Category Archives: Garden

Maybe I Should Have Gone Bigger

When we first built our greenhouse on the side of our house a few years ago, I thought this is more than enough room for what we will ever do in here. Wow, was I wrong!

Putting in the three 300 gallon fish tanks, with the grow beds, gutter garden, and potted plants seemed to be about perfect, but this year when an opportunity presented itself to acquire some 4 to 5 year old citrus trees, I took it. I now have a total of 6 citrus trees which must be protected from our mid-Atlantic winters.

Lemons, limes, mangoes, and banana trees have made a home in our greenhouse. To make room I had to eliminate one fish tank and build a step-platform to hold the trees. I still have 2 fish tanks which is more than adequate to keep my grow beds alive. Here are a few pictures of our overcrowding.

 

 

 

Garden Growth-Good and Bad 2016

Watering, weeding, and digging, but very little close to harvesting. This year has been very strange. I think the spring weather, almost constant rain, getting the garden out later than normal, and now near drought conditions are causing strange growth patterns in our garden.

I actually took time to walk around our 1/5 acre homestead the other day just to survey how all the plants and trees were doing. I was a little surprised at the lack of growth from some plants that usually do very well, while their is an abundance of growth from other plantings.

On the good side-Our corn is ridiculous! I planted it next to one of our sheds and it has grown taller than our 10′ high shed! Not only that, but most years we only get 1 ear per stalk, most of the stalks this year are giving us two!

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20160717_090435Most of the melons are doing very well-trying to take over the garden even when I built “towers” for them this year.

This is the second year for my Jerusalem artichokes and they are feeling very happy as well.

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Many of my fruit trees-in particular the pears- which gave us an abundance of fruit last year, has not even flowered this year. The trees seem full, healthy and happy, but no fruit.  The apple trees, right next to the pear trees are bearing much this year-I had to thin out the fruit growth  there was so much.

I think everything else is pretty much on track with our late planting. Have some nice green tomatoes, green beans are vining well, all the herbs and other plants seem to be doing their job. My only real concern is the pepper plants.

Our pepper plants are usually very prolific. We get so many peppers that I cut the amount that I normally plant down to just 8. They are still growing, but they are much farther behind than other plants. They don’t seem unhappy, just slow growing. I will just keep an eye on them  and if they don’t spring up I may go ahead and plant more, or I guess if they don’t produce, I can put some in the greenhouse aquaponics for late season or winter.

Here are some pictures of our garden beds around our yard. Enjoy!

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Water Retention is just “Swale”

On our little 5th acre suburban homestead in the Mid-Atlantic Region, there is always one area of concern from mid-June through late August…..Water.

We don’t tend to get a lot of rain during these months and when it does rain, it is a quick storm or sudden downpour. The problem with the rains we do get is it runs off very quickly instead of soaking through for a deep root watering of all our plants.

So, this year I decided to try and build a water retention ditch through part of our back yard. Most of our ground is very level, so I don’t know if you could call this a true swale, but it is built of the swale concept.

I started by digging a trough basically about 18″ deep and made sure that the bottom grade of the ditch was perfectly level from one end to the other. Getting the base level means that although the trough is anywhere from 12″ to 18″ deep, the water will still remain evenly throughout ditch.

After the ditch was dug and I insured it would hold water evenly, I put a layer of landscape fabric before adding fill. The fill is done with old logs and tree trunks, which will help retain the moisture of every rain.

Then to top it off is a “path” of large rock. The rock will allow easy water flow, yet adds the appearance of only being a path through the mulch of garden beds.

Sorry I did not get pictures of the area when I first started, but here are the pics of the project and finished work.

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The swale runs between some fruit trees and in the middle of a larger “food forest” which I am hoping that it will keep enough water dispersed throughout during the dryer season.

The berm built on the side from the dirt dug from the trench will serve as extra planting space. Have not decided exactly what I will plant yet, but I will have it finished up in the next few days.

My plan is to add two or three more if this does exactly what I am hoping it will do. Any way I can keep more water on the property is a great advantage to the amount of watering we have add to do these past few years.

Project expansion-Barrel Garden & Aquaponics

A few days ago I wrote about many of the projects I had been working on since it was almost impossible to get outside between raindrops to plant the garden.

I talked about the potato barrel project, which since first installing, I have expanded quite a bit since I had so many extra barrels. (Some already cut for AP tanks) The potatoes seem very happy in the new “digs” so I thought other plants might feel comfortable as well. I have not decided what else I am going to plant yet-other than a couple of barrels of red potatoes-but I have no doubt that my wife will soon let me know what I am thinking about.

