Tag Archives: Soil

Mulch ado about nuffin

Things have progressed in the garden to that slight lull in activity between preparing, planting, and harvesting. There is still plenty to do like my bi-weekly spraying regime and weeding, but luckily it is not as hectic as before. In between setting the tub in the guest bathroom at the Clayton house today I mulched raised bed #2.

Mulch06 Mulch07 Mulch08

Comfrey leaves being laid out

Comfrey leaves being laid out

This bed has a bit of nitrogen deficiency problem

This bed has a bit of nitrogen deficiency problem

Comfrey is high in nitrogen and breaks down rapidly, I am hoping this layer of leaves will help boost the fertility in this bed.

Straw Mulch

Comfrey plants can be seen in the foreground of this picture. They are on the downslope end of this bed in order to scavenge any nutrients that leach down.

Comfrey plants, seen in the foreground of this picture, are on the downslope end of this bed to scavenge any nutrients that leach down.

It hit 101* F today! The straw will help keep the soil temps down a bit along with minimizing evaporation.

Isn't this Tomcot Apricot a beauty?

Isn’t this Tomcot Apricot a beauty?

This is Karen's latest foster baby...Tribeca

This is Karen’s latest foster baby…Tribeca

My sweety Karen’s latest foster baby is Tribeca, a cute little kitten with a severely mangled paw that will necessitate amputation of her leg when she gets a bit older.

YummyCammy & Tribeca

Tribeca is socializing well and has a large following on The Humane Societies FB page already, so finding her a good forever home shouldn’t be a problem .

Gooey's new mineral block

Gooey’s new mineral block

Gooey the Mountain Goat

Goats have special mineral needs and now that Gooey is down to one bottle a day I went out and got her a mineral block. Like everything else in her world though the block is just another obstacle to climb!

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New and old beds

Last year I decided to redo the raised beds that run between my orchard rows. I now have two 4’x12′ beds along with my three original 4’x4′ ones.

4'x12' raised bed between the first 2 rows in my orchard

4’x12′ raised bed between the first 2 rows in my orchard

The bed above was whacked together in late fall/early winter. After filling the bed up with a bunch of stuff I called compost (really just partially decayed wood chips), litter from the hen-house, and some good old poopy dirt from the chicken run I heavily sowed it with oats, barley, and red wheat. The idea being to suck up some of that nitrogen from the raw chicken manure and mellow the bed a bit before spring. Red Wheat is all that came up and then not until about a month and half ago. It is hard to see but there are 5 tomatoes spaced about 18″ apart down the center of the bed with an artichoke anchoring the end in the foreground. Outside of the maters there is some spinach up at the top end with 10 chicory plants below that. My sweety Karen and Lexi picked out the pretty flowers to liven it up a bit and attract bees. Weekly I have been chopping and dropping the wheat forming the basis of a planned heavy mulch layer that should be in place by June.

This raised bed is between rows 2 and 3 in the orchard

This raised bed is between rows 2 and 3 in the orchard

This bed didn’t get setup until a little over a month ago and it shows. The fill is composed mostly of my compost/mulch piles that washed under the oleander during last summers floods. Mixed into this is another big batch of litter from the hen-house made up mostly of partly broken down star and chicken shit. As you can see the bottom end is similar to the previous bed in that there is an artichoke plant but only one tomato. Above that I am trying a “three sisters” planting. Down the center of the bed is a double row of sweet corn with 6″ separation between the rows and seeds spaced 8″ along the 8′ long rows. Six inches outside of the corn on either side is a row of pole beans again spaced 8″ apart but offset 4″ to give a little more room. Finally 6″ outside the beans is a row of yellow and green summer squash spaced 12″ apart. As before the women in my life have claimed the perimeter for “pretty” flowers and herbs. This bed didn’t get any mellowing time and I am beginning to see a bit of chlorosis, probably from the raw wood chips scavenging up the nitrogen. Hopefully an extra spraying of cold processed liquid fish will help get this bed on track.

What a mess!

What a mess!

This was the first bed I put in last year. It has a lot of scrap wood and coffee grounds under the soil(my half-assed attempt at hugelkulture) I’m going to chop and drop all the mess then plant a couple of pumpkins or squash plants and see what happens.

Bed #2 from last year

Bed #2 from last year

It is probably hard to tell but this half-assed hugel bed has already been chopped and dropped from an overwintering of cereal plants. There are four roma tomatoes in here that will be mulched with straw as the get bigger.

Hugel Bed #3

Hugel Bed #3

This final bed is again a sorta kinda hugelkulture bed with scrap wood, wood chips, and coffee covered with a load of compost from the UNCE orchard. It did OK growing broccoli and cabbage over the winter, I am going to chop the rest down and toss it to the chickens then plant peppers in here.

 

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What to do?

