Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Buttercup squash, Cucumber trellis, pumpkin & melon hugelkultur

You have seen the Hugelkultur gardens growing greens, tomatoes, peppers, but I have shown you little of the patches of gardens and container gardens around the yard. Below are the hugelkultur mounds growing varieties of melons, such as honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon. 

melons growing on hugelkultur
Santa claus melon plants

 Another hugelkultur mound, located in front of the house, is growing pumpkins. This location receives little sun, but there are patches of sun throughout the day. One problem we have been having with this hugelkultur mound in particular is that there are critters living inside and eating the roots and plants. I think birds watched me plant pumpkin seeds too and ate them. I noticed that many seeds and plants were dug up or eaten, and there were holes made throughout this bed. I am fortunate to have this many pumpkins left.

pumpkins growing on hugelkultur
I am growing buttercup squash for the first time. For these, I dug 6 big holes, filled with garden soil and planted the seeds. These have grown quickly, located in full sun in between the herb garden and grape vines. They are growing on a slope so that they can crawl downhill.

buttercup squash plants

 Also in the front of the house is a patch of cucumbers with a trellis. The trellis is a wire fencing attached to metal posts in the ground. The fencing is leaning so that the cucumbers will easily crawl up the trellis. 
Beside the rows of cucumbers are a large mound of potato varieties, tomatoes, and peas growing on a trellis. This garden patch gets morning sun, but the maple trees shade this garden for most of the day. 

cucumbers growing

tomatoes, potatoes, peas, & cucumber patch

Luffa plants growing in containers
I have some plants growing in large containers, such as Luffa (loofah) plants. I have yet to make a a trellis for them. I have been eying the fencing that I was using for the raspberries, so maybe I'll fashion the fencing into a trellis for them. 
For the cucumber plants, I leaned a pallet up against a building for the cucumbers to grow upwards, and also a piece of a baby crib for another container of cucumbers. 
Other vegetables I have growing in containers include Tomatoes, black eyed peas, black beans, and a melon plant that is either Santa Claus or Canary melon. 

Cucumbers in containers

Cucumbers & Tomato trellis

black eyed peas & black beans in containers

canary or santa claus melon plant

Sunday, June 28, 2015

BIG Squash Harvest & Pumpkins, Melons, Gourds, Acorn growing FAST!

Today James walked all the way to my grandparents' house to pick these yellow squash from our garden. There must be over 20 large squashes in the crate, weighing over 10 lbs. At the groceries stores, this harvest of 10-15 lbs organic non-gmo yellow squash would cost $20-30. 

June 28th 2015 yellow squash harvest

June 27th 2015 harvest
Four days ago, we harvested a big bag of yellow squash, but not quite as many as we harvested today.

June 24th yellow squash harvest
Along with the yellow squash, We have also harvested peppers and tomatoes. 

June 26th 2015 pepper & tomato harvest
June 28th harvest
Several days ago I showed you pictures of the pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut growing in the garden. After only two days, these fruits have tripled their size. You can compare sizes from the pictures I posted at Late June 2015 garden update, and the ones I took today, which you can see below. I wanted to also show you the progress on the melon patch. I'm telling you--hugelkultur mounds are perfect for growing melons and big fruits like squashes. I think I am growing successfully, more productive, larger fruits than all other years of growing food because I am using hugelkultur. 



acorn squash


Other exciting happenings in the garden were that the the figs are finally making fruit. Some friends that live in California were already getting figs months ago, so I was quite worried that none of the fig trees would produce this year. Thankfully I found many figs forming, and a couple that were getting bigger by the day.

Chicago Hardy Figs

Chicago hardy figs

Also, the Birdhouse gourds plants are flowering. I noticed the Gourd's flowers opened right before it got dark outside. I suspect they get pollinated by moths. Apparently, hard skinned gourds bloom in the evening and at night. I have read that many flowers that bloom at dusk are white flowers, like the gourd flowers you see below. Another thing I noticed was that over night (the following day) the gourd's flowers wilted and whithered away in the morning time.
"As with other members of the Cucurbitaceae family, these plants can have trouble with pollination. If pollinators are not abundant in the area, you may have to pollinate by hand, by removing the male blossoms and dusting them onto the female blossoms.
You can also take a Q-tip or small paint brush, rub some pollen from the male flower and put it on the female" (Gardening for life).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Crop rotation: Fruits to Roots to Legumes to Leafs

Growing the same crop in the same place for many years in a row disproportionately depletes the soil of certain nutrients. As I mentioned in last weeks post (here), crop rotation gives various nutrients to the soil, especially replenishing nitrogen in the soil. The focus on maintaining soil health ensures the health of the environment than more intensive systems brought on by Big Agri business. 
Other reasons for rotating crops include: preventing soil erosion and compaction of the soil, preventing the progression of pathogens and pests which occurs when one species is continuously cropped.

