Garden Planting

Kallie and I wanted to plant a little vegetable garden this year next to the chicken yard so we can grow some of our own veggies. Several months ago we made the raised planter beds that we are using and Kallie wrote how to build those in this post here. To start off we had several problems to overcome. The first was how to keep the chickens confined to their yard so they can’t eat all our veggies. To accomplish that task we removed the old cattle fencing that has too large of holes in it to keep the chickens in and replaced it with some old chain-link we had laying around. Next we had to find some good dirt to plant our veggies in since we are lacking any place to dig up dirt on our own property. We had to make a trip into the city and bought several yards of a compost, manure, and topsoil mixture. The dirt is rich in organic materials so our plants ought to grow well in it.

First we laid down several layers of newspaper to act as a weed barrier. Then we mixed in the dirt, chicken manure, and well composted horse manure in a 2:1:1 mixture. Just make sure the horse manure has been composted for about a year otherwise it will kill your plants.

After filling up the boxes and mixing the soil and manure together very well, we watered the soil in to allow it to compact a little. Then we planted our seeds.

As you can see, we planted several different veggies including lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots,and jalepenoes. To the right of the boxes we planted tomatoes and along the back fence we planted potatoes.

Below is some asparagus we have growing close to our garden area that the previous owner planted. It is starting to sprout up all over the place.

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In another location on the property we planted a variety of sunflower seeds for Kallie and some heirloom sweet corn. This area of the property has good fertile dirt that stays moist most of the year. The only problem is that means the grass also grows nice and thick here. Below is me cutting and turning the grass over for planting.

We ended up just turning the grass over and planting straight into the dirt on the back side. I figure the corn should grow up quickly and be taller than the grass so that shouldn’t matter.

Close by we took a cattle fence panel and staked it into the ground. Then we planted squash and green beans next to it so that they will have something to grow up on.

In another place we made some small mounds and planted some watermelon seeds and some grape vines along with a raspberries vine.

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And lastly is a picture of one of the pear trees we planted earlier this year with some new leaves.

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All in all we got a ton of plants in the ground. Now here is to hoping they all come up. At the end of the day we sat down and held each others dirty hands and got to look out at this.

Preparing for Spring: Fruit and Bees

Well Kallie and I have been quite busy the last few weeks. The weather here has been warming up much earlier than most years and various plants are responding by budding out. Some days it has even hit 70+ degrees, which certainly feels much better than the freezing cold. I just hope that a hard freeze doesn’t roll in and hurt all the budding plants.

Speaking of plants, we decided to plant the apple trees because their plastic pots split this winter from being so brittle. We selected a location towards the back of our property that receives plenty of light and hopefully won’t be too wet for them. The soil in this part is about 18 inches of very fertile, dark sandy loam. Underneath that is much less fertile, light colored sand/clay mixture. This location, being lower than the rest of the property, will usually always have moist soil within the first foot. Hopefully this means we won’t have to water the trees ever as they should put roots down to find the water.

I wanted to add a natural fertilizer to all of our new plants this year, one that I knew would work. Horse manure! If you have never used horse manure to fertilize before, I will tell you it works! The one thing you have to remember is to only use aged manure, meaning at least a year old. Otherwise the manure will be too strong and will kill the plants. I called up a local horse stable and asked if they had any old manure laying around. Dumb question as barns always have a ton of manure they are just trying to get rid of. So I went out to their barn and loaded up two truck loads and brought them back to the homestead.

I dug the holes for the apple trees at least twice as wide and deep as they needed to be. This is because I wanted to add a good layer around the trees of manure enhanced soil and because I wanted the soil to be softer so the roots can grow into it faster. Then Kallie and I back-filled the holes with a mixture of 50% original soil, 25% aged horse manure, and 25% chicken poop/shavings from cleaning out our coop. When we placed the trees into the hole, we made sure they were above ground level so we could slope the ground up to them. Lastly we staked them to prevent the wind or dogs from knocking them over.

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You can see our garlic plants around the tree base.

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Three apple trees, not staked yet.

Recently a new Tractor Supply store opened near us which is really exciting. Being the beginning of spring, they had a ton of plants for sale. We bought two strawberry plants, two concord grape vines, two pear trees, two raspberry vines, and probably more that I am blanking on right now. The pear trees we planted closer to the house on a hill since they prefer well drained soil. The grape vines grow well in all soils especially wet dense soil so we planted those in the wettest, most fertile ground on the property. We provided a fence for them to grow up on. The strawberries and raspberries will be planted in due time. Manure was mixed in with the soil for all these plants, of course.

Bees:

Kallie has been wanting bees for a long time. Since we have the room, and beekeeping sounds exciting, we decide to learn a little more about the hobby. I was surprised to find out that there is well over 400 beekeepers in this part of the state, probably even more than that. I had no idea that the hobby was that popular. After going to a beekeeping club meeting (COBA) and taking a beginners class, we are very excited to get started.

