Author Topic: The Endurance garden 2011  (Read 27186 times)

endurance

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The Endurance garden 2011
« on: July 06, 2011, 08:59:12 AM »
This is my summary to date, from first shovel turns early in the season to where the garden is today.  We bought the new 'stead in June 2010, didn't move in until August 2010, and had to get the home ready for winter, the dogs, the horses, and being viable living space before the snow flew.  So it wasn't until March before I started poking a shovel into the rocks and trying to create something like a garden and really, the last bed went in in early June, so things are running a bit behind where I'd like to be.  In any case, here's the summary:

Elevation: 7,500'
Precipitation:  17-20" per year, mostly coming in the form of winter snows.
Soils:  0-6" sandy loam with .5-4" rock, 7-13" large fractured rock and decomposing granite with some pockets of loam.  Slightly acidic to highly acidic relative to distance from pine trees.  Average is about pH 6-6.5.
Growing season:  May 21-September 10 are average first and last frost days with wide variations from year to year.
Topography:  South-southwest facing 8-10% grade.

So it started with trying to keep the dogs from digging under the fence, which turned into a mini-swale project with some woodchips for a micro-hugelkultur bed.  Unfortunately, I hadn't thought about the dogs tearing the area up, so I ended up having to plant on the other side of the fence.



That gave me somewhere to plant my peas and beans along the fenceline.

After that project, it was time to get really serious.  So I hired a friend with a Bobcat for the day to help me take down about three big ponderosa pines and put in a swale.

Trees had to be pulled down with the bobcat while being cut to prevent damaging the fence, trees we wanted to keep, or powerlines.  Thank gawd he's more monkey than man!


Let the swale building begin!


He's down to bedrock and I have 14-18" of soil to work with.


A couple yards of compost and now we're cookin' with gas!


As I dug down, I sorted out the dirt from the rock, used the bigger rock for the wall and just picked out the rest so I had some relatively rock-free soil to work with.  It became obvious that I wasn't going to have enough soil to put in a garden this year, so I started pricing top soil and garden mix.  I found garden mix (60% loam top soil/40% compost (mostly aged steer manure)) for $35/yard at a garden center near the house and started bringing in the good stuff.


But not before putting in 12-18" of logs.  I started with some left over ash, cottonwood, and elm that someone gave us, but ended up just scavenging for decaying pine on the property.  At first I used 6" of compost over it, but once the horses arrived on the property May 15th, I had all the manure I could handle and went about 12" deep before putting 12" of top soil on top of that.


Putting the bed in in phases, from west to east, allowed me the chance to get some stuff in the ground right away, while continuing to add to the bed.  I also learned as I went along and could make improvements, sort through problems and I think I came out with a better end result because of that than if I'd constructed it all at once.  Besides, this was an evenings and weekends project, so it was easier to digest in small chunks.

Well, let me get this uploaded and posted and I'll be back with more...


Offline average_joe

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2011, 09:26:17 AM »
Looks like you're laying the ground work for a very nice garden next year. This is a great opportunity to get things just right. How big is it going to be?

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2011, 12:45:17 PM »
So, do swales really work?

I'd say so.  This is a picture I took after we had one humdinger of a storm.  1.35" in under 24 hours.  The swale filled to about 8" at its peak, then soaked in over the next eight hours.  It prevented soil erosion, gave the water time to soak in, and spared me from watering for about a week.


The early plantings go in.  No mulch yet except around the plants themselves.  Plants at this point included a Sweet Hawthorne, edible crab apple (polinator), siberian pea shrub, gooseberry, pawpaw (didn't make it), plum, ground nut, strawberries (total of 95 planted throught the property with four varieties (June bearing, August bearing, late bearing, and everbearing).  There's also six kiwi that were planted in total, four are doing good so far, one is struggling bad, one is definitely a goner.


Finally finished the retaining wall, backfilled with hugel, compost/manure, and top soil, planted and mulched.  Then decided to toss some seeds and plants in below the bed where the next terrace will be.  Note the new blackberry tucked into the rocks.


