernous room.

Here is the raw LiDAR:

Raw Lidar

 

Not much is visible. So when I clip it down so the elevation range is smaller, feature become a bit more apparent:

Clipped LiDAR

However, creating a hillshade layer applies illuminated shadows to the hillshade relief makes the sinkholes pop!

Hillshade

I have no idea how to go about exploring the sinkholes even if I wanted to, but I had fun finding them digitally!

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