Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Homegrown goodness

Our garden is something of an oasis in our neighborhood; a suburban, one-eighth acre, lot.

Our veggie garden is a loose interpretation of "Square Foot Gardening" ... our 20ft x 20ft garden has six 4ft x 4ft raised beds, two 2ft x 6ft raised beds, a couple raised round containers, and a flat area overtaken by weeds, rogue tomatoes, and rambling strawberries! I threw in a couple hay bales this year as an experimental planting medium too!

The boxes are filled with free compost from our township (composted leaves), fortified with home-made compost from lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, and shredded paper, with mulching layers of grass clippings (fresh from the lawnmower) & chicken manure+sawdust or scratchings from our chicken coop & run. 

Early Spring: Lettuce, Broccoli & Kale ... Rainbow Swiss Chard at right

In April (pre-spring) we directly planted and seeded cool crops: three varieties of kale, three varieties of lettuce, onions, broccoli, spinach, peas, Swiss chard, parsley, garlic & mustard greens. In May I started seeds indoors for some of the summer crops like zucchini, melons, basil, green beans, and about six varieties of heirloom tomatoes. In mid-May we planted our seedlings and some peppers from a nursery in a little 12ft x 7ft greenhouse set up over a couple of the beds,  ... which gave them a head start during our unseasonably cool spring. And eventually (with the help of a couple windy storms) removed the greenhouse to let the sun and rain do their work. 

Mustard Greens, Kale, Onions & Lettuce

Lettuce & Spinach

And somewhere in there I bought a couple of hay bales, one of which fills half a 4ft x 4ft square, and into which we planted zucchini, while the other hay bale was placed over a bare patch in our lawn (where a blueberry didn't grow) into which we planted melons.

Haybale experiment ... Melons

Honeydew Melons

The greens have been wonderful ... we ate salads three to four times a week all Spring and into early summer until the lettuce & spinach bolted (went to flower). And the kale, oh the kale! It is my new favorite veggie! Easy to grow. Slow to bolt. Can survive/grow in winter. Versatile — salads, cooked, smoothies... 

Kale variety #1

We have been drinking green smoothies (kale/spinach/chard/parsley, fruit & juice) almost every day since spring. My seasonal allergies have been minimal, my immune system maximal (haven't had a cold since winter!), and I feel pretty great! A green smoothie makes a great. and quick, breakfast!

Kale variety #2

Every couple weeks I feed the garden with manure tea. Using a five-gallon bucket, I fill it about 1/4 with sawdust/manure fresh from the chicken coop. Then I fill it to the top with water and stir. It sits for three days to steep, and then it just needs to be watered down 1:1 before your pour it on. The sawdust doesn't break down, so it becomes a protective, water retaining mulch around the plants base, and will eventually compost. 

In addition to the "squares" I have a/an herb garden (depends how you say herb!) with chives, green, variegated & pineapple sages, thyme, cilantro, dill, parsley, marjoram, oregano and basil, plus a couple of rogue tomatoes that grew from seeds in the compost! Also a perennial rhubarb; peach, apple and cherry trees, and a lot of pollinator-friendly perennials and shrubs.

Herbs: Basil, Sage, Marjoram & Chives ...

Flowers to attract the pollinators

I am so looking forward to expanding our garden at our new house, with about about 2.5 acres of cleared property (4.5 acres total) ... though, I will need to figure out how to deer-proof it first!! I think the garden will likely be well-established before the house is finished being renovated!!