Archive for Gardening

Grow Your Own: FunkyTown

by John Weckerle

We find ourselves now teased by the all-too-common (it seems) early-March warm-up, followed by the mid-March cooldown.  In anticipation of the “re-warming” to follow, and eager to test the limits of the greenhouse, we’ve taken a few steps.  The first involves some seed-starting activity.  For this past Christmas, we received a delightful surprise: two seed-starting kits prepared by Plant Theatre! The kits include:

  • Funky Veg Kit – Cosmic Purple Carrots, Golden Zucchini, Rubine Brussels Sprouts (these would appear to be red or purple), Tigerella tomatoes, and Rainbow Chard
  • Cocktail Garden Kit – Cucamelon, Blue Borage, Lime Basil, Hyssop, Mint, and Lemon Balm

As of the date of this writing, we have at least one sprout of all these (indoors, under lights), all sprouted in peat pots – with the caveat that we are saving the carrot seeds for direct planting.  The tomato sprout is a bit “iffy” looking.  We’ll set another round in two or three weeks; we think it’s always best to stagger sprouts and plantings a bit to get a slightly longer yield in terms of time. We also have some purchased plants hanging in the wings – lettuce, broccoli, and a single Early Girl tomato.  We don’t always do hybrids, but the concept of eating a “real” tomato in early Summer is difficult to dismiss.

Early soil preparation efforts yielded some interesting insights.  When we first developed the garden, we took some of the soil mix to Jericho Nurseries for an opinion.  The verdict: “If I had a spoon right now, I’d eat this.”  Just a couple of years later, we realized that a major refertilization was needed, and found that the soil in many of our beds had been compressed in terms of soil structure and depleted in terms of organic material.  Even driving a standard turning fork into this material was difficult.  Senior Soil Amendment Correspondent Thom (a key figure in setting up the bed and working out the original soil mix) perhaps summed it up best by describing it as “caliche.”  We are now using a cultivator to break up the soil and turn in a substantial amount of very composted manure.  The tomato bed and six of the others are completed; the string bean, pepper, and two other beds remain.  If the weather is kind to us tomorrow, we may get the soil amendments finished, and with luck we can start planting in a few days (freezing conditions are expected tonight, and the low temperature is predicted at 34 degrees Sunday night). That would give us more than a month and a half “jump” on the season!

 

 

 

 

Grow Your Own – One Season Ends And Another Begins

by John Weckerle

A couple of weeks ago, we visited the garden to begin removing last season’s dead plants in preparation for the arrival of large quantities of fully composted horse manure donated by our good friends and neighbors, Thom and Brenda.  We were delighted that, during this effort, we harvested several shallots and about three pounds of leeks – just enough for a batch of delightful potato-leek soup.  With the former producers now evicted, the business of soil amendment has begun.  We will begin starting our first few seeds this week, and will be ordering more as well.

We’ve placed a two-probe recording thermometer in the greenhouse, and were surprised that the temperature has exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit multiple times over the last six days.  Unfortunately, it has also dipped below freezing, although not on the same days.  Adjusting to the wild swings in temperature may present a challenge, and we may find ourselves waiting at least until the freezing temperatures abate.  One way or another, we’re hoping for an early planting and plenty of produce throughout an extended season.

Grow Your Own: The Demise of the Great Pumpkin

by John Weckerle

We begin today by wishing our readers, albeit belatedly, a happy Thanksgiving holiday and hoping that it was enjoyable and safe.  Our own certainly was, and it involved one of the year’s latest-harvested garden treats (not last-harvested; there are still shallots, leeks, and cabbage out there!), the previously mentioned Great Pumpkin.  For those who missed our prior article, this was the only pumpkin we got this year – and given that this was the second year with a single orange ball of squash, we will likely forego future efforts in the Jack-O-Lantern arena.

For half the gargantuan gourd, we used the AllRecipes.com Cream of Pumpkin Soup recipe, which we found very tasty, choosing to omit the croutons simply because there was too much baking going on and, as we are in the middle of a remodel, there were no counters or sinks upon which to work.  The other half awaits disposition – perhaps as a pumpkin pie or a nice, spicy pumpkin sauce for an autumn vegetable pot pie or something similar.

