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CR practitioners eat a lot of produce, and it can get kinda expensive. But I've found much of the cost can be defrayed if you grow your own food. Here is a couple photos of my summer garden. Things are growing well. (Click for larger images)

 

post-7043-0-34356800-1441477350_thumb.jpg

 

post-7043-0-21951700-1441477375_thumb.jpg

 

As you can see, I've got hoops (made from PVC pipes) and nets over the raised beds to protect the plants from deer, which are ubiquitous here in Western Pennsylvania. FYI, the beds are both 8' long by 4' across.

 

This list of plants in these two beds include:

  • Kale (curly & dino)
  • Mustard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Arugula
  • Leaf Lettuce (green and red)
  • Endive
  • Red Swiss Chard
  • Nasturtium
  • Red-veined Sorrel
  • Basil (sweet, cinnamon, lemon)
  • Sage
  • Curly Parsley
  • Lemon Balm
  • Oregano
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Stevia
  • Alpine Strawberries
  • Eggplant

Not shown in these photos:

  • Tomatoes (cherry, black russian, yellow pear)
  • Tomatillos
  • Lemon Cucumbers
  • Onions (red & yellow)
  • Garlic
  • Acorn Squash - spontaneously growing in my compost pile!
  • Cantaloupe -  spontaneously growing in my compost pile!

Most of these were grown from seeds, so cost me almost nothing. Between harvesting & watering, I spend about 30min every other day tending my garden.

 

Coupled with the 3oz/day of sprouts and microgreens I grow indoors year-round, the harvest from these two beds provides about a pound (450g) of fresh organic leafy greens per day from late-June through October, saving hundreds of dollars over the season. Plus all the savings from the 'solid' vegetables/fruits listed at the bottom.

 

The plants I've listed are the one's I've found through trial and error to grown the best and produce the most in this part of the country. All of them (except for squash, cantaloupe, onions, garlic & eggplant) can be harvested a few leaves / fruits at a time over the entire season, so I don't get overwhelmed by more than I can eat of any one item, and I can harvest a little bit from each of them every other day to maximize freshness and variety.

 

Does anyone else have a garden or gardening tips they care to share, or any questions about my gardening practice?

 

--Dean

Edited by Dean Pomerleau

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[Admin Note: I move this and the text post from the CR Conference and CR Society Future thread, since here is a much better place to talk about gardening! --Dean]

 

Saul's yoga center would be fine for me. I would just watch you guys do yoga. I have tried but yoga is not my sport. I would do Tai Chi instead on my own. I have tried working on a five-minute Tai Chi set, but haven't got all the time required for memorizing and  practicing all the moves. I had rubber surface installed in my small backyard for vigorous jumping and fast movements.

 

I am a beginner gardener and recently spend a lot of time on my front yard veggie and fruit garden. Almost everyday from 6pm to 8pm I go out to work in my garden. It is a great way to see and chat with the neighbors living around me and passing by my house who I would otherwise not meet. I have got two beautiful purple tree collard plants. I have spinach and chard too. For the past three days, I have been recording sunny & shady spots every hour during the day. I planted 6 varieties of tomatoes, and 2 of them do not get 6 hours of full sun. I need to move the two to better sunnier spots. I really enjoy gardening! I expect to harvest a lot of tomatoes and more to share with my neighbors. I wish that you guys lived close to me so I got to share with you too!

 

Sadly my red worms all died. I haven't figured out why. I probably need to go to a worm composting workshop. The truth about gardening as I find it is that if I don't take it seriously enough, it does not grow well.

Edited by Dean Pomerleau
Consolidated two posts and eliminated discussion of moving to new thread

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What's Growing in Dean's Garden - 2016 Edition

 

Hi Grace,

 

See - I moved your post to this gardening thread where we can (figuratively) let our hair down and talk about what makes our gardens grow. You can see from the first post in this thread what my garden looked like last year, and what I planted. Not too much has changed this year. Here are a few photos I took today in my backyard.

