Friday, May 14, 2010


April 26-May 12, 2010

After leaving Branson, MO we spent a few days in northeast Oklahoma doing a series of mystery shops and visiting with friends and relatives in the area. We pulled back into our own driveway on April 26, 2010 and immediately started in working at a fevered pitch.

Sean had been so busy getting other things done while we were gone he had done far less in the garden than we’d hoped he’d get completed so the three of us hit the garden area hard and furious.

Gary spent any spare time he had sealing up holes in the fencing and the chickwire roof. HUH?

Yes, I said roof on the garden. I’ve mentioned this before in so many other places it may actually be in my blog somewhere, but if it is I’m going to revisit the basics of my garden area again for those of you who have not heard about the garden set-up. Before I continue on with this two, nearly three weeks at home.

My garden area is currently actually three gardens and a series of flower pots, trash barrels and planters. All of which is planted in the Lasagna Gardening style.

No I’m not planting pasta, although the pasta sauce ingredients are in there. It is a method very well described by Patricia Lanza in her series of books on Lasagna Gardening. Basically it is a cold compost garden that produces rich friable soil that is no till and if done completely right never needs weeding or if it does need weeding it all pulls out with such ease you won’t believe it. Even Bermuda grass pulls out with no problem.

Whether you want to garden in a raised bed or a flower pot I highly recommend you go to your local library and check out her books. They are well written and even include some on Companion Planting.

Companion Planting is organic pest control by planting things that help/protect each other next to each other. Another great series of books that cover companion planting and lasagna gardening (although she doesn’t call it that) are the books by Louise Riotte. Again visit your local library. You will be glad you did. I will admit I do OWN several of the books by both ladies and they are a valued part of my personal gardening library. They are on the shelves with my “Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman, “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew, “The After-Dinner Gardening Book” by Richard W. Langer (this is an excellent book that tells you what you can grow from the “scraps” of cooking dinner—did you know you can plant the root end of an onion and grow another onion?) and numerous other gardening books my journey into trying to be as self efficient as possible have became my guides along the way.

Anyway, back to the garden description. Because my 200 plus birds all free range my garden is caged to protect it from my feathered friends. When I am gardening on a regular annual basis the birds are allowed into the garden area from late fall until spring planting time to weed, de-bug and fertilize to their heart’s content. However, when it’s gardening season we lock them out.

It’s been nearly three years since we had a garden of any true sort so the weeds had the upper hand and the winter storms had done a number on the fences and chickwire (poultry netting) roof. As I mentioned before, the guys had been working hard on getting that back in good condition prior to our leaving. Sean had done more, but not completed it while we were gone. The 90 acre poultry ranch, job hunting and mystery shopping had all kept him busy full time. So he had little time to get the garden protection finished and without it there was absolutely no sense in putting seeds in the ground. Trust me chickens and guinea fowl can take them out far faster than you can put them in.

So as Gary tightened up the last of the gaps in the roof and fence Sean and I started actually prepping the garden and planting. By the time Gary and I left for our next round of on the road mystery shopping we had completely weeded and planted all three of the gardens and the potato barrels—more on this shortly.

The garden area currently has three gardens in it. The big garden is a 24’ X 24’ garden. In it we planted all of the following: sweet peas, broccoli, a salad mixture of lettuces, bush beans, spinach, 25 tomato plants, 6 bell pepper plants, asparagus, carrots, micro salad greens, radishes, okra, zucchini, crookneck squash, rhubarb and…I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

The 8’X24’ “Three Sisters Garden” is currently planted with sweet corn, watermelons , red, white and yellow onions and red potatoes. Once the corn is up Sean will add pole green beans and once they are started he will add pumpkins.

The “Little Garden”, which is 8’ X 8, ’ has a few white potatoes as well as sunflowers and cantaloupes already planted. Once the sunflowers are up Sean will add pole beans to this garden as well.

We have plans to add a fourth garden that will be 8’ X 24’ into this there will be grapes, blueberries and greens planted—Sean is hoping to get this built soon.

Inside the fenced and roofed area along one section we have placed four 20 gallon trash barrels that have drain holes drilled in them. These are for the main potato crop because we have such a gopher/mole problem in our area.

Planting potatoes in a barrel, or in a stack of old tires, is a simple tried and true method that gives you a lot of potatoes in the least amount of space. The concept is simple. The tires are done the same way as I am about to describe, but for my purposes I will use the trash barrels.

First you put drain holes in the bottom of your barrel. Then a shallow layer of whatever potato growing material you plan on using. Because I use the Lasagna Gardening method in all of my gardening I put a shallow layer of a mixture of straw, leaves, dirt and compost. Onto this you lay your seed potatoes (a story on these and some other purchases will be in part 2). I put them about 2-4 inches apart all over the bottom of the barrel. They can be a lot closer than if you were planting them in the ground.

Now add a 1-2 inch layer of your favorite potato growing medium. I add a layer to the lasagna garden per Ms. Lanza’s method. As the potatoes start to sprout through the growing medium you add another layer that goes 1-2 inches above the sprouted potatoes. Repeat this method to the top of the barrel as the potato plants grow. I personally add the next layer to the lasagana (ie: first layer straw/hay, second layer, peat moss, third layer, aged manure, fourth layer, peat moss, fifth layer dirt from my woods etc.)

Once you reach the top of your barrel you let the plant grow on past the dirt and out the top. Potatoes will grow all up and down that long stem that has grown from the bottom of the barrel in its journey toward daylight.

I personally cover the top of the barrel with tulle which can be purchased at any place that sells fabric for under a quarter a 72-90 inch wide yard. I tie it in place with a piece or rope. This keeps the potato bugs from being able to get to my plants. It’s not mandatory you do this, but potato bugs are a big problem in my area. So rather than fight the bugs I block them out.

When it comes time to harvest new potatoes you just dig down in the growing medium until you find the potatoes that have formed along that stem and pick to your heart’s content. When it’s the end of the growing seasons for the potatoes I simply dump the barrels over either on a tarp or into the garden and pick my potatoes out. No digging required.

By using this method you can literally grow potatoes year round if you have the seed potatoes and a sheltered place that gets sunlight in the winter. Simply insulate the barrels with black trash bags filled with leaves, weeds, grass clippings, straw or hay. WORD OF CAUTION do not put GREEN of any of these in sealed bags in the sunlight. Spontaneous combustion can happen. I don’t want you baking your potatoes (or burning down your house) instead of simple insulating the potatoes.

We did not get much planted in the flower pots or planters, other than shallots and garlic, that line my fence on the inside, so that is Sean’s next project. Unless he starts the Grape Garden first. The flower pots and planters will contain herbs and vining fruits and vegetables that will be trained to grow up the fence, but behind the bill guard.

The bill guard is simply chick wire that is attached to the welded wire that is the fencing for the garden on the outside of the fencing. We have placed a spacer between the two types of fencing made out of fallen limbs. This is to do just what it sounds like. Guard my things at the fence from tasting bird beaks and bills.

So that’s part one of what we did while we were home. The next sections will be about recipes and snakes.

Jan who can’t wait to eat the organically grown produce from her garden this year in OK

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