Terrace completed and I planted my veggies on the east end (nearest the camera).  You can see the corn sprouting and in the background the forest garden.  Eventually this bed will be more forest garden with perennial shrubs and probably a dwarf tree, but it was getting late in the season and I needed somewhere to get my veggies in the ground.  I'll probably end up filling it out next spring with some buffaloberry, gooseberry, and a dwarf plum along with some cover crops.


I needed somewhere for my potato patch, so I broke ground on a new bed.  Fortunately the ground was pure luxury; deep soils and few rocks.  I still had to bring in a yard of gardner's mix, but they now have 18" of loose, rich, loamy soil to grow in.


My rock wall skills improved from the first project and I even got fancy enough to put in a corner so leave room for the bobcat to get in to the lower terraces.  The bed is complete and ready to be planted.  Pictured plants include, blueberries, ground nuts, sweet potatoes, and strawberries.


Potato patch completed, just finished the drip irrigation system on the lower plants, and there's a golden delicious apple at the far end.  Still not sure on the future of this patch; whether it'll stay an annual patch or if I'll move toward perennials there and move the potatoes down the hill into a new terrace.  There's radish, carrot and beats mixed between the potato plants that are just starting to sprout through the mulch.


Long view from the house side.

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2011, 01:02:03 PM »
After all the planting in the garden and not enough bed space, I went around and just planted my left over beans along fencelines where they'd get water (from leaking pipeworks), strawberries, and sweet potatoes.  Some have thrived, others not so much.


Hillside strawberry patch.


That's one way to deal with a leaking pipe junction.  Tossed down four Kentucky Wonder beans and a shovel full of mulch and got three plants.  That's what I call easy gardening!

@ Joe, you caught me between postings, so yes, everything was constructed this year and planted this year.  The overall area I currently have fenced (to keep deer out) is about 90'x70'.  The first terrace starts at about 6-8' wide, reaches a maximum width of about 15-20' and is about 35-40' long.  The potato patch is about 8'x25' currently.  I'm planning on keeping my future terraces to about 6-8' wide.  With the grade I have, that means I'll only have to make 18-24" rock walls instead of the 30-36" wall in the first bed.  It'll also make it easier to work with. 

It'll probably take about 4-5 years to terrace the entire area within the fenceline and most will be forest garden with some veggie and tuber patches throughout.  Beyond this, we have 2.6 acres and I'm planning on gradually replacing many of the existing pine forest with more fire resistant, beneficial and productive species in patches over the next 10-20 years while still allowing wildlife to inhabit the property (deer, fox, and elk are regular visitors) and provide grazing and turnout for the horses.  The horses are my wife's joy and my manure factories, so I seem many years of productive land in my future.


I've already started putting in another terrace and I'm filling it with a mixture of horse manure (which I have more than I know what to do with) and wood chips (which I also have more than I know what to do with since I bought a 11 horsepower chipper this year and have enough branches that need grinding to last at least 3-4 seasons).  It's likely to be pretty acidic, but I'm thinking about adding some wood ash to try to temper that and if that doesn't work, lime.  The fact that I don't need to dig down to bedrock and haul in massive amounts of soil is likely make next year a lot easier.

Offline MuddyFork

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2011, 01:31:55 PM »
 I really like how you've worked with your slope. My house sets on a hill so I have to work with slops when building my gardens, but my slops are nothing like yours. I'm building several small swells uphill from the gardens that dot my property, and I have two 1/2 acre ponds that I direct most of my rain water to also. Don't know if the hill is a curse or blessing, but I'm learning to work with it thanks to Permaculture. 

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2011, 01:58:30 PM »
Nice work endurance!

I look forward to seeing things a they progress!

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2011, 02:04:36 PM »
I really like how you've worked with your slope. My house sets on a hill so I have to work with slops when building my gardens, but my slops are nothing like yours. I'm building several small swells uphill from the gardens that dot my property, and I have two 1/2 acre ponds that I direct most of my rain water to also. Don't know if the hill is a curse or blessing, but I'm learning to work with it thanks to Permaculture.
That's exactly the point.  Slope is both a blessing and a curse.  The same goes for the bedrock.  The good news is it's impermiable and gives me a foundation for my hugel beds.  On the downside, from this point on, no root shall pass...

