Prepping, homesteading and living the simple, green, independent life.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Garden 2012 So Far

I've been pretty busy with school and the kids so I haven't been posting her much for for anybody who's following or stumbles by, here's an update of the garden for this year.

To begin with there were some problems with starting my seeds in pop bottle.  On the one hand they were cheap and seemed to work well, but on the other hand, the ridges were I cut the plastic were sharp and damaged/killed quite a few of my plants.  I also didn't harden them off by leaving them outside much so as a result only about a third of the plants that I started survived and the ones that did aren't very productive so far (though that may be due to the lack of rain).  If I go this route again, I would recommend putting tape around the edges of the plastic

As mentioned the lack of rain has made for an interesting year.  This year I used two different planting techniques to see how they would work out.  On the sides of the house I did traditional planting with proper spacing etc. and in the front of the house I went whole out polyculture.  In the front I kind of invented a hybrid between Sepp Holzer style "throw all the seeds everywhere and let God sort them out" and Fukuoka's seed ball technique.  I put all the vegetable seeds, including some wild flowers, into a bucket, mixed them with compost and just threw them around.

Above is a picture of the garden along the eastern side of the house which was the most productive area last year.  As mentioned I planted (somewhat) traditionally here and you can notice that some plants are turning brown or have died.

Next is a picture of my front garden where I just threw everything around.  As you can see this area is much more productive and even seems to be "going wild" (which is fine by me but some don't like that ha ha).

Originally I was only watering about once a week but for the last couple of weeks I've been watering every second or third day, while some people I know are watering everyday, sometimes more than once.   In my opinion, the rasdish seeds I included in the mix, which sprout fast and are ready for harvest in under a month acted as a living mulch.  The leaves of the radishes prevented evaporation and by the time the other plants had started the radishes were ready to harvest.  Interestingly the sunflowers I planted in the side haven't grown at all while the ones in the front are really taking off.

I think I'll continue this radish thing from now on.  The only problem is that I'm the only one who eats them in my house and I can only eat a few each day.  As a result were were sending dozens of radishes to the compost so I tried pickling the radishes and they turned out great!  My youngest daughter loved them and even my wife thought they weren't bad. All I did was mix vinegar, water, salt and a little bit of sugar and added a chopped up clove of garlic. The brine seems to remove the red colour from the radishes so the pickled radishes come out a mild pink.  To be honest I didn't measure anything and just went by taste.  Below is a picture of the radishes and some yellow beans and peas that we harvested tonight for supper.

The apple tree we planted is doing very well.  I estimate we have about 2 dozen apples which is pretty good for the second season!  Unfortunately I wanted to try wrapping the apples in old nylon stockings to prevent bugs from getting in but I never got around it and most of the apples seem to have bugs.  Oh well, cut around the worms and try again next year I guess.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Green and Lazy Lawn Care 2012

I've been noticing dandelions popping up over the last week or so and figured it was just a matter of time before my lawn got occupied as well.  Like every spring our block is now covered in yellow...except to my surprise our yard. 

I will admit that we did get some dandelions last year, though not as many as others, and that they probably will break through eventually.

It's kinda hard to see the dandelion in these pics but they're there.

Our front lawn in foreground with dandelions across the road

Our yard and neighbour

Our back yard ends at the planters/shed

I honestly don't know what's causing it.  I thought that it might have been the clover I've planted in the back yard but that was before I saw our front.  I suspect it might be because I haven't mowed yet which has allowed the grass/clover to shade out the dandelions. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pop Bottle Seed Starting

I haven't been here for a while since school takes up so much of my time but projects continue and since I have a bit of a break before summer classes start I thought I'd post a bit.

I've got various projects on the go (for which I have little time for) like building a passive solar greenhouse/sunroom, a small pond,  putting in two raised beds in my front yard and seed starting.  Besides all of this, in the back of my head I'm constantly thinking about starting my own sustainability/resiliency consulting business.  All the projects will act as a showcase for clients once I launch it.

I decided to do seed starting this year because I want to really maximize my plantings and figured it would be much less expensive than buying all the plants already started.  Plus I wanted to get the experience and really show my daughters how plants grow and where food comes from.

I started off with a store bought seedling tray that could hold 50 pellets similar to this one at amazon.

Eventually I'd like to get a soil cube maker but I figured it would be best to go the traditional route before experimenting.  Plus while flimsy, the tray could be used over again as long as I was gentle with it.

So we about 3 weeks ago planted the seeds placing 2-3 seeds per pellet since I figured not all of them would germinate.  We planted broccoli, lots of cucumbers, and various peppers.  I figured we'd start in early April, they'd sprout a week or so later and have 4-5 weeks to grow before going outdoors....well, the cucumbers started growing after two days and after a week they were too big for the tray!
Plus the germination rate was almost 100%!  In the past while planting outdoors at least 1/3 didn't sprout so now I'm supposed to do some thinning out.  I'm actually considering not thinning to see how they will turn out.  I'm paranoid that separating them will harm the roots and kill both plants. 

