Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hugelkultur gardens-raised mound gardens

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I have read about this type of garden and am definitely go to try it out soon.  Fall is the best time of year to build one!  It is an ancient form of sheet mulching from Eastern Europe.  With this type of raised bed garden, you don’t even need to water.    Hugelkultur is German and means “mound culture.”  It is great way to use fallen trees and brush.

Basically, you build a mound out of logs and brush as high as you would like.  You can dig it in a foot or just lay them right on top of the ground.  Start with the biggest logs you have.  You can build the pile 1-2’ of logs and brush.  Then, stomp on it.  Then add leaves, the sod you cleared for the hugel garden, compost, garden waste, manure, and dirt, making a mounded heap with about 45 degree sides.

The taller the mound, the less the need for irrigation.  Some are over 6 feet tall!

As the logs and brush decompose, they create little pockets and organic matter; tilling and fertilizing themselves.  The garden fertility improves over time and the need to irrigate reduces over time.  You can plant in it the first year, but you will see improved results over time.  To help it along, plant legumes as they are nitrogen fixers.  Peas or fava beans in the spring or fall and green beans in the summer.

The best would be to prepare the hugel garden in the fall so it will be ready for spring planting.  Another way to get a jump start would be to use new wood on the bottom and well rotted wood on the top layer.

You can edge the garden with logs, stones or nothing at all.

There are very few trees that are not the best candidates for this type of garden like cedar, black walnut, any treated or painted wood, black locust, or black cherry.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What's happening in the mid September garden

Early fall bounty-tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, herbs, eggplant

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The plants that like this kind of weather are tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, Egyptian walking onions, cucumbers, the Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, savory, dill, tarragon and thyme and all types of greens.  We are preserving for year round eating everything we have extra right now.  It is so rewarding to know that we can eat food we grew year round.

In the last week, we have seen the temps go from the highs in the 90's to the highs in the 60 and 70's.  Quite the change!  It definitely feels like fall is on its way.

We just went through and fertilized with an organic fertilizer from Espoma.  With natural fertilizers you don’t have to worry about “burning” your plants as they slowly release into the ground.   This may be the last time we fertilize this season. You should fertilize about once a month through the growing season.  You don’t want to shoot too much nitrogen to your fruit producers as you can end up with all leaves and no veggie fruits.  

It is important to get all your winter and overwintering veggies and greens up to full size prior to early November.  The days are so short come November that there will be minimal growth from November to mid January.

Our garlic has finished hardening.  It is recommended you leave garlic and onions you want to store in 80+ degree temperatures in the shade for a couple of weeks.  Ours have been hardening on the deck for about 6 weeks.  It is now ready to plant in the waning of the moon next month.

All of our veggies and herbs are doing well with the exception of the zucchini.  We are still getting some fruits, but they are producing slowly and the plant is starting to die back.

The chives, rosemary, tarragon, dill, and sage are all doing quite well.  The Egyptian walking onions are thriving.
Dwarf cherry tomato, cultivated French dandelion, and marigolds

The tomatoes we planted are still producing well, both the dwarfs and full size plants.  We have gotten quarts and quarts in the freezer and have canned 9 half liters.  When the tomato season is over, I'll thaw many of the frozen quarts and make more sauce.  It is much nicer canning in cool weather!

Our spicy pepper plants are doing fine.  They are on the smaller side this year.  We just didn’t get many jalapeƱos.  The cayenne pepper plant is full of green peppers.  The Cajun Belle has given up.  

The sweet bell pepper plants have always produce less than the spicy peppers in our garden.  This year I tried some different sweet peppers and have had much better luck.  The sweet yellow banana and Nikita peppers have been very productive this year!  I have gotten plenty to munch on and freeze.

So far, I have only gotten 6-7 pimentos (have 4 more on the plant) and several baby chocolate bell peppers.  I am getting enough pimentos to freeze for the Pasta House salad we love to make, and eat.  The Poblano, Ancho, and Anaheim peppers are doing quite well.  We will have enough peppers to dry for chili powder all winter.  
Nikita sweet pepper plant

For peppers, if you want to maximize the harvest, pick them as soon as they get to full size versus letting them fully ripen to red, yellow, or orange on the plant.  This stimulates the plant to produce more.  If you let them ripen on the plant, the taste will be sweeter.  I compromise and take them off just when they start to turn.  They complete ripening on the counter in a few days.

