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Posts Tagged ‘no dig’

I finally made it out into the garden yesterday after a long hiatus (from both garden and garden blog). David got a job in Olympia (woot!) and so I’ve been trying to make the most of his absence (pooh!) by working a shit-ton in lab (hoping to graduate by next summer!!!) and have consequently been ignoring the garden. Weekends have become very busy. So far David has come back to Seattle each weekend, and we race around town running errands and trying to get stuff done while also trying to spend 24/7 with each other. (I don’t know if that’s the correct usage of 24/7…) But this weekend had a good chunk of gardening together time, and was awesome.

The fallen leaves that we put in the chicken run have been turned into a rich, composty, soil-like material and we raked out 3 wheel-barrows full and spread them over the garden beds. This required raking up the fallen leaves that had been covering the beds, which we then dumped into the chicken run to make more compost. (We’re so clever!!) The leaves had lots of nice worms in them that were gobbled up in a frenzy. I offered one giant worm (fatter than a pencil, 6 inches long) to Cornelia and she hesitated at first, lunging her body forward and back like someone working up the courage to leap over a stream. Then it was BAM! BAM! and the worm was gone.

I then transplanted a bunch of things that sorely needed transplanting- 6 big lettuce plants, 2 rows of arugula (i’m trying to be more adventurous with salads this year), little tiny leeks in the bottom of a trench inside a mini greenhouse, an assortment of 6 broccoli plants, one cabbage, and 16 swiss chard plants. I sheltered all the transplants with plastic covers so that a) they’d stay warm enough, b) the rain wouldn’t leach out all the nitrogen from the chicken poopy compost we just added (organic gardening can cause eutrophication too, don’tcha know), and c) the surface of the dirt would stay dry to keep the slugs away… maybe… we’ll see if that works.

I also broadcast buckwheat cover crop seeds over the beds that will grow tomatoes and squash/cukes/melon later this summer. Buckwheat is supposed to pull up potassium from the subsoil which will help the plants set fruit… if our subsoil is accessible by buckwheat root and actually has any potassium in it.

Of note: covering the garden beds with fallen leaves over the winter has turned out to be rad. The dirt underneath is nice and soft and full of worm castings. And the leaves are easy to clean up when it comes time to plant in the spring. I like the idea of crimson clover cover crop, but it’s harder to deal with in the spring if i want to practice no dig gardening. Normally one would mow the clover and turn it into the soil 3 weeks before planting to let it rot and provide organic matter and nitrogen to the next crop. But that requires a lot of digging, when i am attempting to do no digging this season. I could chop the clover down, give it to the chickens, and then let the roots rot in place for a few weeks before planting… but that requires waiting, and the ground is bare for a few weeks. I could pull the plants out and compost them, but then the soil structure is disturbed- perhaps not as much as by digging, but still. Then again, the chickens do love to eat clover… shrug.

Have not yet attempted any grafting. My 15 (ungrafted) tomato plants are getting big, so I may just try to graft my curcurbits this year and try the tomatoes next year. Or i may try some tomatoes and give them to neighbors who have space… as long as they keep a good record of the plants’ performance compared to non-grafted controls of the same variety. I like science.

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Today's harvest: swiss chard, broccoli sideshoots, purple sprouting broccoli, pink kale, baby beet greens

Today i finally transplanted the mustard seedlings that were going crazy under the grow light in the apocalypse room.  They were in a flat with leeks, arugula, and lettuce.  I cut around the mustard and scooped out the entire row, then broke groups of plants apart and planted two per hole- in case one doesn’t make it, and because the holes were far enough apart.  The soil wasn’t too dry- i had only begun keeping the rain off of it two days ago.  I didn’t dig up the soil at all, except to make little transplant holes, so hopefully that small amount of digging won’t turn the soil to brick. 

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I forget what kind of kale this is... Red Chidori? Waaay more ornamental and milder tasting than expected.

There was a good layer of worm castings underneath the fallen leaves that I raked away- so i know the worms have been working the soil and bringing organic matter down into it.  We’ll see if the “no-dig” method works for these guys (and the kale i planted earlier).

Yesterday, while it was freezing cold (not actually) and windy outside, i sowed 15 tomato plants, and some broccoli, cabbage, and swiss chard inside under the grow lights. 

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The kale transplants in their new greenhouse, with beer traps alongside- they're working well!

I’m trying 14 different varieties of tomato this year, and planting two sungold cherry tomatoes, because they’re consistently the shit.  I’ve got some non-early season heirlooms in the mix this year, which will hopefully produce with the help of the mini greenhouse.

After i finished seeding all the pots, i somehow got thinking about grafting tomatoes.  Territorial has sold them for a couple years and claim they’re amazing and vigorous.  The pictures always show someone gasping at how many huge, red tomatoes there are on the vine.  So I looked up tomato grafting on the interwebs, and found this sweet video from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  They sell the rootstock (Maxifort) used in the video for about 50 cents a seed, and it’s a hybrid plant so its impossible to save the seed.  I bought some anyway, just to try it out. 

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Our neighbor has become interested in our greenhouses and chickens- David is giving her the tour.

Maxifort is very vigorous and works best for greenhouse tomato grafting, but i’m hoping i can keep mine warm enough to take advantage of said vigor.  At the end of the video the dude mentions that you can also graft cucumber, melon, etc, onto winter squash, but i couldn’t for the life of me find the “bombo/shintoza” squash variety he used anywhere online.  So i got one called “triumph” instead. 

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Cat immediately found the seedling heat mat with her sixth sense

I’m not sure that the squash rootstock will keep the cukes and melons and zucchini from getting downy mildew (which they all succumb to eventually here- it’s a race to get some good fruit out of them before they’re taken down), but it may help them grow faster and produce more before they die.  Also, apparently downy mildew strikes plants that are weakened- usually by water stress- so a more vigorous root system may keep that from happening.

If only i had garden trial grounds where i could more thoroughly and scientifically investigate the advantages of grafted veggie plants… sigh…

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