With the last of this year’s growing season coming up fast – those leeks, shallots, and cabbages will have to come in soon – we’re looking forward to revitalizing the beds with composted manure in preparation for the late Winter/early Spring planting.  We’re also hoping to bring the relocated Beds 1 and 2 back into service – and we find ourselves dozing off with visions of asparagus dancing in our heads.

We are, admittedly, a little unusual that way…

Grow Your Own: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

by John Weckerle

The Great Pumpkin.

The Great Pumpkin.

With Halloween just a day away, the denizens of New Mexico Central headquarters are watching with bated breath as the great pumpkin (this year’s only pumpkin, and likely our last given the yields) slowly ripens in the greenhouse.  It is a race against time; colder temperatures appear to have taken their toll on the cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini, and the pumpkin plant itself is looking a bit compromised.  We brought in some of the latter two today, but it seems likely that this will be our last.  We harvested eggplants and peppers as well, and those plants are doing well still – with luck, sunny days and warmer temperatures may give us a little more time with them.  Green beans are anybody’s guess, at this point, and we can take the leeks and shallots at any time.

Today's harvest - tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, bell peppers, green chiles, and cabbage.

Today’s harvest – tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, bell peppers, green chiles, and cabbage.

Last Sunday's harvest.

Last Sunday’s harvest.

Until the last couple of days, temperatures in the greenhouse had been reaching into the mid- to upper-80s, and dropping to the high 30s to mid-40s at night.  They barely crept above 50 degrees today, however, and this may be a critical point for the warm-weather loving plants.  Cabbage is doing well and doesn’t mind a little cool weather, and we’ll see what happens with the broccoli, which we never pulled up.  All things considered, we consider ourselves fortunate to be harvesting summer veggies this close to November.  As we remove the summer plants from the beds, we’ll be amending soil and getting things ready for Spring – or perhaps some Winter growing!

Grow Your Own – Ups and Downs

by John Weckerle

Having spend the weekend tearing out 850 square feet of tile and hauling home new flooring, we return to efforts in the food development corner.

We buttoned up the greenhouse about a week and a half or two weeks ago, when the weather was gloomy and cool.  Of course, temperatures have returned to above normal again, and will be there again for a few days, although that may prove to be a short-lived phenomenon.  With an eye toward learning more about our greenhouse, we installed a recording thermometer with two probes – one at head height and one near the ground.  This has proven to be a real education.  In the last couple of days, the temperature has fluctuated substantially, from mid-forties the first night to over 105 degrees at head height today (ground level temperatures topped out at 95 degrees).  Temperatures remained in the sixties last night.  Also, given the humidity in the greenhouse, we’ve cut down on the watering frequency.

Some of the plants have responded well.  A couple of the tomato plants have begun putting out new growth (we’re still getting a couple of tomatoes a day), and the peppers and eggplants are flowering again.  The string beans – at least the ones that survived the caterpillars and grasshoppers, are looking good and have begun to put out flowers as well.  The cucumbers are essentially finished, but cabbage looks fairly happy, as do the leeks and shallots.  The cauliflower, sadly, has not amounted to much, nor has the broccoli, and those plants may be surrendering their space in the very near future.

Soon we’ll be switching to the winter crops; probably some chard, lettuce, broccoli, and others.  We’ll have to reestablish the starting setup, lights and all, and order some seeds.  We’ll also be performing some soil testing as we clear the beds for winter crops.  We know it’s time to add some organic material, and have a source of composted manure waiting in the wings.  Viva vegetables!

Year of the Cat…erpillar

by John Weckerle

For gardeners in our areas, this year has presented challenges: unusually warm weather, especially early in the season, grasshoppers, and of course the caterpillars.  We have had all manner of furry crawlers in our areas – not just the black ones, but brown, silver-grey, yellow, and green.  The caterpillar killer we mentioned in an earlier article was effective in protecting many of the vegetables as well as some trees and bushes, but we did not apply it on a wider scale, so we continued to experience the hungry horde.  As we were walking by a scrub oak in the back yard a couple of days ago, we noticed a number of non-furry types, and found them interesting enough that we though we would share a few pictures with our readers.

