Tag Archives: garden update

Homestead Updates – Early August 2014

With all my discussion of everything else, I have failed to do any reasonable update about the homestead in the last few months.  So here’s an update of what’s happening around the homestead!

 

The Druid’s Organic Vegetable Garden: Veggies, Pests, and Interplantings

One of the things I’m learning about organic gardening is that each year, the challenges of pests are quite different, and basing this year’s garden off of last year’s successes and tribulations isn’t always a sure bet.  My first year, I had potato beetles, hundreds of potato beetles that I had to hand pick and feed to my peeps.   The next year, it was the year of the squash bug and borer; I lost nearly all of my squash and zuchinni crops to them (the only squash I got came up in my compost pile!). Then it was blight and wilt the 3rd year.   This year, it is the year of the slug.  Slugs took out a good 25% of my crops before I resorted to buying some OMRI certified Sluggo (which uses iron phosphate to disrupt the slugs).  And Sluggo works, even if I applied it a little too late.  I think its all the rain and no heat. This lovely pumpkin patch has taken a beating recently, as have most of my squash. Slugs are literally eating the bottoms of the vines, like where they go into the ground.  Its very different than the other kind of bug damage from previous years!

Unhappy Pumpkins eaten by slugs

Unhappy Pumpkins eaten by slugs

Unripe pumpkin grows!

Unripe pumpkin grows!

But regardless of this year’s challenge, the garden is going great.  I am still working on planting enough that I can harvest fresh and have enough for canning and preservation but yet not too much that I’m getting overwhelmed.  This is not an easy task.  I have a great bean harvest, but I’ve already canned what I wanted to can, and now I’ll be freezing some because I’m kinda overwhelmed with beans!

Wall of Beans!

Wall of Beans!  Trellising is working well here 🙂

I also planted too many zucchini.  I went with three successions of 4 plants each this year, planted at two-week intervals, because the last two years, I didn’t have any at all due to the squash borers.  This year though, since the borers are nowhere to be seen (perhaps killed off by the hard winter), I ended up with 12 healthy plants.  Its worked out well, as I’ve been teaching at a local community organization that has a soup kitchen and free food table, so the extras are going there each week.  And I eat zucchini and beansnow at least once a day.

Zuchinni and Kale

Zuchinni and Kale

In the photo above, you can also see my row of kale and potatoes on the right (I am experimenting with various interplantings this year).  The kale remains one of my absolute favorite crops–it rarely has serious pest damage, it produces for longer than any other crop due to its cold resistance, it is incredibly healthy and tasty and versatile, and it is extremely easy to grow.  I consider it one of the best plants for beginner gardeners to start out with!  The interplantings also seem to be going well–except that to harvest my potatoes, I need to pull up some kale. So I think in the future I won’t do long, thin rows but blocks of potatoes and kale.  Other interplantings were radish and zuchinni, carrots and lettuce, and basil and eggplant/peppers/tomatoes. All seem happy.

Another crop that I’ve been super pleased with this year is the three sisters garden (another interplanting).  Two rows of popcorn, two rows of sweet corn, and one row of beans and squash on the edges of each.  I used bush beans this year, and in future years, I would use climbing beans instead because they are starting to get shaded out.  The squash are working their way through the beans and corn…everything is very, very happy and abundant and wild, just how I like it!  You can see a squash hanging from the corn in the 2nd photo on the right. I am going to add this as a staple in my gardening in the future.  The one thing I will say about this interplanting is that it is not early season planting, so you’ll want to think about adding other things in other parts of the garden that are earlier season, rather than go with all three sisters (which I’ve heard of people doing).

Three Sisters Gardens

Three Sisters Gardens

Three sisters

Three sisters

Since its been so cold and damp, the celery is also growing really well this year.  Interestingly enough, its super mild this year (and it was sooo strong last year, especially after frost, that I could only use a little at a time).  I am very much enjoying cooking with the freshest of celery!

Celery

Celery

Here are a few other shots of the garden and awesome things growing!

Various Cabbages and Chards

Various Cabbages and Chards

Cucumber almost ripe

Cucumber almost ripe

I am growing these cukes an old bedframe–this trellis works great!

Tomato trellis (only sorta working)

Tomato trellis (only sorta working)

The photo above is of my tomato trellises.  I saw this done at another farm last year.  I had hoped to use it to trellis tomatoes…I think I needed stronger rope and I needed to be more on top of it than I was.  Its sorta working, but its sorta not.  The idea is that you pound in stakes, and then you string rope, and then weave the tomatoes up it.  But my tomatoes didn’t want to seem to grow very high up, they prefer instead to go out.  So I’m not sure what to do about that.  I’ll just be glad to get the tomatoes :).

