Saturday, December 21, 2013

Plans for up-coming garden: permaculture, compost, & recycled materials

I am not sure if I will get to garden this year. My life is a little up-in-the-air. I am may relocate to another state or I am may take a walk across America with my partner. We still want to purchase land, grow food, live sustainably and such. Yet I think that may come in time.

Nevertheless, I wanted to create this post in order to organize my thoughts and plans for our up-coming garden (if I garden this year).
My idea is to plant greens and cold weather crops as early as January (I live in a cold climate). Also, I intend to plant tomato starters indoors during February, as well melons. Also, I want to begin creating small, heat trapping structures for small beds of greens, and starter plants.
My vision for our garden is building greenhouses, starting our garden earlier and earlier and incorporating permaculture techniques by using compost, leafs and brush from the woods, and other recycled materials to build raised beds. 

When I refer to permaculture techniques, I mean to utilize the space of my Mom's and grandparent's yard efficiently (every inch of yard will be to grow fruit trees, fruit bushes, vegetables and greens and flowers). For example, small portions of the yard will be utilized based on sun exposure, positioning, soil quality, etc. I will have a compost area, area for my pond, and certain areas where I will plant trees while other areas will be for growing veggies and greens.
Overlapping or sharing the space among the food you're growing, allows you to save space for other fruits and vegetables and grow more.
Use cardboard or newspaper for bottom of pot or
bucket, then add compost with leafs or
grass clippings as mulch.
For example, you may have a large pecan tree that requires a lot of space between other trees, yet you can grow greens or herbs underneath the shade of the tree if it can get some sun exposure throughout the day.
Another example, if you have water that trickles off the hill or off the side of your house, you may want to consider collecting the water in order to use on your plants. Perhaps you may want to dig out a small pond to collect rain water.
Crowding your greens and veggies isn't necessarily a mistake in gardening because these plants tend to germinate faster if sewn close together, and weeding is less of a hassle.
Permaculture is not a unique concept, but it focuses on the efficiency and utilization of free resources: space, soil, leafs, sun, rain water, rocks, and fallen wood.
I mentioned using recycled materials (pallets, fallen wood, bricks) for constructing raised beds, but you do not have to do this either (if you are without space for a garden).
I also use 5-gallon buckets for growing small portions of greens, one tomato plant, one pepper plant, etc.
Currently, on my Mom's property, which is more than 1/2 an acre, I am growing (2) cherry, (2) pear, (2) peach, (1) plum, and (2) Fig, (2) walnut trees, and (4) blueberry bushes, including (2) grape vines. I have (2) kiwi vines at my Grandparents' property. I have limited space, but I am able to grow many fruit trees, fruit bushes, and large vegetable gardens. For instance...
Summer 2012 garden (grandparents' yard)
Last year I grew tomatoes where I am currently growing my greens, and the remainder of my vegetables were grown at my Grandparents' last year, which is 1 acre of land. (You can check out gardening pictures from last year from 2013 by clicking to the left of this page).
A small portion of my grandparents' property is a garden, last Summer I grew: beans, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash on their garden, as you can see in the photo to the left. Notice in the picture at the left, that I planted squash in a darker area (mistake); instead I will be growing cucumbers there in 2014.
This passed Spring/Summer (2013), I planted cabbage, greens, spinach, arugula, beans, cucumber, squash, pumpkins, and Root crops. This passed Summer on my Mom's property, I grew tomatoes, beans, peppers, greens, broccoli, and cabbage. 2013 was a great gardening year because there was plenty of rain for my vegetables and greens, so I never needed to water them. Yet because of the large amounts of rain we received, this hurt my root vegetable crop.
All in all, as I continue to grow food through the years, I am continually expanding the space of our gardens, in order to accommodate for more variety, and grow more food for larger yield.My goal is to eat solely out of my garden with minimal need to go to the grocery store.
Summer 2013 garden (squash varieties in grandparents' yard)

