Spring Planting Begins!

We’ve just entered the new moon phase and the weather is warm, which means the floodgates of planting are open!

Here’s a link to a moon phase planting calendar and explanation of how it works:

http://www.ommas-aarden.net/perp_lunar_garden.htm

Usually the outdoor plantings don’t begin until the first or second week of April but we’ve started a little early thanks to this extra warm weather.

So far we’ve planted:

parsnips
radish-round red type
green onions
sugar snap peas
rapini aka raab

Indoors under grow lights we have:

leeks
celery
red onions

On deck for early spring outdoor planting is:

snow peas-green and purple types
turnip-purple top white bottom
fava beans
radish-white icicle and daikon
carrot- red and orange types
arugula

Then at the end of april/early may we’ll begin the mid-late spring plantings of a variety of other veggies.

Forest Garden Tour Video - Part 1

In this video we look at two apple tree guilds, a cherry tree guild, pine tree guild, and a few vegetable patches along the way.

A guild is a group of elements (eg. plants, animals, fungi, rocks, land features) that use the same resources, and/or the same space. These elements are not all necessarily edible but are ideally beneficial or at least neutral to the surrounding elements.

A clip from Toby Hemenway’s book Gaia’s Garden (http://www.patternliteracy.com/books/gaias-garden) lists some of the different elements that can make up a guild.

The Central Element – Food producing, wildlife supporting, or nitrogen fixing

Fruit trees – Apples, Peaches, Persimmons, Plums

Nut trees – Oaks, Walnuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts

Nitrogen Fixers – Alders, Black Locust

Insect and Bird-Attracting Plants (Insectaries) – Lure pollinators and pest predators

Carrot family – Dill, Angelica, Chervil, Celery, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip, Cilantro

Aster family – Yarrow, Sunflower, Aster, Calendula, Dahlia, Cosmos, Zinnia, Dandelion, Marigold, Daisy

Other great bird, bee, and butterfly plants: Borage, Nasturtium, Lavender, Lemon, Balm, Spearmint, Bergamont, Sweet Alyssum, Nettles

Nutrient Bio-Accumulators – Plants with deep taproots to draw up nutrients and minerals

Chicory, Plantain, Buckwheat, Burdock, Carrots, Dock, Beets, Dandelion

Nitrogen Fixers – Nutrient creation via fungal symbiosis on root nodules

Pea family – Peas, Beans, Indigo, Clover, Alfalfa, Lupine, Wisteria

Other nitrogen fixing Genus – Ceanothus, Elaeagnus, Hippophaë, Shepherdia

Mulch and Groundcover – Perennial soft leafy plants that break down into plant nutrients

Comfrey, artichokes, cardoon, clover, nasturtium, rhubarb

Grass-Suppressing Bulbs – keep grasses and weeds at bay with a circle of bulbs

Daffodils, Camas, Alliums (Garlic, Onions, Chives, Leeks)

Habitat Nooks – Attract more birds, bees, reptiles, and amphibians

Piles or rocks, stones, logs or brush,

Small ponds and water elements (Bird baths, fountains, greywater systems)

Self-Seeded Tomato Circle Video

I think we only ever watered these tomatoes once. It while they were first forming fruit but they didn’t actually need the water, I just wanted to boost their fruit set a little. I should mention that we are in zone 5a in Ontario Canada. You’re not supposed to be able to get a finished crop of tomatoes from direct seeding tomatoes in this region but these ones gave a pretty good yield. Please ‘like’ the video on youtube, and/or leave a comment to boost the youtube ratings so more people can be exposed to this subversive idea.

Video Tour of our Hugelkultur Forest Garden Plot

Here’s a tour of our one year old hugelkultur forest garden of 50 feet x 100 feet.

“What is hugelkultur?” you ask?

Hugelkultur is the burying of woody material to create a raised garden bed. Whole trees, limb prunings, hedge clippings, brassica stems, and any other woody material can be used. Often, herbaceous plant material is placed on top of the wood, to provide a source of nutrients that will break down quicker than the wood.

The name comes from German – hügelkultur translates as “hill culture”.

The technique can vary but what we did involves digging a trench about 1′-5′ deep and 3′-5′ wide. The material is piled on, with the thicker wood being placed at the bottom, getting thinner as you get to the top. Turf (grass) and/or hay is then stacked face down on top, then layers of compost, well rotted leaves and manure, etc as available. The layers break down slowly and creating rich humus over many. These beds are ideal for growing anything from trees to above-ground vegetables and herbs, to root crops.

