I have her book somewhere , but remember the basics . Next summer I will be
embarking on a no-till project
I do this partly because the soil is poor and partly because I'm on a
slope . I have figured out that my steadily declining yields are because
I've allowed the best part of my soil wash away ... this year will see
terraces and dedicated walkways to prevent soil compaction . I'll also be
mulching heavily both as a weed control measure and to add organic matter to
the soil . Samples will soon be sent off to the county ag office for soil
analysis - can't amend until you know what you lack ! I'll also be copying a
raised-bed technique and "compartmenting" areas just big enough that I can
just reach the center and planting stuff closer together . I need to do some
studying on companion planting - not so much to find what does well together
but to determine what will NOT grow with what .
I'm also not planning on starting my seedlings quite as early this year
We're still harvesting sweet chilies and eggplant Terry. Low this
morning was about 39F then warmed up to high fifties. Still cold to me
when it gets below about 80F.
We're on flat ground and garden in above ground boxes, 4' by 16' and two
that are 4 by 8. Plus the entire fence perimeter inside the backyard has
Sounds like you've got a plan now, seems like a lot of work too.
It's already down to 26? here headed for a low of 22? - according to
Weather.com and it's usually about 3-5? colder up here than down in town .
I've recorded temps in the last few days as low as 18? , and now that winter
is here that will be closer to the normal overnight temps .
Not as much work as it may seem , I try to only walk in specific places so
I don't compact the soil . Just a matter of driving pegs and running strings
to define the growing areas . I've already got most of it semi-terraced , I
just need to straighten the edges out some .
I'm hoping doing this will also help me to control the grass that has been
such a problem the last 2 summers . I have come to realize that tilling it
under just plants all those seeds it made last year ... last week I went
over the worst patches with a foundry burner (like a weed burner just
smaller) and burned as much of that dried grass as I could . I'll probably
try to burn some more before spring gets here .
When we gardened in the ground we had problems with St. Augustine grass,
damned stuff would grow out over concrete, grew into our pond years ago,
stuff would climb a tomato plant given the chance. Gardening in above
ground boxes has done that in. We do get the wind and bird blown weeds,
mostly nut grass, but it is easy to remove from the man made "dirt" in
our raised beds. As we age, we're in our mid seventies, I'm thinking of
raising the beds up to at least waist height. Gets really hard to squat
and bend anymore. I have one of those tractor seat scoots that does well
for me but still end up with a sore back. Mostly due to two old back
surgeries, a pot belly, and little exercise. Today is just to cold to
get out there. I keep hoping the eggplant and pepper plants will die at
any moment but they just keep on producing.
IIRC, Ruth cheated on her own system a bit and tilled or plowed every
few years, but got away without it other years. More an issue with clay
than other soil types. If organized and planning to till, planting a
winter cover crop (rye being the classic) is good. If planning a bit
further ahead a planting of daikon radish can help with the
sub-structure (even if not tilling - it does some "tilling" as it grows,
and if left to rot in place adds benefits.) There is also the "no-till
roller-crimper" method of dealing with cover crops (and turning them
into mulch), which might give you another welding project for the
I threw caution and my usual procrastination to the wind and ordered
seeds on January 1 for a likely too-ambitious garden. General philosophy
is moving towards more perennials (berries, etc) that don't need effort
when we have no time, but I went right ahead and ordered leeks (never
have had them work, but giving it a shot again) carrots (spotty with our
soil of clay) basil (work ok if we can keep them from getting eaten by
other things), cabbage (never have tried it since I don't like it fresh,
but the sauerkraut experiments went well) lettuce and spinach and New
Zealand spinach (often disappointing in the past) corn (usually
disappointing or eaten by raccoons) peas (can be OK if not chewed off by
rodents) tomatoes (eventually do OK, getting them anything like early is
a lot of work and or a crapshoot) and beans (usually OK, trying soy for
edamame for first time.) Also trying a "decorative spring wheat" just
for giggles. Got my garlic planted, finally, on Boxing day. That is
usually fine if I don't wait until spring.
