As easy as garlic

garlic

 

If I would have realized that garlic is so easy to grow, I would have done it long before this year.

Garlic should be planted in the fall, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Be ready to plant about 6-8 weeks before frost.

*Do not use the stuff from the grocery store! If no one at your local farm market grows their own, buy from a good seed company. We support companies like Baker Creek.

Break apart garlic cloves a couple days before planting.

Plant about 4″ apart and 2″ deep. Plant the pointy side up and the flat side down. Mulch well (I used straw).

In the spring, remove the mulch (I forgot to do that…). When they flower (called “scapes” and very good to cook with), cut off the flower to keep the energy in the root.

For us, harvest was in July. Loosen the soil around the bulb and dig it out – don’t pull it like an onion. I read several ways to know when the bulb is ready – when the stem is anywhere from 1/2 dry to all dry. I harvested when they were a little more than 1/2 dry.

Dry the bulb (with the stem still on it) in a dry place, out of direct sunlight. Put them up on something so the air can get all around. When the whole bulb is dry and has the papery outside, it is ready to cut off the stem, brush the dirt off, trim the roots off, and store. You can also keep the stem and braid them all together.

These bulbs were on the small side, but I planted them in a new area that hadn’t been worked before – I expect that with looser soil, the bulbs will be much bigger.

 

I’ll be planting a lot more this year – the almanac says our first frost will be around October 25th or so. I guess that means I better be getting an area ready very soon!

 

More gardens

Growing herbs in pots is great, but I wanted a more permanent solution to growing culinary and medicinal herbs that didn’t involve lugging large planters around. Enter 24×4 cinder blocks, lots of sticks, and lots of dirt.

These are a type of hugelkultur raised bed, which uses sticks and logs as the base, and dirt piled over them. This website has a good explanation, with pictures! And since we have plenty of sticks around here, it’s a good way to use them.

 

First, set up the cinder blocks, and add sticks. The two closest beds don’t have sticks yet, but the two farthest to the right do. Break up the sticks, toss them in, and when you have a good pile inside the blocks, stomp them down. Repeat until the sticks are more or less halfway up the blocks.

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Beds filled with dirt. And a chicken…

 

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I will be filling the side holes for herbs, but the main bed is ready to go. I’m going to let it settle for a few days to let the dirt get in between all the sticks. It’s supposed to rain, which will also help tamp down the dirt. After that, add more dirt to even it up, and start planting.

Since we have free-ranging chickens, a welded wire cover for each bed is in order. I’ll build those while I’m waiting for the beds to settle.

Cinder blocks around here are usually about $1.00. We used dirt dredged from our creek, but just about any dirt will do. You can put topsoil over the “fill dirt” if you like, or add compost. It doesn’t have to be an expensive process to get a nice raised bed. And if you decide to take the bed down at some point, the blocks can be reused, and the dirt/sticks (or what’s left of the sticks) can be spread around.

 

 

 

Day 303 – cow poop

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This is a garden full of poop! After 3 years (yes, you read that right), we decided it was about time to clean the barn out since we had to cut some beef steers out for processing, and it was getting a little sloppy in the door area.

We’ve been having some problems the soil in this garden over the last couple of years, so are doing some hard core soil amendment – manure, green manure, probably some straw, then legumes to be planted in the spring. A couple years of that, and we hope the soil is back to normal. We’ll be using the other garden for our food crops while this one rests and recuperates.

And it doesn’t stink because we periodically added straw to help the manure break down better. Animal poop doesn’t have to smell bad – it’s all about the microbes. If you give them something good to eat (like straw or wood chips), they do their job and the poop doesn’t stink.

Day 198 – garden pests

(photo from http://colostate.edu – we already smooshed the ones in our garden this evening)

This is a tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta).  We’re not growing tobacco (at least not this year), but they also eat tomato plants, usually starting at the top with the most tender leaves and working their way down the plant.  We’ve been out for the last 3 nights after I discovered a GIANT one on a blade of grass next to the tomato row.  Tried to feed them to the chickens, who wanted nothing to do with them.  Turns out that they are concentrated little tomato toxin bombs and can kill chickens, especially smaller/younger ones.  So we pull them off and smoosh them.