 

First a wide shot of my two 8'x4' raised beds:

 

jfKDUuz.png

 

Now the bed on the left up close with the plants labelled:

 

AhjXwjV.png

 

Now the bed on the right up close with the plants labelled:

 

XjnfZu4.png

 

It is hard to see in the photos, but over the hoops I've stretched the same plastic netting as I used last year, to keep out the deer and the rabbits! As with everything else, I purchased it at Amazon. Here is what it looks like:

 

 

8RTzUuz.png

 

 

Always experimenting, I've tried something new this year, which is easily visible in the two photographs above - namely weed-blocking fabric, which you guessed it, I purchased from Amazon. So far it is working really well, both to suppress weeds and to keep moisture from evaporating. I sliced an 'X' in the fabric, pulled back the flaps and planted each seedling in the dirt below. You can see the weed barrier even better in my tomato bed, which is really just starting to grow:

 

lsZvfrF.png

 

I've got 18 tomato plants. They are all varieties of cherry or grape tomatoes - red, orange, yellow and black/chocolate. Delicious. I can't wait until they start producing.

 

I started most of my plants from seeds a couple months ago, and bought a few that are hard to start from seeds (e.g. stevia) at Lowe's.

 

So that's my garden for this summer. I've already started harvesting about 350g of salad greens per day which, when combined with my daily sprout/microgreen harvest from indoors, comes to a total of about 450g = 1lb of fresh greens. Based on results from previous years, I expect this bounty will continue through October, saving me a lot of money on organic produce!

 

--Dean

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That's looking really nice Dean! I have only a few things growing this year. I will make much more of an effort next year... I was just a bit too late this time around. I've got carrots, strawberries, blueberries, sweet million tomatoes, apple trees, pear tree, and spinach growing. I should get some herbs! 

I've had a few years with disappointment with tomato plants, so hopefully this year will be better. But still, planting and growing your own food is great. I find it quite relaxing... = )

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Hi Matt - nice to hear from you!

 

Speaking of berries, shortly after taking the pictures of my beds included above, I noticed the first ripe, white alpine strawberry of the year hanging off one of my strawberry plants. Here it is:

 

1Eul2CP.png

 

1ESsDyn.png

 

I'm not sure if everyone is familiar with alpine strawberries. As you can see they are tiny, but they are bursting with flavor. They are nothing like the big red mealy strawberries you can buy at the supermarket (left), as you can see:

 

RAlpinecompareH1.jpg

 

Plus they are everbearing - so I'll be harvesting delicious alpine strawberries from now until fall. They are perennial - these have been coming back stronger every year for several years now.  In fact they are barely visible in the photo of my bed from last year, in the first post in this thread. As you can see from the labelled photo in my previous post, they are taking over one of my beds now - crowding the lettuces and the red-veined sorrel!

 

It is rare, exotic and tasty vegetables and fruits, like alpine strawberries, that I like to grow the most - stuff you can't buy in the supermarket. Stay tune for a next post (or two posts from now maybe) to this thread for another example of what I mean.

 

--Dean

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Composting - Turning Kitchen Refuse into Black Gold!

 

Grace wrote:

 

Sadly my red worms all died. I haven't figured out why. I probably need to go to a worm composting workshop. 

 

Sorry to hear your worms died. I did vermiculture for a while, but found it wasn't worth the trouble. But I'm blessed to have an expansive backyard which borders on woods, so I can have a large outdoor compost pile which recruits its own native worms, and which nobody, not even my wife, complains about. Here it is from a distance:

 

DszykGY.png

 

And up close:

 

YeURJiG.png

 

Notice two things in the above image - first the large-leafed plants growing in the middle of the compost pile on both sides of the shovel are some kind of squash that have "volunteered" to grow from seeds that I composted there last fall. They are likely either butternut or acorn squash, but could also be cantaloupe. I'll be surprised again this year when they blossom and grow fruit. Last year I got butternut squash from similar volunteersr. I didn't even water them all summer, but they grew great and bore lots of fruit. In fact they lasted me most of the winter.  A big fringe benefit of open pit composting like I do! 