I'm in a very dry climate.  We're allowed 3000 gallons a month before the rates go through the roof, so I'm working on a grey water system for the shower (already one on the kitchen sink, but drains somewhere that's useless to me, so I have a lot of work to do on that end).  I also can double my current rain collection system fairly easily, but I hate ladder work, so it's not done yet. ::)  I might do a few 100-250 gallon ponds for treating grey water, but I don't have the luxury of a half acre pond.  Lucky you!

Every piece of land offers its own challenges and benefits.  Permaculture has taught me to embrace them both.

Offline MuddyFork

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2011, 02:44:25 PM »
I'm going to look into grey water. I don't know much about it, but in the TSP bodcast I just listen to Jake said not to use grey water in direction contact with vegitation including vegitation that could touch the ground. That makes sense, but limits it uses a lot.

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 03:06:23 PM »
I'm going to look into grey water. I don't know much about it, but in the TSP bodcast I just listen to Jake said not to use grey water in direction contact with vegitation including vegitation that could touch the ground. That makes sense, but limits it uses a lot.
From the little bit of research I've done, the best thing to neutralize the pH and improve the water quality is to add carbon.  I'm going to try one of several things including filling a 55 gallon drum of 10' long piece of 10" pipe with wood chips as a filter.  The wood chips apparently neutralize the pH while absorbing the other contaminants.  Alternatively, I might get a couple of used landscaping ponds or a kiddie pool and fill it with wood chips to hold water for a few days before pumping it to a holding tank (getting a couple more IBC totes Friday).  From that holding tank I might have enough water pressure to run my drip irrigation, but otherwise, I might have to take the pump off my rainwater system to pressurize the purified grey water.

Since my soil is relatively acidic, I'm not as afraid of the alkali properties of soap.  If I lived in alkali clay, I'd probably steer clear of the idea entirely.

Offline Bubafat

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2011, 10:51:18 AM »
Hey Endurance,

Haven't done the research you did on carbon and wood chips, but are you sure they're not talking about elemental carbon (i.e. charcoal or activated carbon)?  Typically wood chips are acidic and don't necessarily absorb a lot of contaminants while charcoal or activated carbon are basic and are GREAT at absorbing contaminants.  Making activated carbon isn't all that hard...just takes 2 big barrels and some time.  It's a great soil remediator as well.

Matt

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2011, 11:11:31 AM »
Hey Endurance,

Haven't done the research you did on carbon and wood chips, but are you sure they're not talking about elemental carbon (i.e. charcoal or activated carbon)?  Typically wood chips are acidic and don't necessarily absorb a lot of contaminants while charcoal or activated carbon are basic and are GREAT at absorbing contaminants.  Making activated carbon isn't all that hard...just takes 2 big barrels and some time.  It's a great soil remediator as well.

Matt
Unfortuantely, I haven't seen good research on the topic, just people's blogs and websites talking about their own experiences.  The best systems I saw was a small pond liner filled with wood mulch with a constant flow in and an outlet on the far side.  They had water lillies, cattails, and sedges growing in the water and the output looked absolutely crystal clear as it ran into another pond that they held the water for their garden. 

I'm dealing with the cleanest water in the household; the shower.  The contaminants I have to be concerned with are alkali soap products and salts.  Since I'm dealing with acidic wood chips, it should neutralize the pH and help absorb the salts. 

I might try making some carbon as a final filter, but I'm not overly concerned about it since this won't be my sole water source.  I'm only planning on using grey water a few times a month, not every day.

The kitchen sink presents a whole set of other challenges with detergents, food particles, household cleaners and fats/oils that can clog the pores between soil particles.  I know these challenges well since my 50+ year old grey water system on the kitchen sink is completely clogged.  Fortunately it's a 750 gallon tank and when it clogged the day of my wedding last month, I was able to pump it out into the hugelkultur bed of my garden (that or pay $400 for an emergency visit from a septic pumping guy who might get there just in time for the wedding march...).



