It’s hot! Hot weather and hot flashes just don’t mix. I’ve become very good friends with my ice packs and fan. I love spring and fall, but the dead of summer is reeeeal uncomfortable at this particular stage of my life.
My beautiful garden is churning out zucchini, tomatoes, kale, parsley, and herbs like a mad thing. Still getting broccoli sprouts as well. I have more broccoli started, as well as lettuce, pac choi, chard, radishes, and cilantro. Also, eating thinnings from the pac choi and radishes for stir fries. Yum.
The cucumbers are doing well. I’ve had two lovely cukes so far, just harvested another one today, and many more on the way. The one lonely cayenne pepper is about 8 inches long and starting to change color. Also a few sweet peppers are starting to turn color.
The Mediterranean herb garden is pumping out basil, summer savory, borage, and thyme, and calendula flowers for the kitchen window sill. The flower beds are making lots of lovely blooms for the bees and bugs.
Oh, and grapes and figs. Yummy sweetness.
This weekend we're (hopefully) building a zucchini drying rack ala Carol Deppe, from The Resilient Gardener. I have lots of big zukes ready for slicing and drying. I’m hoping I can get them dry enough to store well without having to freeze them. If I had an oven or dehydrator I could finish them off, but I don’t. So, the hot sun and a fan will have to do the trick. If I can’t get them super dry, I’ll probably have to put them in the freezer, although we only have a tiny freezer. But, people have been drying food and storing it without freezers for a lot longer than I have been playing homesteader, so I’m sure I can find a way.
I’d really like to dry some kale, too. I’ll let you know how that all works out.
I’d really like to expand my permaculturing beyond the garden gates. But my partner in crime has different priorities.
So I’m spending my time learning how to make the best market garden possible.
So! My main focus right now is on the soil. As you may have read in earlier posts, I grow in organic mulch rather than actual soil. I am in the process of figuring out how to know which amendments need to be added. I think that sending in a ‘soil' sample (actually, a sand sample) will be the first thing. Once I know what, if any, nutrients are in my sand, I’ll know what else I need to add.
Next year I will have chickens, so there will be homegrown manure for the garden, too. And once The Man decides when the compost
area is ready (could be years, the way his decision making skills are . . .
), I can start making some purposeful piles of stuff to start composting
on a larger scale.
Still waiting for the next beds to be dug, but when they are, I’ll be ready! Unless I die of old age . . .
The next thing I will be focusing on for the garden will be growing the right varieties for my gardening style and climate, and plant breeding/landrace gardening. Because I will be growing a market garden, I need to be able to rely on the varieties I grow to produce well and profusely.
I will definitely be ordering from Fertile Valley Seeds where I can get Carol Deppe’s seeds. She grows in a similar climate, so it’s a good place to start. But I plan on mixing in other varieties as well, to make sure I get the plants that will do what I want. Resilience is the name of the game, and I hope to get there: drought, heat, and frost tolerance, pest and disease resistance, and hardy plants that produce well. That's everyone's dream, right?
I’ll also be ordering from West Coast Seeds and Salt Spring Seeds from Salt Spring Island. Salt Spring has a great selection of less common varieties - I’m really looking forward to trying some of their soup peas!
There is a permaculture
farm on our little island that has been here for 30 years or so. Very cool people, doing great things. They are giving a PDC
in the fall, but I can’t afford to take it. Hopefully next time . . .
Anyway, they also grow a market garden, and sell seeds that they have been growing for years. So I’ll definitely be using their seeds, as they will be used to growing in our climate. But I don’t necessarily want to be growing the exact same varieties as they are - I’m more interested in filling in the gaps, and growing what isn’t being grown here already.
Which brings me to my next step: setting up a greenhouse for winter growing. There are lots of food plants that be grown or harvested through the winter here without protection - kale, leeks, and other cold hardy varieties - and I want to fill in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall with the popular veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, as well as things that I notice are imported during the winter months such as parsley and cilantro. If I can grow and harvest lettuces through the winter that would be great. I will definitely have to invest in lighting to do that, as we tend to have a grey, rainy winter season.
But to start with I will plant on a schedule that will allow me to grow plants to a certain size by winter, and harvest through the winter. Not much growing will happen through January and February, but then I will get a jump start in spring.