 

The second thing to notice are the two square blue buckets on the right. They contain a couple weeks worth of kitchen refuse my family and I (mostly I) have generated. Here is a closeup of one of them:

 

zzDp4z0.png

 

On top you can see pine needles, leaves, coffee filters and paper towels which I used to filter my cold-brewed coffee/tea/cacao mix. These serve as the all-important "browns" for my compost. Below them in the bucket are corn cobs, orange peels, durian peels, banana peels, avocado skins, along with lots of coffee/tea/cacao grounds - basically any organic refuse from my kitchen that I don't eat. I layer it in the bucket each day, combining a layer of kitchen refuse with a layer of "browns". 

 

After I've collected a couple bucket's worth, I take them out to the compost area and dig a big hole:

 

hRVEgi4.png

 

Then I pour the compost into the hole:

 

l3PccfC.png

 

It looks like this once in the hole:

 

aWhOFwq.png

 

Then I simply drag the dirt from the hole over the compost, like this:

 

rEWzns6.png

 

Then I just leave it. I've found no need to turn the pile in the several years I've been doing it this way. I just dig the next hole to one side, so as not to disturb the last batch.

 

After a few weeks to a few months (depending on the temperature) it turns into really dark rich soil - "black gold", which I spread on my vegetable beds. In the winter, when it's really cold and the ground freezes solid, I sometimes have to save up 4 or 5 buckets-full of compost, waiting for a month or even two until the ground thaws and I can bury the refuse I've saved up. Luckily the refuse freezes too, so it doesn't get smelly or anything. I'm proud to say that in the last several years I haven't had to throw anything organic in our trash - it all has (eventually) gone into the compost heap, and eventually back into my garden.  It feels good to minimize one's environmental footprint by composing and using the resulting dirt to grow one's own food.

 

Does anyone else compost successfully? If so, do you have any tips? Particularly for people like Grace, who (I presume) isn't lucky enough to have such a large and private backyard for open pit composting like I do.

 

--Dean

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All,

 

While I'm on the topic of what's growing in my yard...

 

I thought I'd posted about this last year, but apparently not since I can't find mention of it in any threads. In the fall, I purchased 5 lbs of fresh ripe PawPaw fruit from a Rocky Point Farm in Rhode Island. DELICIOUS!!! The are every bit as good as described here and here. They taste like a cross between bananas and mangos, with a very creamy, custardy texture. In fact they remind me a lot of durians for their custardy texture, but much more fruity flavor, many of you will be happy to hear I'm sure .

 

Probably very few of you will have heard of them, but for anyone who doesn't know about PawPaws, they are the largest tree fruits native to North America. This Kentucky State University website is the best resource I've found for all things PawPaw. The cool thing is that the grow well in relatively northern climates - in fact Ohio (right next door to me in PA) is where many PawPaws are grown. They even have a yearly Ohio PawPaw festival, that I'm contemplating attending this year.

 

The reason you don't hear more about them, or see them in supermarkets and grocery stores is that they have a narrow window of availability - for a few weeks in Oct/Nov, and they don't ship well. They need to be ripened on the tree, and once ripe are very soft (like a well ripened mango) and don't last very long - so are not really a viable fruit for your average grocery store, or even Whole Foods. But boy are they delicious.

 

So starting a few years ago, I decided to grow me my own PawPaw orchard. I started by buying a couple small (1.5') trees from Stark Bros (one regular PawPaw and one Pennsylvania Golden PawPaw) to make sure they are indeed hardy in my area (north of Pittsburgh, PA). I bought two trees because they need to cross-pollinate in order to bear fruit. That was in 2013. After overwintering them indoors, I planted them and they've been in front of my house for 3 years now and are doing great despite the harsh winters we've had lately. Here is a photo of me standing next to one of them - they now stand over six feet tall (notice the second one in the background, next to the house):

 

KMWLQRn.png

 

Emboldened by this success, and too cheap to buy more saplings (at $25 a pop), I decided to plant the seeds from the fresh PawPaws I bought last year from Rocky Point Farms.

