Sometimes things don’t work. I feel compelled to report on a few projects that that I started, with high hopes, that didn’t result in much. Here are two that I wouldn’t go out and strongly recommend.

  1. Planting chestnuts (the actual nut) in the ground in the fall, under various layers of protection.
  2. Trying to get rid of weeds using clear plastic.

Last fall I got really into picking chestnuts. I gathered nuts for eating, and saved some of the particularly nice big ones to plant. I planted the chestnuts, covered them with cardboard, poked a hole for the sprout to come up, and covered the whole thing with chicken wire. Nothing came up. Oh, except for a lot of weeds….

I think an animal must have gotten in and eaten the nuts, or something. I don’t know.

At the same time, I transplanted two chestnut seedlings from a friend. One was a one year old tree, and the other about two years old. The chestnut seedlings are both doing well, and I have high hopes that in about 5 years I might have a chestnut crop! Especially with my little hive of pollinators happily stationed in their tree near by!

Jay and I experimented with a sheet of clear plastic to get rid of some of the grass in our pumpkin patch. We covered the majority of the space with cardboard and straw, but in one corner we used clear plastic. The idea was that it would create a greenhouse and get so hot that the grass (and its seeds) would cook, and we would end up with a nice clean slate to plant pumpkins…

It certainly did create a greenhouse… Maybe we didn’t leave it on long enough, but it seemed that the grass under the plastic just wouldn’t really die. Some of it did, but not very consistently. Some of the plastic blew off, and other parts made great water catchers/mosquito breeding grounds. And the whole mess smelled terrible!  So…we took the plastic off and used the cardboard and straw technique, which worked really well!

great wall of china

June 22, 2010

I feel a little like I built the great wall of China this afternoon. But only a little. Jay and I put up a fence around the pumpkin patch. If it doesn’t keep whatever is attacking the patch at bay I will electrify it. That is all I have to say on the subject. Oh, and we replanted the empty hills, removed the weird wire traps all over the place, and tidied up a little bit…

disaster strikes

June 8, 2010

The pumpkin patch isn’t doing so well. I generally don’t mind deer and turkeys, but last night I was about ready to take a shotgun to them. Seriously! I had a beautiful idyllic little pumpkin patch, and then all of a sudden it was under attack. I have seen both turkeys and deer wandering through the patch, and so I am not entirely sure what is going on. Whatever it is likes the llama poop, and has dug multiple holes in each of the hills. It doesn’t care for (or about!) the pumpkins, just something in the llama poop, or something in the hills? I am not sure. Maybe some fungi or insects in the llama poop?

Bottom line is that I need a fence. My mom and I went out and created some makeshift hill guards, but we need a fence. Tall, strong, and preferably carrying an electric current.

We set to covering the hills with salvageable plants, and replanted where there were too many plants gone. I am going to go to the farm supply store today to research fences…

p.s. if you have any ideas or suggestions about what this might be, or how to protect from it, or what kind of fence to get please let me know in the comments section!

Today my friend Jay and I collected two cars full of llama poop and used it to build our pumpkin patch. Llama poop, also called ‘llama beans’ is great for the garden and doesn’t burn plants. This means that it can be applied directly without composting. Great for people who don’t prepare their soil in advance (me…). We took the bins of llama poop home with us, all 9 of them, and built hills for our pumpkin patch.

Pumpkins like to live on the top of hills. To prepare our hills, we dug 20 holes, evenly spaced about 5 feet apart throughout our mulched patch.

We broke through the cardboard and dug down about a foot, and then mixed the soil (a bit on the clay side) with about 1/2 a bin of llama beans. This formed a little hill, about 1 or 1 1/2 feet wide. We placed some hills towards the edges of the patch with hopes that the vines crawl out into the grass. The preparation of the field was hard. We were trying to get everything finished before the rain, and practically gave ourselves heat stroke. And of course it didn’t even rain here yesterday…I heard that it poured in town, but we only got a few sprinkles.