We bought some bee hive kits from a local beekeeping supply store along with a whole starter kit. Now, normally we would try to build stuff like this on our own but it was actually cheaper for us to buy the pre-cut kits and just assemble them versus buying the wood from a store and making them all from scratch. In total we spent about $300 to buy four deep frame boxes, all the frames needed, wax coated plastic foundation, two tops, two bottoms, a beekeeping jacket with veil, gloves, hive tool, and smoker. We literally have everything needed to start two separate hives (except the bees). This brings up an important point: everyone we talked to says it is wise to start with two hives in case one doesn’t make it. It’s also important for beginners because you can have something to compare them to.

Assembling the hives and frames was not difficult and took just a few hours. The biggest challenge was making sure everything was square. Afterwards, Kallie painted them a nice, subtle green. We still don’t have bees but we have an order for a nuc (short for nucleus) in, which is about 10,000 bees on five frames that already have brood (babies), food and honey. For the other hive we are hoping to catch a wild swarm or lure them into the hive with wax foundation and lemongrass oil.

Beekeeping will certainly be a new experience for us. We just hope it all works out and that we can get some honey at some point. Until next time, God Bless.

-Dale

Raised Garden Beds – Construction

Today, Dale and I decided to begin working on our raised garden beds. The boxes are relatively easy to build – so easy, in fact, that I built them all by myself (with Dale’s occasional “yes, that’s right”).

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We bought enough to make two boxes (24 planks total)

Supplies you need to build one box:
– Drill
– 1.5″ Screws
– Saw (circular, table, hand, whatever you typically use to cut wood)
– Measuring tape and pencil
– 12 cedar fence pickets
– 1 2x4x8 pine or cedar (anything but treated wood)
– A helper to help hold walls in place

First you will need to cut 4 cedar pickets in half. They should originally be 6′ long, so cut them down to 3′. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as we are going for practicality, not beauty. There are ways you can make it look good, but we won’t be discussing that here since we decided to spend as little as possible on this project.

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You should now have eight 6′ boards and eight 3′ boards. We will be making these boxes four pickets high (14″ tall). None the less, stack four boards together and measure them (see image below). Whatever this measurement is, cut four of these sections out of the 2x4x8 pine plank. You will also need to cut two more smaller (or same size) sections for the middle of the longest section of the boxes – for stability. More on this later.

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We had already used the majority of these 2×4’s for another project so these were our scraps

Now you can begin placing the screws in. Start by placing two 14″ blocks on the ground and laying four pickets across them. Make sure one side is lined up against the edge of the block. We placed two screws on either outside board and one in both the middle boards.

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Repeat this step on the other end. Once this is complete, measure out the middle and place another block under the middle. This could be either 14″ or smaller, depending on what you have on hand. What we used were scraps, but if you wanted to place a ledge on the top of your finished box, I would make these middle sections even with the rest. Screw this in. This will help keep the boards from bowing when placing soil in the boxes.

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That should complete one wall of our box. Repeat these steps to create two walls.

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Now you will need a helper to hold the two walls up so you can begin screwing the sides on. Make sure they line up and go board by board until you have four boards attached.

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Repeat this on the other end.

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And there you have it! A complete raised garden box. Rusty and Chester seem to be enjoying the box! This project literally took an hour, maybe even less. In the next few weeks, we will be adding soil and getting ready to plant our seeds!

Garlic!

I ordered garlic online in July from The Garlic Store and I couldn’t wait to plant it. I had heard that it was super easy to grow and it was a good insect deterrent in the garden. PLUS, it smells amazing to have around. Well, I have three potted apple trees that have insects on them almost daily. So I decided that once the garlic comes in, I would plant them under the trees to help get rid of the insects on the trees, as well as repel mosquitoes on the porch.

So here’s my tutorial for planing garlic!

First, you need to start with a head of garlic. Start breaking off the cloves.

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These are huge cloves.

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Try to keep the skin on them. I had four heads of garlic. This picture (below) shows the cloves I got from one garlic head.

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I laid them out around the tree in the pot. Make sure you place the well.

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Using a spade, dig a little hole by rocking the spade back and forth to move the dirt out of the way. It only needs to be 3-4″ deep, depending on your garlic variety.

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Slide or push the garlic into the hole gently and cover it with dirt.

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These next two pictures show two cloves that were rotten. They smelled terrible.

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Once you have them planted, make sure they are covered with dirt. I then sprinkled a little bit of fruit and veggie fertilizer over the surface of the dirt. I covered this with mulch because garlic loves water and I have a hard time keeping this trees watered and moist. Mulch helps keep the dirt moist. I’ll have to update you guys once they start peeking through the mulch.