I’m also hoping to get the field ready where I want to grow the larger things like corn, quinoa and squash. Trying to work out the best way to go about it. I know chickens would be a great start, but we won’t be getting any ’til next year. They can help clear and fertilize the area. But I’m more concerned about how I’m going to plant it. I don’t think my regular buried wood
beds will work great for planting tall plants like corn and quinoa. I think they would fall over very easily.
So, how to grow the larger crops such as corn and quinoa? Quinoa is more drought tolerant than corn, so I will probably be able to grow quinoa first; I'll have to work on the area more to be able to grow corn with minimum irrigation. The trick will be to create a growing area that holds on to the rainfall in winter, and keeps it there as long as possible into the summer.
Perhaps I’ll need to do it as more of a swale system, where the swales are mulched heavily to collect and retain moisture, and the plants are grown between the swales. The main problem is our lack of soil, and the fact that our sand is a bit hydrophobic, and also eats organic matter very quickly. That’s why I’m using buried wood in the main garden, rather than just tilling organic matter into the sand, or building beds on top of the sand. It is not garden-friendly sand.
That’s something that needs more research and thought. I hope to have it sorted out by next spring.
Those are some of my garden plans. Just keep building up my soil, expanding my garden, and trying all kinds of plants, to get to the most resilient growing system I can.
I just watched one of Sepp Holzer
’s videos. Very inspiring. One of the things that his videos do is help to show that just because people don’t
grow certain things where you are, doesn’t mean you can’t
grow them. You might just have to work out what the plants need and supply it.
I really want to grow citrus and avocado. I mean, I REEEEALLY want to grow citrus and avocado. The thought of harvesting my own avocados is beyond exciting. So, I’m going to try. I’ll give them everything I can - healthy soil, a good microclimate, shelter
from wind and frost, and heat.
As you may have read, we have a LOT of rocks. So I can use those rocks to supply more heat for the trees. And using buried wood beds will help to supply the right micro-organisms and nutrients; as well as helping to keep them watered without lots of irrigation, if I let the wood get really charged with water for a couple of years before planting the trees. The large rocks should also help to hold moisture in the soil.
And that’s my theory. Hope it works. Of course, it’ll take quite a while before I know if it works, but it’ll be worth it if it does.
For the initial food forest areas, there are lots of trees that I know grow here, so those are the ones I’ll start with. I want fruit trees that grow fruit good for drying, and nut trees that grow nuts that store well in the nut, are relatively easy to shell, and can be ground into flour. More research to do for planning the food forest.
We’ll also need to do a lot more fencing, as the deer will destroy anything we plant out. So I’ve been researching ‘alternative fencing’ options. Lots of neat things, such as hedge laying and densely planted prickly hedges to keep deer out. These things will take longer to get in place than putting up a wire fence, but it might be worth getting them set up in places that we won’t be planting right away.
For the initial food forest areas, we’ll definitely need to put up fencing. I had thought that I could plant out trees and bushes with individual fencing around them, and wait until they are big enough to fend for themselves before taking the protective fencing down. But I’m not sure that’s feasible. Besides the fact that I’d have to keep expanding the fencing around the trees and shrubs as they grow, the deer will also eat the cover crop plantings. I’m not too keen on planting a legume field for the little fiends. So fencing the whole area is probably necessary.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t start collecting the trees and bushes that I want to grow, and get them started in pots and garden beds, ready to transplant when we get fencing done.
I had some Saskatoon plants from a neighbor, but a little deer got into my garden and ate all the leaves off them. I’m hoping at least some of them recover. The little bugger also ate the leaves off my grape cuttings that were doing really well. But, I’ll get more cuttings going for next year, as the grape plant is quite healthy, and I can get cuttings any time. (In the meantime, I plugged up the hole under the fence where the little bugger wormed his way in.)
Plans, plans, plans. I really enjoy the planning part, but find myself getting a little impatient for things to move along a little faster.
And that’s that. Lots of plans and a long wish list - I’m sure many of you can relate. Trying to remain patient, and be happy with what I’ve achieved so far - a beautiful and successful garden, lots of food produced, and lots of learning. Being impatient doesn’t help anyway, it only makes me not able to appreciate what I already have. So, pullin’ up my big girl panties, and doing what I can to be ready for the next phases as they come.
Here are some sexy snaps of the garden.