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We had the chance to take a break from it all by going to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It was a nice trip, but the sad part is that we came back to very dry conditions. We also came back to a garden that was full of weeds. The good news is that we were able to tackle the weeds fairly quickly using our favorite tools: the wheel cultivator and the stirrup hoe. Taking advantage of the dry conditions of the soil, I made several passed with the cultivator. This helped remove most of the small weeds and loosen the soil around the larger weeds. I then passed the stirrup hoe through the loosened soil. This loosened up the remainder of the larger weeds. I then raked the weeds to the edge of the garden, so that they could be placed into the compost pile.
I tried again to use the collinnear hoe, but I must be doing something wrong with that. I can’t seem to get mine to work well.
The one positive is that the weeds will be turned into compost later on. This compost will turn a negative into a positive. The weeds were stealing nutrients from the soil and the desired plants, but the weeds will return those nutrients back to the garden in the form of the compost. I actually tried something new with the weeds. I placed the big weeds into the cold frame and I will keep it closed. This way, the weeds will cook faster. It is just a hunch, but I will try it and see what happens.
I also took time to plant some pumpkin seeds and some popcorn. The popcorn is a new crop for us this year. I used a heirloom open pollinated variety. This way we can save the seeds for next year. I have been trying to use open-pollinated and heirloom varieties more and more. I figure that I can save seeds for the future, therefore saving a bit of money down the road (assuming that the varieties are as good as the hybrids that we have used in the past.) I planted most heirloom varieties as either new crops or as backup crops to ones that we have tended to rely upon in the past.
I often like to link to related articles as I go along. Hopefully these provide you with more information than what I can touch upon in any particular post. I also figure that this is a way to help out other bloggers that post good content. I follow farm on a regular basis.
I am not sure about how to start new fruit trees. Does that seem like an odd way to start a blog on new fruit trees, or what? Hang in there and let me explain……I have never started new fruit trees (unless the 30 foot tall tree that grew from the abandoned peach pit counts). In my quest to get inspiration for plate, I stumbled a cross a topic in my daily Bible devotion
“When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden, it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.”Did you catch that recipe? The first three years the fruit is forbidden. I take this to mean….remove the fruit and the fruit buds. This allows the tree to focus its nutrients toward strengthening itself by building better roots, a stronger trunk, and to strengthen its generalized health.
I would like to get some new dwarf fruit trees this year. I will try to recall the principles from above as I try to get our fruit trees off to a solid start. I am interested to look and see if there is actually a recommendation that follows the outline above.
Using a cold frame is relatively simple. The basics involve lifting the transparent cover up a few inches on day that are sunny and warm. A good temperature guideline is 55 degrees. If left shut on a 70 degree day, plants will get overheated and die. The lid should also be kept shut on cold days and mild days that lack sunlight.
A few things that I have learned about cold framing. First of all, cold frames come in many shapes and sizes. A frame can be made from wood, cinder block, or even be a floating row cover elevated with hoops. I even visited a homestead that used white plastic 55 gallon drums that were cut in half length wise. Whatever the material, size or shape; a cold frame must have the ability to seal well and to allow light in through the top. The clear covering can be any material, including plexiglass, plastic and glass
Second, I learned that something should be used to prevent the lid from flying open during heavy winds. I have not decided what to use to stop this with mine as of yet. Ideas that I am pondering are baling twine, a notched propping stick, or a chain. As you may have noted in a previous post, our clod frame blew open in some high wind and the glass shattered all over the ground.
It is vital to place the cold frame where it is convenient and easy to see. That way it will be ever present within your mind. I have lost two tomato plants because I did not open the cold frame early enough in the day. I would suggest that the cold frame go near to the garden or close to the house. Ours will get moved down near the house, where it will be seen every day and night in the fall.
A weed barrier should be placed underneath the plants, otherwise weeds will be encouraged to grow along with the desired plants. The plants can be grown directly in the soil. They can also be grown in containers. (If transplanting is desired later on, containers would be the best way to grow the plants.)
The only other key is to water the plants regularly. Stressed plants do not grow well. The plants tend to dry out if they are in containers, so monitoring is key. If in containers, the plants likely will need to be transplanted to larger containers as they grow to a larger size. Root bound plants also tend to become stressed.
