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Mathew Trotter

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since May 27, 2019
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Recent posts by Mathew Trotter

I just started brewing a fermented nettle tea to experiment with as a foliar spray after years of skepticism. But, I haven't been able to find a lot of side by side comparison? Do any if you have pictures of trials you've run using nettle or other weed teas?
2 months ago
This angle might illustrate how the edge is bent over a bit better than the others I posted, if that makes any difference
3 months ago

Mike Jay wrote:Hi Matthew, based on the other nicks in the blade, I'm guessing it is destined for a life of nicks and boo boos.  Does the big dent affect how well it works?  If not, I'd leave it alone and use it.  If it is a problem, I'd possibly use a rat tail file or curved file to take the corners off the dent.  Not really sharpening it into a curve but allowing it to cut a bit better.  If that makes any sense...

Fortunately, it should face fewer rocks in the future. Just happened to be weeding in an area next to where a load of gravel had been dumped in years past and I still occasionally find a piece that wandered too far from the pile. The new gardens are going in an area that has been relatively rock free.

It did lose a bit of effectiveness by the end of the session today, but I suspect that had more to do with it the whole blade needing a quick touch up with the file and little, if anything, to do with the dent.
3 months ago

James Freyr wrote:What are the chances of finding another rock again? If time is spent to remove that dent just to strike another rock, that would kinda suck. I say leave it be, as that small ding in the edge doesn't appear to reduce the overall effectiveness of the hoe. If it were mine, I'd wait until there were six or eight dents then put a new edge on it.

That's totally how I deal with knives and axes and such, I'm just not using those where I'm going to hit a rock and put a proper dent in the blade. o_0 I guess my major concern is whether doing nothing would increase the risk of more significant damage in the future for to the bent piece breaking off.
3 months ago
Got a new grub hoe. Spent three evenings putting an edge on it by hand with a file while watching gardening videos on YouTube (and nursing an injured shoulder.) Finally went out to deal with all the clumps of grass in the garden that I've been saving specifically for this tool. I'm in love. It cut through grass like a hot katana through butter and dealt with the roots in a couple of swift chops.

The problem is that it found a rock before I did and put a giant dent in my sharpening job.

What's the best way to go about dealing with this?

Because of the weight of the blade, it's a bigger dent than I've had to deal with before. The metal is bent forward a fair amount relative to the rest of the blade. And I don't have any kind of powered grinder, just the file. After all the time I spent to get a good edge on it, I'm not wanting to take a bunch more metal off (I'd probably have to take off an 1/8 inch or so to put on a fresh edge below the dent... which I really don't want to do with a file, nor in general for the longevity of the hoe.) Is that the best option? Could/should I hammer the bent part flush with the rest of the blade and go from there? File the edge flush with the top of the blade and leave the rest of the dent until the rest of the blade gets sharpened down to that point over time? Some other method?
3 months ago

Trace Oswald wrote:

connor burke wrote:A scythe costs about the same as the hoe and from what ive seen it looks more like a scraping and choping tool rather than a grass cutter...

A scythe costs about $250.00  The hoe costs $11.00

Yeah. The hoe costs nowhere near what a scythe does.

And I've seen video of it used this way. I'm just looking for people's actual experience to see if it's comparable.
3 months ago
Oh hey! I didn't think I got any replies, but apparently the notification email didn't go through or ended up in my spam folder.

I will be planting most of the fruit trees and other perennials on contour, and intend for those to make up the bulk of my production. I've seen zero-irrigation gardening work well in my climate, but that's with decades of adding organic matter to the soil and heavy mulching (and saving seeds from crops that thrived in those conditions). I've also seen planting annuals under trees work effectively, though the trees are pruned very open to allow plenty of light through. If the annuals were suffering, I couldn't tell; if anything the trees seemed to help prevent evaporation and provided a net benefit to the annuals. It wasn't a thick canopy and the annuals didn't seem to be hurting for lack of sunlight. That was with fruit trees. I don't know if it would be as effective with nitrogen fixers.

I do tend to favor a messier polyculture design, but I need to scale up my production and keep it more organized for the sake of harvesting and seed saving. That's why I'm leaning towards a return to rows as opposed to polyculture on contour. I imagine that as I develop the property, a lot of the annuals will end up being planted throughout the forest garden (where available light allows) and the actual beds will be reserved for calorie dense/staple foods.

As far as location of the garden... I'm not sure how happy I am with my available options. I think when they brought the excavator in to prepare the ground for building, they really did a number on things; I think they've complicated my plans for garden access and water catchment. I'm in charge of food, not building, so a lot of time they don't ask for my input on things that affect my ability to produce food. We'll see. And since the garden is going in before the house does, I have to try to magically make present and future access tenable. I think I'll only be putting in about a third of the garden to begin with, and I can adjust the other two thirds based on how accessable things are from the house. I think they're finally done with the excavator, so now I can go back up to the site and reevaluate.

I'm still debating including trees in my design. I might experiment with it. I can always take them back out, or at least thin them, if it seems to be negatively impacting production. Weeds/spent crops will be going to the chickens to supplement their feed, so while it will eventually end up back in the garden, it won't be around for use as mulch.

Also, the main reason for the sort of inverted hugelkuktur is that we have large slash piles from a logging operation that need to be used up/out of the way, so this simply turns that problem into a solution (if a solution that requires a fair amount of digging.) I at least want to be in a position to get garlic and favas in for this coming season, and then see what things look like come spring.
3 months ago
I've been wanting a scythe, but it's out of my budget at the moment. I saw video of the fokin hoe being used to clear grass in a similar fashion as a scythe. Does it cut as effectively as a scythe, albeit on a smaller scale? Or does it take does it take significantly more force to cut through grass? I hate using a weed-eater, and I'm hoping this could do a lot of the work I typically do with that. A scythe is still on my list, but at least the fokin hoe doesn't make my wallet scream and run away.
3 months ago
Hello all.

Long time lurker, first time poster. We're finally getting infrastructure put in and will be moving to our permanent spot on our property in a few months (finally a break from RV living). We plan to plant most of our acreage in forest garden, but are planning a relatively large annual garden to hold us over until the perennials start producing. My end goal is an annual garden that requires no irrigation outside of 9 months of relatively steady rain we get. Holding onto that water during the dry season is going to be key.

I keep revising my design and adding new and different features. But the current design I'm toying with would have permutations of 3 3-foot rows of annuals sandwiched between rows of nitrogen fixing trees with comfrey/green manure. The trees (possibly alder) would be pollarded at maybe 5-6 feet tall and provide mulch for the annuals, in addition to the green manure growing around the trees. As the trees will not be allowed to grow naturally, they'll be planted on a really close spacing, maybe 5 feet. As they mature, trees can be removed as needed. They could also act as temporary fence posts to, say, allow chickens to scratch in a section of the garden.

The two paths between the annuals would be dug out and filled with woody material from a logging operation to create a kind of inverted hugelkuktur to increase the water holding capacity in between rows of vegetables.

The original design didn't include nitrogen fixing trees in the annuals area, but would have instead depended on bringing in mulch from other parts of the property, which would be inefficient.

I've had decent results with the small dry garden I've had for the past couple of years (certainly not the same yield I get when I irrigate, but respectable, considering) but I'm hoping a few little design nudges will improve the productivity in the new garden area by increasing the amount of water available to plants.

Anything you would tweak about this experiment, or parts of it you've already tried that didn't work?

4 months ago