“Obtain a yield,” one of permaculture’s principles.
I hadn’t anticipated starting the main garden this season but a few things came together and gave us a push. This is good.
How it started. J and I rented a bush hog to clear the lower pasture. George threw in the tiller at no cost…OK, why not? Let’s make a garden, now!
Tilling. Once the main garden area was mowed and tilled (OK. We didn’t have the tiller attachment set quite right such that the soil was tickled more than tilled. Oh, well!), there was an urgency to make garden beds, mulch, and plant before the grass, burdock, and weeds grew back in full force…which it did! No tilling is planned for the future of this garden. I plan on focusing on soil building. Half of the garden area has been prepared. Half of it remains to be completed. For the next phase, I plan to have chickens do the mowing and tilling. I’m, also, playing with the idea of subsoiling before making the remaining beds. Needs research.
Layout. I dug out soil from the paths to build mounded beds. I dug the paths out on contour after finding the contour line with my A-frame. The plot, generally, slopes in a gentle south-southwest direction. The paths will capture and equally spread the stormwater behind the raised beds. The water can percolate into the beds and soil rather than causing erosion and leaching nutrients. Knowing the drainage is pretty good here, I wasn’t too worried about the paths filling up with and retaining water for long periods of time. With all the rain we had, I noted minimal puddling in the paths during the hardest of the rainfall (a very soggy observation, it was!) The puddles were gone soon after the rain tapered off. I found the contour line for what was to be the upper slope of the bed and dug 3′ paths and aimed for approximately 4′ wide beds, with a main 6′ path down the center of the field. The paths have a consistent width, the beds do not as I was working to the contour. We have yet to find a source for lots and lots of wood chips to fill in the paths of the main garden. That needs to be done soon to keep weeds down, moisture in, and mud reduced. I planted and mulched the beds with straw to deter strong regrowth of weed plants. Using plenty of straw on the beds has been critical. I find that using cut and wilted burdock and nettle leaves make a pretty good mulch too! However, even with a heavy mulch, I’ve had to, diligently, keep after the bindweed.
A little help from our friends. School of Living’s President, David Nutall, has been, very generously, volunteering at the farm. David has been helping me to dig out the garden paths/beds, helping to reduce the vigorous honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and poison ivy which threaten the health of the tall pines, helping to identify and sharing enjoyment of the trees and the birds and the bugs on the land, and conspiring to improve the health, productivity, and accessibility of StellaLou’s woodlot. One of the things that I find very encouraging about taking on this property is being in association with members of the School of Living. Thank you, Dave!
Fencing. Seeing deer tracks in the paths and munched cabbages and multiple groundhog holes had me brainstorming ways to keep the critters out of the garden. Fortunately, the deer held off from eating the young plants in the new garden. It appears that the pressure is light at this point. It may be that Indie helps with her, occasional, presence in the area. We decided to purchase 4′ electric netting and solar charger so that the animals don’t get a taste for this garden. This is PermaNet netting purchased from Premier1 which was highly recommended to me. Free shipping. We baited the netting so that the deer get a sense of what this fence is about and, hopefully, will leave the garden alone thereafter. I figured if this strategy does not work, I will utilize it for portable fencing for chickens and install taller and more permanent fencing for the garden. I’ll let you know how it goes. So far, so good. Deer have been sighted near the garden but not inside and no, recent, munching noted. We have prepared and planted about half of the garden area. By the time that was done, the rest of the field was taken over with wild vegetation. I’m thinking to extend fencing around that area once we get chickens. I’ll put them to work weeding and tilling to extend the garden further. However, this isn’t planned until we sell our Elkins Park house.
Growing up. After a bit of time, the plants grew taller. Trellises made from bamboo (cut from a southeast corner of the land) and twine (from a large skein left in the barn) were put into place for tomatoes and Christmas Lima Beans.
Here is what the garden looks like on June 20, 2013:
At the entrance to the fenced garden is a garden that was constructed earlier. I wanted to get some onions and potatoes in and wasn’t yet settled on the main garden. Rhubarb, alpine strawberries, perennial herbs and flowers, a tomato and cabbage here and there… Oh! and nettle and nettle and nettle!
These are the beds on the east side of the main garden. There are a six pots with grafted apples and pears on the left side of the photo. This was my first try with grafting and am happy with a bit of success thanks to the Backyard Fruit Growers.
And these are the beds on the west side of the main garden:
Hopeful yields. Winter and summer squash, amaranth, black beans, cowpeas, bush beans, christmas lima beans, tomatoes, sunflowers, lacy phacelia (for the honeybees), gooseberries, currants, lemon verbena, cucumber, melon, nasturtium, calendula, borage, and basil are in! Outside of the main garden, we have potatoes, onions, leeks, peppers, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, herbs, greens, cabbage, garlic, peas…growing with varying degrees of success.