 

I harvested the seeds from the fresh fruit (which are a little bigger than almonds but very similar in shape). I then followed these directions. Specifically, I scarified them and then stored them in a moist container in my fridge for several months (Nov - Jan). Then I planted them indoors in January in starter flats. They were extremely slow to germinate - taking 2-3 months. But around April, they started to sprout, dragging their leaves out of their little seed pods. In fact, I've got a few that are still struggling to get free, like this guy:

 

C4eXkE8.png

 

I feel bad for him, but I've found through trial and error that it's best to leave the poor seedlings to struggle to break free on their own. If I try to help them by prying their leaves free, they wither and die. It seems they benefit from the struggle and need it to grow strong. Reminds me of Nietzsche .

 

But 17 others have already succeeded in getting loose and spreading their leaves. I've transplanted them into plastic lemon juice bottles & flavored water bottles with the tops cut off and holes punctured in the bottoms. These bottles make great planters for trees since they are nicely narrow but tall, so the roots can grow deep. Here are photos of my 17 seedlings sitting outside on my porch soaking up the sun. Note you can still see the brown seeds hanging near the stems at the base of the leaves on a few of them which haven't completely shed their seed pods yet:

 

AmQaHLm.png

 

I plan to keep these seedlings in their bottle-pots all summer, fall and through the winter. I'll store them in the garage over the winter to keep them cool but to avoid them freezing too hard over the first winter. Next spring I'll need to find a place to plant them. My daughter is going off to college in a little over a year, and my wife and I plan to then sell our McMansion and downside. So I don't want to plant them in my yard.

 

Instead, I've been talking to the farmer who runs the CSA to which I belong (Harvest Valley Farms). Interesting side note - his name is Art King, and he is part of the extended King family of farmers from Butler County PA, who were featured on the reality TV show Farm Kings, although Art himself wasn't on the show.

 

Nevertheless he's an adventurous, innovative guy, and sounds like he's willing to give PawPaw cultivation a try. I'm slowly talking him into devoting a small part of his farm to cultivating PawPaw trees in partnership with me. I intend to seal the deal this fall by sharing with him a few of the fresh ripe PawPaws I'll be purchasing from Rocky Point farms again. I think that will convince him that if nothing else the PawPaws will be a cool novelty fruit to offer to his CSA subscribers, and especially to the yuppy customers at his farmer's market store. I'm certain if he gave away free samples, he could sell this exotic local fruit at quite a premium price - at least $10/lb which is what I pay (excluding shipping) for the ripe ones I buy mail order from Rocky Point Farms. If he ends up selling them, I hope to convince him to split the proceeds with me, but I'd settle for a guarantee of "all I can pick & eat" PawPaws every fall in perpetuity...

 

It will be a few years, but once mature the 20+ trees I've got growing should produce a few hundred pounds of PawPaw fruit per year. I can't wait. Talk about delayed gratification!

 

--Dean

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Hi Dean!

Your posts about your garden are great!

How many years have you been growing veggies and fruit of your own? This is my first year and there is so much work! Mulching with wood chips is part of the work for the purpose of saving water.

I don’t have deer problem. I have bird and slug problems. I hand picked slugs every night. One night I caught 100 of them!

I visit my local master gardeners’ demo garden and a community farm regularly to get help.

Your pictures with the plants labeled look very nice. What program/application do you use for labeling what is in a picture?

I love cherry tomatoes too! I also grow two heirloom ones – Hawaii pineapple and pineapple. I grow beefsteak too. I went to a tomato talk of two hours. The expert said that tomatoes would not like rain. So I waited and waited until the rain settled before I planted them.

Do you need a green house for growing your seeds?

For working on your compost, how often do you need to physically turn it?

Your pawpaw fruit looks very interesting. I haven’t tried it yet and haven’t seen it either. Have you tried fresh mulberries, loquat and jujube dates? Recently I have got fresh mulberries from my farmers’ market. My neighbor picked some loquat fruit for me from their yards. I have a jujube date tree in my yard.

Edited by gracezw

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I thought I'd posted about this last year, but apparently not since I can't find mention of it in any threads. In the fall, I purchased 5 lbs of fresh ripe PawPaw fruit from a Rocky Point Farm in Rhode Island. DELICIOUS!!! The are every bit as good as described here and here. They taste like a cross between bananas and mangos, with a very creamy, custardy texture. In fact they remind me a lot of durians for their custardy texture, but much more fruity flavor, many of you will be happy to hear I'm sure .