 

The Bees

I discussed beekeeping first a few months ago.  The bees are enjoying the last major nectar flows of the year–the clover is mostly done for the season, but now the spotted knapweed/star thistle and the goldenrod is coming in.  They bees are still quite busy and the hives now have 40,000 to 50,000 bees each, and I have honey supers on both hives.  I’m hoping I’ll get at least some honey–and that’s looking likely, although how much it will be is not clear yet. Here’s one of the magical hives–the fourth box (on top) is the super!

Happy hive!

Happy hive!

Close up of bees

Close up of bees using their upper entrance hole

I want to say something about spotted knapweed.  Its one of those plants that people often get upset about, that its a ‘terrible invasive.’  I’ve heard of people dumping Monsanto’s Roundup on it to get rid of it…there are so many things wrong with dumping Roundup anywhere for any purpose, in my opinion. I’m working on an extended post on invasive plants and the concept of invasion, but for now, what I can say that as a beekeeper and permaculturist, I am happy to see the knapweed growing.  It is only growing in highly disturbed soil, so its one of those “opportunistic” species; other things grow in those same soils in other parts of the year.  In my many forays into the abundant wild fields to gather medicinals and food, I see it thriving in an ecosystem with other plants including St. Johns Wort, Yarrow, Mullein, Milkweed, and Goldenrod.  And every time I see it, its covered in bees, butterflies, and other things.  The beekeepers around here call it “star thistle” and, frankly, it is one of the most delightful tasting honeys you will ever enjoy.  Not to mention, the plant has medicinal value itself.  So while my bees live off of “invasive” star thistle and sweet clover, the hives grow strong.

Brood

Brood

This final bee photo shows the comb where the bees are raising brood.  You can see the white larvae in the brood chamber.  It takes about 25 days for the egg to turn into a larvae, then pupae, and then emerge.  I got to witness a pupae emerging when I was doing a hive inspection recently–she chewed her way slowly out of the capped chamber, then turned right around and cleaned out the chamber so a new egg could be laid inside by the queen.  The whole thing was amazing and incredible!  When you look in the hive, you can see the bees at all stages of growth.  The oldest bees are the foragers; they leave the hive to bring back nectar and pollen.

 

Chickens

I lost a good deal of my chicken flock to a raccoon in December.  My magical rooster, Anasazi, managed to survive and he was living at a friend’s house with a friend’s flock for the last six months.  In June, right around the solstice,. his crowing, which I love, got to be too much for my friends.  He needs to bring the sun up every day, so of course he is going to crow quite a bit!  And so I brought him back here and bought one large hen (a rescue) and then have been raising up a bunch of peeps for his flock.  You see, one rooster prefers to have about 10-12 hens, so that’s what I’m trying to give him (the things I do for that bird…lol).  Two weekends ago, I hosted a permablitz through the Oakland County Permaculture meetup, taught people about raising chickens, and had a bunch of help building an awesome new coop and enclosure for the growing flock.  Here’s a photo of the mostly-finished project:

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop & enclosure

The new little ones arrived in mid-July, and they are growing so fast.  Here are a few shots of them from their first week of life!

New peeps don't want to pose for the camera

New peeps don’t want to pose for the camera, but they will poop on the stairs.

Young and old chickens

Young and old chickens; Anasazi the rooster is not interested

I am raising two adolescents birds as well, who I picked up in early june as peeps.  They are “clover” and “dandelion”; and they just joined the two older birds in the main coop.  They’ve been getting along well, but the two little ones refuse to go in at night so I have to go out, pick them up, and put them in the coop till they go on their own.  The adolescent chickens have, for no reason I can understand, taken a liking to my cat (who, up until a few weeks ago and they got too big, wanted to eat them for dinner).

Clover and Grimalkin hang out

Clover and Grimalkin hang out

Other Life on the Land

The land is bursting with so much life, so many beautiful herbs and plants, so many sacred tall trees.  I am so happy to see monarchs in the yard, hummingbirds, and even a bluebird this week!  I’ve been thinking about “if you grow it, they will come” as a philosophy behind the wildlife and butterfly sanctuary.  And that truely is what is happening here!

