I thought I'd start a thread here to let folks see this plot as it progresses, because that's what I wish I could see on other people's farms!
We moved here in July last year, amidst a drought that set everything back. There was a small orchard on one side of the house but the trees had fungus and blight. We chopped down the worst of the trees and cut the blight out of the rest, the best we could. I wintered the pigs under the trees to add fertilizer and kill off the grass.
They did a pretty good job, except in one paddock where I moved them out too soon so I could plant comfrey roots.
I didn't want to lose the comfrey so I didn't mulch that (waiting to see how many come up - so far 10 out of 15 have). The rest of the area got a thick layer of 2 year old hay from a round bale the neighbor delivered for us.
I'm going to leave the one tree with just comfrey growing under it to use as fodder for the goats and rabbits. I'll interplant it with gladiolas, daffodils, and some other flowers to make it pretty. The area to the right is planted with potatoes now (they're just coming up). Later we want to plant strawberries there. I read if you plant strawberries in the spring you need to keep them from fruiting, if you plant in the fall you can let them fruit the following spring, so it seems we only gain by growing potatoes here for now and planting the strawberries once we harvest the potatoes. I'll probably also plant blueberries in there among the strawberries, and maybe some flowers.
Along the front will be a border of mixed herbs and flowers. I've put in borage, sage, thyme, chives, lavender, rosemary, and rhubarb, and will put in some basil today. The flowers will be gladiolas and dahlias, and maybe some marigolds, with alyssum from seed to feed beneficial insects.
The rest, a 16ft X 32ft rectangle with one baby cherry tree in it, is planted with corn and squash/pumpkins from seed we saved over the winter and from ornamental popcorn and Indian corn. The Indian corn will go to the pigs this winter after the kids decorate with it.
a wonderful beginning..so much fun to get started and see the babies coming. I plant a few new baby trees every year..some of my adults are bearing but I always have tiny babies going in..dozen or so each year.
Bloom where you are planted.
Thanks for sharing. I planted 5 new trees last fall. They are in my front yard so all I have is mulch around them. I will be planting some blueberries along the fence this year and since they are in the back, they will get under planted with, not sure what yet. I want something edible but need to find something compatable with acidic plants.
Kim, Try wintergreen. The plants are very low like groundcover and they do like acid, I think. The berries are delicious when you get them.
I'm happy about the potatoes. The day I took the photos, I think, there were 8 plants showing. Next day 11, next day 15. Now we're up to 28. I planted 42 but some were showing signs of mold and I think they rotted under the moldy hay. I was worried I waited too long to plant them, way after St. Patrick's Day, and they had been cut and sitting until they were really looking shriveled. It took longer to build the new pig paddock paradise than I had expected so the planting kept getting delayed.
We've had a lot of rain. Looking today I saw all but about 5 of the potatoes I planted are up, many of them 6 inches or more tall. The corn is sprouting and a few inches tall, there are some squash appearing, and all but 2 of the comfrey roots I planted are now growing. One day there was a hailstorm and we wound up getting 3 inches of rain. The hay is a soggy mess that squishes like a sponge when I step on it. Beneath it is a mix of black clay, pig manure, and straw, worked down several inches by the pigs. It's really solid feeling and difficult to dig through (I was planting gladiola and lily bulbs), but the plants I put out seem to be thriving. The area is teeming with earthworms. I found a lot of volunteer oat plants from the soaked oats I was feeding the pigs. Unless they're in a really bad spot I think I'll let them grow and see how many I can harvest. I set out 8 tomato seedlings between the comfrey and the fence, and 6 wormwood plants on the far side of the comfrey plot. My plan is to use them as a source to establish wormwood in all the paddocks so the livestock can self-medicate if they want to. I got a free chicken once that was very skinny. She was the only one that ever ate the wormwood and she ate a lot of it for about a week then left it alone afterward. I assume she had worms.
I was getting ready to clip the grass around the comfrey short so I can mulch it well to kill off the grass and I realized that there are a lot of oats coming up that the pigs missed (I fed them soaked oats while they were there).
I decided to let the oats grow as long as they don't choke out the comfrey. So far the comfrey looks like it can handle a little competition, it's thriving.