As a one-time solution, I saw no problem with filling my underbed with the muck, but I really do need to come up with a way to deal with it before it's full again.  Ideally, I'll have worked out the kinks with the grey water system on the shower and be able to ramp up the volume by then. 

Thanks again for the input.  I like the idea of a carbon final filter and just might combine systems with a wetland primary stage and charcoal final stage.  I've been finding garden ponds on craigslist for $40 a piece nearly every week.  The added benefit of moderating the temperature and reflecting light (and heat) in areas that need it seem really appealing.  Now the challenge will be to make it all low-energy for solar or high volume so I can toss a gas pump on it once a month and let gravity run the system.

Offline Bubafat

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2011, 11:42:54 AM »
Silly me forgetting that urine isn't grey water.  I was thinking it would be acidic (like urine), but you are totally correct. 

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2011, 12:30:45 PM »
Silly me forgetting that urine isn't grey water.  I was thinking it would be acidic (like urine), but you are totally correct.
Assuming you don't pee in the shower. ;D

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2011, 09:14:45 PM »
Just had an insanely epic thunderstorm roll through.  Over an inch of rain in under 30 minutes.  A little bit of hail, to boot.  Really was afraid of what I'd find when it all stopped and I finally got a chance to check out the garden.  Good news!  The swale did it's job remarkably well.  Saved me a ton of erosion and now it can soak in over the next couple of days.  No watering for me this week.


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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2011, 07:46:19 PM »
Great thread.

+1

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2011, 05:07:53 PM »
Well, I guess I was almost expecting it after seven consecutive days of severe thunderstorms, on the eighth day the hail cometh.  Small stuff, mostly pea size, but a hell of a lot of it.  Pretty much wiped out my zucchini, but that was the worst of it.  I had a little bit of lettuce that was almost ready to harvest and it shredded it up pretty good, but heck, it's still edible so I brought it inside, washed it and had it for dinner.

The corn, some strawberries, and some of the shrubs and trees were a little beat up with some leaf damage, but I suspect they'll be alright.  Also harvested my first strawberry from my own garden, ever.  Yum!

Otherwise, some of my hillside beds away from the garden have filled with sediment because of hillside erosion.  Also, had some deer nibble on one of my raspberries outside the wire.  Annoying, but expected.

I'm now over 3.25" of rain in the last eight days and it's raining at the moment.  Unfortunately most of this has been serious downpours rather than slow, steady rain that soaks in, so much of it just causes erosion and runs off, rather than soaking in where it'll do some long term good.  I suspect that despite the significant rain, we could be back in high fire danger before August if it were to stop today because it's just not sinking in.  Ah, well, the cistern is full, so I have two weeks of water in reserve for the garden once things start to dry out again.

Oh, and the swale is about 3/4 full again.  It drains in under eight hours every time (through absorption), but has refilled at least 6" deep everyday but one this week.  Definitely one of the best decisions I made in designing the garden.  It's saved me a ton of erosion and moved the water deeper into the soil than it would have otherwise traveled. 

Offline TwoBluesMama

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2011, 06:29:03 PM »
Awesome job Endurance! Very well planned and executed.  Hope you get an abundance of good food.

And I am also hoping we'll get out of this weather pattern soon as it's playing heck with our garden too. 

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2011, 06:01:20 AM »
Sorry that you lost some of your plants to hail, endurance.

Everything is looking real good with the swales and terracing. I look forward to seeing your land come progress.

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2011, 09:41:52 AM »
The biblical rains finally came to an end and I haven't watered since July 5th or 6th.  I'll probably have to tonight, but I have 550 gallons in the cistern, so I should be set into early August.  I'm probably going to let the potatoes go dry for another few days before watering because I'm a bit concerned about just how wet they got.  They have a solid 4-6" of mulch on them, so they aren't drying up anytime soon.