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Grow Your Own – A Season of Change and Challenge

by John Weckerle

It’s September, and autumn is fast approaching at New Mexico Central headquarters.  Summer has been a time of adjustment in the garden, with unusual weather and the presence of the greenhouse presenting us with opportunities to learn.  Early heat caused the broccoli and cauliflower to bolt; neither provided us with a single meal, although the second planting of cauliflower may provide us with a head or two.  Tomatoes have been more productive, although less so than last year, and we are awash in cucumbers.  Surprisingly the zucchini and yellow squash have yielded little until recently, and even now are not providing much; this will likely be the first time in years that we’ll have no frozen squash at the end of the season.  The first two attempts at string and wax beans were a failure, and we have now found that such beans should not be mulched until they have come up.  The third attempt appears to be working – fortunately, with the greenhouse, we should be able to extend the season long enough for some decent production.  The leeks and shallots are very healthy, although not ready to harvest yet, and peppers of all varieties have been very productive.  The mild green chiles we planted have more heat than expected, though, and the jalapenos thus far have been complete duds; no heat at all thus far, despite the fact that they were labeled as hot.We anticipate a good yield on cabbage, and enjoyed a good bit of lettuce earlier in the season.  Yield for the eggplant has been minimal, but there are still flowers and fruit on the plants.

Special challenges, to which we found special solutions, have included weeds and caterpillars, in the garden and elsewhere.  We were fortunate enough to read a reader-submitted recipe for a non-toxic herbicide in Consumer Reports Magazine: 1 gallon of vinegar, 2 cups of Epsom salt, and 1/4 cup of dish soap.  Sprayed liberally on the weeds in the driveway and the paths in the garden, this worked extremely well.  For caterpillars, we ordered Safer Caterpillar Killer Concentrate II, an organic preparation which kills only caterpillars.  It contains the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, and the results have been fairly impressive; just two tablespoons in two gallons of water was enough to treat the garden and most of the other trees and shrubs that were being attacked.  The trees and shrubs are doing much better, and today’s visit to the vegetable zone resulted in only one caterpillar learning to fly early as it was ejected from the garden.

Grow Your Own: It’s The Time Of The Season…

by John Weckerle

Planting season continues here at New Mexico Central headquarters, and with a couple of tweaks and a bit of mulching to go, Bed 5 is essentially up and running.  Having saved a few spots for succession planting, we now have the following (including those mentioned in our last gardening post):

  • Tomatoes: Brandywine, Big Brandy (a first generation hybrid), Grandma’s Pick, and Rio Grande
  • Summer Squash – Zucchini and Yellow
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Chiles (New Mexico 6-4 [mild] and Sandia [hot]
  • Bell Peppers (red, yellow, green)
  • Cucumbers (2)
  • Shallots (2 rows)
  • Leeks (2 rows)
  • Wax beans (from seed; 20 planted)
  • Green beans (from seed; Blue Lake [10], Top Crop [10])
  • Eggplant (Dusky; 2)
  • Jalapeno (1)
  • Lettuce

The kale has been removed; sadly, it was covered with aphids, and these have already spread to the broccoli.  We’ll be fighting them off with water and a pyrethrin-based (pyrethrins are a chrysanthemum extract) spray in the early season only; pyrethrins can be bad for bees and we don’t want to cause trouble there once things start flowering – we’d rather lose the broccoli, although that doesn’t seem likely.  We’ll try bringing in ladybugs, also, but we have not had time to get the very important next-door flower beds started, so they’ll probably fly the coop.  The relocated Bed 1 awaits repurposing for this, but probably not until next season.

We’ve “buttoned up” the greenhouse on Bed 5, and have added some critterproofing in the form of poultry netting along the roll-up sides.  So far, there’s no evidence of unwanted entrants, although a determined squirrel could get in fairly easily; we’re prepared to go further if needed.