The tomato plants have doubled in size since I planted them last weekend.
And the wormwood is thriving, maybe 3-4 times the size it was when I planted it last weekend.
The potato plants are growing very fast but are being eaten by leaf hoppers or something that makes tiny pinprick holes all over. All but about 7 have come up. I found some potatoes in the pantry that had sprouted so I put them in to fill in the gaps where the others hadn't grown. Just FYI for beginners, don't use store potatoes for a place you'll want to grow potatoes again, or tomatoes for that matter, because they can carry diseases. But this area will be strawberries next year and after so it doesn't matter, and potatoes (and the hay mulch) are a great way to prepare the soil.
On the other side, the corn and squash/pumpkins are coming up and look to be making strong growth. Many of these plants only appeared days ago and are already 6 inches or more tall. Corn and squash love very rich soil, like from all the pig manure. The hay is crawling with earthworms, too.
We decided to replant where the corn/squash was really gappy, using black popcorn from the store and seeds from a cantaloupe I ate. I tested them to see if they'd sprout by putting a few seeds in a damp paper towel for a few days. One sprouted the next day. As we were planting I found the reason for the gaps - some critter (probably mice from the field) had dug up and eaten a lot of the seeds before they came up! We found the larger squash seed hulls, neatly nibbled along one side so the kernel could be eaten out laying on the straw mulch. The corn and squash that did grow is looking pretty good now, getting big!
The tomatoes are starting to bloom, too.
The photo I posted before of "oats" was actually wheat, probably from the straw I'd given the pigs as bedding. Now oats are coming up and starting to make the seedheads. I looked up how to grow them (on purpose, not from seeds the pigs miss) and found out there are two kinds, some you plant in fall and some in early spring. I'm not sure what kind these are. If they do well here, tho, I'd like to save the seeds to plant again next year for a nice little stand of oats.
The borage is blooming, the rhubarb is still tiny leaves, and the asparagus I planted from a peat pack is mostly surviving (the chickens like to get in and dig right there). I think the ground is too compacted where I planted the rhubarb, it's not making good growth at all.
I saw at least two of the cantaloupes coming up, I don't want to walk on the bed too much because I'm not sure where all there are seeds I've planted.
Oats are appearing everywhere. I'm letting them grow because the plants aren't that big and they don't seem to be doing much harm, except a particularly thick patch mixed with grass that seems to have choked out one comfrey plant, which appears to be rotting (maybe from all the moisture all the plants are holding in?)
Some of the potato plants are getting potato bugs. So far since only a few of the plants are affected I'm letting it go, hoping some natural predator will find the swarm of them and eat them all. Since they're orang/red, I'm hesitant to encourage the chickens to go eat them, usually that means the bugs are poisonous.
The corn is quite tall, many of them have tassels beginning to emerge. The squash/pumpkins have a lot of buds on them but I've yet to see one bloom. So far they're all male flower buds so I don't know what kind of fruit they'll bear, either. The largest plant is already 4 feet across and appears to be a bush type.
Quick update: most of the corn I planted the second time around has sprouted.
The squash are almost all cushaws, tho there are bush ones and vining ones. I guess there's some variation in the seeds. Reading up on what the people around here have historically grown, cushaws and beans top the list. If they're sweet and good we can eat them, if they're too dull the pigs will still like them .
The squash plants have been growing like crazy and we've got a lot of squash on them! I counted about 4 pumpkins, 1 really big cushaw, and tons of butternut squash (my favorite) along with a few mini pumpkins.
The corn is very high and most of the plants have multiple ears.
I got the tomatoes and potatoes in about a month later than I could have. So the tomatoes STILL aren't ripe!
The potatoes look like they're dying. I don't know if it's the end of their season and time to dig or if the store potatoes I used came with a disease. I dug some and the results were disappointing - some have just one large tuber right under the plant, green from sticking up above the soil, the others have lots of little ones but they're all green and growing new plants! I guess I should have hilled these varieties, but I HAVE successfully grown them in straw before, but the soil was softer - the was rather hard-packed from the pigs.
The comfrey is pretty big, I'd guess some of the leaves are approaching 2 feet long now.
And we got a couple of volunteer sunflowers that I let grow.
