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natethebrown 07-19-16 01:25 PM

Sorry for the lack of updates. The garden is going great! I have been busy just harvesting veggies (squash, peppers, cucumbers, and some green beans).

It appears some of my planting strategies are working out reasonably well. I purposely planted green beans around my cucumbers as a companion plant AND as a potential sacrificial plant. It seemed to work. My green beans have been decimated by grass hoppers and aphids but nothing has touched my cucumbers (aside from mice).

I am having mice problems right now. I got two over the weekend with snap traps and put 6 out last night. Oddly enough, two traps were completely missing this morning! I am going to try to look for them a bit better later tonight but I have a suspicion that a larger animal may have dragged the dead mice away, with the trap hanging along.

I started canning some of the veggies for both enjoyment and playing with long-term storage.

I still have a lot of veggies that need to be cooked/eaten/canned.

pinballlooking 07-19-16 01:31 PM

Nice. It is good to see all those veggies being harvested.

natethebrown 01-31-17 02:06 PM

2017 Garden
Last year's (2016) garden was as productive as it could be considering how busy I was with the runt. Anyways, 2017 is gearing up to be a good year. Since I had a good base to start from, prepping the garden for this year took much much less time and effort. The first thing I did was get two truck loads of composted horse manure/wood shavings (total ~3 cu yd) and just pile that on top of the previous mulch. The guy that I got the manure from charged $15 per load, so $30 total.

I didn't get a before picture, but you can see on the far side what the garden looked like.

The finished product.

I put a 7lb bag of blood meal directly on the manure to help activate its decomposition. After that, I laid out cardboard as a weed barrier.

I am going to try cardboard out this year and see how well it works. From what I have read, everyone says it doesn't block rain water. I figured it would probably help a great deal on water retention in the warmer months. Since I will be planting a number of things from pots, I shouldn't have too much difficulty cutting holes in the cardboard with my trowel. Finally, I put about 1.5 cu yd of wood chips on top of the card board to hold it down and act as a final weed barrier.

As additional projects, I finished painting my final 5 concrete remesh tomato cages to make a total of 12. I figured I have another 30-40 years of gardening ahead of me so I might as well have them last and look semi decent. Also, I am buying all the parts I need for DIY LED grow lights. My florescent grow light is far too small and upgrading it would be much more costly. I will cover my LED grow lights in another post. Between the paints for the cages, one bag of organic fertilizer, and the two truck loads of horse manure/wood chips, I have spent $62.50 YTD. All I have left is to buy, directly for the garden, is seeds and potting soil. Overall, it is really nice to see my garden costs trending downwards (2015 - $317, 2016 - $231).

jeff5may 01-31-17 03:23 PM

I believe you will love the cardboard. It makes for a pretty good sponge when it rains, an insulation layer when it's dry, and worms love it. Once the worms get to it, the beneficial bacteria left behind multiply and catalyze the composting-in-place process.Meanwhile, plants with roots below the cardboard tie all the stuff together down under. Any weeds that start up high can be pulled right out of the wood chips with ease.

natethebrown 08-28-17 07:22 AM


Originally Posted by robertsmall (Post 55273)
Wow!!! A great project. I would like to do one with my family too...
Congrats on Alexander and Hope he is doing well. :)

Unfortunately, my garden was pretty much a disaster this year. The cardboard with wood-chips was a massive fail as a weed barrier this year! Besides bush beans and cucumbers, most everything struggled or failed to produce (especially the tomatoes). It is quite possible I dumped way too much wood chips in the garden, causing it to be way too low on Nitrogen (a guess). I am not really sure what happened, but I do plan on getting the soil professionally tested (Auburn University).

On the plus side though, the previous owners of the house had blackberries which I have been caring for and encouraging them to spread for the past few years since we have owned the house. This year we picked about 1 1/4 gal of blackberries, not including the ones we ate straight off the canes, which is our biggest harvest yet!

natethebrown 03-01-18 02:08 PM

2018 Garden
After the failure of last year, I have another year and another chance to start over. Here is a rundown of the issues I had last year:
1) Grass! The cardboard and wood chips did little to prevent the grass from popping up everywhere.