As to the greenhouse itself, a ShelterLogic product, we have some thoughts.  Obviously, we were adapting this to a situation other than its designed purpose, and some adjustments were necessary.  However, we would note that assembling this structure was far and away more difficult than it should have been, and this seemed a function of manufacturing issues.  Parts were extraordinarily difficult to fit together (this appeared, in our opinion, to be associated with outward dimpling on bolt holes, odd “flanging” on certain parts, and perhaps not taking the thickness of coating into account), and in some cases holes through which bolts had to fit did not line up.  This was a three-weekend project at least, and while the resulting product appears very sturdy, we caution readers considering it to allow ample time to complete the project.

Bed 5, with greenhouse sides rolled up.

Bed 5, with greenhouse sides rolled up.

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Bed 5 interior, facing north.

Bed 5 interior, facing north.

Bed 5 interior facing south.

Bed 5 interior facing south.

Grow Your Own – One Door Falls, Another Zippers…

by John Weckerle

It is early yet for planting, as the weather forecasts warn – with temperatures predicted to fall into the mid-thirties tonight, tomatoes and peppers could once again fall victim to the late frost that has felled so many of the delightful nightshades planted in mid-May, much less earlier.  Planting anything but the cold-hardiest crops would seem a fools errand at least until (in our experience) the weekend before Memorial Day.  However, we have marched forward, because we now think we can get away with it.  We finally got the greenhouse assembled, shown here at about 85% complete (more pictures when planting is complete):

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We’ll note that the sides and top have been tightened down and the ends have been fixed as well since this photo was taken, which required a bit of creativity.  The sides roll up to the first seam from the bottom as seen on the right-hand side here, allowing (along with the screened vents on the ends) for air circulation during hot weather.  We’ll be publishing a final review of the ShelterLogic greenhouse hear shortly, but we will stop short of endorsing it to the general public, especially that segment of it that is less crazy than the denizens of New Mexico Central headquarters.  We will also note that the trees in the left-hand side of the picture may be in for a tough summer.  Sorry, guys.

Planting inside technically began last year, as we have some kale that made it through the winter and is providing some early harvest.  This year’s planting, which began today, thus far includes:

  • Tomatoes: Brandywine, Big Brandy (a first generation hybrid), Grandma’s Pick, and Rio Grande
  • Summer Squash – Zucchini and Yellow
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Chiles (New Mexico 6-4 [mild] and Sandia [hot]
  • Bell Peppers (red, yellow, green)

“In the ground soon” (which means we already have them and can pop them in after work during the week) plants include leeks, shallots, Blue Lake green beans, and wax beans.  Next weekend we’ll likely pick up jalapenos, perhaps some lunchbox peppers, and eggplants.  And where have we gotten all of this, and where will we get as much as possible for the rest of the season?

Parker’s Farm and Greenhouse, of course.  Located at the eastern end of Church Street in Edgewood, New Mexico, Parker’s is a great source of locally (for the climate) appropriate and healthy plants – vegetables, herbs, trees, and ornamentals .  Everyone there seems knowledgeable and glad to answer questions and offer advice.  They are open beginning at 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays from April through July.  This year, as in every year, Parker’s gets our highest recommendation for quality plants.  And, of course, while you are there, take some time to stroll through the lovely gardens and pond area that highlight their horticultural expertise; on its own, it is well worth the short drive.

Grow Your Own: The New Greenhouse, Part Argh.

by John Weckerle

Work continues apace on the ShelterLogic greenhouse, purchased from TractorSupply.com, that is intended to replace the hoop house over Bed 5 – depending, of course, on one’s definition of “apace.” We find ourselves now six or seven hours into a project that should be, according to the little picture of the clock in the manual, a three-hour effort.  We also find ourselves having assembled only what might be called either peak or arch pieces. By the end of the project, we will likely have to purchase a couple of replacement rubber mallets (these are actually among the “tools needed” cave drawings in the manual).  It is nearly certain that our entire herd of Blue Streaks will also have to be replenished, as the epithets hurled in their direction are certain to either be fatal or have a sterilizing effect.  One can never have a sufficient supply of Blue Streaks at hand during a challenging project.