 

Hi Dean!

 

PawPaws are common and popular in South Africa; I enjoyed them when my wife and I visited her ailing mother in Johannesburg about 30 years ago.

 

I'd always thought that they were native to Africa -- I'm surprised that they're actually native to the Americas.

 

Shame that they are almost never available in the US.

 

  --  Saul

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Saul,

 

PawPaws are common and popular in South Africa; ...

I'd always thought that they were native to Africa -- I'm surprised that they're actually native to the Americas.

You are surprised because apparently what they call a paw paw in South Africa (and South America) is actually a type of papaya (Carica papaya). Many people confuse the two. Here is a picture of a Carica Papaya tree & fruit (left) and a true, north American PawPaw fruit (asimina triloba) on the right.

 

[photo removed by admin per copyright complaint]

 

 

They look pretty similar on the outside although the Carica papaya is quite a bit bigger than the asimina triloba. But where the real difference lies is on the inside. Again South African Paw Paw fruit (Carica papaya) on the left, and North American Paw Paw fruit (asimina triloba) on the right:

 

13429135-ripe-papaya-pawpaw-or-tree-melo194551817_1.jpg

 

Which one looks more like you remember? An easy way to tell the difference (besides flesh color) are the seeds. North American Pawpaws have a few big hard brown seeds, like an almond on steroids, in each fruit. Papayas in contrast have many, tiny, black soft seeds.

 

Shame that they are almost never available in the US.

Yes, it is a shame that North American Paw Paws aren't available in stores - they have a unique taste that I really enjoy. But papayas, including the Carica variety are available quite commonly in US grocery stores and are delicious too - I agree!

 

--Dean

Edited by Tim C.
Tim (copyright complaint on photo)

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Grace,

 

I'm glad you like my gardening posts. They are fun to put together. Today's garden project was to set up my tomato cages and string twine against my house to support my tomatoes as they grow. I'm hoping for a bumper crop of tomatoes this year.

 

On to your questions:

 

How many years have you been growing veggies and fruit of your own?

 

I've had an outdoor garden for at least 5 or six years. I've been doing year-round indoor gardening of sprouts and microgreens ever since I started CR - about 16 years.

 

I really went crazy (imagine that) a few years ago, and with the help of my son Kyle, built a year-round greenhouse from scratch (including making up the design ourselves) in the very spot where my tomato garden is now - in fact the tomato garden dirt was the floor of my greenhouse. Here are a few pictures of it:

 

Dik4gCr.png  vHdibow.png

 

As you can see above, it could be opened up to let air circulate when it was warm outside. I called it "Dean's Salad Sanctuary" - my mom even gave me a custom-engraved wooden sign for above the entrance:

 

 pelQ4t6.png   57qm9vl.png

 

It had shelves on which I grew many pots of greens and herbs, as you can see above. And as you can see below, it even had a custom designed and handcrafted cover, which was easy to deploy on cold winter nights (and sometimes days!) when the temperature outside was sometimes below 20°F.

 

 5Iwet7i.png.    ctnKq3Q.png

 

As you can see from the photo on the right, it had 2000 watts of halogen lights (for warmth and illumination!) as well as a 3000 BTU gas heater. That's a lot of heat for a 6x10' space, but it gets mighty cold in Pittsburgh in the winter, and there was only a 5mil plastic sheet and a tarp keeping out the cold.

 

It also had running water and (obviously) electricity. It had a sprinkler system, remote environmental monitoring, and a pan/tillt video camera so I could check on the greenhouse while traveling, and when it was cold outside and I didn't want to trudge through the snow to check on things. I spent several hundred hours designing and building it, and more than $3K for all the materials. With the lights and heater, I was able to grown plants all year round, despite the weeks of subfreezing temperatures and several feet of snow in Pittsburgh. It was another example of me going overboard, but I was darn proud of that greenhouse...