As for amendments, compost is always good, and if you are not using the
garden for a while, composting in place works. Sort out what else you
might want to add later, but fire up all the compost you can handle now.
I don't find a lot of benefit in most of my observed experiments with
companion planting, YMMV.
Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by
Please don't feed the trolls. Killfile and ignore them so they will go away.
Our plantings are so small nowadays a packet of seed generally lasts two
years and sometimes three. We keep them in the fridge sealed in an air
We grew leeks two years ago and they got very large. Neither of us cared
for the taste so quit growing them. We broke up some clay soil back in
Louisiana years ago with a Mexican plant that got as big as your head.
The taste was good when immature but we didn't care for the taste of the
full grown root. Don't remember the name anymore. With the raised beds
and Mel's Mix from Square Foot Gardening we don't have soil problems
anymore. Reminds me I need to start mixing the mix to add to the raised
beds before to long.
Going to cut loose about a ten lb cabbage head tomorrow and turn it into
kraut. There's a six or seven lb cauliflower out there too. Wife likes
cauliflower roasted, grilled, or sauteed, I only like it pickled. Looks
like we can have all of the above with this head. Kale is going nuts as
is the chard and other winter plants. We've had so many hot days
followed by cool nights the whole garden is going nuts. The pear tree
still has its leaves, generally gone by December. Now I'm worrying it
will bloom and then we'll get a frost.
That's Texas weather, if you don't like it wait for tomorrow and it will
change, one way or another.
Nudged me along a bit and I went looking for free/open source planning
software (other than graph paper and #2 pencil) that appeared to
function and be getting worked on still (which came after looking at a
few that didn't function so well and had a corresponding considerable
age since last update.)
Currently playing with this one; does seem to have +/- companion plant
info, also supposed to inform about good/bad rotation planting choices
with multiple years data entered (which I haven't got to yet - though
there's remarkably little data for last year here, when bleep-all would
be what we did in the garden other than grow weeds and a very few other
things, and to complicate matters I'm trying to change-up the bedding
for next year and going forward.)
"Kitchen Garden Aid" on sourceforge. A Java-based thing (Java 7), which
will make some folks avoid it, but which also makes it cross-platform.
I feel some holes (such as being able to put in specific varieties for
record-keeping at least, and no sign that it groks the typical
spread/scale of a plant. or gives any guidance for number per square
foot), but I haven't looked very carefully to see if they are just
interface issues or holes, and at least it is being worked on, so they
might get dealt with. It is rather square grid oriented, coming from
square foot gardening. Overall garden size is not something you can
enter to start, you just need to keep putting things in edge cells to
expand the grid (or zoom out to a small magnification, which is clunky
but does eventually work.) It does save files locally (they are also
pushing a variant that shares it to a cloud server, but that's not my
preference.) I haven't tried printing from it yet. so I don't know how
well that works or not.
This is one of the ones that looks potentially interesting but seems a
bit moribund (May 24, 2013), if aimed a bit more at farms:
https://code.google.com/p/cropplanning/ I suppose it's also moribund by
virtue of being at google code, but I haven't found it updated elsewhere.
Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by
Please don't feed the trolls. Killfile and ignore them so they will go away.
I am a great fan of "no-till" gardening but, unfortunately, I must
shake up my beds at least once/year and dig them every third-or-so year
due to incursion of native tree roots. I read Ms Stout's first book in
the mid-'70s and, IIRC, she minimized the fairly significant fact that
she _already_ had a thriving truck garden before she decided to stop
Unfortunately, new gardeners who see her book and/or who give
credence to the great mass of "Pollyanna" (and largely fictitious, IMO)
BS that abounds on the W3 about "no-till" and "lasagna" gardening often
conclude that all one need do is pile a bunch of crap into a bed and
wait for magic to happen. Well, the "magic" is (almost) certain to
occur, in most climates, but the expectant gardener could be long dead.
I am a strong advocate (and long-time practitioner) of
chemical-free, wide-row gardening, especially for new installations in
areas with less than perfect soil texturethat is, most of North
America;-) Toward that end, I found early issues of "The Mother Earth
News" (first five or ten years) as well as Dick Raymond's _The Joy of
Gardening_ (1982, Garden Way Inc.) informative. Raymond's _Dick
Raymond's Gardening Year_ (1985, Linden Press) is also quite useful but
one must adjust the relevant dates to conform to ones latitude.