I started harvesting a few strawberries over the weekend and last night I got eight more.  Considering I was planting the strawberries as a water-conserving ground cover that happened to produce a crop over time, any production this year is just the icing on the cake.  I doubt my production will reach levels where I'll have to store any this year, but next year is likely to be epic.

The heavy rains filled several of my small hillside beds with sediment.  The entire hillside took a beating with some deep ruts from the massive run off and lack of vegitation.  It's going to be a while before I get anything to grow there because it's such a steep, sandy slope with lousy soils.  I'll probably try some clover just before the next rain comes.

I received my first shipment from Horizon Herbs and I just can't speak highly enough about the care with their packaging and shipping.  I ordered five live plants-3 arnica, 1 ephedra, 1 elderberry, and a pound of rye seed, six root stocks of Comfrey (bocking 14), 20 Ginko tree seeds, and some other herb and flower seeds.  All arrived in great condition and had obviously been growing healthy and happy prior to shipping.  There's no doubt the person boxing them up actually cared about the success of each plant.  They will be my first choice for ordering live plants on-line from this day forward. 

So I spent the morning on Saturday getting those plants in the ground, tinkering with bird netting on my berries, and cursing the deer that got to one of my unprotected currant bushes.  Arrrgh.  I knew I was taking a chance planting it where I did, but with all the great grasses we have right now, I guess I was surprised at the damage they did in such a short period of time.  I still have to plant the Ginko seeds, which is taking a bit of thought.  Afterall, planning for a 55' tall tree is a bit trickier than thinking about where a strawberry plant might grow best.  It's a crap shoot.  While it's cold hardy to -40F, prefers acidic soils (which I have), and is a nitrogen fixer, it also likes a lot of water, which I don't happen to have.  I'll try it in my hugelkultur bed, on my swale, and at the front of the house (which gets the roof runoff on the unguttered side).

Some new thoughts on the garden came up this week.  I really want to get to work on preparing some fenceline beds for my climbers and vines.  I have roughly 320' of 6' tall fence to plant kiwi, grape, blackberry, peas, and beans on, but all of it needs soil improvement first.  So far, on my west side the kiwi and snap peas are thriving, so I'll stick with the more shade-loving plants on that side, since it tends to get less sunlight after about 1pm.  The south and east sides just craves a vineyard of grapes with some complimentary beans for nitrogen fixing.  Since the north is the driest side, the drought resistance of the blackberry seems well suited for that area.

Offline SECTER1

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2011, 02:35:49 AM »
Great job on getting a weeks worth of water in the middle of summer for free.. That's going to keep giving over and over again..

Offline rhiannon.douglas

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #20 on: July 23, 2011, 10:06:02 AM »
Your progress so far is incredible! I love seeing the swales at work, imagine what that space would have looked like without them. Keep the pictures coming, it's inspiring viewing for those of us not yet on a property

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #21 on: July 23, 2011, 10:50:36 AM »
Just a few pics from yesterday afternoon's time in the garden.  Some additional thunderstorms, one dropping a whopping 5/8" in about 30 minutes, the other dropping a little more than a 1/10" in an hour have kept the soil wet without watering.  I still haven't watered since the beginning of the month, but the temps are starting to climb back up into the low 80s again during most days.  Still, somehow my lettuce continues to grow well considering the heat and hasn't bolted yet.  Last night I stuck my finger into the soil at several locations and it's still good and moist despite the last rain coming on Tuesday and higher temperatures.


Snap peas flanking my new cold-hardy kiwi planted in May.  My kiwis have been hit and miss.  I have three (2 female, 1 male) near the garden that are finally coming around pretty well at this point in the season.  Two of the other three on the other side of the yard are dead sticks at this point with little hope of staging a comeback (only the male remains).  If you're planting kiwi, understand that they are an understory plant that prefers to be out of direct sunlight, especially the hot afternoon sun.  These plants are shaded after about 1:00pm by trees, but also get additional shelter from the sun from the vigorous snap peas.  Since peas are a legume, I'm also helping to build the soil around the root system of the kiwis.  When fall comes and the peas die, the nitrogen nodules will decay into the soil and be available to the kiwi when it comes back next spring.  Next spring I plan on planting an additional three to six kiwi along the same fenceline since it appears to be an ideal location for them.