And challenging this one is, primarily due to the physical exertion needed to simply slip one piece into another.  Now, before we get started, we understand the need for structural elements to fit together tightly.  And neither are we assembly wimps; we come from that age in which “some assembly required” meant constructing a bicycle from a kit that came with some iron ore, a hammer and tongs, and a Zippo lighter (fluid not included).  However, throughout the assembly process thus far we have noted some manufacturing issues that lead to difficulty in assembly, and we will pass these on in advance of our final assessment of the product. For example, holes through which bolts must be placed do not generally line up well – specifically, getting two holes lined up on one side of a two-tube assembly typically results in the two holes on the other side being “off” by an eighth of an inch or more. “Pushing” two pieces together as far as they can go has often produced a similar result, with one or both holes not properly lining up. Overall, we suspect that the design and manufacturing processes could benefit from a greater degree of precision, including taking the thickness of the coating into account and ensuring that emplacement of the holes does not result in an outward “dimpling” (if there’s any such thing as an “outie” dimple) of the metal on the inside piece.

We remain optimistic with respect to final assembly, but note that, at least for this year, we will likely be gaining more time at the end of the season than at the beginning.  One way or another, we anticipate gaining more vegetables!

Grow Your Own: The End of an Era

by John Weckerle

As Spring progresses, we find our interests turning toward vegetables once again – this time, wanting more, and sooner. Our shorter growing seasons here means not planting many things until nearly the end of May, and saying goodbye to some of our favorites in early September.  With that in mind, we experimented with putting a high grade greenhouse plastic on the hoop house, with the idea of getting cool-weather crops year round and getting the drop on Spring, possibly planting tomatoes and other goodies in early to mid-April.

The system responded by flattening itself upon receiving its first inch of snow.  While it rebounded to about its original configuration when the snow was brushed off, and did so for somewhat deeper accumulations, this did not bode well for the future occupants of the garden.  Subsequently, wind became a problem; we tried several methods of attaching the plastic, but none seemed to work.  Finally, the velcro we used for the door gave up the ghost, and we gave up on the experiment, removing the plastic for some future use.

Last weekend, we deconstructed the hoop house, having ordered a tube-steel framed, plastic-covered 12 x 24 Shelterlogic greenhouse from tractorsupply.com.  The greenhouse has large doors and screened vents at each end, and the sides can be rolled up, and possibly removed (we’ll see) during warm weather).  We’ll be assembling this over the next couple of weekends (we hope; the instructions are all pictures with no narrative) with the hope of picking up our first plants from Parker’s in April rather than late May.  We may have to make some minor adjustments in the name of rabbit/squirrel control, but what we see in the hieroglyphics gives us cause for optimism on that count.  With luck, we’ll be able to extend the tomato/pepper/eggplant season by a month or two in each direction, and the steel tubing construction should stand up to most elements (at least we hope so).  With more luck, we’ll be able to grow greens, beans, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and other tasty edibles through the winter, with our next challenge being water delivery during freezing weather.  We’ll have coverage of the assembly, installation, and subsequent activities in the coming weeks!

Grow Your Own: We hope…

by John Weckerle

As the keyboard clicks away just now, the gentle patter of rain reaches through the window to remind us of the season and what we hope the summer will bring.  The garden currently holds court with tomatoes, snow peas (might be too late, but we’ve been surprised before), zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cucumbers, several varieties of green beans, and Big Jim chiles.  We have a good bit of room left, and will be visiting Parker’s in Edgewood this weekend in the hope of filling out the beds.  We’re definitely hoping they have the excellent New Mexico 6 chiles we grew last year – super mild, but flavorful and a good complement to the hot Chimayos they also had last year.