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Another project I had been putting off but really needed done was to paint all of my fish tanks and grow beds in the greenhouse.  I have had a real issue with algae, and although I have kept Plecco’s (algae eaters) in the tanks, the issue is still out of control.

So I finally took the time to paint the exteriors of all my tanks and grow beds flat black. This will keep the sunlight from penetrating, thus reducing my algae growth. I also bought black bucket lids to put on to20160512_171615 20160512_171622p of my swirl filters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hopefully this solves my issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent Projects…Like I don’t have enough to do!

Getting the garden in place this year has been a real chore with the deluge of rain we have been getting in the Mid-Atlantic Region.  So I have been filling my time, in between raindrops, doing a few little projects that needed done.

First we moved the rabbits out of the greenhouse into their own new digs. The housing use to belong to our chickens, but since we no longer can have them on our property (Thank you Baltimore County), it seemed like a great place to house our rabbits. I just needed to add a small rabbit condo to the mix.

We always have extra wood laying around and in this case I had an old antique secretary desk that was beyond repair. This made for the perfect base and 2 floors for the new rabbit condo. All I really had to do was add a third level (we only have two female rabbits housed here) and some ramps for them to climb.

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Overall I think it turned out pretty good for just a few hours work.

Next I had to take the new chickens-our 6 meat birds-and get them out of the house. They were getting too big too quick for the extra large dog cage we were using. We are going to dispatch them next weekend, so I only needed a couple more weeks. I moved them into the greenhouse where the rabbits were to keep them out of sight of our 1 problematic neighbor.

20160513_164109 20160513_164230They seem happier in the expanded space, I just hope no one tells them about our weekend plans!

Another project I have been wanting to do was make some dedicated space for our potato crop. We have done ok with potatoes the last few years but I am horrible about adding to the hills as they grow, thus reducing my harvest.

This year I decided to do as a friend of mine did last year: grow my potatoes in barrels! I cut three barrels in half, drilled in some drainage holes, and set them along the fence row where they will get plenty of sun all day.

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If you do this be sure to clean up all the little curly plastic or mama gets upset!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once having the barrels set, I mixed some our local dirt (clay), compost, and perlite to formulate a good bedding mix for the new potatoes. I scooped this into each barrel and leveled it at about 4 inches deep. This seemed a good starting point with potatoes.

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I did this a few days ago and I just looked into the barrels this morning and saw several of the potatoes growing. When they get to about 6-8 inches I will add more dirt, burying the plants to about 4 inches again. I have already made up an extra barrel of the dirt mix and have it standing by so hopefully I will add more each week to realize a larger potato crop.

My friend that showed me this method got a great yield from his 1 barrel last year so I am real excited to see how this does for me.

This is just a few of the projects I have done over this rainy period. The last few days, there have been enough dry spells to get the garden in, so I will have several updates in the coming days.

 

 

 

 

Relax and Tour the Gardens

I took a little time off last Saturday since it was going to be a beautiful day, except for a few sprinkles early morning. I decided to go to one of our local garden experts tour and talk, so I visited Miriam’s Gunpowder Gardens.

This is the first time I have ever been to Miriam’s but I must say it was not only beautiful on the banks of the Gunpowder River, but educational. Miriam is very versed in all manner of flower, shrub, and tree on her property. With over 30,000 plants that is some feat indeed!

One of the great things about taking the free tour of the gardens is the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and learn more about specific plants and gardening techniques. Not to mention, when the tour is over, the opportunity to dig and take some plants home-again absolutely free!

I went to the tour with the idea of grabbing a few bee-friendly plants to enhance our honey production from the hives. There was so much, I ended up walking away with several varieties of bee-friendly plants and trees.

It was a great day and Miriam offers free tours every Saturday-weather permitting- through the summer. The tours start a 9 & 11am with 1 afternoon tour at 1pm.

For more pictures or to ask Miriam a question follow her on Tumblr at:

http://miriamsgunpowdergardens.tumblr.com/

Here is just a 2 minute preview of the gardens from our tour.

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I can’t wait to go back when everything is in bloom….Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Hop on to experimentation

I have had many ups and downs over the past several months. From epic fails to neglect, I have learned that I need to pay closer attention to my aquaponics systems. So I am starting another experiment.

I just completed writing on how I neglected my system over the winter and the issues it caused. One of the best ways to keep a system in balance is to keep it planted at all times.