FWIW: Garden Way is the company that manufactured and sold the
"Troy Built" brand of gasoline powered rotary tillers and which also
sponsored Raymond's teevee "infomercials". However, regardless of ones
view of rototilling, the principles and information remain valid.
Through it all one cannot overemphsize the importance of succession
planting (so-called "relay planting") and of crop rotation. If you
don't already do so, start a garden journal that at least record
planting dates and location, 80% germination date, date of first
harvest, date of removal from the garden. After a few seasons, that
information will prove useful in planning companion and succession
The URLs following are sites that offer companion planting
guidance, much of it redundant, and all to be taken with the proverbial
GoS: One should always, always, take the evidence perceived by ones own
lying eyes over _anything_ some unknown-to-you "expert" presents as
"gospel", although it might pay to determine why any divergence between
your experience and The Truth exists. The following are valid a/o this
<http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/companion-planting-guide-zmaz81mjzraw.aspx#axzz2nTqprCoo <http://www.burpeehomegardens.com/VegetableHerbGardening/_CompanionPlants.aspx <http://naturewiseplants.com/documents/CompanionPlants.pdf <http://homeguides.sfgate.com/compatible-plants-onions-garlic-22804.html <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants#Vegetables <http://www.the-gardeners-calendar.co.uk/Companion_Planting/companiontables.asp <http://www.sgaonline.org.au/companion-planting/
All of the above links are from my W3 bookmarks. However, IMO,
contents should be regarded as largely anecdotal and inherently
unreliable when used in any specific application. Although it seems
obvious, that "companions" must have common nutrient and water
requirements often is overlooked. Failure of individual varieties to
thrive when interplanted in a community garden might be interpreted as
"antagonism" when the cuase really is nutritional deficiency or
imbalance or even disease. We gardeners seem to have a bit of the
gambler's fallacy about us but, then, would a pessimist be gardening in
the first place?
Finally: Nothing to offer about when to start seeds in your part of
Arkansas(?). As a rule, all I start in pots (and not indoors) are
tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and that's usually some time in
February. I do so only because the juveniles don't survive well in the
wild down here. Seedlings are extremely effective cutworm and
grasshopper bait until the stems toughen a bit and for a while
thereafter the leaves remain at risk.
Thanks Derald ! Lots of good info there . My biggest problem here is that
I've let what decent soil I have get washed downhill . Thus the terraces ,
and heavy mulch to help keep rainwater from washing what I do have left
away - and to get that organic stuff into the soil . I will till this year
to incorporate what organics I have into the soil and to be sure I start
with it loose . Also to finish defining the terraces .
How defined will the terraces be? If you really are starting over,
have you considered raised beds? I neglected to mention that since
2008, I've gardened in raised beds that my wife built in 1997 and
gardened in for a few years and, despite a few drawbacks, find them
advantageous over attempting to maintain the native soil, as I had done
previously. In this part of Florida, the only thing that changes within
the first 20-30 feet of digging is the color of the sand.
And that's the reason we now garden in raised beds. It's hard to make a
garden on five feet of Houston gumbo clay fill. The beds of flowers are
amended each year as they are in the clay. We dug out three full size
pick up beds of clay, hauled it around to the back fence, which was
teetering on falling over, and packed the clay in there. Saved the sorry
ass fence, which will be replaced this year, and kept the critters from
the detention pond from coming under the fence and eating our garden.
The snakes alone kept us busy for a while. Mostly harmless water snakes
with the odd water moccasin thrown in. The rat terrier no longer has to
patrol the back fence and bring us trophies of the kill.
Another plus is that we have rolling garden seats and use them along the
sides of the raised beds, helping elderly backs and still getting the
weeding, etc. done. Weeds seem to have an affinity for raised beds,
either that or the birds like to seed them. <G> We get free fertilizer
as one of the beds is under the power lines to a point and the birds
rest there frequently.