With two years of gardening achieved, my partner and I have refined our list of vegetables to grow, keeping in mind what is easiest to purchase from a grocery store, what requires much soil maintenance, etc. For example, my partner and I are going to focus on investing in more fruit trees and fruit bushes because these foods put off food for decades, and do not require much maintenance and space in comparison to a vegetable garden.
We are also going to focus on different varieties of greens because they produce the best and do not require a lot of space!
Vegetables like root crops, on the other hand, are not our ideal food because they require large amounts of space, need specific soil type, and require constant weeding/hoeing around them.
In other words, foods like beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes are not going to be our focus, in fact, we may not grow them at all. Potatoes are a staple, however, so my partner wants to make an exception to this rule. We will most likely dedicate a large portion of one of our gardens to potatoes.
Also, we may not be growing broccoli, cabbage, collards, or cauliflower due to pest control. We do not believe in killing or 'getting rid' of insects, so it is in our best interest to avoid planting the foods that bugs tend to swarm.
This is the damage bugs/worms do to tough greens
It is much easier to educate yourself on the foods that work best for you, your lifestyle, and your climate after several years of gardening. This is to refine what you REALLY want to eat from your garden. This also allows you to see the areas around your yard that get the most sun exposure, or dampness, etc.
Another example, I will NOT be growing as many hot peppers next year unless if I intend to can them or utilize them in some other way.
Also, I learned that growing watermelon and cantaloupe is extremely hard, and so I will be starting them INDOORS VERY EARLY. And apparently, cucumbers LOVE shade with minimal sun exposure, at least this is what worked BEST for me unlike last year when they shriveled in full sun.

For more helpful advice towards avoiding gardening mistakes, please visit my blog posts "Gardening Mistakes 2013 & Tips + Photos" and "4 Mistakes I've Made as a First-year Gardener". 
In addition, I will be focusing on fruit (trees & bushes), greens (iceberg, red leaf, buttercrunch, etc), melons (watermelon & cantaloupe), squash (butternut, yellow, zucchini, pumpkin), cucumbers, peppers (red, green, jalapeno, cayenne), potatoes, and beans (kidney, pinto, northern). And TOMATOES (yellow, beefsteak, Rutgers, blackrim) of course!

 Ask yourself, what produce do I buy most often at the grocery store? From there, you will know what you need to grow. Then again, there may be foods such as organic greens that are too expensive to buy at a store, that you would love to grow and encourage yourself to eat.

The following gardening year, 2014, I will be dedicating my Mom's backyard to Tomatoes and Peppers once again, with some miscellaneous foods. The patch of greens will be dedicated to greens again in  February (using transparent tarp to trap heat).
In my Grandparents' backyard, I will be growing a section of potatoes and a section of cucumbers in the shadiest part of the garden, and growing a section of squash in the sunniest part of the garden. Also at my Grandparents' property, I will be forming raised beds out of dead logs (found in the woods) and filling them with leaves, sand and dirt to make a melon patch. Considering melons are demanding, I proposed growing them in raised beds which I could control much easier than a flat garden.
At my cousin's house, I will be growing only beans (considering that is all she wants).

I will post a layout of the design (within this post) when I get a chance. Or better yet I will create a new post and discuss the details once the plan is in motion. I am currently not living in a house that has Internet, so I am making due when I come across a computer.

If you do not have land to grow food, utilize your apartment or rented home to garden in containers, I have many posts on the subject here if you search through my site. Also, do not be afraid to ask a relative or friend or neighbor that has some land to grow food on their property. Usually everyone is eager to have a garden and would love it if you shared some of your harvest with them. 


  1. Have you tried using copper around plants like cabbages/collards/broccoli? If you haven't I'd strongly recommend using that method. Its an old permaculture technique- I use two and a half inches of layered copper 1p and 2p penny coins around my plants and it keeps the slugs off the plants without harming the slugs. I don't believe in killing or getting rid of insects either. I've seem people use scrap copper rings and vegan copper tape too. Its the cheapest option for people keeping slugs off their plants I reckon, as you can keep on reusing the copper so you only need to buy it the once.

    1. Interesting. Thank you. I will experiment.