I had 3 cucumber plants.  Two have been doing very well.  I get about 4 cucumbers off them each week. They are so crunchy and flavorful right off the vine!  Any extras go into pickles.

I am transplanting lettuce plants from the small tray self watering pots into the Earthbox planters and into the garden.  We keep them well moist so they sprout and grow quickly.   

I had also reseeded the Earthbox last week end and there are little lettuce and spinach growing.  We will cover the Earthboxes with a small portable green house later this fall so we can have salads throughout the winter.
Earthbox with lettuce sprouts from seeds last week coming up

I planted chard transplants in the garden bed from the pot I had it in, too.    Chard comes in such beautiful colors.  They are perennials so should come back next year if the winter is not too harsh.  Since the Farmer's Almanac is calling for another cold winter, we'll do extra mulching in late fall to protect the perennial greens, veggies, and herbs.

Make sure you save the seeds from your best and longest producers to plant in your garden next spring.  I also save seeds from organic produce I get from the store that is really good.  Last week end when we were at the grocery store, there were these beautiful burgundy and dark green striped tomatoes.  I bought the biggest, prettiest one they had.  We enjoyed the tomato and saved the seeds.    Next year, we'll be able to have them in our own garden!

This week we found "Black Italian Prune Plums." We bought them for a friend who likes to make jam.  They made beautiful, delicious burgundy colored jam.  She saved the seeds for me.  I researched them and found out that they are actually heirloom "Damson" plums.  I have put them in moist Sphagnum moss in a ziplock and will store in the frig over the winter.  Next spring, I'll plant those that have sprouted.  They produce fruit in 4 years and are a pretty tree that will be a nice addition to the yard and the pantry.
Black Italian prune plums, "Damson"

This fall, we will have arugula, mustard greens, lettuce, chard, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, French and Italian dandelion, spinach, lettuce, purslane, corn salad, celery, chives, parsley, arugula, and sprouting broccoli for salads.  Peppers, eggplant and tomatoes will produce until the first freeze.  The Egyptian onions will produce all through winter.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Time to set out transplants for fall, winter, & spring harvests

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Now is the time to put out your transplants for your winter garden.  Winter producing varieties are the really hardy cold crops that thrive in the cool temperatures of spring, fall and winter. To get the longest harvest possible, look for varieties that say “cold hardy”, “early winter”, “overwintering”, “winter-hardy”, “cold tolerant”, “bred for winter production.”  

With cover, the following will allow you to harvest all winter: arugula, beets, chicory, corn salad, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley root, radicchio, radishes, spinach, and swiss chard.

The following don’t require covering: brussels sprouts, winter harvest cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, bunching onions or Egyptian onions, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, salad burnet.

Any perennial greens can also be planted now.  Your perennial greens and overwintering varieties are the first up in the spring.

If you didn’t start seeds, big box stores, local nurseries and even mail order nurseries have begun to have fall planting veggies so you can still get transplants to plant in time for fall, winter, and spring harvests.

*Asparagus (planted now for spring)
*Sprouting broccoli (will come back in the spring, too)
*Cabbage (at this point, look for ones with the shortest days to maturity)
*Carrots (can be pulled all winter)
*Chard (will survive winters if placed in a sheltered area and mulched)
*Collard Greens (a southern favorite)
*Corn salad (also called Mache)
*Egyptian walking onions (harvest all winter in a pot or ground)
*Garlic, shallots, leeks (can be planted into late next month)
*Kale (may survive all winter into spring)
*Lettuce (can germinate at temps as low as 40 degrees F)
*Mustard greens (love Giant Red and Ruby Streaks)
*Bunching onions (depending on type, ready to harvest Oct-Dec)
*Overwintering onions (all onions can be left in the ground in Zone 6)
*Overwintering peas
*Radishes (can be pulled all through winter)
*Salad burnet (a perennial has a fresh cucumber/cilantro taste)
*Sorrel (a perennial that has a tart taste kind of like Granny Smith apples)
*Spinach (many survive the winter to mature in early spring)

Your transplants will grow quickest in the earliest part of fall, slowing down as daylight hours decrease.  From November to mid-January, there will be minimal growth.

Fall and winter harvested veggies are at their crispest and sweetest after a light frost.  The cold temps concentrate the sugars, making them extra yummy!