Al Marlin

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since May 12, 2019
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Recent posts by Al Marlin

I'm adding to the voices that have asked about doing this course online - COVID has pushed the whole world into learning via Zoom or the like.
1) Living in Canada (which is currently not allowing her citizens to cross into the US for non-essential reasons) makes attending an in-person course in Montana impossible.
2) January is best from the perspective that that's the only time of year we could free up 40 hours to study intensively. Obviously nobody in Montana is going to have anything happening in their garden in January either. So without the possibility of walk abouts, an online course makes even more sense.
3) But we heat with wood and it gets cold here in January (like possibly -40) so leaving the cabin for more than 1-2 days at a time in the winter doesn't work for us.
Summary: I'd be willing to pay retail prices for an online course in January.
1 month ago
Just like the annuals, our perennials have the to follow our gardens' basic rule - to be as "no work" as possible. We topcover everything with a deep layer of woodchips as mulching avoids the need to weed and water and nourishes the soil as the chips breakdwon

Attached is a photo taken last night of 1 such garden.
Lovage was roughly transplanted in right beside the woodshed last year. We had wondered about that location as frost would be able to penetrate deeply from the shed side - we get -40 winters, Evidently lovage is happy there as parts of it are 8"+ this year. We'll divide it next spring so it doesn't crowd out as far.
Out further into the bed is a trench of Asparagus we started from crowns this year. We placed the trench right under the dripline of the shed so we wouldn't have to water the asparagus at all to get them established - so far so good
On the left of the picture you can see potatoes - we had thought of doing the Paul Gautschi method of harvesting and replanting for the next year at the same (thus making the potatoes quasi-perennial) but we got potato bugs in this bed for the first time this year. So we will probably plant garlic in this part of the bed this fall to try to break the potato bug cycle.

3 months ago
Follow-up to our comment that garlic is the easiest vegetable to grow.

Apart from planting this crop in the fall, and covering well with woodchips we didn't have to touch it until harvesting it this week (no watering/no weeding). After curing the bulbs for 2 weeks in an airy but shaded shelter (screened off from Leek Moth) we'll gently take the top layer of papers off to get any remaining soil off the bulbs, snip off the dried tops, & store loosely at room temperature in a shallow box in our basement. FYI our basement is heated all winter with a woodstove so despite being exposed to dry heat for 7-8 months, even the smallest-bulbs are still plump and juicy 12 months after harvest.

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Nice haul! My first impression is that it's a method well suited to a damp climate, but would be less successful in a dry climate. The leaves on top would turn into a musty moldy mess. Thoughts?

We have no experience with anything but woodchips as that's the mulch the is plentifully available in our area (& sometimes even delivered by the truckload by Ontario Hydro for free). But I would guess woodchips would work VERY well in a dry climate as the woodchips would help hold moisture in the soil rather than having it evaporate - thus less watering necessary. Because the woodchips are put ON TOP of the soil (definitely not mixed into it), the soil is continually nourished as these chips break down. Additionally in these times when downpours not drizzles appear to be the new norm (40-60 mm/1.5-2.5" one day this week) help disperse the water & prevent erosion.

Chris Sturgeon wrote:I'm doing a similar thing, but with straw. Kind of a Ruth Stout but in a raised no-dig bed. So far results are looking very good!

This is our 3rd year of doing  "kind of a Ruth Stout" crossed with "Back to Eden" potato garden - i.e. we're using  6-8" of woodchip mulch directly on top of the ground on the main potato bed. The first year we experimented with 2 beds - 1 mulched bed on an area that was already established as a garden bed. The 2nd bed we did as Paul Gautschi suggests by placing the potatoes directly on the ground/grass with just a heavy covering of mulch. However, because our local deer ate EVERY plant to the ground repeatedly that 1st year we weren't able to compare methods (no crops to compare) but we had noticed that before they were eaten, the plants had thrived basically equally well in both conditions. Given that result we placed seed potatoes directly onto the ground the 2nd year & covered them with the 6-8" of mulch immediately. We had a good crop. This is our 3rd year on the same patch but for the 1st time we've had to contend with potato bugs. Once noticed, we picked the bugs off & fed them to the chickens for 2 weeks & dusted with DE a few times after rain showers. This seems to have got on top of this potato bug problem there. On the 2 newly established potato beds we've had no potato bugs and plants are thriving. So lesson learned we'll rotate another crop onto the main potato bed to avoid the work of having to pick the potato bugs next year.