Heavy rain last night around 10 pm, lasted until the wee hours of the
morning. Knocked the power out twice. It seems our portion of Harris
Cty, TX needs some new electric wires and stations, don't know when we
get it though. Neighbors two doors down are on a different sub station
and their lights are always on. The rain makes sleeping better, the
thunder makes it difficult for the dawg to sleep. Oh well, such is
gardening and sleeping for old people.
Near miss by a hurricane in 2004 did it for us. This part of our
county was plagued with frequent and long power outages, especially
during rainstorms, as well as with those nearly instantaneous outages
that test the mettle of solid state devices. Storm damage in 2004 was
extensive and post-storm restoration seems to have pretty much
eliminated or at least greatly reduced reoccurrences.
I don't pretend to know how it happened but for the week following
the storms, the immediate neighbors all were without electricity but
ours held firm. DW&I were popular among the nearby cell phone users and
I wish I had a photo of the lo-o-ong extension cords (and water hoses)
running from the hovel and from the pump house.
FWIW: During and for a time after the near-miss, the _only_
functioning cellular network hereabouts was Verizon's. Apparently, it
relies more on auxiliary gennies than on backup batteries but I don't
know anything about that stuff.
We've had a bit of rain in the past week or so but it's been what I
call "technical" rain: Just enough to show on radar, to give the teevee
heads something to natter about, and to leave small sparkling spheres on
ones fur. .32" (32/100 inch) since 1/1/16. Same is occuring as I type
this: "Rain", but not enough even to rinse the dust from the trees.
Weather's cooling a bit but I don't think it's a trend. Am putting
off planting a few more things that I normally grow over the winter.
Little point if air and soil are too warm. The air has cooled a bit but
the dirt in the beds is still a bit warm. Another week or so of it, and
I'll have to pass on broccoli, although I do have a short-season "early"
variety to try. I don't ever try to grow Brussel's (named for a person,
not for a place) sprouts because they never have time to develop and
rarely try crisp head lettuce because most years it _starts out_ bitter,
never makes a head and bolts/blooms very very early. Finally getting
some carrot activity, though (yay), and the peas, mustard greens and
turnips are going strong. Gonna plant more carrots and turnips RSN;
more peas, too. PIcking "Wando" and "Little Marvel" green peas daily
now. "Little Marvel" is my favorite and most reliable variety. The
"Wando" was a test planting (the second, actually), which won't be
repeated. I left the seeds outside and by the time I realized it, field
mice had eaten most and an attractive furry mold had begun eating the
remainder. Won't be buying any more, though, because I found no
advantage to having a second variety.
Up here they call it "ass-bitin' cold ". It was around 15? this morning at
3 when I was outside trying to get the generator running because the power
was out . With around 2" of fresh snow on the ground ...
39F this morning upon rising, now it's lots of sunshine and in the low
sixties. Winter here should be over in a few weeks, maybe sooner. Almost
time to put in the spring garden. Have a couple of huge cabbage heads to
harvest very soon, harvested a six lb cauliflower head last week, good
thing my wife likes the stuff. Her cauliflower soup does manage to stink
up the kitchen. Bah!
uhg! that's about what it has been today. night time temps
are in the single digits. we've sometimes been able to get
out for some walks but i hate it when the eyelashes freeze
together when you blink.
i wear a short round scarf (call it the foreskin :) )
which is also thick so that the air going out preheats the
air breathed in. saves a lot of sinus and lung troubles
i've already put winter goggles on the list for our
next outing to the stores as i really would like to be
able to see when i'm walking...
Look around for one of those military surplus felt face masks. We used
those anytime we were topside on a destroyer in the Arctic. Beat frozen
nose hair and eyebrow's, not to mention my 'stache. I think I've
mentioned before how much I hate cold weather. <G>
49F out this morning and a lot of sunshine, forecast for mucho rain
coming though. Won't be long before spring is here in SE Texas. Finally
pulled up the eggplants, the sweet chilies are still producing and
haven't been frostbitten as yet.
Won't be long until the fruit trees are blooming and getting leaves on.
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