Thursday, April 19, 2012

Seed give away-CLOSED


I received four trial seed packets this year. I won't use them but maybe you can.
They are:
Tomato, experimental hybrid variety, medium red, determinate, 70 days. 25 seeds.
Broccoli, experimental variety, 56 days. 30 seeds.
Beans, experimental variety, green and yellow blend, 54-56 days. One ounce.
Sweet corn. experimental variety, bivcolor, 66-67 days. One ounce.
If you would like to receive these seeds, like my page and tell me why you want them.
I'll choose a winner May 1st and get them in the mail.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Garden Expansion - Hugelkultur II

Hugelkultur starts here with
digging a ditch at the base of
a three-foot drop.
      I planted the hugelkultur yesterday! I'm excited about that, but concerned that the steep sides will collapse before the potatoes, peas and greens establish roots. I'll mulch it with straw and tonight I'll cover it with a floating row cover because we are expecting rain Friday and Saturday and I don't want the soil to wash away. Getting that soil in place was a challenge. I viewed a video of people slapping mud on a hugelkultur a handful at a time. I worked mostly by myself and thought this would take much to much time. So I balanced a board against the hillside while I filled in behind it, compacted the wet-not-soggy soil enough to hold it in place, then repeated the operation on a higher level. When I reached shoulder height for the entire hugel, I asked my spouse for assistance. He held the board while I shoveled more dirt. I was told I needed ten inches of soil over the sod because I'm growing potatoes. I doubt I got even coverage at that depth, but I used more dirt than I expected. When I commented to my hubby that I'd moved a ton of dirt, he said that I had, but only figuratively. Literally, he said, I'd moved more.
After digging a ditch, begin filling it with wood, preferably rotting wood. Fit the wood as tightly as possible
to eliminate empty pockets. Fill pockets with smaller compostable material.

Keep adding wood. (Viewed from north end)

High enough! I topped mine with last year's corn stalks and then turf, turned green side down. If you build a hugel,
 I recommend that you don't skip this step! It provides a great base for holding the dirt,
and pushes everything underneath together like a girdle. (Viewed from east)

I don't yet have photos of the finished hugelkultur. Finished? Well, is it really finished before stuff is growing on it? I'm so eager to see this happen!

Meanwhile, today I dug out the last green in the area I want to plant more peas, beets, carrots, lettuce and onions. This afternoon, I'll be setting logs to act as steps and erosion control northward of the end of the hugelkultur. Hopefully, the seeds and transplants will go in this afternoon as well.

There's a new word here at my house, "hugel" as a verb. I'm not even sure it's a noun yet in the English language, but I believe it will be.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trellis as Window Awning

Looks boring! I expect
the new planting to add
interest as well as shade.
       Because we removed the trees that shaded the back kitchen window, the sun now creates an intolerable glare that forces us to close the drapes in the afternoon. My solution is to build a trellis to host a variety of climbing plants and provide shade, beauty, diversity, and maybe even a nibble of food.
       Consistent with my goal to use what is available here on our property, my first challenge was to identify suitably straight black locust posts growing in our back yard. I cut two fourteen feet posts (back), two eleven feet (front), two five feet  (side supports, front to back), and five ten feet.(to lay across the side supports). The ten feet posts are to support the plants that I hope will grow tall enough and provide the shade I want. I used a draw knife to remove the bark before planting the vertical posts two feet deep. My husband used four inch screws to attach the side supports and cross pieces.    
       The soil along the foundation was gravely, sandy stuff spread there after the addition in 1991 of what is now the kitchen. Not much has ever been planted in this spot; it has remained an eyesore made worse by the fact that the dogs like to dig holes along the foundation to lie in during the summer. There's also a low spot in the gutter and water has always fallen from there to wash the soil underneath. I sifted and amended the soil. I moved a big rock to below the low spot to reduce erosion and placed black locust logs nearby to direct runoff away from the house onto the gravel path. Since there is little space for plants between the foundation and the path, I dug out and amended the soil on the other side of the path as well. I left the hydrangea that is growing nearby (to the right in the photo) and a lone catnip plant. I moved two bleeding heart plants to the other side of the path. For interest and to keep the dogs out of the planting, I placed an old tree root to the left. This leaves the dogs' favorite resting hole available to them. I also pounded in stakes and strung string between them to keep the dogs out of the areas to be planted. Surprisingly, so far this has worked.
       What will I plant? My first thought was morning glories, but this window faces west, so that may not be the best choice. I'll plant some anyway, but I also will try moonflowers, a couple of climbing beans, maybe cucumbers, and some ground cover plants too, with borage and other fillers. Suggestions here are welcome as always.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Drawing Bulletin - Drawing Closed

Now six choices, two winners on
Used Books Plus Comfrey drawing.

