Dill is a good companion for asparagus. Maybe I shouldn’t have used “Fernleaf Dill”…
Tag Archives: organic
The comical downside to using animal feed as a soil amendment
Yesterday I mentioned my luck in finding a great soil amendment while searching for ways to maintain and increase the acidity of my blueberry beds,
Now its time for the catch.
I don’t know, maybe a sunflower?
Grains and the effect on the bed (third one down)
I’m also pretty sure there is a soybean plant too, but it could just be a weed.
Whether these were mixed into the pellets of cottonseed meal or just seeds that snuck in from the mill shared with other feed sources, these uninvited guest have taken up residence in my blueberry beds.
I’m not too inclined to do anything about it as: I have no corn this year to be contaminated by gmo pollen, I’ve never grown sunflowers or corn but plan to so they will be good learning experiences. I don’t have much of an excuse for the cereal grain. Hmmm….I’VE GOT IT: it will act as a nursery plant for the clover ground cover I sewed.
Lazy gardening at its finest! If these guys survive the ever lowering pH of that particular garden bed, they have earned too much of my respect to cull.
Plus something had been snipping off my newly planted blueberries so I am hoping these plants will appease the perpetrator. In fact, I have another uninvited guest in my garden that will serve the same purpose…
I may have unwittingly stumbled upon an incredible soil amendment
While searching for ways to maintain and increase the acidity of my blueberry beds, I stumbled across cottonseed meal. It both adds nitrogen and helps to acidify the soils as it breaks down. Great…Get two birds stoned at once!
My only option to procure cottonseed meal is from the local feed mill right down the road. However as animal feed, not soil amending, is its intended purpose, it comes pelletized. At $13/50 pound sack, I figured I would try it out.
I applied 200 pounds to my 80 square foot blueberry bed and mulched with shredded hardwood. After the first rain was where the magic happened!
The pellets exploded in volume changing from tiny compressed cylinders to small poofs of cotton. As I was preparing to irrigate as the week following the storm had no rain, I pulled back some mulch to check the moisture of the soil. To my surprise, the puffy cotton meal was still significantly moist.
As a result, I am contemplating either mixing cottonseed meal pellets into my mulch, or laying down a thin layer below wherever I mulch. At the very least I may add some around plants in the summer when rain becomes scarcer.
However there is one downside to this story that I will post tomorrow.
How to plant Asparagus Organically
Planting asparagus is labor intensive. Or at least it is in my garden beds built on half-century old rocky fill dirt. Additionally, since the holes cannot be refilled for a few weeks, the excess dirt also needs to be stored somewhere. When siting your garden bed, remember that asparagus have a life spanning decades.
I don’t know if I really need this disclaimer, but my farm will not be seeking organic certification due to the immense financial burden that doing so has become. There are also some philosophical reasons from which you will be spared…for now at least. But I hope you agree that my methods fit the bill!
Asparagus needs to be buried deep. Eight inches to be exact but in my case, I dug deeper to remove and rocks that might inhibit root growth. They also need a wide hole in which the crowns can be adequately spread. 12 inches to be exact.
So the procedure is as follows.
- also a digging iron in my case. Blasted rocks!
- Asparagus Crowns
- Nourse farms has by far the highest quality nursery stock that I have come across. However they sell them in 25 crown increments
- Organic soil amendments
- I minimize these typically. As the depth required at planting took these plants in to the heavy structured subsoil, I did use a handful of organic manure and humus (NPK- .5:.5:.5) per plant. It was $1.79 per 40 pound bag at walmart. 1 bag was enough for 25 plants.
- Eliminate existing weeds or turf to limit competition for nutrients.
- Dig the planting holes
- 8 inches deep, 12 inches in diameter, 12-18 inches apart. I efficiently used geometry (well, trigonometry) to my advantage!
- Amend the soil as needed
- I put half of a handful of organic manure and humus into the bottom of the hole in a cone shape to better accommodate the form of the crowns.
- Place the crown flat in the hole. Roots down, the crown where the roots come together and where the sprouts will originate up. The roots need to be spread out evenly covering the diameter of the hole
- Refill the hole ONLY until the crown is buried
- One half handful of the organic manure and hummus was placed on top of the crowns, then normal garden soil to finish burying the crown.
- Irrigate if needed
- When the sprouts are a few feet tall and have become ferns, refill half of the remaining hole.
- 100% of my plants had germinated within 10 days
- Refilling the hole will generally be 2 or 3 weeks after planting
- After another two weeks have passed, refill the holes completely
Here are some pictures of the process:
1. Building the garden bed in a manner that eliminates the turf. Done in the November before the spring planting season:
2 and 3. Planting holes dug. Note my soil amendment bag to the left of the frame, bundle of crowns up top.
4. Plant the crowns. I am so sorry and I realize this may be the step with the greatest potential for confusion. I failed to photograph it as it absolutely covered my hands in muck. So I am borrowing this image from this planting guide published by the University of Minnesota Extension. Place the crown into the hole so it is in this exact shape:
5. Bury the crown. This image shows the newly germinated shoots so it was taken 6 days after planting. However the depth to bury the crown is accurately depicted:
6. Water the plants, no image needed.
7. Refill the hole when the plant has achieved a few feet in height.
8. Have not completed this step yet, will update with a picture when I have!
Thats it! After two seasons of unharvested sprouts, you will enjoy 20-50 years of early spring, fresh, nutritious greens harvested before most other plants have come out of winter dormancy!
Pleasant Surprise and quiz time!
I have some uninvited (but appreciated) guests pop up in my garden beds. After some minimal sleuthing I figured out what occurred, but I would like to give you an opportunity to guess what is appearing unplanted in my garden beds!
Keep in mind, this is manure from another farm that I have not planted into this year (excepting red clover) as I thought the manure/wood shaving bedding had not had a chance to compost for a long enough time. Looks like I was wrong!
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.