I harvested the potatoes. Despite the heavy insect pressure, I got 2 2-gallon bucketfuls, plus another bucketful for the pigs of ones that had some green on them. Not bad for free potatoes (I started them from ones that had sprouted in the fridge before we ate them) grown in a 16 X 16 foot bed with almost no inputs! We're having buttered potatoes for lunch!
I finished planting the fall garden in the 16' X 16' area the potatoes had been in. I put in 1 row each of: spinach, lettuce blend, fennel, mizuna, bunching onions (scallions) and bok choi, and on two edges I planted a row each of apricots and peaches from seeds we had saved. They can overwinter in the ground for cold stratification and hopefully some will sprout in the spring.
Those rows were 2 feet apart and in between them, where the strawberries will go when they arrive, I planted 42 garlic cloves so there will be alternating garlic and strawberries. I read the garlic will help keep pests away from the strawberries and they make good companion plants. The strawberries will be on a grid, 2 feet apart each way. I've talked to a fellow who owes me because I gave him all of my extra mulberry and chestnut trees, and he's going to provide the blueberry plants when I'm ready for them (I'll put in 4 blueberry plants, 6 feet apart, with a sour cherry tree in the center, which I'll get bare-root in the spring.)
The pumpkins are still making more, this one is coming through the fence.
I planted Indian corn and popcorn. Neither of those should be genetically modified. But I've read that when the GMO corn cross-pollinates with regular corn it creates oddities. Like these, I wonder? The first photo is of an ear that's growing on top of the stalk where the tassels should be. I've had 2 of these this year, the other was smaller and wilted and disappeared:
This one, less odd because I've had popcorn do it before - 3 ears of corn coming out of one spot! The third one is between these two and the stalk.
I wanted to add, the tomatoes are leggy because they're getting too much shade from a nearby maple tree, but they're finally ripening and the flavor is really good!
I've had one comfrey plant rot and die, another was starting to rot but I flattened all the grass around it so it could get more air and I think it will do ok. I decided to leave the grass in place (alive) because it's been raining so much and I worry the rot is starting in the roots where the soil is just very mushy after days of rain so I'm hoping the grass will help take it up or support beneficial bacteria, etc. to protect my comfrey. In the fall when it dies back I'll mow it all really short and then mulch around the comfrey to try to kill the grass off for next year.
The herbs are doing well but some got choked out by grass that invaded the border - I didn't put in any sort of edging barrier because I thought the 4 inch drop-off would work - it didn't. I'm busy hacking the grass back now and will put in plastic edging soon.
And the salsify seeds I scattered randomly are only just now starting to grow, I've found 4-5 small salsify plants. I plan to leave them where they are and hope they make seed next year that I can scatter where I want them to grow. I also had to plant around a few squash plants that volunteered where the potatoes had been, I'm going to wait to see if they're anything "good" before I pull them.
We have a lot of goldfinches around here, which I love to see. But I think they ate all the oats and wheat as they ripened. It's a small price to pay for flocks of goldfinches escorting the car along the driveway whenever we go down the driveway.
This is a photo of the same pumpkins as in a previous photo. They're a little bigger and the one is starting to turn orange now.
Here are the seedlings from the seeds I recently planted - in front is the mizuna - a very mild mustard that is really really good quickly sauteed in olive oil with some browned crushed garlic and a little organic tamari. Next is a row of onions/scallions. They're hard to see but they're coming up pretty thick now. Behind that is the bok choi, and in the back is a squash plant with a baby squash showing.
The second seeding of corn, which was mainly popcorn is going well now. Many of the plants have multiple ears, a couple have 5 ears, all the same size, unlike the second ears of the Indian corn which were smaller and too late to get fertilized so they had few kernels in them.
We're enjoying the Indian corn quite a lot. I've had some trouble with some kernels sprouting on the ear from all the rain, tho but it only happened on a few ears. I've had to bring them in as soon as the husks start to dry because not only do I fear them sprouting but also getting mold, and aflatoxin is a dangerous one. I started a thread on making Nixtamal on here where I show some of the ears and finished product. It is delicious!