I’m reading that a good tilling of the area after harvest will destroy any of the little beasties pupating in the soil.  Or you can spray chemicals all over, but that definitely defeats the purpose of how we’re doing things.

Parasitic wasps also like them and will lay eggs on the hornworm.  You’re supposed to leave those hornworms along because when the wasps hatch, they will then go after other worms.  I’m not going to post a picture of that because it’s grossing me out.  You’re on your own for that picture.  If you need to buy parasitic wasps (which also eat cutworms, cabbage loopers and many other nasties), Planet Natural is a great place to check out – we buy fly parasites from them to keep down the fly population in the barn.

This is the not fun part of growing our own food, but we’re in the garden getting up close with the food we’re producing (and the critters trying to eat it before we get it).  Can’t get more local than that.

Day 190 – vertical gardening

2013-07-09 20.34.40One of Denny’s cool gardening ideas.  This one is a two-person job.  Take one hog panel and 8 sturdy stakes (these are rebar).  Pound 4 of the stakes in a line, each one about a foot from the next.  Put the edge of the hog panel against the stakes and push the other end towards the stakes.  Your helper should be arching the panel as you move.  When the “loose” end is where you want it to be, hold the panel in place and drive in the other 4 stakes on the outside.  And you now have a temporary trellis for peas, cucumbers, pole beans, anything that climbs.  Take it down at the end of the season, store the materials in the garage/barn, pull it out again for next year.

We have 2 of these next to each other – 8 pickling cucumbers, and 4 Winter Luxury pumpkins.  The pumpkins are an experiment – I’ve read that you can make slings for the pumpkins to rest in as they grow – tie a strip of t-shirt to the panel and rest the pumpkin in the sling.  As it grows, it will fill in the sling, but not break the stem.  I also read that if you don’t sling the pumpkin, it will only grow to a certain size so the stem won’t be stressed or break.  Smart plants!

I also tried a new (for me) planting method – hilling.  You can see that there is a lot of grass here (we mowed the plot before starting work).  I dug traditional holes for some of the plants, but hilled the rest. Basically, you put the plant on the ground and build up a dirt mound around it.  The dirt kills the grass underneath and the plant grows just fine.  Keep the area around the plant free from grass/weeds, and you just did a lot less work for the same reward.

 

Day 182 – that’s not supposed to be growing

182We were out weeding the garden today and I was weeding/strawing down the potato rows.  Came across this little beauty of a “weed” and after a little searching, discovered that it’s hairy vetch, one part of the spring manure mix that we put on that garden row last year (we left one fallow row and overseeded it with the mix – field peas, hairy vetch and oats).  It’s not supposed to be a perennial, so it was a definite surprise to find it!  It’s not really in the way where it’s growing, so I’m going to leave it be.

Leaving a row fallow gives the soil a break from feeding greedy plants.  Putting a manure mix on the row keeps exposed soil from eroding, the roots break up any hard-packed soil under the surface, and the plants themselves give nutrients back to the soil (both by growing and by being tilled under when it’s time to plant that row).  So it’s not really manure as in animal poo, but manure as in nutrients for the soil.  Plant it, let it grow, till it under, and badabing – you have better soil and better crops.

 

Spring is in the air, which means mud on my knees

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming. As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of … Continue reading

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming.

As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of 75 meat chicken peeps in (they’ll be ready in Septemberish) and we’ll be adding to our laying flock in the next month or so.

We built a mobile pen system for our mowing goats, which makes moving them from place to place much easier than it was last year. I hope to detail that undertaking in a separate post.

Also, the warm spring means haying time is already here, and we’ll probably have our first cutting down in the next few weeks.

What kind of food production activities does spring bring for you? Let me know in the comments.

DLH

Spring is in the air, which means mud on my knees

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming. As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of 75 meat chicken peeps in (they’ll be ready in Septemberish) and we’ll be adding to […]

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming.

As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of 75 meat chicken peeps in (they’ll be ready in Septemberish) and we’ll be adding to our laying flock in the next month or so.

We built a mobile pen system for our mowing goats, which makes moving them from place to place much easier than it was last year. I hope to detail that undertaking in a separate post.

Also, the warm spring means haying time is already here, and we’ll probably have our first cutting down in the next few weeks.

What kind of food production activities does spring bring for you? Let me know in the comments.

DLH

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