Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mulch, Part II

So last week I wrote a bit about using grass clippings for mulch in the garden, which I believe is going swimmingly.  My plants seem pretty happy, and the weeds are more or less under control.

One mulch project that has definitely worked is using pine needles around the blueberry bushes, something I've been doing for about three years with good results.

Blueberries are tough to grow in these parts, because the soil is not acidic enough for robust growth.  Pine needles, on the other hand, increase the acidity of the soil if you apply them at pretty great depths -- everything I've read suggests you have to pile them thicker than 3 inches in order to get any change to soil pH.  I mulch my blueberries to about 5-6 inches, spring and fall.  Sometimes, I put an additional layer on in the summer if I'm getting too many weeds popping through.

Since I've started doing this, our blueberry bushes are growing nicely.  Even better, they all survive the winter, which wasn't true before I started mulching.  And since I get my pine needles for free from under our pine trees, it is an easy project!

The Analysis:
Fast:  I have a small blueberry patch, so mulching doesn't take much time.

Cheap:  Free mulch from the pine trees means better blueberry growth.

Good:  I'm still buying blueberries to supplement our tiny harvest, but maybe one day I'll have enough bushes to give us all the berries we want!
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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Longest Day of the Year

It is June 21, the longest day of the year.  Arguably, it is one of the days I wait for all year long.  I'm not the only one.  Papa FC&G starts counting down on December 21 each year, reminding me that "after this, the days start getting longer!"  We both wait for the day that we have the maximum available daylight available.

I promised myself I was going to write a nice long post for you today.  But it is 5 p.m. on the longest day of the year, and I have at least four more hours of daylight ahead of me.  I'm heading out into my garden, which you can see above, and top dress my tomatoes with freshly sifted compost, train cucumber vines up their trellises, and see how many fresh blueberries I can pick.

What are you doing in the garden this weekend?
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Mulch Experiment

I'm not a huge fan of mulching the garden paths, but in the years since we started using the broadfork, it has made more and more sense to put down some sort of mulch that will decompose into the soil, hopefully enriching it while holding in moisture and controlling weeds a bit.

For the last couple of years, I have put down paths of pine needles at a shallow depth (so as to not change the pH of the soil).  But this year, I'm trying grass clippings.

Another thing I'm not a big fan of:  mowing the grass.  But this year, there have been a number of weeks that the task has fallen to me because of Mr. FC&G's work schedule.  I can't mow the entire yard with the push reel mower, and I am allergic to grass particles to a certain extent, so it became a necessity for me to use the bagging attachment just to save me from a miserable night of sneezing.  So, I seem to have a great deal of grass clippings.

Since we don't chemically treat our lawn, I have felt pretty secure using the clippings to mulch the paths, or, in the case you see in the photo, around the raised beds.  My plants seem to be doing well, but time will tell if I can see any impact on the garden, positive or negative.

I'll hold off doing a Fast, Cheap, and Good analysis on this until I get results.  Until then, do you mulch your garden paths?  What do you use?
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Much Does a Garden Grow: May 2013

OK, really moving along here on the garden.  Of course, May is not a big production month for me, but you can see that we are starting to add some variety.  My greens that lived in the sun room, which I started in February (I think), finished up.  I got more than a grocery-sized bag of greens out of that small raised planter, so I'm happy with an extra eight ounces of greens in our diet.  I also got a few peas off the container vine that I planted, and a few strawberries off our largely-decorative container plants that flank the sun room doors.  None of the peas or strawberries even made it into the house, as I ate them while I worked.  There's some local eating for you!

In expenditures, I did spend some extra getting some plants that I either wanted for back up (like extra cucumbers) or some herbs and seeds for areas that I discovered remained unplanted even after the carefully-planned initial round went in the ground.  I would expect that I am done with expenditures for the year, give or take being tempted by some orphan plant on the shelf or some seeds for indoor greens.

So that leaves our tally for the month of May.  With just 19 ounces of garden produce harvested, I have saved a total of $8.22 over retail.  My balance stands at a loss of $270,49, which I do expect to recoup fairly rapidly.  If history is an indicator, I should break even some time around the Fourth of July, and August through October should be pure profit!

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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Ten Best Things About Sustainable Summers

It's an odd time of year for the blog.  Most of the blog-able projects have either already occurred (winter and spring chores, garden prep) or are yet to come (food preservation, winter readiness, harvest glories).  But it is still my favorite time of the year.

I love the next three or so weeks.  The hardest garden chores are done, and most of what I am going to grow is in the ground, save a few fall and secondary plantings.  Now, whatever will be, will be.  (Cue "Que Sera, Sera")  Now I can just enjoy walking out into the garden every day, pulling a few weeds, sawing a few logs for the growing wood pile, and waiting anxiously for tomatoes and cucumbers.

With that, my top ten things I love about my sustainable summers:

1.  Bouquets from the cutting gardens, fresh on my kitchen counter.
2.  Laundry drying on the line.
3.  Dresses and skirts every day, with no tights or thigh-high socks.
4.  Bare shoulders and tan lines that grow darker all summer long.
5.  Answering the question "what's for dinner?" by walking outside.
6.  Wondering how many servings of fruits and vegetables a day are too many, rather than too few.
7.  Grabbing just flip flops and the bike lock key to run an errand.
8.  Tomato blossoms.
9.  Zucchini in everything -- pasta, bread, pizza crust, pies, etc.
10.  A tangible reminder of the kind of life I want, in a place where the temperature never dips to freezing and I can garden and salsa dance outside, all year round.

What are your favorite things about summer?
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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Surprise Potatoes

I love this.

Remember this guy?  This was my sanity-preserving potato plant, which I grew by shoving a sprouting potato into a hanging basket over the winter just to have something green I could look at during the gardening off-season.

Yesterday, I finally got around to hauling all of the furniture out of the sun room so I could sweep and steam clean the floors, wipe down the furniture, and generally repair the damage from planting season, and I emptied that pathetic hanging basket and its pathetic potato vine.

I found two small, new potatoes.  What fun!  You can bet I will slip those into my dinner tonight, and just enjoy one last chuckle at the potatoes that have kept me sane all winter and now have kicked off the potato harvest for the main crop part of the year.
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