Hi! This is a garden update! In my last post it was all just a dream on paper, the colored circles holding the place of the real greenery that is out there now! I really don’t think it could be going any better, considering this is my first time doing anything like this. I look outside and am amazed at what’s growing, and most of it like gangbusters. It started with kale at the beginning of June, then continued with collards, dill, sage, mustard greens, edible marigolds, calendula, nasturtiums, baby greens, some radishes, broccoli, two heads of cabbage (one big, one little). Now we are full on into pole beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes,summer squash, onions and zucchini (we call our GIGANTIC plants “the giant zucchini machine”). Coming on strong on are eggplants and one regular tomato plant (one didn’t do so well). Plugging along is my little polyculture, which I’ve struggled with a bit. Mainly because I don’t know the difference between radish tops, turnip tops, and certain baby greens. A lot of the radishes went to flower…not sure if it was because they didn’t have enough space? I got, like, 4. But I got tons of baby greens (lettuces and mustard greens) for salad for several weeks. The carrots and parsley are coming up now, as well as little parsnip leaves. I had one potato plant come up (I planted 4 seed potatoes) and just harvested three little potatoes. I’ll have to try again with those.
The border area around the yard has been planted with two current bushes (a red and a pink) a josta berry/gooseberry hybrid, profusion sorrel, strawberries and some echinacea. We’ve been seeding with white clover every time we weed, and there are patches of clover here and there coming in (clover “fixes nitrogen”, meaning it pulls nitrogen from the air into the soil). I may transplant my sea kale (perennial) into this area b/c right now it is in the annual garden. I’d also love to get some other perennial veggies in, like possibly turkish rocket and some Welsh onions. I was originally going to put in trellis and plant some hardy kiwi and ground nut as well, but I’m not sure I’m going to get to that this year. I do plan on putting in two to three honeyberry bushes and then two fruiting trees of some sort in the fall. I was originally going to put in apples, but I’m rethinking that. I may go with cherries or plums, or even two service berry tree shrubs. We’ll see!
The absolute best part of this process has been the tons of encouragement from neighbors and other residents about how it looks and what we’re doing. Once the terraces started taking shape (photos below!) we probably got anywhere from 5–10 compliments per day from people driving and walking by. People are stopping their cars to tell us how it amazing it looks, how wonderful it is that we are transforming the property, what a good job we’re doing. A friend of mine who has relatives on our street was over at their house, and a totally random person who was over was raving about what we were doing, saying “that’s the way to do it! they have the right idea!” without having any idea that they knew us. And then I posted a photo on Food is Free’s Facebook page, and a woman commented on the photo, saying she lives across the street and had been admiring the garden and all the work that has gone into it. She ended up coming over to help with sheet mulching, which was such a big help. We’ve hung out a few times since, and her mother invited me to our town’s garden club annual picnic! Making friends through gardening…that’s why gardens are so wonderful!
I have given away a ton of stuff, and have tried putting some kale out in in a cooler in front of my place with a FREE sign, but there were no takers. I think people just feel weird about taking something for free. I’m going to try again soon with zucc’s and squash.
It’s kind of been super awesome, and I never knew I could work this hard or be so committed to something. I love doing a lot of things, but this seems to be one of the only things I don’t have to sort of kick myself in the ass to do. I love painting, but I feel that way about painting. I have to sort of force myself. But not with gardening permaculture-style. I just want to get up and do it and learn about it. All the time. I hope I’m not becoming boring!
Below are some more photos, starting with the building of the terraces. I plotted out the contours of the yard and we built the terraces based on those contours. This is a key concept of permaculture earth-works. You want to work with the natural grade of your property to harvest water and slow it, sink it, and spread it. Terraces, paddies, ponds and swales are the best ways to do this. So we built terraces. And then we sheet mulched them by the following steps:
1. Amended the soil with green sand. Our soil test showed we were really good on minerals, but it can never hurt to put more minerals in your soil.
2. Laid down cardboard to smother grass and weeds.
3. Sprinkled a high nitrogen organic fertilizer on the cardboard (this attracts worms to eat through the cardboard faster).
4. Laid down old raked leaves. We maybe should have done this before the cardboard b/c of weeds in the leaves…oops.
5. Laid down 6 inches of chipped wood from a local tree service. It did not have green leaves in it as it was branches and trees from early spring, so we mixed a ton of the nitrogen fertilizer in with the wood chips. Wood chips can leach nitrogen from your soil as they break down, so you should add either an organic nitrogen fertilizer or grass or other green clippings with the chips.
6. Laid down 3 inches of compost for a seed bed.
7. Put more chips down after seeding and continue to weed and add chips throughout the season to keep weeds suppressed and keep the soil cool and covered.
Next we have some photos of stuff as it’s been growing, and some harvests.
I’ve been trying to get this update out for a couple weeks, so at the risk of it not happening until everything dies back at the end of fall, I’m going to wrap this up! I hope some of you have had some luck with gardens this year! Tell me what you’re growing in the comments section! Thanks and happy summer!