Plants that uptake a lot of nutrients from the soil include Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussels, and Broccoli. Because of this, gardeners should follow these heavy feeders with light feeders such as root vegetables, or follow with nitrogen fixing vegetables such as peas and beans.

Perennial plants need no crop rotation, of course, so I am specifically speaking on summer and winter annual plants.
pic source: Growers learning

Crop rotation works best as a three or four year garden plan because "this is the number of years it takes for most soil-borne pests and diseases to decline to harmless levels" (growveg).
Beans, which uptake nitrogen from the air, add nitrogen to the soil. This is why many farmers grow beans one year, then corn is grown the following year in the same place, because corn uptakes a lot of nitrogen from the soil.
 "Every year the plants grown in each given area are changed, so that each group (with its own requirements, habits, pests and diseases) can have the advantage of new ground. If your beds are divided into four groups, this means that members of each plant family won’t occupy the same spot more than once in a four-year period" (growveg). 

Dividing crops into four main groups (legumes, roots, leafs, fruits) becomes too simplified when practicing crop rotation.  The growth habit of these groups does not bear on the classification of the plant. For example, potato and tomato are in the same family, so they may attract the same pests and uptake the same nutrients from the soil.

To begin incorporating crop rotation, first identify the crops you want to grow, and then keep plants of the same type together in one area. Remember that Brassicas follow legumes. For example, sow cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower on soil previously used for beans and peas. 

GrowVeg provides a crop rotation table that may assist you when growing in four different areas:

Area 1 Enrich area with compost and plant potatoes and tomatoes (Solanaceae). When crop has finished sow onions or leeks (Allium) for an overwinter crop.
Area 2 Sow parsnips, carrot, parsley (Umbeliferae). Fill gaps with lettuce and follow with a soil-enriching green manure during winter.
Area 3 Grow cabbage, kale, arugula (Brassicas) during the summer and follow with winter varieties of cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Area 4 If this is your second or subsequent year, harvest the onions or leeks previously growing here over winter. Then sow peas and beans (legumes). When harvest has finished, lime the soil for brassicas which will move from area three to occupy the space next.

Incorporating polyculture and companion planting, such as the three sister's method, offers more diversity and complexity within the same season or rotation. The three sister's is a polyculture system where corn, beans, squash are grown together. While the corn grows tall, the beans vine up the stalks and replenish nitrogen to the soil, while squash trails on the ground to prevent weeds growing amongst the vegetables. For more details on polyculture systems like three sisters method, go to my post on Permaculture here, No money, work, or tilling involved: Permaculture.
Companion planting and crop rotation offer many benefits, especially when growing on Hugelkultur mounds. This is another permaculture technique which I discuss in detail in the link I posted above. Hugelkultur is a layering system of decaying wood which adds nutrients and water within the soil through the fungal activity in decaying wood. From my experience after growing food on Hugelkultur mounds for the first time this year, I am amazed at the growth and productivity. I highly recommend adopting Hugelkultur in place of tilling practices.  
Overall, the practice of crop rotation in sequence with companion planting and growing in Hugelkultur mounds will retain water deep in the soil, reduce watering while preventing erosion (maintains soil structure), avoids nutrient depletion in the soil, pests or soil-born disease, eliminating the use of fertilizers, and controls weeds. 

On a final note, keep records of your garden and successes and failures. Play the scientist role, and do experiments, make observations, conclusions. Remember when beginning crop rotation, that members of any given family should not be grown in the same sport for more than one year. Secondly, vegetables from different groups can share a plot if they require the same conditions.

The overall message here today is that these permaculture practices reduce environmental pollution, reduce greenhouse gases from food production, reduce or eliminate any unethical treatment of insects, animals, and the environment. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Late June 2015 garden update (harvesting squash)

Several days ago we picked about five small yellow squash, then today, we harvested over 10 yellow squash. The squash seeds came from vegan seed company. Many of the vegetables I'm growing came from the seed sold at this company. I have been buying seeds from them for three years. I'm highly satisfied with the quality, germinate rate, and price of the seeds. I get the seed vault which contains thousands of seeds of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. 
As you can see below, the squash garden is growing productively. We should be harvesting zucchini and yellow squash for the next month and a half. Especially if I continue to weed and hoe up dirt around the plants, this will grow healthy fruits. 

Next to the squash garden is the mountains of beans. The northern beans have made pods, but I'm not sure if the pinto beans have started. Spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash are growing amongst the beans as well.