The mid-May two-night freeze apparently took the gardening population by surprise, and this is one of the few years your editor has not started plants by seed.  We see this as a temporary setback; with the plastic for winter production now in hand, we’re looking forward to late-season bounty!

Grow Your Own: Rise, Fall, and Impending Rebirth of the Cover; Bat Guano Experiments, and More

by John Weckerle

Our sinister plot (lame pun intended) to lengthen the growing season ran into a bit of a snag on its first round.  Not a snag in the sense that the wind, which began rising during the effort, did something horrible to the plastic, but a snag of the basic light-transmission variety.  Our original plan was to test the waters by using standard, home improvement store grade plastic, with which we had had some success overwintering kale on a small scale.  However, about halfway into the effort, Senior Common Sense Editor Lucy noted that the plastic was casting about as much shadow as she was.  After a brief discussion, Senior Materials Science Correspondent Wilson advised that a higher-transmission plastic, perhaps something in the 92% range with infrared retention properties, a 4-year ultraviolet warranty, and anti-condensate features would be more effective.  The wind voiced its agreement, and we removed the offending product and stowed it for more productive uses (small scale overwintering, wrapping beetle-infested tree trunks, and so on).  From there, we proceeded indoors to order the new plastic from Farmtek – a deluxe, 28 x 40 piece of greenhouse sheeting that should provide us with full cover for Bed 5 and some extra material for smaller covers.  We also ordered some snap clamps from Amazon, and we regret to inform that we apparently got the last ones eligible for Prime shipping.  Amazon still has them and Farmtek also carries similar products.  We got a feel for these during the prior experiment; they’re easier to put on than to take off, but seem as if they’ll do the trick just fine.  Let’s hope for less-than-hurricane strength surface winds Saturday or Sunday.

As our readers well know, we start getting antsy after the first of the year, and we do still have the indoor seed starting setup.  We’ve put this to good use in testing seed to see if it is still viable, and so far everything but the chives has come up (although the kale’s not doing well).  The gold star goes to the lone string bean (Blue Lake, a bush variety), which has yielded its first nibble to the testing authorities and been found far from wanting.  Hats off to the old Martian Giant tomato seeds; we had little hope that these would come up, but having put four seeds into the pot, we ended up murdering three plants so that the fourth would survive.  Similar results were seen with the two Mortgage Lifter pots, and here is where the aerobatic mammal droppings come into play.

The two Mortgage Lifter pots were planted one week apart, with the later planting supplemented by Happy Frog bat quano fertilizer, a purported source of phosphorus.  We have long suspected that our small (but tasty and plentiful) tomatoes have been, in part, an issue of less-than-optimal phosphorus availability.  At this time, the two plants are of equal height, with the earlier-planted one having open flowers and the latter-planted one having plenty of flower buds.  These will be grown in pots; one will continue to have phosphorus added at subsequent repottings and the other will not.  Other than the week’s difference in planting date, we’ll treat them the same, and see if there is a difference in fruit size down the line.

For the garden, we’ll be working some phosphorus into the soil for the tomatoes, and probably the other nightshades (peppers, eggplants, etc.).  Also, the composter continues to house a substantial community of earthworms, and some of those will eventually find their way into the garden as well. We’re also considering a shading strategy for the hotter parts of the summer, as this may also have contributed to last year’s fruiting sizes; we got some wonderfully large Pink Brandywines before the heat waves last year, and some wonderfully tasty but much smaller ones afterward, notwithstanding adjustments to the watering schedule to accommodate the higher temperatures.

Bed 4 has been decommissioned, with the intent of providing hummingbird, bee, and butterfly forage as well as forage for the “beneficial predator” insects we’d like to see around the grounds in general.  Our attempts to breed a ladybug big enough to carry marauding deer and squirrels safely outside the fenced area have thus far been unproductive.  Having now realized that tarragon is more aggressive than we might have liked, we expect that Bed 6 will likely undergo a facelift and re-planning this Spring.  As for Beds 1-3, if time permits we’ll get them back into the mix this year.  We’re thinking of asparagus for one of them, and the prospect of oddly colored potatoes continues to intrigue us.