I planted some herbs, garlic, and onions, which have all done well in the system previously. My wife had just purchased some Hops plants for one of the garden beds, so I thought what a perfect time to experiment with something new.

Hops-yes the hops used for beer making-are a very prolific plant and can be extremely invasive if not cared for properly. They also like a moist, sunny area to grow, but do not like sitting in water.

My thought was putting it in a fill and drain system which would allow the roots to get watered 3-4 times an hour but they would not sit in water full time if I used a large container and set it near the top of the grow media.

I dug into the grow media to find the water level when the bed was full of water. This was about 2″ below the media surface. I then filled a large planting pot with media and planted the hops in it, being sure that some of the roots were at the very bottom of the pot with the majority of the plant toward the top of the pot.

20160420_075002 20160420_075010I then set the pot into the hole I had dug in the media bed and pushed the media up around the sides of the pot to hold it firmly in place. Hops tend to grow to around 20 ft tall and since I only have 10 ft from the top of the grow bed to the top of the greenhouse, I put a cage in the grow bed so I could espalier the growth as it gets too big. The large pot, I am hoping, will keep it from spreading too far in the grow bed.

I will post an update once I see it taking hold and growing-or if it becomes another failed attempt at growing plants not usually in an aquaponics system.

Spring work at the suburban homestead

We  had a small streak of nice days: 60 degrees + with little rain. It gave me a good chance to get out and start taking care of the spring cleanup and get ready for planting.

I have had a huge truckload of wood chips sitting in my backyard since fall, so I was very happy to start moving it around to the different areas that I use it for each year. A friend of mine that owns a tree service is happy to donate his chips to me whenever I want them-free of charge.

So I started around the raised beds in the garden. Making good places to walk which will keep the weed growth down in between the boxes.

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Once the garden paths were complete, it was on to the permaculture in our front yard, as well as surrounding all of our fruit trees.

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Everything is really starting to take shape, Unfortunately, some cold weather has returned and other projects have gotten my attention. We are supposed to be back in the 60’s next week, so I will probably return to planning/prepping outside then.

Being creative on our 1/5 acre suburban homestead

Having only a 1/5 acre lot in the middle of suburbia always tests our ability to be more creative to utilize the ground the best way possible. Doing that we are going to try growing espalier fruit trees next to our greenhouse.

I have always wanted some Asian Pear Trees, but they don’t do really well in the Mid-Atlantic region. The “hot” season is not really hot enough or long enough to grow the fruit to its full capacity.  Fully grown Asian pears should be about the size of a grapefruit, but in this area they are usually about the size of an average apple.

Through my research, thinking I was going to add a dwarf tree in my greenhouse, I found the idea of growing them espalier. Espalier growing according to the dictionary is:

es·pal·ier
iˈspalyər,-yā/
noun
  1. a fruit tree or ornamental shrub whose branches are trained to grow flat against a wall, supported on a lattice or a framework of stakes.
    • a lattice or framework for an espaliered tree or shrub.
verb
verb: espalier; 3rd person present: espaliers; past tense: espaliered; past participle: espaliered; gerund or present participle: espaliering
  1. train (a tree or shrub) to grow flat against a wall.

Since I have a 6′ base wall on the south side of my greenhouse, I thought this would be the perfect place to try and espalier 2 AP Trees.

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First I planted 4-8′ landscape timbers at 6-7′ apart, buried 2 feet in the ground with concrete (leaving 6′ above ground). Everything I read stated that this spread and height seemed to be the optimal for what I was hoping to accomplish.

First I attached eye hooks into the posts at 12″ increments starting0305 202 about 2″ down from the top of each post. This allowed me four lines since I did not want to go any closer than 2′ to the ground.0305 212

I purchased 3/16″ cable wire for the structure and sewed in through the top two sets of eye hooks, making my top two rows for growth.

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At this point it was a matter of how to attach the cable to the eye hooks. I needed something that0305 206 was going to be sturdy enough to keep the line tight, but also allowed for me to tighten the lines further if it became necessary.I came up with cable end clamp set and turnbuckle. Attaching these would allow for everything I needed, hopefully. They were not that hard to attach below is a graphic depiction of process.

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Before attaching the other end of the line make sure the turnbuckle is completely open so that you can use it to adjust tightness of the line. This will leave you plenty of room for future adjustments if/when necessary.

Finishing all the lines and planting the trees was all that was left. I think it turned out pretty good, I am really hoping for some great fruit off of these trees in a couple of years!

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