Here's a perspective photo so you can see how close it is to the house. I agree with the permaculture founding fathers - put the most high-maintenance stuff closest to where you always go! This garden is much closer to the house than the original garden and it gets much more attention (but sadly still not enough weeding around the edges!)
And I like this view - you can see the pumpkins, the corn, and the fruit in the background. The perfect image of a food forest, imho!
I saw some rotting squash in the garden so I decided to bring in the ones with hard rinds. I also harvested some ears of popcorn where the husks were starting to dry out. I fear if I leave them to "cure" on the plant we'll get more weeks of unending rain that made the kernels sprout and mold on some other ears.
That's not all I've harvested, I've also been feeding pumpkins to the pigs when I see one starting to rot. The seeds are a natural dewormer, so that's cool. And there's more Indian corn than shown there. All-in-all, pretty good for a garden that was almost no work at all, other than fencing, spreading the straw, planting the seeds, and harvesting. And almost no cost since all the plants came from seeds I saved from pumpkins and squash we ate the previous year; all I spent was on the (clearance) indian corn and a few kernels of popcorn.
I also found some volunteer tomatoes in the garden. I think they came up from seeds out of tomatoes we gave the pigs when they were living in there because they don't look like any I bought seeds for - oblong with pointy ends. The flavor isn't wonderful but the plants are doing better than the ones I planted, where all the fruit has split and we've gotten almost none this year.
Sadly, something ate every single spinach plant (same as in the spring planting), and most of the lettuce, but there are some lettuce plants that are doing well. The fennel is up, I'm starting to see the bunching onions and the mizuna and bok choi are getting pretty big, tho troubled by flea beetles. I'm worried they'll bolt because the temperatures are supposed to get up in the 90's this week. I may replant the bare spaces with some more seeds once they forecast rain again.
I spent yesterday morning starting a mini-er food "forest" in the front yard.
We had to cut down an oak tree in the front yard because the bark had been stripped off an entire side, moisture had rotted out the wood and it was about to fall. This spring the roots sent up a bunch of shoots. I picked the best one and cut all the others. It shot up over 7 feet during the summer. I stripped away the grass under it and planted 3 roses, 3 strawberries, and a bunch of daffodil bulbs the pigs had dug up for me when I penned them in the yard (saving me the chore - I didn't like where they were and was planning to dig them myself this fall!)
The roses are mini roses like they sell to use as houseplants. They don't do well indoors but make fine landscape plants. The pot of them had 4 plants in it to make them look more full, so I divided them (rather roughly but they didn't seem to mind) and repotted them individually to give the roots a chance to grow back, then got them used to full sun gradually over a week's time. Strawberries do well under roses because the roses start to grow later in the year, so the strawberries get plenty of sun early on, then shade through the hot summer, which they like.
The fence is to keep out the chickens, who would quickly dig everything back up; the plastic on it is "pee guards" to hopefully keep my dog from killing them like he did the sourwood trees I planted in the yard. It's large plastic drink cups with the top and bottom cut out, held on with wire through some holes I punched.
The pile on our hearth has grown considerably - we now have
90 ears of corn - some dent, some popcorn
6 large pumpkins
6 even bigger cushaw squash
33 butternut squash
18 edible (delicious) mini pumpkins
and 15 ornamental gourds.
All from the 16 foot by 32 foot area under some young fruit trees. And the fruit trees look good and healthy.
There were probably more I fed some of the squash that had bad spots to the pigs, and some of the ears of corn too.
We've been eating the corn as nixtamal, and just started enjoying some of the butternut squash and mini pumpkins. I like butternut squash better than cushaw so I'll probably wait to try the cushaws until we've used up all the butternuts that had stems broken off or other injuries of harvest (from me throwing them over the fence, probably!)
The comfrey under the one tree have been loving this cooler weather and are now touching each other, so I can really see how they will work as groundcover! I can't believe they'll keep getting bigger for the next few years!
The strawberries have (finally) all been planted and are starting to make strong growth, surprising me because I let them sit in the refrigerator in their bag for almost 3 weeks!
The chickens hopped over the fence and thinned my seedlings for me, but we've still got a little bit growing. From the front to the back you can see the lettuce, fennel, mizuna (wonderful sauteed with garlic and olive oil) and bok choi.