Other Acorn squash plants are growing amongst the Tomato and pepper plants. One acorn squash fruit is forming beautifully.

The Pumpkins are getting bigger by the day, of course. 

butternut squash

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Greens going to seed & harvesting berries (video)

In last weeks post (Greens going to seed while vegetables begin to fruit), I showed some pictures of the pumpkins, tomatoes, and peppers fruiting. Actually we began harvesting tomatoes and peppers. We have been harvesting blueberries, black raspberries and blackberries as well (Mid to late June for foraging berries).

Also, I may have mentioned many of the cole crops are flowering and making seeds. The radish, arugula, and spinach are developing seed pods, so today I pulled up 10 or more Icicle radish plants to dry. Eventually I will take out the spinach and arugula for hanging to dry. Other plants like Radicchio, lettuce, and onions are flowering, and will take some time before they are ready to dry for seeds.

As I take out some of the cole crops, I will be crop rotating the spring garden. Beans are the best vegetables to plant after growing greens in the same area of the garden. This is because greens uptake a lot of nutrients from the soil, and growing beans afterwards will add nitrogen back into the soil. I will explain crop rotation more in a future post. 
I have saved many varieties of beans such as cranberry beans, lima, black, red, northern, and pinto which I intend to grow in the spots where I took out the greens and vegetables. Also, I will add cucumber and squash seed to this garden because these plants, including bean plants, grow quickly before the Fall frost.

Before I started pulling out many of the cole crops flowering and seeding, I made a garden tour video of the spring garden yesterday, which you can watch below.

The Daily Show - Charleston Church Shooting

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mid to late June for foraging berries

I was gone for several days, visiting my grandma and dad. I grew up in their neck-of-the-woods, and spent every weekend there for 15 years of my life. It's important to revisit the memories I have of this place where I grew up. In my grandma's front yard used to live a maple tree that I climbed often. I was very attached to this tree--I only wish it were still standing. 
Of course my grandma and my dad's wife had superb flower gardens, and I was able to take many photographs which you can see in this post: Flowers of June floral photography.
My grandma fed me lots of fruit while I was up visiting. She fed me black raspberries from her yard. The berry patch met the edge of the woods, and I encountered a deer coming to feast as well.

Actually I ate the entire pint of berries she harvested for me. So, I picked berries in the morning and evening for the last couple of days. I picked berries for her, but she insisted I take them home with me. I probably ate nearly a gallon of raspberries.

Instead of eating them all, though, I should put some in pots to get them to make plants. I would love to get those raspberry plants started around our yard. 

The beauty of fruit is that we eat the reward and plant the seed of the fruit to further its genetics--which feeds future generations. I think whether we realize it or not, we have a symbiotic relationship with fruit. We have the potential power to cover the world in fruit trees and fruiting plants. This simple process would feed everyone in the world...for free.

Later James and I took a hike with the dog in the woods behind the house. We foraged for berries, and found Dewberries, black raspberries, and blackberries. The photos below show you what we picked within an hour of hiking the woods. Of course this was nothing compared to the amount of berries we saw. Many of the berries were not ripe, so I expect a huge harvest of berries in the following weeks. 

foraged Dewberries, blackberries, and black raspberries

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Greens going to seed while vegetables begin to fruit

This is the time for blueberries! For the last three days I have picked more than 20 berries. Some of them are sweet and some sour.

The middle of June is a transition period in the garden. The greens go to seed, and the vegetables begin to fruit. The lettuce, kales, and collards are not going to seed because they can tolerate a little heat and scorching sun light. However, Radicchio, Onions, Arugula, Spinach, and Radishes bolted several weeks ago and are putting off seeds. Once they dry out naturally, I will collect the seed to plant them for a Fall crop. 

Radicchio flowering

The vegetables that are fruiting are pumpkin, tomatoes, and peppers. The melons are flowering of course and vining all over the place.


The Cucumbers, birdhouse gourds, Luffa (or Loofah) plants have yet to flower, but I am working on a trellis structure for them to grow upon. The Birdhouse gourds are growing up a trellis arbor I added onto last night, which you can see below.

I wanted to show you some of the vegetables continuing to grow in the garden, and many of the vegetables that are fruiting. In the pictures below, you'll see Cauliflower making heads, tomatoes turning red, and peppers forming.

The pictures provided are from our main garden. I'm not sure what kind of activity is happening in the other two gardens. Because of the lack of rain, I'm not too sure any plants are fruiting. I have looked at the forecast for this region, which says we'll be getting rain for the next 10 days. I highly expect the squash and beans and early corn to produce in the next week or two.