Permaculture pathways

Updated the food forest pathways, replacing the temporary stairs, which were mighty uncomfortable with my incorrect rise over run. Went back to the same permaculture crew that designed our food forest on paper and hired them to fix my mistakes in traffic flow through the garden. Wow. Awesome ideas.

We got the rough cut boards from a neighbor with a backyard saw mill.

Potato towers are a lot of hype

…but don’t deliver as promised. The official tally is in and our trenches blew away the potato towers for production quantity, and ease of use. 214 pounds of eating potato from 20 pounds of seed potato! A few photos from our whole family harvest days (the middle photo just makes me happy):

How to use row covers

This past winter we got to start eating our own salad again in February thanks to an experiment with floating row covers.

Wow. What a difference this stuff makes. Suggestions: use wooden clothes pins for an inexpensive, easy-to-remove fastener on top of the wire frames.

Between these covered beds in both the raised bed section and the food forest, our cold frames, and our hot beds, we’ve been eating well and have a serious jump start now that spring sunshine has arrived.

The joys of garlic

This photo does not really do justice to how exciting of a scene this is: 50′ of garlic. About eight varieties.

Anytime someone is our family gets sick (which is often with little kids), we cook with garlic for  a week and it seems to keep the cold/flu from rampaging through the entire family. It’s pretty cool to see a two year old pulling cloves out of the baked garlic, mashing it on homemade bread, and scarfing it down.

This book was particularly helpful for selecting garlic that does well in our area, planting it right, and learning how to harvest/store it to last for months: Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers.

Oh my gosh, I cannot wait.

Adding potatoes to the garden

Back from another teaching gig and reinvesting in the garden.

Down in the food forest I added two sets of potatoes as an experiment. The first section is the fairly straightforward trench method so we can do hilling. I dug ~ 200′ of trenches, some in their own dedicated beds and some snaking around our new berry bushes and more two year old fruit trees.

In another section of the food forest that had a site prepped but no topsoil/compost (because I got tired of hauling compost this past summer) I added a line of buckets with potatoes in them. The plan is to add a second vertical layer of buckets (with the bottoms cut out) on top of these as we add more dirt to them during the hilling process.

I went with the buckets for the experiment (and a random trash can) rather than the more popular towers since not many folks actually *doing* the towers were getting good results. I found lots of articles citing the wonders of potato towers written by journalists, but it was clear none of them had actually planted these and watched over them for a season until harvest time. On the other hand, there are many more blog entries by folks actually doing the planting/harvesting with buckets.

And I had truckloads of extra buckets left over from planting the berry bushes and runs to the local deli/bakery for food grade 5-gallon buckets. Reminder: drill holes in the bottom for drainage.

The best part? At the end of the season, I spill the buckets over right where they are in the food forest to make a new bed for a different crop next year. Instead of hauling four yards of dirt down the hill in one day, I do it in small batches over several months…

Hauling manure with a longtail bicycle

Using my new Wike DIY trailer, I hauled by smelliest load by far this weekend: fresh horse manure.

I built a set of “hot beds” to start seedlings last week from scrap lumber and Freecycle window frames. Hot beds are simply cold frames that have some heat source to warm the seedlings in the winter, allowing them to grow faster than an unheated greenhouse or cold frame.

I wanted to experiment with a non-electric heat source, which pretty much just leaves manure. Under the sloped glass roof of the hot bed, we now have 18″ of manure, covered by 6″of dirt, to provide plenty of extra heat for the vegetable seedlings to get a kick start on growing prior to Spring. We’ve got them located on the North side of our property, sloped to the south, to grab as much winter sun as possible.

The cargo bike and Wike trailer did great hauling this load, although the stable owner clearly thought I was nuts showing up with a bicycle to haul manure.

I’ve been testing the replacement eZee battery this past week; getting about 7MPC. Better than the previous 5MPC, but no where close to the claim 20-25MPC in the eZee documentation. Buyer beware.

Making food gardens attractive

Moved our kiwi trellis out of the food forest and up close to the house where it can be hidden from view for just one reason: my wife thinks it is ugly.

And she’s right. The rest of the food forest is quite beautiful with the fruit trees, berry bushes, and recently completed low retaining walls. The kiwi trellis (for both fuzzies and hardies) is three 4×4 posts sticking seven feet up in the air. They are ugly and will stay ugly for several years until the kiwis cover them (they grow like grapes) or the nearby fruit trees get tall enough to screen them from view.

So I took a few hours and moved them before they got settled in their new/old spot in the food forest. Will think of how to keep the deer away later. Perhaps by the time the kiwi vines bear fruit (a few years from now), we’ll have big dogs back in our lives.