As the years pass, the deep soil of the raised bed becomes incredibly rich and loaded with soil life. As the wood shrinks, it makes more tiny air pockets – so your hugelkultur becomes self tilling. The first few years, the composting process will slightly warm the soil giving a slightly longer growing season, in temperate and cold climates.

I realize that it’s a long video but I felt that editing it down would leave out valuable information. Think of it as an exercise for your attention span? Or there’s always the pause button. I had edited in an ambient music track throughout the tour but the music isn’t showing up on the youtube upload for some reason. If I figure out the problem I’ll repost the video with the audio track, as it helps the pace of the video. In the meantime I’d suggest putting on some music in the background as you watch the video. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy…

Hay Bale Garden Tour

Here’s a tour of our experimental hay bale gardens:

Winter Chicken House Tour Part 2

The second part of the winter chicken house tour is now live on youtube. Here’s the link:

Auto Draft

Part 1 of our Winter Chicken House Tour video is up on our Youtube channel. In the tour I show and explain how we at Greenshire house chickens in a passively heated structure, all through the winter. It’s January 5th and we are still getting eggs!

Please ‘like’ and/or leave a comment, to help expose the video to more viewers.

Earth-Sheltered Passive Solar Greenhouse

We’re hoping to begin construction on our greenhouse before the ground freezes, and have it up and running by spring.

Our greenhouse design will be based on the works of Mike Oehler. His design uses the sun, water barrels and/or animals, and earth bank walls to heat the interior. The earth banks against the walls also insulate against the outside temperatures. Another aspect of the design is that the glass is angled to optimize winter sun exposure.

In his book he recommends that the greenhouse be sunk into the ground a few feet to get even better thermal insulation but our water table is so high that we’ll have to build at, or slightly below ground level and hill up earth around the walls to avoid flooding the greenhouse floor and growing area.

Here’s a link to Mike’s website:

http://www.undergroundhousing.com/greenhouse_book.html

And here’s a youtube video of a tour of one of his prototype greenhouses:

Our greenhouse won’t be as big as his. Because we’re altering the original design due to the water table, we’re going to go smaller for this first ‘experiment’. If it’s a success, then we’ll get permits for more and larger greenhouses.

We’re hoping that this greenhouse will allow us to have a supply of leafy greens for the winter, and a place to start our tomatoes and peppers etc. in the spring, without the need for grow lights and electric heaters.

How to Plant Garlic and Grow It as a Perennial

So the garlic is all planted, finally. I put approximately 6000-7000 cloves in the ground.

Some were planted in a ring around our fruit trees, and strawberries for their aromatic protection against pests. Most were planted in large blocks with vacant strips in between, so that vulnerable crops can grow within a protective border of garlic.

Usually, garlic is planted in the fall, and harvested the following year, in mid-to-late summer. This cycle is then repeated year after year, which is very time consuming and tedious.

I’m going to try growing our garlic as a perennial patch, so that I won’t ever have to plant garlic again unless we buy more seed stock to expand the patch, or plant more protective borders around fruit trees etc.

I will still cut all the premature flower heads but instead of pulling up all the plants, selling most and replanting enough to keep our stock up, I’ll pull only the biggest plants, leaving the rest in the ground to divide themselves and create more plants.

Every few years in the spring I’ll scatter some manure or coffee grounds over the patch, and every fall I’ll spread a thick layer of hay or tree leaves to suppress weeds. If weeds start to take over an area during the growing season, I’ll simply cover them with leaves or woodchips, making sure not to bury the garlic plants if possible.

The beds will never be tilled or dug. They were prepared simply by covering the undisturbed ground with about 2 inches of compost, manure, or coffee grounds, pressing the cloves into this, and covering with several inches of hay. No back-breaking labour or soil disturbance required.

I’ve tried this with a small garlic patch for the last few years and it’s worked very well so I’m confident that it will work on a relatively large scale. I’m looking forward to saving a lot of time on unnecessary tasks.

Greenshire Wins 2nd Place Innovation Award

Recently, the Carrot Cache (A charitable arm of the Carrot Common http://www.carrotcommon.com) ran an agricultural innovation award contest. We entered with the innovation of Hugelkultur garden bed cultivation and won second prize!

Here’s a link with step by step instruction and photos to explain our innovation:

http://carrotcache.com/innovations/innovations-2011/hugelbeds/index.html

Thanks to the people at the Carrot Common and Cache for their generous support of local, environmentally sound farming practices.