Vegetable Gardens (new for 2010!)

Tutorial: Making a Storage Container Compost Bin
I hesitate to even call this a tutorial, since it's basically me saying "drill a bunch of holes in a bin!" but I found my inspiration in a similar tutorial, so I'll pass along my improvements on the method.

Without further ado, here's how to turn a plastic storage container (Sterilite or similar) into a compost bin. The whole process takes less than ten minutes.

Photos under the cutCollapse )

New veg garden layout - squee!
perfume, gardening, wonderment
Layout pic behind cutCollapse )
A lady who I met recently and who lives in a wood about three miles from us suggested I read up about Forest Gardening and Permaculture.

So I did. Well, I've had are really heavy chesty cold the last few days which has wiped me out so I've had a LOT of time to really get into the research you know. During this I also came across the fascinating subject of Perennial Vegetables.

Read more...Collapse )

Cucumbers and a Tomato Jungle
Hello fellow gardeners! A few months ago I posted about my garden over on Dreamwidth. It was mostly photos of dirt and weeds.

This time I have photos of a backyard jungle, and the first fruits of my labor.Collapse )

hauyu pichu
Like most organic gardeners, I have a bit of an obsession with composting. Usually this time of year, green material is in fairly short supply. Sadly, in a way, not this year. At the community garden where I have a plot, this year many new gardeners are keeping the trash bins full of weeds and other green material.

My first use of this material was to build shallow compost "paths." Let me explain, the town dumps partially decomposed wood chips near the plots for out use. I both dug a lot of this into my beds, used this as much, and to cover the paths between beds. As all this green material became available, I spread a six inch layer of it over the wood chips in the path, and covered that with a thin layer of wood chips, and repeated the process. I don't want to go to high with this idea, because I'm afraid that it might create enough heat to burn the nearby plants. So each day I bring some of the green material home to add to my compost pile.
You can never have enough, right?

Root crops and soil preparation
hauyu pichu
I find making small garden beds for root crops to be a very relaxing experience.  I don't use anything to frame my garden beds, since I find thatedging just gives slugs somewhere to hide and breed, and framing isn't necessary.  After double digging the soil, I ass as much organic matter as I can spare, but for the initial dig I use at least 4 inches of peat and manure, and dig it into the top foot of soil and follow that with greensand, rock phosphate, and bonemeal.   I tend to breakup remaining clods of dirt, and get on my hands and knees to work the soil until it feels "perfect,"   I probably over do this step, but I do enjoy the process.

When I'm happy with the soil, I rake the top of the soil flat, and  broadcast the seed,.  Today I prepared a 30 square foot bed for carrots, and in one small corner of the ged planted parsnips.   After broadcasting the seed on top of the bed, I cover with half an inch of potting soil and water well.
Carrots, (and beets, and turnips when I plant them next week) are thinned to 3 inch equidistant spacing, and parsnips to 6 inches. When the soil is properly amended and prepared, the yield makes all the work worthwhile.

Easy vegetables recommendations please!
I've been gardening for a couple of years and am still a relative enthusiastic newbie. The past two seasons I've had fun experimenting and finding out what works well in my garden and what doesn't. This season is going to be a little different though, in that I now have a 3 1/2 month old daughter and my time in the garden is going to be limited both in terms of time and effort.

So I'd like suggestions of what I can grow that will survive if left unattended for a few days at a time! Ideally drought- and pest-resistant, and not need too much fertilisation beyond an initial compost boost.

Things I think I will try:
Potatoes. Never grown before so I'm keen to try, but feel free to talk me down if the soil-piling will be too much work!
Cougettes (zuccini). I've had amazing success with these providing I remember to water them!
Onions. Plant, water, ignore. Easy.
Carrots. Companion to onions.
Herbs. I have an established herb-garden that self-seeds well.

Things that haven't worked for me:
Brassicas. I have perfect soil for them but the cabbage white butterfly decimated my crop!
Beans. Ditto but blackfly.
Pumpkin and squash. Only ever grown in pots but never successfully fruited. Will they work better in the ground?
Salad. I think they scorched last year.
Beetroot. Failed both in the garden and in pots. I think I over-crowded them so may try again one to a pot.

I also have established rasberry canes, gooseberry bush and a wild plum tree. Soil is chalky alkaline, zone 9 (UK South West).

I'd love to hear your comments/thoughts/suggestions!

Thinking about Planting
Hello everyone! It's almost January, which means that here in California it's time to start thinking about planting. I already missed the optimal time for onions, argh - starts are supposed to go out in November or December, where I'm living now.

Here in California the hills are dead and golden for most of the summer, then grey when the winter rain comes. Sometime around the first real rains in November comes what my brother calls "false spring" - when the grass sprouts, robing the hills in a gown of brilliant, fragile new grass. The blades grow about five inches tall, then settle in to wait until the weather warms up to put out real growth. Meanwhile, as the rains come and we don't see the sky for weeks, we can look at the green hills and be reminded that spring is coming.

Spring, of course, means gardens, which is why I spent some time yesterday evening carefully measuring all the garden bed areas and plotting them out on paper. It was more space than I expected, to my great glee. I moved in too late last year to put in a proper garden, but this year I will. This also means many happy hours spent browsing Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Kitazawa Seeds, two excellent sites to check out if you're in the USA. Baker Creek has so many incredibly tempting heirloom varieties, it's dangerous. And they now have a retail outlet in driving distance of my house - even MORE dangerous! Visiting them is on my list of objectives for this weekend. Hopefully I can keep my purchases to a manageable level.

Last year I noticed that what plants I did manage to get into the ground suffered from having few pollinators to visit. Not surprising, really, since I'm now living in the middle of suburbia. Everything is lawns and concrete. My plan this year involves companion-plantings of California native plants that attract pollinators. Hopefully it will be good all around: the plants will provide food for native butterflies and insects, attract pollinators to my yard, and produce pretty flowers. Especially now, with colony collapse disorder threatening the bees (well, unless it's Daleks)they could use our help. I also happen to live in the California Bay Area, quite close to some of the last remaining habitats of the federally threatened Bay Checkerspot butterfly. Some of its food plants will be finding their way into my garden. If any of you are in California, I highly recommend taking a look at the website of the California Native Plant Society. They have a list of nurseries that sell native plants, organized by area, which is really useful. I think we generally forget about native plants when it comes to gardening, because so many of them aren't very showy compared to garden varieties. But did you know that baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) are California native wildflowers? There are plenty of gorgeous flowers that would look right at home in a garden. and attract all sorts of beneficial bugs.

So! What are other people thinking about, this year? Trying anything new? I was going to try onions from seed, but I'm not sure, now. Might as well, really. My husband and I went to Japan recently, and were served some really delicious melon. As a result, I'm going to try growing Japanese melons. We'll see how that works out. I've never had terribly good luck with melons...


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