We collected seeds from pumpkins last fall, and bought a few as well. Jay had jack-o-lantern seeds, and I had some squash seeds leftover. We planted long island cheese, austrian butter, and a few other types of pumpkins as well as two gourds, birdhouse and dinosaur (from Seed Savers). The patch map is on the back of a pizza carton, and shows where we have put everything. We still have openings in a few hills, and are planning on planting some of the giant, state fair-prize-winning pumpkin types…

Our friend Chloe also supplied us with some starts! Blue pumpkins, cinderella pumpkins, and warty gourds (her favorites)! The plants are already quite far along, and living in their own hills.

In each hill we planted about 8 seeds.

The strongest seedlings will be nurtured, and the rest will be pinched off…not sure if I will be up for the pinching off, but I guess that the strongest starts will make the strongest plants, biggest pumpkins, etc..

Here is the finished patch. Lots of hills or bumps in the straw. It looks like a mess of straw and cardboard here, but all I can see is a huge bright pumpkin patch! Super exciting.

I can’t help but be inspired by beautiful vegetables. Tired, hungry, and trundling inside through the rainy mist tonight with a box from my CSA. Unpack chard and basil, and beet greens, zucchini, carrots (straight into my mouth), delicate kale, letuce, cucumber, and three almost ripe, blushing mangoes!?

There is something about combining chard with basil that makes me happy. Especially when I add olive oil, and zucchini. And a few grains of salt.

Mix with pasta, and top with freshly grated cheese.

first pick

April 10, 2010

My mom and I spent the morning having quality time in the garden. We turned under the compost on the surface of our garden boxes, raked, and planted one of the boxes. We found a volunteer lettuce patch, the parsley, thyme, and onions. I love that we already have some hearty plants going strong!

We planted a whole bunch of things. First in line are the beets. We planted chioggia beets that are pink and white striped. They are planted in two widely spread rows. My mom wrote the name and date planted on little markers for each row. We left the seed packages because they looked cute!

Next were the carrots and radishes, planted together. Someone (I can’t remember who…) gave me this tip a few weeks ago. The radishes will grow more quickly, and as they are harvested, the carrots will have more room to grow! I can’t wait to see how it works. Next in line is the arugula, and then another variety of carrots, some chard, and kale. We were ambitious!

As we were planting, my mom spotted the first asparagus of the season! A few little stalks poking up around the leaves and compost.

We immediately stopped what we were doing and ran inside to cook the little batch.

My mom always peels the tougher bottom part of the asparagus. It is delicious, and without the tough part, each stalk is extended an inch or two with this simple trick.

We steamed the asparagus in a little water, and had it on toast with a little parmesan cheese on top and set under the broiler. We then sat on the porch and had our toast, and then went back out to finish our gardening.

We started preparing the pumpkin patch. I have a sneaking suspicion that the entire patch that we staked out won’t be completely covered. It is a huge spot, and we started preparing at the west the corners. In one corner we put some plastic. A sheet of clear plastic, held down by logs, is supposed to “cook” the grass. At the same time, it allows the sunlight in, so the grass continues to grow (unlike with black plastic). The grass and root system then get tired from growing, and fried from overheating. Dead grass. When I write it all out like this, I feel a little bit cruel about the whole thing…After about a week, the plastic can be removed and placed on a new section of field, as the grass should be suitably cooked.

The second method might be a little more humane…killing grass by cardboard. We put a double layer of good quality cardboard over the second corner of the patch, and then covered it with a thick layer of straw. We used cardboard boxes, and took care to remove any plastic tape, so that we wouldn’t have loose strips of plastic floating around in the garden. The straw came along with its own version of life. Mushrooms, sprouts, and a few assorted grasses…hoping that this is ok. The whole thing is weighted down by logs, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Last night we had a windy storm, and I was hoping for rain to soak the cardboard and straw, to weight the whole mess down. The wind didn’t blow away the straw, and the cardboard section is now soggy and seems well put. We are going to collect another batch of cardboard, and pick up some more plastic and continue on, bit by bit to take over as much of the field as we can before planting time. We still have a while before the time to plant comes along, so the field might end up rather big!