One week after planting my root cuttings of my Comfrey bocking 14 from Horizon Herbs, they're already pushing up through the mulch and leafing out.  I gave them one good watering when I planted them and a good 2-3" of mulch over them and haven't touched them since.  They were planted as a green manure, to be cut and dropped on the ground as mulch and to make a comfrey tea for my plants as well.  Come fall, you cut them back to the crowns and they'll come back next year.  I'll be using a lot of the mulch in the bed(s) I'm preparing for potatoes next year since comfrey is very good at collecting potassium and calcium from the soil, something potatoes demand a lot of.


Speaking of potatoes, they're thriving at the moment.  I'm hoping all the rain doesn't have them rotting in the ground.  I won't be watering this bed for at least a week (except for the interspersed other plants).  Several of my plants fell over to the east after the strong storm earlier in the week, so I've had to stake them up.  They seem no worse for the wear now and seem to be quite hardy to the abuse of hail, wind and rain.  I can only hope they're doing as well underground.


It was a mystery, but thanks to a little chat with Cedar, I think I've positively identified the purple plant as a tri-color amaranth.  Out of the hundreds of seeds I scattered in the area, it appears this is the only one that survived.


Gooseberries coming in.  One of the multipurpose plants I put in the forest garden.  A drought tolerate nitrogen fixing plant that also produces a nice tasting tart berry.  Attracts pollinators in the springtime, too.


The corn is coming along very well, the lettuce shaded at its base is going well, too, but the rest of the veggies seem to be struggling in the same bed.  Some things are coming in, but it's too early to tell just what's coming in. 


Any guesses?  The leaves are kind of velvety, a little like a cucumber, but it seems to be way too pale to be a cucumber and the leaf shape just doesn't look right.  I have about four of them coming up in various spots around the garden at the same time, so it's not a weed.  Some possibilities are borage, loveage, lambs quarters... none of which I've ever grown before so I haven't clue what they look like at this stage, but with the way I planted, it could be nearly anything.  I planted about 15 varieties of seeds I'd only seen in catalogs until now.  Here's the large version of the pic

Another observation is that the strawberries really don't like shade.  While most of mine are doing well, the handful I planted on the north side of my potato bed are struggling and not very productive at all, despite getting off the a great start.  One of these plants was my largest, but now that a huge 3' potato plant is shading it out, it's not only stopped growing, it just looks sad and it's productivity is stopping before it ever started.  I'd always thought they were shade tolerant, but apparently not so much. 

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #22 on: July 29, 2011, 07:51:41 PM »
Another beautiful evening in the garden.  70-75F made it perfect to do a little digging and building on the new bed, weeding, and of course, picking dinner.


Unusually good soil today meant low rock production for the retaining wall, but easy digging to get the 12-18" deep I'm trying to get so I have room for 18-24" of manure and wood chips.  I'm topping it off with 8-12" of the top soil I'm removing, sans rocks.  I'll solarize it with some clear plastic over the bed for a few weeks to kill any seeds or living root structure with heat, then let it winter over.  In the spring I'll till it by hand with a pick to bring up some of the composted horse manure, plant, and cover with my abundant wood mulch.  Should make a great patch for corn with all that nitrogen rich manure lying just under the surface.


The view from my Adirondack chair while enjoying the garden.  In the foreground I still have Boulder Romaine lettuce doing well in my cool climate, then strawberries, comfrey, zucchini, nasturtiums, along with a young pear tree visible.


Looking further to the east from my easy chair, my peach tree (with two peaches showing!), two varieties of potatoes, beans, snap peas, and buried in there, starving for sunlight, my two blueberry bushes.


Tonight's dinner pickin's.