Hopefully this is helpful. There will be more tips and tricks added as we discover more information through research and trial and error.
Deciding which seed to plant can be a daunting task, and the decision is often more complicated than simply trying to pick which beautiful tomatoes to grow. Among the more important decisions every gardener makes is the choice between open-pollinated, hybrid, and heirloom seed varieties. Each of these seed types has something to offer, depending on the gardener’s needs, interests, and values.
How should I select a garden?
There are many things to consider when choosing a garden site. One consideration is simply where to place the garden. The answer will vary according to your situation and what you desire to grow. I have seen people who have incorporated gardens into their landscaping. I call this edible landscaping. Edible plants can be incorporated in among many traditional flowers and bushes. Thia interplanting allows for pest control and confusion.
So on to the more traditional gardening types.
One method that I like is the raised bed method of gardening. Raised beds can vary in length to suit a particular situation. They tend to be three or four feet wide, which allows for weeding from either side. A person can weed to the middle of the raised bed from either side. An advantage of raised bed gardening is drainage. Another advantage is that they have a small footprint. This means that they can be tucked into small spaces and catered to fit small areas that are available. Still another advantage is that they have very deep, loose soil. This allows for deep root penetration. In the end, that plants may be healthier as a result of having more extensive root systems.
I modified this system and made what I refer to as strip gardens. I took 50 foot long strips of sod and dug them up in four foot wide sections. I then began to pile on the compost and other soil amendments. This gave me a raised bed type garden. I was able to add soil as I went. In this system, I was able to eliminate the walking paths that serve to compact the soil near the plants. I eventually elected to fill in the areas in between the strips.
Finally, on to a more traditional garden. Our garden is about 60 feet long by 50 feet wide. We elected to go this route as we are now able to plant rows of corn and bean in whatever configuration that we choose. We lay out our corn in rows separated by 30 inches. The beans go in rows that are 24 inches apart. We are then able to grow cucumbers, zucchini, and other plants where we want them.
The ideal site should be sunny (at least 8 hours of sunlight per day). It is ideal for it to be flat or sloped slightly to the south. In our area, it is best to have a wind break to the west and north. This prevents the corn from blowing over later in the summer when the big storms tend to roll in. We have our small orchard and berry patch to the West, which seems to keep the corn upright.
I recommend having apple trees. Apple trees may be a bit hard to take care of, but they are such a good producer of fruit. I recommend dwarf apple trees, as the traditional varieties get very tall. We have some trees that are 15 feet tall and very difficult to manage. The dwarf varieties are more manangeable.
Blueberries: We love blueberries. They are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. One key with blueberries is to hve two varieties. Two varieties are necessary because one variety will produce fruit. There are several types of plants, separated into categories in different ways. The first category is high bush versus low bush. The other way to categorize the plants are by when they produce their fruit. One major problem with blueberries is that birds love them. Many people chose to cover their blueberry bushes with nets in order to keep the birds from eating all of the fruit. Another thing to note with blueberry bushes is that they require a low pH. This means no lime applications. One of the things that I know of to produce a low pH are pine needles.
Grapes: We have concord grapes, which we use to produce a lot of homemade grape jelly. The main thing with grapes is pruning them. I suggest looking up some articles on how to prune grape vines. Other uses for grapes are as an edible food and to make wine.
Grapes come in many varieties. White grapes and red grapes are commonly found in the produce section of many grocery stores.
Strawberries: There are two main types of strawberries that I am aware of. The first are Alpine strawberries. These plants do not produce runners. There is a second type that produces runners. The ones that produce runners are very prolific, but can get out of hand and out of their designated area. I suppose that there is another subcategory. There are June bearing and Ever bearing. The June bearing produce berries basically once a year. They will tend to produce a robust crop over two to four weeks. The Ever bearing types will produce off and on throughout the year.
Raspberries: These seem to be easy to grow. We inherited a patch and it seems to do well on its own. We have berries that produce fruit twice a year. In the Spring, new canes grow up. There are cans left from the previous year as well. The old canes in the Spring will produce a final crop that season and then die off. The new shoots will produce fruit in the fall and then again the following Spring. There are thornless varieties that have been produced as well.
Other: Peach trees are often found on homesteads. We are currently trying a cherry tree and a plum tree.
