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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

DIY Tire Planters

There are many herbs that can grow out of control if you let them. A little bit of containment goes a long way for your frustrations if you want to grow these herbs. Things like mints and lemon balm are very useful herbs to have growing for many reasons, but they get out of control very quickly. I hate to spend money on things like flower pots. They are far more expensive than they need to be, I think. So I set out on my way to find the perfect containment for my wonderful herbs.tire2

Old tires, of course! They cost money to get rid of and people don’t generally want them around, so they are easy to come by. I have 8 tires so far and I will get 4 planters out of them. The whole thing is very simple. All you have to do is fill the tires with dirt for the herbs to grow in. I chose to use sticks and leaves to help to fill my tires for the organic matter. This will eventually settle as the leaves rot, but I don’t mind having to add more later, and I will likely have to add a lot. The herbs I will be planting are quite hardy and will tolerate being replanted. Try to stuff the walls of the tires the best you can so that you don’t have air pockets for critters to live. And that’s it! Yes, old tires are ugly, I know. I don’t mind looking at them if I have some nice bushy plants growing in them. You can also paint them if you want to.

 

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I’m not attempting to be an environmentalist, but there are old tires everywhere. There are too many tires in the landfills to ever get rid of them all. It is a wonderful idea to try to use the tires for free building materials rather than buying new things that will also eventually end up in a landfill. There are many websites out there with many ideas on fantastic projects that you can do with old tires. From these tire planters, to playgrounds, to houses. Please, check it out!

Check out my post on junk collecting!

Another great junk project I will be doing is building an outdoor shower. Here is the site I have started preparing:

shower spot

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Planting Potatoes

If you take a look around, there are more than enough ways to plant potatoes the “easy” way. Perhaps this is because of how much of a pain it is to grow potatoes the traditional way. Dig a trench. Put the potato pieces in the trench. Bury the potatoes with light, rich soil. Wait for the potatoes to grow some. Add more dirt. Wait. Add dirt. Now dig them all up, without missing any because if you do they will grow back with a vengeance next year.

pot2Personally, I love digging them up and don’t mind them coming back next year. Having another crop next year is apparently bad because using this method causes disease to spread. You cannot possibly produce your own seed potato because then the people who sell seed potato couldn’t sell them to you. I plan to try to reuse the small potatoes as seed potatoes next year. If everything is healthy, I don’t see how disease would spread.

Either way, I have enough digging to do as it is and am not interested in digging trenches in this awful clay. I have tried growing potatoes in hay in mounds and this lead to infestation. The next method to try, for me, in the potato cage method. I’m not sure that it is much better than the mounds, but I will have to wait and see.pot8

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spread out nicely

I took leftover chicken wire and hooked the ends together to make circles. The bottom was filled with rotten sticks and leaves and then covered over with soil. Once they had a chance to get rained on and to settle in, I added the cut up potato pieces that had been sitting since I built the cages. I covered the potato pieces with a soil and rotten leaf mixture, being careful not to throw in too many sticks. Sticks could stack up in ways that would lead to air pockets that critters could live in. You will have to continue filling up the cages as the potatoes grow, just like you would traditionally do.

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The kids helping

Once the potato plants die off, you can dig up the potatoes. The awesome part is that you can just tip over the cages and sift through to get the goods. You won’t have to dig deep in the ground with your back hunched over awkwardly picking through the dirt. In theory, of course. I will let you all know when it comes time to harvest.

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Moist soil layer

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Composting leaves layer

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Finished potato planters, for now

Some potato planting links to check out:

 

Grow a Good Life

Other potato posts I have done:

In a rush potato planting

(these ended up being forgotten and still grew a few potatoes)

How not to store potatoes

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The plans that had been made for this year’s gardens have changed quite a bit. I trudged around last fall picking up old, heavy logs, broken branches and leaves and made enough hugelkultur beds to feed the whole town. I may have been a little too ambitious (as always) and made more beds than I could ever use this year. The fact that I was doing too much didn’t escape me, but I really wanted to put a dent in the cleaning of the mess that was left when the logger had come through. So I set out to clean up the mess and focused more on that than what I was going to do with all these beds.

In my haste to clean, the logs and sticks were thrown together, rather than nicely stacked to prevent spaces. There is more space in the beds than I could ever fill with leaves, which is what needed to happen. I tried to fill all the gaps, but then the leaves settled in and you would never know that I filled in any of the gaps. This would mean that I would have to fill every single gap in every hugel bed with dirt. That would be near impossible to do in a timely fashion. I will say that the mice loved all the homes I made for them. We saw tiny footprints in the snow leading in and out of the beds all winter.

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I schemed and plotted as to how I could get enough beds prepared in time for planting, but every idea seemed quite painful to carry out. The man finally decided to put in his two cents and suggested that I just plant my seeds in the ground. In completely unprepared garden beds, right in the ground.

In reality, the soil that we have on our property is rich, untouched forest soil. It has years of composted leaves and sticks forming a thick layer of organic matter, perfect for gardening. The ground is not soft enough to plant carrots and turnips, but many plants should grow just fine in the soil that we have.

I set out to pick a sunny area and get it cleaned up. All the large branches were moved out of the way and used to form a border around the garden. Smaller branches were thrown together to make a fence, not sturdy enough to keep any the critters out, but to make sure it was obvious to the man and children where the garden was. The back side of the fence was made of fencing so that I could plant peas there and they had room to grow up. Kale and cabbage seeds were thrown around in loose rows, the children helped with this part so it should be interesting to see how scattered the plants come in. Partially decomposed leaves were lightly spread over the seeds to attempt some mulching. I will spread more once everything sprouts.