Offline cohutt

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #23 on: July 31, 2011, 09:37:41 AM »
Endurance,

Good work.  This is one of the better threads in the whole Gard/Ag section. 

I'm seeing a lot of things I can incorporate into my garden progression over the next couple of years.   While Jack has talked about everything you are doing and I understood the concepts, seeing someone (obviously a fool like me when it comes to gruesome manual labor) move from concept to reality is a huge plus and quite inspiring.

+1, please keep the "documentary" running for our benefit. 

endurance

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2011, 09:06:46 AM »
I'm seeing a lot of things I can incorporate into my garden progression over the next couple of years.   While Jack has talked about everything you are doing and I understood the concepts, seeing someone (obviously a fool like me when it comes to gruesome manual labor) move from concept to reality is a huge plus and quite inspiring.
Thanks for the kind words.  To be honest, I'm a total novice when it comes to gardening, but sometimes I see that as an asset.  I really don't know a lot from experience, it's more from books and experimentation.  My first garden was in 2009 when I was still living in a duplex in the city.  Frankly, I was shocked at the time when anything at all grew.  Things like broccoli and lettuce bolting and going to seed weren't bad things, like an experienced gardener would thing, they were just cool to watch and interesting to learn from.  It's that simple stuff that's helped to make some of the more painful things, like last year's hail storm that not only destroyed the roof on my old place, but descimated my garden (golfball and larger hail).  This year has given me a chance to scale things up a lot.  The plot I'm working with now is just one ugly corner of our two and a half acres that I've started to transform. 

The labor part is paced.  In 2001 I left my job managing a six person trail crew after working my way up over 11 seasons with the forest service.  Still, those years took their toll.  I'm a 45 year old man who worked over a decade of hard manual labor jobs, so my back isn't what it used to be.  With that said, I'm good for hard, short stints which is perfect for a guy who works behind a desk most days.  I can come home, dig one strip 18-36" wide x 6-8' x 12" deep in an evening easy enough in an hour or two while the drip irrigation is running on the days that it needs it.  Before putting in the drip system I was spending 30-45 minutes an evening just watering, so it's been a life-saver.  As plants become more established and accessing the hugelkultur beds, they're requiring less water, too.  That's the most appealing thing about this permaculture stuff.  Yes, it's a high initial investment of time establishing a system, but once it's established, other than occasional adjustments, and replacing plants that aren't thriving, you end up planting fewer and fewer annuals each year as your perennial production comes on line, thus, it just gets easier every year.

In a way I'm glad I don't have a piece of heavy equipment that would make things go faster.  While I'm out there swinging a pick, or more realistically, when I'm resting and catching my breath between swings, I'm looking around and observing things.  Sometimes it's noticing something subtle, sometimes it's observing something obvious.  Sometimes it's recognizing the ripples in the soil and pine needles on an exposed piece of soil and recognizing an area of natural water run off, sometimes it's noticing that the potatoes outgrew my blueberries in the same patch and the lack of growth because of the lack of light (which, amongst other things, has me moving toward a potato-only patch for next year.  I just didn't realize how big they'd get and now I'm concerned about root disturbance to the perennials around them).  Since observation is such a key part of managing and designing a permaculture system, time in the area is critical, especially in these early weeks and months.

Just this week I was looking at water movement and decided that I need to put in another swale to utilize water running down the other side of the fence in the dog run.  Right now the water is just running over our leach field, which is a bad thing anyway.  By doing a small (8-12" tall) diversion ditch about 30-40' into the dog run and running that water into a lower swale, I should create even more self-watering beds.  I'm debating whether to bring in a piece of heavy equipment to put in the swale.  The diversion ditch will definitely be hand dug since I can't get machinery into that area.  Honestly, it's very tempting.  $300 to save me probably 6 weeks work is tempting indeed.  I also need to figure out if this is a this year vs. next year project.  Digging the ditch and swale will be the easy part, the labor intensive stuff is building the rock wall for the terrace and hugel bed.

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #25 on: August 01, 2011, 04:20:08 PM »
Ha.