In addition to these plants and the ones mentioned in the first article on plant selection, there are nut trees. Walnut trees are popular in our area.
So now we move on to the selection of plants. Again this may be higher on the list, but we will discuss it here. The reality is that all of these parts are intertwined.
Selection of plants can be broken down into several categories. First we need to consider what the animals will be eating. So one consideration is the pasture, the other consideration is the crops. Second we will look at the garden plants. Third, and finally, comes the orchard and berry plants.
Plants for the animals.
As can be noted from examining the blog here, we are fans of grazing systems. This allows for less equipment and generally more self-sufficiency. We prefer rotational grazing, but I digress. So what plants do you want to have in your pastures? Pasture should include one or two types of grasses. Typical types include Fescue, Ryegrass,Timothy, Orchard Grass and Kentucky Bluegrass. Other plants that are typically included in pasture are red clover, ladino clover, white clover and alfalfa. It is recommended to have a variety of these plants within a given pasture to provide varying amounts of protein, vitamins, and mineral. Certain plants also thrive at different times of the year. By varying the types of plants within a given pasture, the grazing season can be extended both earlier and later in the year than normal.
Perhaps crops are what many people think of when they think of plants on the farm. Crops are used for many different purposes, the main one of which is food for the animals. Field corn is a crop that is vital to many farming operations. It is very versatile and can be fed to numerous species of animals. Corn has traditionally been a very inexpensive feed source, though that had changed some with the subsidization of the ethanol fuel industry. Soy beans are another crop that is grown in abundance in the United States. It is used as a protein source and also as a way to fix nitrogen into the soil when used in a crop rotation. Other crops that are commonly grown are Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oats, Spelts and many others. Some of these, such as oats and wheat, can be used for two purposes. The grain is harvested for use as a feed and the stalks can be harvested for use as straw (animal bedding).
The vegetable garden is one of the main focal points of a homestead. A garden serves to provide fresh food and also bountiful harvests that can be stored for winter usage. The plants that can be grown in a garden are limitless. We will discuss a few here, but the scope of this particular series does not permit for an in depth discussion.
Sweet Corn is the starting point, as it is one of our favorites. The only downside that I see with Sweet corn is the space required to grow it, though the space can be maximized by using interplanting (we plant melons within the rows of corn, which allows the melons to spread out. Both melons and corn take a lot of space, but by growing them in the same row, we can capitalize on some of that space.) Beans are another key crop. We also raise green beans (Green Jade works well as a variety). There are many types of beans, several of which can be dried.
Other vegetables that are traditional garden staples include lettuces, spinach, onions, beets, cucumber, zucchini, squash and many others. Heirloom vegetables are those that are passed from generation to generation. They serve to preserve the plant genetic variability. Heirloom plants (as long as they do not get cross pollinated) will produce seed that it is true, meaning that the seed can be saved and replanted. Once replanted, the seed will produce plants that are the same variety as the mother plant. Hybrids plants do not produce seeds that will grow predictable plant offspring. Oftentimes the seed is not viable. At other times , the seed will produce on of the parent varieties that was used to make the hybrid plant. An example of this is Incredible Sweet Corn. This is our favorite sweet corn. Saving the seeds and replanting them will usually produce a dent corn or field corn that was used in the cross pollination to get the incredible hybrid.
We utilize several varieties of heirloom vegetables so that we can save the seeds if desired. A few examples are blue hopi corn (Below)
and golden bantam corn. Heirloom seeds can be purchased from several suppliers. We usually make our selection from Fedco Seeds.
Orchards and Berries
The third and final category for homesteading plants includes Orchards fruits and berries. This category will be finished in another post due to space and time constraints.
Well I guess it has been too much fun enjoying the 80 degree days. It was probably time for a correction, but did we have to correct to 30 degrees. I may have to fire up the wood burner. I am thankful for our cold frame. It is holding up well and the plants look healthy and vibrant.
I guess we will hunker down for the night- thankful for a warm, safe place to live.
Quick update on the cold frame project. Less than 24 hours into the project, we had a severe wind advisory. We went to close the cold frame, which had been propped open earlier in the day and this is what we found:
So tonight was spent picking up broken glass and placing new windows on the cold frame. Note for this time: add a chain or piece of baling twine to prevent the window lid from opening too far in the event of a wind gust.