solomon martin

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since Jan 17, 2011
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Recent posts by solomon martin

raspberries do well in low sun. most brassicas do ok in shade. Potatoes like sun, but will grow well in partial sun with patience (try laying them whole on the surface, and covering with lots of straw and hot compost.) shade can be helpful for greens during hot weather. Peas grow in any conditon. I learned to garden in NW MT on a north slope aspect surrounded by tall conifers, dont get discouraged, you can have successful crops. look into using clear plastic pop bottles or glass jars in the early spring to make micro greenhouses to get your tomatoes started. salvage black plastic from a lumber yard (timber wrap, most places will give it to you if you ask) and lay it down black side up, cut out planting holes and use it to augment the sun to warm up your soil. after your seedlings are established, use a heavy mulch to insulate your soil. Often you can make up for low sun by keeping your roots warm. you can ripen green tomatoes in the fall by wrapping them individually in newsprint and putting them in a cool dry place. I have used this technique and had ripe tomatoes in december. If you are really shady, try starting seedlings in a start bed in your sunniest spring location, and transplanting after they have some greenery. Dont treat those shade trees as your enemy, it looks as if you have the potential for a happening garden. Good luck.
unless you want to eat them all the time or terrorize your neighbors with free zucchini 3 or 4 plants is all you will need to have an ample supply for a big family, dont waste space growing them, once they start fruiting they will give you an abundance. Cucumbers like to grow more or less by themselves and dont like to be top watered, i grow cukes for pickles so I like to plant them all at the same time to get my canning done all at once. carrots and beets can stay in the ground if you dont have time to deal with them, so I plant them all at once as well. same with onions and potatoes. i do like to plant my greens about every 1-2 weeks to have a steady supply of young tenders. same with sweet peas and green beans, although if you are diligent about harvesting the legumes will keep producing, especially in your climate. most other crops are long season, here in Mt we only get one harvest, but you might do well growing spring peas, carrots, radish and green onion in the spring, harvesting and then moving to 3 sisters (corn beans winter squash) in mid summer for fall harvest. Brassicas (broccolli, cabbage kale etc.) are heavy nitro feeders, so dont follow those in your corn or potato beds. Typically, follow a legume crop with a root or corn crop and "fallow" with carrots and greens and radish. I like to sprinkle all my beds with alliums as they tend to ward pests and cohabitate with most crops. Peppers and tomatoes, eggplant and basil all love eachother, and I usually plant those together, and follow next season with legumes to amend the soil. If you plan on tilling and cultivating every season, make sure to rotate your crops, potatoes and turnips for example will develop scab and root worm if planted in the same patch again and again. strawberries like shallots and garlic. Plant sweet peas everywhere. let them grow as weeds and pull them out as necessary to plant other crops. Clover is a good cover crop, so dont pull it out when weeding, unless it gets to aggressive for your seedlings, a good "chop and drop" weed. Radish and bok-choy are good to plant on marginal soil or over-looked corners of your garden that you cant find the time to get to. they grow fast and will loosen the soil when you harvest to prepare for seedlings or direct seedlings. Learn to love dandelion, mullein and comfrey, they are medicinal and do a great job adding nutrients and minerals to your top soil. ( a weed is a plant whose value is overlooked)

hope this helps...

this is only my opinion:


because they will rot. If you want to have your building last beyond half your lifetime, spend the extra time and effort to install a masonry pier or foundation. A stitch in time saves nine. If you cant find time to do it right the first time, when will you find time to do it again? Pine is notorious for rotting, even above ground, if you choose to use it, make sure it it sound and dry before you use it and make appropriate steps to keep it that way. Don't gamble on other peoples advice on thier good experiences. Putting pine in the ground, treated, bagged or whatever is a bad idea. Use masonry, let history be your guide.
Flippant cynical me says, "get a job, hippie"

seriously, get a job, there are loads of natural builders out there that need earnest hard working labor. you will get great field experience, make a little money (if that is important) and learn a thing or two about building. You will strain muscles, get dirty and have a chance to question yourself if this is really what you want to do. after you have done that, then consider spending (wasting) money on workshops. The truth about most workshops and training programs, is that contractors use them to make extra cash from idealistic neophytes. you cant buy your way into this business, you have to learn by doing.

I hope this helps, good luck.
11 years ago
aesthetics and idealism aside, you already have a perfectly functioning solid floor in the concrete itself, why add a labor/maintenance intensive surface
11 years ago
Alice, I am a mason contractor.

A lot of your questions are dependent upon a bigger question; what is your budget like? You are DIY ing, so my assumption that you are looking to save money.