 

Unfortunately, after only one summer and one winter season, my gestapo homeowners association made me take it down ☹. It was a big blow. But I took it in stride. Here is how I described it in my 2013 post to the CR email list about it:

 

Second, besides contributing to the science and exploring a very rare state of human experience, the other major reason I practice CR the way I do is for what I perceive to be the psychological benefits. I find I'm much more what I like to call "calm abiding" now, and I'm pretty certain its a result of practicing CR, since others report it too. I'm able to take things much more in stride now than back in my "testosterone fueled" pre-CR days.
 
In fact, a great example happened just yesterday. To my huge chagrin, my neighborhood association informed me that they've rejected the greenhouse that I've spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building. Apparently it "lacks a harmonious relationship and architectural compatibility with my home and other homes in the neighborhood." They even rejected my proposal for aesthetic improvements and are saying I need to take it down by April 30th.
 
Big bummer...
 
In the "old days", I'd have gotten very upset at this setback, tried to appeal the decision and gotten into a big argument with committee members about how the greenhouse should be allowed. We'd all have gotten our hackles up, spoke aggressively, and in the end the outcome would almost certainly have been the same - I'd lose and have to take down my beloved greenhouse.
 
Instead, now in my "calm abiding" CR'ed state, I'm taking the unfortunate turn of events in stride, and already formulating plan B - growing lots of food outdoors in my garden this summer, and ramping up my indoor production of sprouts, microgreens, and hydroponically grown greens under lights in my basement this.

 

Ironically, and quite tragically, I'd face a much bigger psychological challenge than the loss of a stupid greenhouse, starting just a few months after making that post...

 

Back to your questions:

 

Your pictures with the plants labeled look very nice. What program/application do you use for labeling what is in a picture?

 

I use a program called SnagIt to capture, edit and annotate all the screenshots and images that I post. It has a free 30-day trial, but costs $50 to purchase. I'm using a version I've had for many years. I'm sure there are other good screen capture programs out there, probably some of them free.

 

Do you need a green house for growing your seeds?

 

I started all my seeds in flats under flourescent shop lights situated just a few inches above the soil. I start them at various times, depending on how hardy they are. The tomatoes I started about a month before our last frost date (May 20th), so they'd be ready to plant when the ground warmed and when it stopped freezing overnight. A few days before they are ready to be planted in the ground, I set them out in the sun during the day to "harden them off" before planting, so it won't be such a shock.

 

For working on your compost, how often do you need to physically turn it?

 

As I said in my compost post, I never physically turn my compost pile. I've found it not necessary. If you've layered the greens and browns well, they will decompose and turn to dirt pretty quickly. It helps to have (native) worms who love to infiltrate and munch on your pile!

 

Have you tried fresh mulberries, loquat and jujube dates?

 

Loquats & jujube dates yes - delicious. Fresh mulberries no, but dried mulberries yes, from Nuts.com. Quite tasty as well. I wish I could grow more tropical fruit in my yard, but Paw Paws are pretty close. I also grow kumquats (indoors) which I love. I'm also blessed to have wild apple trees growing on the golf course next to my house. Last fall I picked about 60lbs of apples from them, and just ate the last one less than a month ago - they lasted for about six months in my fridge. I'm still working to finish the 60lbs of wild blackberries I picked from a patch near my house last summer, and froze. Here is a post about my kumquat tree, as well as my foraging for apples and blackberries. 

 

I'm off now to pickup my first fruit and vegetable share of the season from my CSA. I can't wait to see what Art my friendly farmer (and someday hopefully PawPaw orchard partner) has for me this week!

 

As my favorite obsessive gardening expert, John Kohler, says - "keep on growing!"

 

--Dean

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I have a very large organic garden. I use the mulch method. They refer to it as the Ruth Stout method also. Mine is modified in that I have large panels that go down the rows and you plant your seeds along the panel on both sides. These panels are permanently in place. In between the panels the heavy mulch is placed, so you need not have to till it or weed it, just throw some more hay on the weeds that do come up or hand remove them. Year after year the ground becomes very fertile. So a compost pile is not necessary, you just throw it on top of the mulch.

Dean this CR garden spot was a good idea for people to present what they may be doing in their gardening.

Having your own garden is a good way to eat organic produce cheaply.

 

Dr Bennett

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Dr. Bennett,

 

Welcome to the CR Forums, and thanks for sharing!

