Friday, November 19, 2010

Cleaning up the garden

Yesterday afternoon I came home from work early to work in the garden before it got dark.  I had some office work to do but was able to finish that up in the evening.  Today it was in the mid-70s.  It's supposed to rain tonight night and I think that will be it for the nice weather until spring. 

I pulled in all the irrigation hoses.  Around here we get very little rain during the summer, usually less than a tenth of an inch all summer.  The garden has to be irrigated.  None of the vegetables will do well without watering, no matter how much I put mulch or any kind of ground cover around the plants.  The hoses didn't get rolled up, just pulled into the barn.  I wanted to get as much done as I could before dark so I figured that rolling them would be a good project for another day.

The trees in the back garden still need irrigation because they are younger trees, all under 10 years old.  The middle group of trees has been in the ground a longer time.  I wouldn't have to irrigate and the trees wouldn't die, they just wouldn't produce a good crop of fruit.  I don't have to irrigate them as much as the younger trees though.  The front trees have to be watered a lot.  They have only been in the ground for a year or two and still need to be pampered.  The way I figure it is the tree is in shock the first year it's in, the second year it's just getting settled, and the third year it's ready to grow.  It takes several years after that for them to become sturdy and strong.  I didn't pull up their hoses and I don't plan to move them. 

I don't know if I like the way the garden is set up.  I am planting in long rows.  This works well for the corn but I think I am going to come up with something else.  Planting the way I do, I have to fight the weeds continuously.  I am thinking about going back to raised beds.  I had raised beds in my backyard in the city.  It was more to make it look nice, as I was already considered odd because we kept chickens in a backyard coop.  25 years ago, this was definitely not normal!  I found out the city I lived in allowed four hens in your yard as long as they were at least 10 feet away from any house.  Not a problem.  I could keep four hens.  I told the neighbors the city said i could keep six, then I kept 8.  Nobody complained because I sold them eggs for a dollar a dozen. That was on the expensive side but everyone was intrigued by the odd eggs...they were brown! 

When I first moved to this place I had four raised beds.  I didn't like them.  I didn't like the wood they were made out of. I didn't like the location they were placed in.  I didn't have good soil, I just dug some up from another spot in the yard.  Needless to say, I took them out a couple years later and started planting in rows in the large garden area. 

I'm thinking about putting in 16 foot long by 4 foot wide raised beds.  I could probably put in twelve of these and still have room for corn.  I could plant these more intensively and also would be able to plant the permanent beds and not have to worry about them.  Right now I have asparagus growing in the garden.  When I disc the garden with the tractor I have to swerve around these plants.  I also have some artichokes and I have to do the same thing.  I wouldn't need to disc the garden if I put in the raised beds. 

It would also be easier to irrigate.  Each bed could have plants that needed similar amounts of water.  It would work out well. 

I need to do a bit of planning this winter and do it right in the spring.  If I can figure out where the new beds are going to go, when the chicken coop and barn stalls get cleaned out, instead of the spoils being spread throughout the garden, I'll have it placed in the location of each of the new beds. 

I also have a few areas of the garden that self seed each year.  This year I had squash growing everywhere.  If I have two or three beds of squash, then the self seeding will be where I want it and not growing into the walkways as they did this year. 

Next year I'm going to rig up a timer and figure out about how much water I am using in the garden.  I'll need to measure how many gallons per minute I'm using, then time how long the water is on.  I wonder if there's a water meter that I can run off the hose bib?  I haven't seen one but it sure would be nice to have.  I want to know if my garden is sustainable if I save the rain water in a large water tank.  I figure I can capture 12,000 gallons of water off the barn runoff.  Do I want a holding tank that big?  That will cost a lot.  Do I use that much water?  Only next summer will tell...

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