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Garden projects... what to do first?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 1989
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Hi folks,

So due to a change of circumstances I now have more time and more regular access to our garden. Same space I have worked in for years, but now I live there and can care for it regularly - rather than a couple of hours once every three weeks or so!

So we are just going into winter and I'm trying to take stock, plan for spring and work out what projects I want to prioritise. I have more time, but not enough time or money to do everything at once! My options - in no particular order - are

Chickens - finish converting shed to coop, fencing and get birds in spring. I have a spot in mind, but this will take most of my time and resources. I want the chickens, because we love eggs but I also want to use them to make our compost and eat our weeds. We have weeds that don't compost well because they survive our current heaps (bindweed roots!), orgrow back through finished compost contaminating it again!

Overhaul of seriously over grown and neglected raspberry patch - it used to be three rows. It is now an impenetrable thicket 4m wide. Productivity has dropped off a small they are over crowded, and we can't get in to harvest. Plan is to thin down to two rows, build a sturdy frame and run parallel horizontal wires to contain them. Good amount of man hours, but rewarding and not much capital expense.

Building a permanent "Munty Frame" for our runner beans. We love runners and I want to grow many more in future - this will streamline things a bit. Requires about £60 of old scaffolding poles.

Biochar kiln and production - I haven't made much biochar for years, and I'm keen on the cone kiln variants. I think they would suit the type of material we have to burn. Synergises well with chickens, as biochar can be spread in the run to be inoculated.

Hoop polytunnel. Cost about £300, substantial time investment. Would transform what we can grow in the coming season - I'd love a good tomato crop, maybe some cucumbers etc... it would also give us a good seed starting and propagation area.

General garden clearance - our veggie area has been seriously neglected and in places overrun with weeds and grasses. I can invest time and sweat equity into breaking the back of the bed preparation ahead of spring planting. Typical problems - some beds had potatoes in previous years that didn't all get picked. Now what ever we plant we get potatoes growing and swamping things!

I have a patch of Jerusalem artichokes - they were planted as an experiment, but most of the family disliked them. The patch is over run with them each year now. I could try and clear it and grow something else next year. I expect a lot of digging, and then not being able to plant in spring because of needing to keep weeding more regrowth out.

I have a vague plan to get some vertical trellises established - I'm thinking wooden posts with steel reinforcing mesh. I'd like to grow a variety of different squashes, but our experience so far has been that slugs and damp can cause problems at ground level.

As you can see - there are lots of ideas.

Any thoughts? How would you prioritise this lot?
 
pollinator
Posts: 196
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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There was a similar topic about how to prioritize tasks recently, so I'll mostly be going on my experience posted there.

---

Each rank is listed from most to least in priority:

#1 priorities seem to be chickens, general garden clearance and the hoop-house.

#2 priorities would be Munty-Frame and vertical trellises

#3 priorities would be jerusalem artichokes, raspberries and bio-char.

(infrastructure buildings are almost always a top priority)

You mention you really want chickens(motivation) and chickens fill a lot of roles making them the #1 priority. Garden clearance should be done asap, though I was tempted to say wait until you get chickens and then feed them the scrap weed/grass, but the gain seems too small. The hoop-house will be an easy decision, as the minute you spend the $300 on it, you have just committed to that project. There is nothing worse than investing large sums of $ in a project and having it half built unable to use it this year. (I've had several hundred $ in mushroom cultivation laying around for 2 years now.. )

With Munty-frames and vertical trellises I would start looking for the equipment needed and whichever one you find a deal for first is the project to start with. If you did the Munty-Frame though, you could likely use the other side of it+steelmesh for a vertical trellises if you ran out of time - just so you could grow some squash this year in a safe place.

I would  try to out-source your jerusalem problem first by putting out ads for people to come pick them for free. If you can start by only clearing your raspberries, without even making the wire fence, that would be a win in itself. I take a machete to my goji/raspberry patch and basically cut one side down every 3 years or so - this requires 15 minutes to chop&clear a 1m x5m area and is a "start fresh" point. Bio-char I feel isn't worth as much because you'll already have chicken compost.

---

Something I wasn't certain of is if you are planning to work on any of these during winter, such as building coops. As an example, I'm going to be building greenhouses in moveable pieces in my garage this winter and then assembling them outside in the early spring. If all of your projects will be started in early spring, then the only thing I'd reassess is that you likely won't have time for a hoop-house, but that's just my gut feeling.

Aside from that, I'd try to do all 3 of the #1 list, and then do 1 project from the #2 & #3 list - probably Munty-Frame and Raspberries. After that is done, you can do the trellises, jerusalem and bio-char as time permits. Take this all from the perspective of someone knows little about the UK and knows nothing more about your life

And congratz on your move
 
gardener
Posts: 3732
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Michael Cox wrote:I have a patch of Jerusalem artichokes - they were planted as an experiment, but most of the family disliked them. The patch is over run with them each year now. I could try and clear it and grow something else next year.



Thanks for the laughs!!! In order to get rid of Jerusalem artichokes in my fields, I pretty much have to leave the field fallow for two growing seasons, with routine cultivation and/or weeding of ongoing volunteers. And even that doesn't eradicate them. It just slows them down. There is a sweet spot in the growth cycle, when they are about 9" tall when they exhaust the previous year's tuber and haven't yet started making new ones.

For what it's worth, from the list presented, chickens would be my top priority.


 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1989
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Good points about prioritising infrastructure over other projects. I think you are right about some of the projects as well; I can try and collect free materials while other things are going on.

I really do want to get the chickens do - they would make other projects easier - but it is the biggest of the bunch.

Joseph - I was thinking about you when I mentioned the Jerusalem artichokes. That was pretty much my thought as well - big project and a lot of work.
 
gardener
Posts: 5084
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Chickens are great but the key to getting them is two fold, 1)what size chicken do you plan to purchase, chicks, or fully grown? 2) how many do you plan to start out with?
Coming into winter, chicks will be harder to raise to survival size at this point of the year.
Grown chickens will do well in the coming winter, be able to help you with composting, weed control, and of course eggs.
They will need a coop, water, feed, bedding, that's about it unless you need to contain their moving about with some fencing (even the orange or green safety net stuff works) to hold chickens where you want them and just needs some t posts to hold it up and in place.
Our flock is currently 3 hens and one rooster which will be added to this coming spring.

Thining the raspberries can be done at any time of the year.

One side of the Munty Frame could be the side of the coop perhaps, Ours are free standing and work great for our pole beans, cucurbits and some squashes, and melons.

I would not worry about going forward with biochar until you have some of the infrastructure built, compost will be the best start up material for soil building.

The high tunnel should be last since you need to have all the other items in place so you don't end up needing to move the high tunnel because you put it in the wrong spot.

Winter is when I do garden bed tune-up and new builds of raised beds, compost addition to current beds.
Overall, the more of the infrastructure you and get finished, the better you will be able to then use your time.

On our place, we pay cash for everything, this means we plan out each step by how much money we need to spend on each project, then we finish one before we move on to the next project.
It is one of Murphy's Laws that no matter how well you plan, emergencies will arise that take precedence over everything.

Redhawk

 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Michael Cox wrote:

Joseph - I was thinking about you when I mentioned the Jerusalem artichokes. That was pretty much my thought as well - big project and a lot of work.



The easy way to get rid of them is to cover the area well with plastic (I use black rubber roofing material) and wait. It takes a while but it's no work at all after putting down the material.
 
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