Humidity is dropping, temperature is moderating, and sadly motivation is waning bit. Shoulda got up and got a load of mulch but didn’t, coulda headed up bright and early to clear out vegetation but just veged. I did make it up to the homestead kinda later in the afternoon and found 10 eggs, woo-hoo. Yeah it’s kinda like that but it won’t last, motivation is right around the corner. I can feel it bearing down on me like……….well I don’t know like what, but it’s comin! Mother Nature took another swing at the Orchard/Chicken Ranch but thanks to my sweety Karen & daughter in law to be Shanda it was a swing and a miss. They braved raging flood waters (4″of rain in an hour) to clean out the grate on the storm drain and narrowly diverted a repeat of the Great Flood of 012! I still have a soggy stinky mess in the chicken run though, primarily in the juvenile pen so my goal tomorrow is to relocate it. The chickens have done a great job of turning the compost piles and I need to get all of that mess back in to the bins.

I need that compost to amend the back-fill for the raised beds/boxes I am going to create for the replacement trees in the orchard. It would be nice to get those made, hung and filled so that I can put some winter crops in them to condition the soil before planting new trees next February. By hung I mean that the plan is to build 3’x3′ boxes out of 2″x6″‘s then hang them from 3’ T type fence posts on each corner so that I drastically reduce the relative slope of the orchard. The hanging boxes which will probably end up about 6″ above the existing ground in the lowest area then be filled with amended soil and surrounded with a heavy layer of mulch. Will this plan work? Hell if I know but it sure aughta.

Did I mention I got a 22 lb watermelon out of all that mess of vegetation? I’m pretty sure there’s at least on more in there along with some punkins and zucchini. So really it’s not a matter of “What to do” it’s more a matter of getting my butt up and doin it! Tomorrow, yeah tomorrow.

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Wipe the slate clean!

OK not quite but sorta. Last week 2 things conspired to try to wipe the slate clean at my orchard/garden/chicken ranch.

  1. Mother Nature decided to toss a whompin thunderstorm at the East side of the valley
  2. Somebodies palm frond decided to plug up the brand spankin new storm drain just uphill from me

The Chickens are bouncing back nicely, I never did find my two Barnevelder babies but all of the others are present and accounted for.

A couple Black Copper Marans Roosters trying to figure who is the boss of the Juvenile Pen

The adolescent Golden Cuckoo Marans Rooster staking out his claim in the coop

Little Chickadee Alexa posing like a dork, oops I mean stork

The dominant Black Copper Marans Rooster tending to his girls

Karen had some of the perimeter fencing repaired which has freed up some chain-link gates that I am now planning how to use to divide my chicken run into three separate “paddocks”.The chicken run is approximately 15’x 55′, bouncing around in my noggin currently is a central 15’x15′ enclosure encompassing the coop with a 15’x20′ yard to either side. A Mulberry tree planted in the center of each of the three enclosures would provide shade & food in the summer along with leaves for the compost pile in the fall. We’ll see how those ideas develop, there is a lot of time for modifications as it is still to hot and humid to start on any major projects.

The Orchard came through fine, the flood waters beat up the trees a bit but didn’t rip any out and they don’t seem to be suffering from being waterlogged. Of the 7 comfrey plants I set out along the chicken-run fence only two have sprouted, there was a third before the flood but I can’t find any trace of it now. This whole area was mulched 6″ deep, it is back to bare soil now, just to the right of that bunch of what I think is Milo in the center of the picture was a good sized clump of comfrey that pulled a disappearing act like the one by the chicken-run. As soon as I harvest a couple watermelons and pumpkins that are hiding back under those leaves this area is going to cleared. If you look closely you can see a rebar stake on either side of the picture about the center up & down, they are 10′ apart and define the tree rows of my orchard. You can sorta see to the left lower center area of the picture how the soil looks kinda damp, this is a week after the flood and that section hasn’t dried out. Coincidentally I lost all of the trees on this end of the orchard to what I believe was wet feet. I’m not ambitious enough to haul in enough soil to raise the entire end but I am going to build 3’x3′ raised beds for each of the trees that will be planted this winter and a 2’x 16′ raised bed running down the center of that 10′ wide lane between the trees. I plan on hanging the “boxes” from 3′ T fencing posts driven in at each corner and then filling the raised beds with compost, sand, and native yucky clay soil. There will still be some fall from the North to the South end of the orchard but not as much which should  allow for better drainage. Rather than filling in the area between the “hanging” beds with soil I’m going to fill it in with mulch to create a large sheet composting system which over time will create a great area for the roots of my fruit trees to expand into.I’ve found over the years that if you just sit down and chill out for a bit you can usually turn most anything around. This flood that seemed so horrible last week is the spark that got my fire going for the fall season to come! A couple more weeks of yucky heat to research and refine my plans and I’ll hit the ground running and come next summer have an even better Orchard/Garden/Chicken Ranch. Who knows I might even find time to figure out a way to divert next monsoon seasons storm water!

 

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