If I am correct, it only makes sense to use the existing foot print as much as possible.(id like to know more about the foundation material). This will save you a hassle of creating a new site, and you already have all the landscaping and utilities in place. I would hope that the original builder took exposure and view shed and other 'geomancy" into consideration when they chose the site in the first place.

If you go for a new foundation, I recommend concrete, unless you have a readily available large stone source, the time and effort it will take to make a full foundation from stone may be prohibitive, unless you live in an area where you can pull large blocks of limestone or sandstone that will shape uniformly and quickly. If you choose a new stone foundation, look in to slipform construction, works well for diy and can use locally available irregular stone.

You can still achieve a stone foundation look by applying a veneer to your concrete. Either use a brick ledge off your footing of your foundation, or install an angle iron build plate or you can use an adhesive mortar to apply a <1" thinstone. Another option for the "solid" look is to give your concrete a parge treatment, there are many techniques to decorate concrete to make it look more appealing. In this same vein, consider strawbale construction, it is great for insulation (cooling and heating) has a "solid" look when you apply stucco, and is relatively cheap and quick. It also works well for passive solar designs, although it appears you may not have the best exposure for that. Cob or dirt bag is also an option for you, but gather advice before you start as both of those are very labor intensive.

the other advice here is sound: spend a lot of time on your design and materials and stick with the plan, changing your mind mid build is a hassle for contractors, and gets really expensive fast.

Budget for building besides money also includes time: how soon would you like to complete your home? this could be a major factor when deciding what material you would like to use. If you are making your own lumber for example, plan on waiting a year for it to season. If you are planning on building a stone foundation yourself, research your techniques and ask a contractor about industry standards for production. My uncle (a building contractor) recently reminded me of the rule of 3/2: 3 times as long, and twice as much money to make a building as you initially (bid) expect.

If you have a healthy budget and you feel like you have money to throw at this project, I would recommend that you find an architect or experienced builder that you trust to help you with your design and logistics work. This is really important especially if you don't have a construction background. I can tell you stories of people who tried to build houses themselves without thinking things through and in the process ruined their finances, broke up families or at least caused themselves a big headache. Not to be all doom and gloom, I wish you the best of luck and encourage you on your adventure. Permies is a great place to ask advice, we are all here to help each other.

11 years ago
one question: are you renting or owning? you may want to consider this, if there is a potential that you may not be there for a long period of time, it may give bearing on what your garden design would look like.

regardless, you want a garden now, and despite grand designs for raised beds, gravel paths etc. you will want to have a successful crop your first year to keep the morale up.

Here is what I did last season in my rental:

I went to the local lumber supply yard and got a mess of lumber wrap (the plastic tarpaulin that they wrap bunks of 2x4 in from the mill) for free. I laid this down black side up over all the quack grass and dandelion mess that was my yard. I used a coffee can as a template and used a razor knife to cut out circles in a nice planting spacing for squash, tomatoes and peppers. I dug out the holes and mounded them up to act as resevoirs so that I could hand water and not lose all the water by spilling it onto the plastic. (use old wine or soda bottles plunged int the soil by the roots for "drip" irrigate) I filled the holes with nice compost and planted seedlings. The black plastic keeps the roots warm in the sun, retains moisture and bakes all the roots and grass in the former yard. Worms love it, and by fall when you pull up the plastic, you have a clean slate ready for planting, full of worm castings and composted grass and dandelions. I had epic cherry tomatoes, lots of summer squash and a number of thai peppers. I hand turned a smaller patch of sod for some peas carrots and lettuce, but that was really a lot of work compared to the volume of food I grew for what amounted to a single day of work(plus watering). hope this saves you some work. good luck.
I recommend that you read the book Gaviotas, which is about a scientific community in Columbia, they have had good results planting Caribbean pine as a starter crop that helps the jungle grow back where it used to be. Best wishes.
for a small backyard garden, and if you have electricity, an oscillating fan could work well to keep the air moving and avoid frost settling. this is obviously a technofix that is in someways anathema to the ideals of permaculture, but if it means saving your veggies...

for harder frosts and particularly in the case of fruit trees, I have heard that spraying the plants with water in the evening also can help, encasing the leaves/buds in water and letting the heat produce by the plants keep them just barely insulated.

Ive used sheet plastic to good effect before, late/early frosts occur pretty regular here in nw mt, I usually will cover my tomatoes and peppers and eggplant to gain an extra week or so of ripening, all my other crops (brassicas, carrots, peas, alliums, taters) can usually withstand what the weather throws at them. For early frosts, let darwinian principles have their way, and plan on replanting as necessary, having a frost die off early just gives your garden a chance to "mosaic" and gives you a harvest schedule that may be more convenient towards fall.
Check out Shelter Designs website. Call them up, tell them I sent you. They build yurts in NW MT and will have all the answers for you. Good luck.
11 years ago