Coneflower

Coneflower

Burdock and the Honeybee

Burdock and the Honeybee

After each of my herb weekends, I come home to discover more medicinal plants growing here.  Just yesterday, a friend and I were walking around the property and came across a whole patch of boneset–an herb I had on my “to find” list.  And across from the boneset was a crampbark tree!  The bounty and beauty of this land amazes me each day, and I feel so honored to call this place my home.

Garden/Homestead Updates – June 2013

I wanted to spend a bit of time on my garden updates–its been a while since I showed progress.  So here’s what’s happening at the Druid’s Garden (zone 6a, South-East Michigan, USA). Photos were taken about 4 days ago.

Chickens

I’ve had some setbacks in the realm of chickens–two (my two smallest ones, bantams, were killed by hawks while free ranging, and this happened while people were home and around).  When my family kept chickens in PA when I was growing up, we did not have such large amounts of hawks.  My land is also missing tree cover where they usually roamed, so I can see how this happened. So, because of this, and because they were tearing up my mulch and perennial beds, I decided to pen them up.  Two of my friends helped me build this outdoor coop area, attached to the original chicken tractor.  What I like best about the coop is that, aside from the netting, nails, and staples that we used to put it together, all the other materials came from the property–they are mostly cedar posts that we pulled out of the back of the property from the pile that had been cut (discussed in my post here).

New Chook Pen - all repurposed materials

New Chook Pen – all repurposed materials

I was also gifted two wonderful new peeps to make up for my lost ones.  Here they are (pics from about a week ago–they grow so fast)!

Peeper in the hand!

Peeper in the hand!

New Peeps!

New Peeps!

Perennials

This year, I’ve been working to expand my perennials, both in number and kind.  I am finding that this work is as important as seed saving, especially as I move to more perennials in my yard, but also because, from an economic standpoint, perennials are much more expensive, and lots of people want to start gardens using permaculture techniques but don’t have the money for all of them.   A good friend of mine gave me some gooseberry and currant bushes, I also have more raspberries (golden), fennel and other plants from our permaculture meetup’s plant exchange, an expanded strawberry patch, and more.  I’ve been working to develop guilds around each of my fruit trees also!

Strawberry Spiral with Fresh Mulch!

Strawberry Spiral with Fresh Mulch!

Ripening Strawberry!

Ripening Strawberry!

Apparently my rhubarb plant is the largest one most people have seen.  I’m thinking that part of it is because I placed it next to a gutter and also because it has shelter and lots of light from being next to my porch.  And composted horse manure.  Anyways, I’ll be canning some rhubarb preserves quite soon!

Monster-rhubarb

Monster-rhubarb

The comfrey patch is doing really well.  I should post on what comfrey does soon–its an amazing plant for gardens and medicine alike!  In the meantime, here’s the comfrey patch–I’ve given a ton of this away, and it keeps on going!

Comfrey patch with extra tomato seedlings

Comfrey patch with extra tomato seedlings

Annual Garden Beds

With the help of friends and family, I created two new large garden beds this spring.  I am also helping another family garden behind my main garden–they are doing so well!

Amaranth sprouts in one of the new beds!

Amaranth sprouts in one of the new beds!

Unfortunately, we’ve had a really cold spring.  With snow in late April and a storm that tore open my small hoop houses and knocked over my small greenhouse to a May 30th frost, it has not been an easy season.  My main garden was planted around May 20th.  Then we had a near-frost around the 30th (and had I looked forward in the biodynamic calendar I’m now using, I should have known that…)  Most of the plants lived, however, save some basil which I had extras of.

I’m taking more of a vertical gardening approach this year, which I think will serve me well.  I’ve been building trellises of all sorts, and finding interesting materials to use as trellises (more on that in an upcoming post)–all repurposed and found!

Here are some shots of the garden.

Potatoes, Garlic, and Kale.

Potatoes, Garlic, and Kale.

Lots of veggies in the garden!

Lots of veggies in the garden!

Working on new mulched pathways to keep out unwanted plants.

Working on new mulched pathways to keep out unwanted plants.

Mulch!

I have been in desperate need of mulch for some time.  My good friend knew this, and saw a tree service in the area at my neighbor’s house last week.  He asked them to bring the mulch over, which they did, and now I have a mulch mountain.  I’m mulching all of my perennial beds as well as the paths in my annual garden.  I am going to see how much is left, and if I have enough, I’m going to move forward with my plan to build a labyrinth this summer :).

Mulch Mountain!

Mulch Mountain!

I think that’s the end of the garden/homestead updates for now.  We have a number of exciting projects planned for this summer, including the outdoor kitchen and possible labyrinth.  Stay tuned!