 

I use the mulch method. They refer to it as the Ruth Stout method also.

 

For others who aren't familiar with this method, here is what a typical Ruth Stout garden looks like, with hay between the rows:

 

gitdgog.png

 

I too used hay last year between my plants for mulch and weed suppression, as you can (barely) see in this image from last-year's garden:

 

HRTyang.jpg

 

It worked pretty well, but I found the hay didn't break down very well over the winter here in Pittsburgh, so I ended up scraping it off the soil and adding it to my compost pile. This year I'm trying weed-suppressing fabric. It's working great so far. I also think it has the side-benefit of making the garden less slug-friendly (Grace take note).

 

It sounds like you've got a lot more space than I do for planting Dr. Bennett. I'm jealous. Given my limited space, I go with the Square Foot Gardening method to maximize yield. I find it works really well, especially if you've got raised beds.

What kinds of plants are your growing this year?

 

--Dean

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Dean we grow a lot of variety of produce. One of the challenges year to year here in Missouri is the squash bugs, You really have to use very fertile soil and mulch to keep the plants healthy. The mulch also provides adequate hydration for when it gets very hot and their is little rain.

 

Dr Bennett

Edited by Dr Bennett

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Dean, I love this topic and the pictures of your gardening.  Sad/disturbing to hear of a home owners association forcing the removal of such a beautifully executed greenhouse addition.  I should post some photos of our gardening here in the middle of the city of Chicago.  Our goal is to maximize production and minimize effort, expense and environmental impact.  Aesthetics is not a priority and one that has diminished with my diminishing mobility.  My favorite infrastructure materials are electrical conduit and 6" remesh (comes in a roll 5' high by 150' long for roughly $100 meant for reinforcing poured concrete).

 

My first thought of your hoop covered beds was low tunnels for season extension before I read about your deer.   By covering the hoops spring and fall you could effectively shift yourself from hardiness zone 6 to 7 and with the addition of row cover fabric suspended on wickets over your crops you could gain another zone, allowing you to get a big jump on planting and extend your harvests deep into winter.  Another device we found invaluable for getting an early start and maximizing tomato production with our otherwise relatively short growing season is

https://www.amazon.com/Bosmere-L760-2-Pack-Filled-Garden/dp/B00AMILZPY

Although these work great for tomatoes we find covered tunnels plus row cover fabric superior for most other crops.

 

I learned much about extended season growing from Eliot Coleman, http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/

and I found his book, Four Season Harvest very helpful.  His philosophy and experience pioneering healthful low impact growing practices has had a big impact on us.

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Todd,

 

Great new profile picture! Looks like you're out in your lush garden.

 

Sad/disturbing to hear of a home owners association forcing the removal of such a beautifully executed greenhouse addition. 

 

Yes, it was very sad. That's what you get when you live in an suburban neighborhood full of McMansions and Jones...

 

I should post some photos of our gardening here in the middle of the city of Chicago.

 

That would be great. I'd love to see them and I think others would too. Are you literally in the city of Chicago? How much room do you have for a yard/garden?

 

My first thought of your hoop covered beds was low tunnels for season extension before I read about your deer.   

 

Thermal protection was why I originally built the hoop covers for my raised beds (and my greenhouse obviously). Here is a picture of one of the beds with it's plastic cover, beneath a blanket of snow, with my dog Zoe straining at her leash to get at the plants inside:

 

U2G7m6Q.png

 

This year I didn't use the plastic covers, but started all my seedlings under lights indoors, and simply kept them growing there until they could be planted in the beds safety. 