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There are various other areas around the lot that will be used for garden planting. The tomatoes will be planted in the outdoor kitchen, corn and sunflowers will be around the house to provide shade and will also serve as trellises, potatoes will get cages, more sunflowers will be scattered where oil has leaked into the ground to help clean it up, and squash will get there own beds in various sunny areas. There is a slight possibility that there will be a nice bed in the outdoor kitchen for some root crops, but I am not holding my breath.

The finishing touch on the garden will be an onion border and some flowers. The onions smell should help to keep some of the pests away from my vegetables. The flowers serve the same purpose. Marigolds and nasturtiums specifically are deterrents for various bugs that would eat my vegetables. The onions are more for burrowing critters and rabbits. From what I have seen, we have an ample amount of white rabbits hopping around our land. Hopefully I am not just opening up a buffet.

Squash Hugelkultures

Last Year’s Potatoes

Coming soon: Potatoes!

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Squash Hugelkultures

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The hugelkultures that I had set up last year ended up under a large pile of random logging debris. Yes, stumps and branches will all eventually compost down and be good soil, but I can’t possibly use these beds anytime soon. The stumps are too big to even move them out of my way.

So now I have to build new garden beds. I have an east facing slope that gets tons of sun where I plan to put my squash beds. I love squash, so I get a little out of control when I plant it. But I do have the room, so it’s ok. Squash belongs to the genus curcubita. There are 5 varieties of squash, with may specific squash to each variety.  One example is curcubita pepo which includes pumpkins among others.  Supposedly, the different will not cross pollinate so I can plant one of each kind near each other and still save seeds. So that is my plan. Gourd will supposedly also not cross pollinate with squash, so I plan to put some of that nearby too.

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Nothing to exciting here really. I picked out 6 spots and stacked big rotten logs. Then I had the kids help me pile on the sticks. They wanted to move logs for me too, they don’t seem to realize how heavy they are! Next we piled on the leaves. At first, I had help raking. Then I only got help scooping the leaves on to the tarp. I ended up with help dumping the leaves onto the piles. Finally I used the leftover hay from the pig roast to cover each of the piles. The kids were mad I was taking the hay, but I explained that the hay was getting old and yucky. It helped a little.

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While we worked, I did my best to explain what we were doing and why. I told the 4 year old that we were making plant food. How the wood and leaves would rot and turn into dirt and then feed the squash plants. They both even learned to say “hugelkulture”. They seemed excited enough to satisfy me. I did manage to find a job for them in the process though. We had a big tub of muddy water that I had used to prewash the kids muddy clothes. They had been itching to play in it. I told them each to get a bucket and water the hugelkultures. The one closest to the bucket got the most water, of course. And it does actually help the process along to water the beds. Wet logs rot faster than dry ones, of course.

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I will set up the rest of the garden closer to the cabin. I’m not sure where yet because I haven’t got the cabin up to see what I will have to work with. It will be far from the long reaching tentacles of the squash plants though. I will likely do a second “squash sanctuary” with 6 more hugel beds, but I haven’t picked out a spot yet.

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Fail.

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I did not plant anything that even resembles a garden.  I had planted some seeds with the plan to transplant them and it just didn’t happen.  We just did not have the time.  I always, always, always plan more to do than I will have time for.  But I will share some pictures as a comic relief.

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DSC_0184Next year is the year of planting and all things gardening.  This will not happen again.  Oh well.

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DSC_0161I try to do everything as naturally as possible.  I also don’t like to spend money.  These are some of the things I love about permaculture.  Using what you have available that is provided to you in nature.  Mulch is something that I use a lot in planting, all of which I collect from the land.  Some plants have special needs above and beyond rich organic soil.  Blueberries like acidic soil.

So where do we find this in nature?  Evergreen trees.  The needles are quite acidic.  This is why not much grows under pine trees.  But blueberries like the acid and grow best in this kind of soil.  So I mulched my blueberries in evergreen tree branches.  The needles provide the needed pH and the woody part of the branches provide the organic matter.

DSC_0162This is not a science for me at this point.  I scattered the branches around the blueberry plants and then did the same in the area where I want to plant more blueberries next year.  I may need more and I may need less.  I will monitor the pH here and there and see what happens.

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I don’t know what everyone believes about loving your plants and talking to your plants and how that does or does not effect the plants growth.  If loving plants works, then these plants will be huge.  Now that my son knows that these plants make blueberries, he spends a lot of time with them and even tells them goodnight before bed.  I’ll let you know how healthy they are in the future!

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I have been sitting around waiting for the Man to get the trees down so that I could start working on the garden and the living area.  Since there was nothing else to do, I started making some little improvements on the living fence.  I decided that where the two sections of fence met that I needed wisteria.  For now, they are in the ground with some small posts to climb.  I will eventually have a big arbor there, where the wisteria and grapes will meet.  Hopefully, the wisteria won’t overtake the grapes.  This may be something I have to keep on top of, but wisteria are really good for the pollinators like bees and butterflies.

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I also went out and bought a couple more grape vines.  I already had 4 purple grapes, one may be dead, so I bought 2 green grapes.  I extended the border around the grape vines, strawberries, and rhubarb and popped the 2 new vines in.

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Here are the grapes, just starting to grow!

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