Friday, April 10, 2015

Expanding my garden.

This beautiful weather, mixed with plenty of rainy days, is a dream come true for me. I've been working on expanding my garden, and since I use mulching and lasagna gardening ideas, having a nice warm day to set things up and then the rain to soak things in is perfect. SE Illinois.
I divided and replanted my volunteer horseradish. When I divided my roots last year I piled some of the extra soil aside for later use. It took off on it's own so rather than fight with it (I want it anyway) I'm just going along. I'm working on another blog to go more into depth about that. You'll have to come back and see it. 

The rule of thumb here is that you plant your garlic when the kids start school and harvest it when they get out. Actually a bit later. The cool weather allows the garlic to root and during the spring, summer and fall the cloves develop. I did not get any planted last fall which is a tragedy because we use a lot of garlic. Luckily I can get what I need from some friends and a great farmers market.

I was talking to a nice lady in one of the groups that I'm in and she said she never replants. I have always pulled it all up when it's ready (the green tops start to turn brown) and replanted in the fall. By leaving it in the ground and allowing some of the flowers to go to seed it will continue to grow and spread. I love the idea! This tire had tomatoes planted in it last year. To refresh it I put down a layer of newspaper. A couple of sheets will deter weeds but decompose quickly to allow roots to go down and the worms to come up. Straw is fairly cheap right now so I packed the rest of it full. I broke each garlic bulb into separate cloves and nestled them down in the straw close to the paper layer. Later I will add some compost over top.

Keeping the grass under control around the fence is my only real nuisance factor. I put the fence up to help keep dogs and the neighbors occasional horses from just tromping through. Looking back I wish I had set the fence a couple of inches off the ground so I could weed eat under it easier. Some of it I will raise but for this part I decided it would make for a great bed of Rosa Rugosa. A very thorny thorny rose bush with pretty flowers and the best hips I've ever seen. The flowers will attract and feed the bees and then can be used in potpourri. The rose hips are huge, full of Vitamin C and great in teas, jellies, etc. 
I found a large box that
covered most of the space I wanted and was large enough to tuck under to the garden side. The cardboard will keep the grass from coming up. I covered it with leaves and straw. Cardboard takes longer to decompose so I shouldn't have to do much weeding for this season and hopefully the roses will have taken off and all I'll have to do is refresh the mulch from then on. Again, later I will probably put some compost around but for now this will keep the root moist and the straw and leaves will decompose to add nutrition. When I plant the roses I will pull back some of the mulch and cut holes in the card board for the plants, dig enough of a hole for the roots and then replace the mulch.

This year I'm bringing back the potato! One of the easiest ways to grow potatoes is in raised beds. In my opinion. I've had these straw bales sitting out in the weather for a while now (I plan to plant cherry tomatoes along the top of the bales). It takes some time to get them saturated. I put down a layer of cardboard, placed the bales around it (you can make this bed as large as you want or as small as a 4 bale square). I put several of inches of straw in the bottom. We get so much spring rain that it can drown all our work easily. Then comes the summer heat and we wish we had saved up some of the rain. By doing this the early rain can drain away after the straw is saturated and it hold the moisture for later.

These are Yukon Gold. I placed them about 12 inches apart and covered with about 6 inches of straw. When the green starts to come up I'll add a little compost and cover again with straw and/or leaves. Repeat to top. When I'm ready to dig them up all I have to do is tip a bale and lift them out. Fresh straw thrown over top and they can be stored for quite a while right in the bed. We eat a lot of potatoes so they have never lasted through the winter....

Extending this bed.

Newspaper to fill in any chinks.
Straw to cover.

These are slices of plastic barrels that I'm planting my red potatoes in. Again, by mulching underneath the excess water can drain off but the mulch will hold plenty of moisture.

A couple inches of straw, potatoes and then a couple more inches of straw.

More cardboard and leaves.

Next year I can plant directly into the mulch/soil. This year I'm still debating between more containers or a shallow rooting beneficial flower. I always set out several plans and then adjust by what I get done and how the weather co-operates. My budget plays a huge role in how my garden goes. This year, by trading/bartering, collecting, saving seeds and working with the rain I have only about $25 invested in my garden. I have tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, squash, herbs, etc started and just waiting to go into the garden. Based on our local grocery store prices, if just one thing I'm planting produces well and makes it to the table I will have come out ahead. lol  Seriously though, 1 #5 bag of potatoes, 1 cabbage and 6-8 tomatoes will nearly cover the cost. 

The rest of the story from the beginning...