Due to low interest in the books, I'm adding another choice for the May 1 drawing. Comfrey roots, freshly dug and mailed if this option is taken by a winner (or, sigh, even both winners). If you haven't already read it, see original post on the book drawing for more information.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Give Away - Drawing May 1 (CLOSED)

Two winners, five books to choose from.

Bulletin: Due to the low interest in these books, I'm adding comfrey roots as a sixth choice. Same rules apply.
       I made the "mistake" of going to a used book sale.  Books still covered all the tables in the cafeteria-sized room on the sale's last day. Unsold books were destined for destruction if no one claimed them. Destroy perfectly good books? Noooo! Surely there are folks somewhere in this country who are searching for just these treasures! I'm making it my mission to help some of these books get together with those folks.
       I've chosen five books for a May first drawing. Five books, two winners. To enter, "like" my page if you haven't already, and leave a comment on any website post at One entry per post, but you can enter multiple times by commenting on multiple posts. Only one prize per person, though. Shipping to USA addresses only. The winner of the first drawing will have twenty-four hours to email her choice of the books and mailing address, then I can name the second winner, who can select from the remaining four. She will likewise have twenty-four hours to contact me with her choice and mailing information. Email address is


Reader's Digest Fix-It-Yourself Manual, How to repair, clean, and maintain anything and everything in and around your home. 1977.  Well, maybe not computrers, but most everything. I have a more recent edition of a similar volume. Hardcover.
Do-It-Yourself Garden Construction Know How from Ortho Books. Tips on building decks, walls, fences and gates. Techniques for working with wood and masonry. Ideas for sheds, shade structures, and garden furniture. 1978. Paperback.
Snips & Snails & Walnut Whales, Nature Crafts for Children, by Phyllis Fiarott. 1975. My daughter may kill me for letting this one go! Paperback
The Chocolate Book by Valerie Barrett. 1985. This book is a library discard but looks new and so tempting! I need to get this one out of my sight as I'm allergic to chocolate. Hardcover
Poultry, The Good Cook/Techniques & Recipes, Time/Life series. This books looks amazing! Hardcover.
Comfrey roots. Not a book, but an herb. I'll dig it fresh if anyone chooses this. I may even go along with two comfrey winners. But the books are well worth consideration!
All of these books are used, but in very good condition. If there is interest in these (that is, readers leave a bunch of comments!), I'll have more used book drawings, so comment yourself and spread the word!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Planting the Three Sisters

An heirloom corn, acrylic painting.  
       I had my garden planned with corn, beans and squash together in nice neat rows. Then I read a sidebar in Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden and discovered this wasn't the way it's done! I should have guessed this as last year I witnessed the results of growing the sisters in rows. It didn't work very well. For one thing, the beans were impossible to harvest. So back to the drawing board.
       According to Hemenway the Indians grew corn in hills, not rows. (I knew that!) The hills should be about three feet apart, twelve inches wide, and about two inches high. Plant three or four corn seeds per hill. I'll use my favorite sweet corn, but the Indians used a shorter, multi-stalked variety. Tall stalks may not support the beans. The Indians are said to have buried a fish in each hill. This option isn't open to most of us today, but I'm not going to suggest using a commercial fertilizer. I'll go with a double handful of compost instead .
       Hemenway says that as the corn starts to grow, mound soil up around the young stalks, leaving the growing tips clear. The warm soil speeds growth. You'll want two or three stalks per hill.
      Two weeks after planting the corn, plant pole beans. Avoid vigorous hybrid beans, which may overpower the slim corn stalks and bring them down. Hemenway suggests choosing heirloom varieties, and names Four Corners Gold and Hopi Light Yellow as examples. He also recommends using a legume inoculant on the beans. Plant two or three bean seeds near the edge of each hill.
       This is also the time to plant squash or pumpkins between the hills. Choose vining varieties that will sprawl, providing a living mulch. Don't plant zucchini. Its stems are too robust for the slender corn stalks.
       I've had problems in recent years with squash borers. Here are some of the options I've found for dealing with them. Cover the vines with dirt at two or three feet intervals so that an infestation won't kill the entire plant. "Trap" the borers by setting out sacrificial squash plants which you'll destroy after the borers hatch, then replace the plants with others you've started indoors. I don't know how setting out plants instead of seeds will affect the timing with regards to growth for the beans and corn.  A third solution is to watch for signs that the buggers have moved in (dropping!) and cut the plant open parallel to the ribbing and remove the creatures.
       Follow the specific planting instructions for each of your "sisters."
       Don't be too zealous about weeding. A lambs quarter or pigweed or other deep-rooted weed per hill will bring up nutrients to help your crops, but I suggest sniping off the tops before seed heads form.
       Hemenway says that Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata) was used by the Anasazi as a fourth "sister" and is still used today in the Southwest. Amaranth is another plant that has been used as a fourth sister. (Pigweed is a member of the amaranth family.)
       Have you grown the Three Sisters? In rows or hills? With what results? Please share!
Note: See May 28, 2012, post, Three Sisters - Beans and Borers for additional information.