 

Here is what happened one year late in the fall / early winter. Fortunately it was long after the growing season was over (what's left are Kale and Collard stocks, stripped of leaves). I was happy to share ☺:

 

Pw410fU.png

 

In searching for that photo I came across this one, which is a better shot of Dean's Salad Sanctuary in the snow, with cozy illumination emanating from within. Like your setup sounds, it wasn't very high on aesthetics, but it was very functional and I was proud of it:

 

wbSaeCp.png

 

--Dean

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Dean, my address is 3334 North Troy Street, Chicago, IL

 

If you look it up in google maps you can get a view of our place better than I could do in words.  If you use the satellite view you can see our hen house immediately behind the house and our hoop house just behind that.  Our lot is 50' x 125' and we use most of it for food production.  We even use the parkway which actually belongs to the city where we have a grafted apple tree producing 5 heirloom varieties over a long season, an apricot tree, a peach tree and lots of shrubs, elderberry, honeyberry, etc.  The parkway stuff is visible in the Google street view.  We've also converted our attic into a grow room with the addition of a dormer, windows and skylights.  Now that we have an elevator we keep most of our tropicals in pots in the attic through the winter, stage them in and out of the hoop house spring/fall and they summer in the yard, allowing us to grow figs, lemons, tangerines, bananas, avocado, and several other things that are challenging for most gardening in Chicago.

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Quote

Sad/disturbing to hear of a home owners association forcing the removal of such a beautifully executed greenhouse addition. 

 

Yes, it was very sad. That's what you get when you live in an suburban neighborhood full of McMansions and Jones...

 

 

Your greenhouse looked beautiful to me! Yes, it is very sad and disturbing. How did the association find out about your greenhouse? Did they fly a helicopter over your backyard? Was the greenhouse in your backyard?

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Dean, I talked with my local master gardeners' hotline today asking about how to make sure that I water just the right amounts for different vegetables -- tomatoes, chard, watermelon, mint, and tree collard. It turns out that I may have watered them too much(everyday!). The master gardener on the phone said that she would use a hand trowel to pull out a few inches of soil around the roots (without hurting them), and feel the layers of soil. She wants the soil to be able to crumble in her hand.

 

How do you know how much water is not too little and not too much?

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Tom,

 

Thanks for pointing to the Google Maps view of your house. It's a bit scary for some people how much detail Google captures about our lives. Microsoft Bing does it too, as I humorously found out.

 

Grace, as you can see from that think, my greenhouse wasn't in my backyard, but even if it was, there is a golf course cart path right behind my house, where neighbors and players could have seen it. Instead it was attached to the side of my house, where people driving or walking past could (barely) see it. But worse of all, our next door neighbors for several houses down can see it. We get along fine but aren't close with most of them, and I suspect one of them squealed / complained to the Homeowners Association about my greenhouse.

 

Regarding watering - yes it's easy to overdo it. Much like CR. :-)

 

If it rains, I don't water. If it's dry for a few days in a row (or if I've got young vulnerable seedlings) I water about enough to simulate an inch of rain. But it varies depending on the plant. Tomatoes need more water than most leafy greens, for example. During the heat of the summer when they are producing fruit, I water them almost daily.

 

--Dean

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Maybe you could move out of fascist-land? Who the hell thinks a beautiful greenhouse isn't attribute to a living space? Idiots. This is 2016. You handled that far better than I would have, and I would have still lost the greenhouse battle. They woulda said take it down or risk fines, deportation, homelessness, death. Or maybe they'd just use a firing squad? Then, knowing myself, still alive and amongst them, I would harbor deep silent resentments and probably grow a tumor. Better to find the hip neighborhoods of Pittsburg. Note to home owners association: the eco movement is here to stay. So stop fertilizing your stupid golf courses and help the planet by reducing your toxic chemical drains into the water table. The homeowner association should not ban greenhouses, but mandate them.

 

I'd last fifteen-minutes in that neighborhood, then goodbye forever, assholes.

 

How do you know if you're overwatering? Maybe poke one finger into the soil. If moist soil clings to the finger, don't water the plant. That's what I do with herb anyway, which loves water, and it seems to work. I play music to plants, too, plants are way cooler than people, imho. Plants, like the filmmaker David Attenborough recognized so beautifully, are like slow-moving animals.

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Calm abiding Sthira. Peacefully remaining. Things are as they are, and that's ok. We'll downsize from our McMansion and move our of our gestapo neighborhood one of these days, once our daughter goes off to college. But my wife will likely want to move to a condo community, with similar draconian covenants, unless she decides to abandon me for someone sane, or for a life on her own....

 

BTW - cool new profile pic.

 

--Dean

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