The only thinning I've done so far is when it's obvious that the plant isn't doing well.  I think I'll stick with this and only thin when it becomes obvious that all the plants can't survive that close together.

Plus if I separate them all my 50 seed pellets will not become 100-150 individual plants and I was having a hard enough time thinking of where to transplant my cucumbers who were growing like mad.

What I wound up doing was collecting all the plastic pop bottles I could and turning them into mini-greenhouses.  I cut them in half and cut slots into the bottom half into which I slid the tops.

These seem to have worked pretty well and some of the cucumbers have even grown too big for them so I've removed the tops.  Hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be able to plant them outdoors but with this crazy weather lately it seems we're getting colder as we get closer to summer!

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Birthday Present: 3 Bin Compost System!

My birthday went by recently and I got a little bit of money so I decided to create myself a 3-bin compost system, "borrowed" from Jack Spirko at The Survival Podcast.

I already have a nice compost bin that my wife bought me a while back but the problem is with just one bin our compost is never fully complete because we're always adding new stuff too it.  I've got some really nice looking compost but mixed in are chunks of stuff that haven't broken down yet.

So with a 3 bin system, the idea is to begin in bin #1 and a month or so later dump it in #2. New stuff goes in bin #1. Later dump #2 in bin #3 and so on. This way you're turning over your compost and not mixing new with already composted stuff.  We've already got "bin 3" so I only had to make two of these.

Also, the thing I really liked about Jack's system was that it used a tube through the pile to circulate air through it. The idea is that the compost will warm inside the bin as it breaks down which then warms the air.  Warm air rises so it will go out the top of the tube and new cool air is sucked up through the bottom of the tube.  I picked a black garbage can as my bin because the colour will also help keep the insides warm.

This 3-bin system is pretty easy to make and I did two under an hour; here are the steps:

1) Materials: dark coloured garbage plastic garbage cans, PVC pipes, right angle PVC connectors
2) I used a rotary tool (Dremel) to cut a hole the size of the PVC pipe in the bottom front
3) Cut a hole through the top of the lid.  Space pipes and mark off where to cut.  They should stick out a couple of inches.
4) Cut your pipes to length, attach together (I used an epoxy on mine)

5) Drill holes in pipe about an inch apart and on all 4 "sides".  Don't put holes on bottle bend to allow for "suction".  Now just fit it all together and you're done.  


Monday, October 17, 2011

Last Harvest of the Year

Here's the last harvest of the year that I picked this morning. I'll be cleaning up my garden for the winter over the next week or so.

So kinda from left to right I've got red onions, carrots, ground cherries, a small cucumber, a jalapeno pepper, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and pole beans.

I was really surprised to find a jalapeno and by how much the garden is still producing this late into October.  In fact this really won't be my last harvest since there's probably a dozen cherry tomatoes that will be ripe soon, a few dozen ground cherries and a few more tomatoes that are almost ripe.

I'm really pleased with the ground cherries.  My youngest daughter loves them and often before we'd go on a car ride I'd grab a dozen or so of them to eat on the way.  I might add another plant for a little bit more next year.

Cucumbers did pretty well and both my daughters love them so I think I'll double the amount next year.

Tomatoes did ok and I think I'll add a plant or two next year.

My red and green peppers did not do well at all for some reason.  I planted some on all 3 sides of the garden and they did poorly on all locations.  I only got 3 peppers all year; maybe it was just a bad year for those?  I'll try again next year but if I get similar results I'll give up on those to make room for things that do better.

For some reason though the jalapeno peppers did pretty well and I collected about a dozen or so of those despite expecting to get poor results. 

My carrots did not do well at all.  I think I'll have to put more effort into them next year with better spacing and thinning.   Though they were located in my west side garden which gets the least sun because of the hedges between us and the neighbour.  I think next year I'll try to grow things that I can trellis upwards so they can get more sun: tomatoes, cucumbers, beans.  This will also create more space to grow things.

I'm planning on putting a keyhole gardenbed in my front yard for next year.  Our front yard really isn't used for anything so might as well make it productive.  Secondly, that would be less lawn that needs mowing.  Maybe the carrots would do better there?

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Batch of Ground Cherries

Here's my first batch of ground cherries.  I'm pretty impressed by how well my little bushes have grown and I think I'll plant more next year.

The berries are about the size of a marble and taste a bit like pineapple.  My wife and youngest daughter loved them!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Green Lawn: Now Mother-In-Law Approved!

I finally got around to mowing my lawn today.  I normally hold off mowing when there hasn't been much rain lately and this summer has been horrible for that so far.  We've had such little rain that it's been almost 3 weeks since I last mowed.

As I was mowing my mother-in-law stopped by and complimented me on how good my lawn looks.  I almost fell over since most people seem to think my "green lawn care" strategy just means lots of weeds and grass that always looks too long.

So here's what my lawn looked like tonight.  As before, our property ends where the hedges start (the second, taller bush).

Here's what my neighbour's lawn across the road looks like:

It appears that both my neighbours are the type that believe in mowing their lawn once a week whether it needs it or not, no matter what, even if it hasn't rained in over a month.