We have a lot in common in what we get from the process of learning to garden and how we put things into it.

I've only been gardening since 2009 myself, am 51, and have done things like removed a whole privet hedge by hand then pounded all the nails in the fence that replaced it without a nail gun.   

I drew the line and rented a trencher from my well lines though- the 50 feet or so I dug by hand 2 years ago about did me in.   

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #26 on: August 02, 2011, 07:01:20 PM »
Ha!  I just noticed growing at the base of one of my zucchinis the tiniest little emergence of a cantaloupe.  Too late now, buddy.  The frost is just six, or if we're lucky, eight weeks away and you're just waking up.  Brilliant!

Not sure why it took so long to germinate, but she ain't gunna make it.  Then again, at least it had the decency to show its face.  That was one of about a dozen seeds planted. 

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #27 on: August 04, 2011, 09:05:24 AM »
Nice work.

I was looking back through the pictures again. Does the terrace angle upward in the opposite direction of the slope of the hill for a swale or is it just the angle of the photo?

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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #28 on: August 05, 2011, 12:23:15 PM »
Nice work.

I was looking back through the pictures again. Does the terrace angle upward in the opposite direction of the slope of the hill for a swale or is it just the angle of the photo?
The terrace does angle against the slope and this was not intentional, nor desirable after a season with it this way.  I was getting impatient (it was getting into June and still hadn't planted my annuals) and probably could have used another yard of soil in the end of the bed.  Most of it back slopes about 1%, which is fine, but the very end is closer to 10%.  When I do water, it tends to run off rather than soak in.  The issue will be resolved this fall.  Since it's all annual crops in that end of the bed, I'll be able to till in a yard of horse manure and wood chips with the soil so by next spring it will be composted, cooled, and ready to plant in perennials.

The new bed will actually follow the slope slightly so it captures more sunlight.  I'm making it a hot bed with the rock wall behind it to gather heat and possibly a stock tank sunk into the ground to reflect sunlight up onto the crops and wall.  This will be where I'll plant my heat-loving plants, like corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, and the like.  The following year I'll shoot for putting in some perennials that are zone 5 hardy (I'm in zone 4) just to see if they'll make it there.  I'm thinking a colder variety of filbert, some grape vines on the wall, and ???.


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Re: The Endurance garden 2011
« Reply #29 on: August 09, 2011, 12:04:44 PM »
Production is in high gear.  Last night I picked over a quart of beans and snap peas along with a few zucchini and strawberries.  I also picked enough lettuce for my dinner salad, but forgot to pick some of my nastersiums to got with it.  I'm surprised the nastersiums haven't flowered yet, but they have huge (tasty) green leaves right now. 

Two of three of my Arnica plants are doing well, both receive a bit more shade.  The one in full sun is not doing well.

My strawberries are sending off runners at an alarming rate.  I'm letting them run rather than focusing on production so I can put them into new beds once they root well.  Since I started off with about 80 plants and some of the bigger plants are sending off 5-7 runners, I'm going to have strawberries everywhere next year!  The plants that are too heavily shaded are struggling with both production and spreading.  They love direct sun and lots of it.

I finally found some coworkers eager to get some of my surplus zucchini.  Only about half my plants have even bloomed (the rest were planted later, so will bloom later, I hope) and they're about to reach full production.  With that in mind, I'll still have plenty for storage and can spread the gardening bug and goodwill in my neighborhood and at work.  Lord knows I own my next door neighbors.  I took down three big ponderosa pine trees to make room for the garden, so I'm sure a few zuccs would be the least I could do to keep up relations.

My ephedra is not doing well.  Not sure if it's location, watering or if it's just taking some time to come out of its shipping slumber.  Fingers crossed it gets stronger.  I'm pushing the envelope for zones with this plant anyway, so it has to go into winter strong or it doesn't have a chance.

I finally had to water on Sunday, but still, that's only about the third time since July 5 when the monsoons came in.  It's been a wonderful year here for consistent moisture and an absence of strong storms.  Best enjoy it while I can; next year could be a whole different story.