Sponge and A-Frame Workshop, Saturday, March 22, 2014

by Christian Meuli

The sponge is a useful rainwater harvesting technique that needs little maintenance. A sponge is a hole dug into the ground and filled with moisture-holding household waste. I find sponges to be invaluable in establishing tree saplings on windy, dry sites with poor soil and in reinvigorating old trees.

Sponges made of carbon materials passively hold winter snows and summer rains for months afterward, storing moisture efficiently in the soil and recycling carbon back into our depleted desert soil. Sponges retain moisture safely out of the harsh sun and drying wind right next to growing roots. Sponges are a simple and convenient way to very-locally recycle newspapers, cardboard, magazines, phone books, junk mail, confidential papers, yard cuttings, clothes, etc.

First we will visit a variety of mature sponges and their effects on nearby plants. Next we will dig and install several sponges with the carbon material that each attendee will bring with them. We’ll use an A-frame to identify the contour and to design how to harvest the rainwater most efficiently, dig and fill the sponge, and mulch it to look as natural as possible.

Then we’ll form groups of three to make state of the art A-frames that are durable, light-weight and foldable. I aspire for these groups to share an A-frame together, using them in varied conditions over the seasons and sharing outcomes with each other. I’ll give everyone marking flags so you can immediately begin implementing sponges on your own site!

Schedule:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

 9AM – 1PM  at La Resolana, Edgewood

 9 AM                       Site tour of successful sponges and a sponge ladder

10 AM                    Make several sponges: identify contour, dig hole and berm the

downhill side, fill with carbon waste, step down the materials,

mulch, armor the downhill berm, water(?), extend arms of berms,

and take pictures

 

11 AM- 1 PM              Make A-frames (the rainbarn has a woodstove)(I have tools and materials

Cost:

$25 with scholarships available.  Limited to 18 people. Please e-mail me your contact information including a current e-mail and phone number. Participants will bring a large bag of sponge material, gloves, and a shovel.

I cancelled the sponge workshop last fall due to a 14” snow. I hope each of you that had signed up previously will be able to attend this next workshop. I plan on having a woodchip berm and A-frame workshop before the summer rains begin.

I look forward to sharing this simple rainwater harvesting technique that is extremely beneficial,

 

Christian Meuli

mpermadr@msn.com

Gwow Youw Own, You Wascaws!

by John Weckerle

Having enhanced Bed 5’s ability to deter invasion from above, about a week and a half ago we found ourselves suddenly plagued with visitors from below…

Wabbits.  And squiwwews.

We were faced with a nightmare of Fuddian proportions: for the first time, wildlife was digging under the side of the bed, at a point where the bed simply rests on the ground rather than extending beneath the land surface.  Casual efforts to halt the incursion – placing rabbit fencing and debris in the way – had no effect, so we dug down to about a foot, set chicken wire and some pieces of 2 x 12 lumber in the trench, and extended chicken wire another 3 feet out along the ground.  We then buried the chicken wire under several inches of dirt.  Of course, the squirrels, at least, just burrowed in at another spot.  In the end, we stapled chicken wire (or, in a couple of places, poultry fencing) to the bed at ground level, and spread it across the surface, extending a barrier three feet across the ground in all directions.  We covered this with wood mulch, and this seems to have done the trick as there have been no additional excavations.

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Bed 5, inside and out.

The damage was, in some cases, substantial.  We think the kale and broccoli will recover, but the future of the Japanese eggplant, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are uncertain.  Fortunately for us, the tomatoes, squashes, and peppers (all of them) came through relatively unscathed.

To complete the summer planting, we’ve added eggplant, some more yellow squash and zucchini, mustard greens, dill, and cilantro.  Every plant has its own adjustable drip emitter except the string beans, for which we used dripline.  The beans have just begun popping up from under the mulch; at last count, five of the twenty positions had a plant above ground.  There are also already some tiny fruits on the green bell  and hot chile peppers.  With luck, we can now leave planting and protection efforts behind us, and look forward to the start of the harvest!