What we love about no-dig potatoes is the no weeding, no watering necessary in addition to the no- digging. Harvesting is done by hand by just pushing the woodchips out of the way and the potato are clean when harvested. Paul Gautschi advocates harvesting and planting at the same time by placing the nicest harvested potato back on the ground and covering it over with woodchips for the following year's crop - - but he lives in the mild Pacific Northwest. We get -40 winters so we had thought that would be asking too much of our mulched gardens. But we're reconsidering even that idea as we've harvested potatoes 2 years in a row from potatoes missed/left in the mulch from the year before. As a final note we ate that last of last year's potatoes at the beginning of July this year. These potatoes had been stored in our root cellar in a box of coir and they were still firm and very tasty but did have lots of shoots coming out their eyes.
NB2 Where I am, deer are predatory to almost everything grown in a garden. For example deer will eat my *rhubarb leaves* right off, frequently pulling the roots right out of the ground to get their last bite but these same deer do not touch my garlic.
Garlic was the 1st crop I tried - easy-peasiest in my mind. Halloween (vampires) is my reminder to plant. Poke a finger in the ground to 2nd knuckle, put 1 clove pointy tip up, cover hole with soil, delightedly watch the shoots come up in the spring, cut scapes when they have grown a complete circle, & finally, pull bulb from ground after 3 bottom leaves have died back.
NB - Since I'm lazy, I throw a layer of woodchip mulch over my planted garlic in the fall so I don't have to weed or water the rest of the year.
- 5 years ago I gave a fistful of garlic bulbs to each member of my graduating class (they are all suburbanites) told them to plant the cloves wherever their hearts desired & not to do any more work than instructed above. In a recent Zoom, *each* classmate said they still grow their own garlic and 2 have started to grow some of their own food!
Chris - I'd still encourage you to try various perennials. Haliburton can go to -40-45 in the winter and (typically) has a heavy snow load (as any truss builder would tell you) but with 'weather weirding', our winters are now yo-yoing & we have now even seen rain in January. From a grower's perspective, last frost day is in the beginning of June and first is in the beginning of Sept. So I am wondering whether our biggest difference would be light and when we have it. Haliburton sits on the 45th parallel. Currently sunrise is 5:30 and sunset is 9:00.
4 months ago
We're zone 4a in Haliburton ON. To all the great perennial greens and root plants already listed above I would add Lamb's Quarters (Pigweed), Good King Henry, wild rice, cattails, American Ginseng, Trinkleroot (great alternative to horseradish), and morels and as well as quasi-perennial mushrooms like shiitake, lion's mane and grey oyster grown in logs for 4-8 years. Further along this fungus line but not something that you eat, but rather drink is Chaga.

To add to the list of other perennials edibles that can be grown in our area are: Arctic Kiwi, Pine nuts, Acorns, Beechnuts, Elderberries, Gooseberries,  Red current, Black Currents, Chokecherries, Blackcherries, Crabapples, Hops, Wintergreen, Blueberries, Plum, Chums, Seabuckthorn, Mulberries, Pears, Grapes, Wild raspberries, Wild blackberries, Cranberries, Then there are also the syrups: Maple and Birch.
4 months ago
Thank you so much for (the previous edition of) your book and your youtubes. For years I have wanted to get into doing Humanure.

This Xmas things have really come together: I'm now with a partner who is in sync with my interests. One of my major Xmas gifts was my "new" humanure toilet. It was all made from salvaged materials (chair with broken wicker seat from the dump, 5 gallon bucket from the Chinese restaurant and plywood seat left over from other projects). So cool. AND it looks beautiful. I wish I could brag and show it off to you. But I'm such a luddite it took all my ingenuity to figure out finally how to write a post but damned if I can figure out how to attach a picture

WAIT ... I think I just figured out how to attach picture. Hope it worked.
11 months ago