2) Seedling failure. This is documented in my LED Grow Light Thread, starting with post #15.

3) Poor plant growth. This is unconfirmed, but possibly due to the large amount of wood chips in my garden, robbing the nitrogen out of the soil. My cucumbers, squash, and green beans did well, but everything else was lackluster.

4) Cucumbers were hard to pick, again. The A-frame sucks.

5) Bush beans are annoying. Pole beans might encourage me to pick the beans more.

6) My thorny blackberries are literally painful to maintain. Picking can be difficult and trying. The winter pruning often has me picking thorn splinters from my skin and gloves for a couple of days after.

2018 is a new year and a fresh start to conquer my previous problems.

#1) The city run wood mulch pile was closed down last summer due to budget constraints. This caused me to look for alternatives for a mulch source. Like any city, we have people who rake up and bag their leaves for people like me to come by and pick them up! I don’t know how many bags I ended up picking up, but it was a lot. I dumbed the leaves in my garden, then mulched them with my push mower. Once mulched, I would dump more and run over them again with the mower. I repeated this until everything was covered with a thick layer of leaf mulch. After it was all said and done, I now have about 3” of leaf mulch on top of my entire 8’x42’ garden. My hope is if I keep up this deep mulch concept it will keep the grass suppressed.

#2) This is an easy fix. First, start the seedlings a little bit later (I started them too early last year). Second, I will be using a good seed starting mix.

#3) I just collected soil samples around my yard and garden. I am mailing those samples down to the Auburn University Soil Testing Facility to get the samples properly tested. As you can see below, my garden soil looks significantly different from my regular yard soil!

I should get the results back either next week or the week after, which will give me plenty of time to fertilize what I need before I start putting plants in the ground.

#4) The A-Frame was ok, but typically the cucumbers would hang beneath the frame and be hard to find and pick. I am switching to a vertical trellis and will just use 6.5’ sticks of rebar driven into the ground for the trellis support.

#5) My thinking is a trellised bean will be easier and quicker to pick than a bush bean. Rumors have it that pole beans have a better flavor, so that is also a positive. Anyways, I plan on trellising the beans just like the cucumbers. Remesh supported with rebar.

#6) I did my winter pruning of my blackberries last week and was again picking thorns from my flesh for a few days after. I knew I wanted to eventually trellis my blackberries and came across this YouTube video:

I was immediately sold! I plan on implementing this as soon as I have time to dig the holes.

Since it has been raining buckets all week, I don’t have any pictures yet, but once it stops I will snap a few of the progress I have made so far.

natethebrown 03-16-18 08:21 PM

A quick update. The garden looks good. So far, minimal to no weeds popping up in the garden. The leaf mulch is definitely doing its job!

I finished concreting in the trellis posts for my blackberries. Here is one row, I didn't take a picture of the other row of blackberries.

Finally, I combined the boy's favorite past time, 'digging in dirt,' with real work like filling the seed pots with soil. Worked out better than I expected!

jeff5may 03-21-18 09:49 AM

Ok guys, be careful with the free tree chips and mulch that you get from the community center pile. They're typically infested with the kind of thing that runs amok in the locality. Bugs, weeds, and bad bacteria are prime examples. Also, the stuff is ultra super fresh and green, so besides growing what you don't want, they leech from the site they're spread upon. I always compost the stuff first; sometimes I let it sit a year if the compost pile starts its own garden of woe.

With a big compost pile of public waste, it pays back in droves to plant a plot of something high in nitrogen around or next to it. Nearly always, the stuff is brown or blonde stuff: Woody clippings and leaves. What the pile needs to get hot and producting fast is fresh greens. Farm crops are cheap and awesome for this. Me like spinach oregano sage basil alfalfa and clover. Seeds or seedlings just depends on your patience versus wallet factor. When the stuff gets tall enough, mow it on super tall setting and incorporate directly into the pile. Different crops grow at different times and rates, so there will be a constant supply of food for the pile.

If you are in a big hurry, and need a boatload of black gold fast, a wood chipper that will pulverize everything into little bitty pieces is priceless. With a decent supply of waste, a patch of the above-mentioned crop stock, and not much else, a compost bed can be layered in place and then you just wait. Toss in some Woody, toss in some brown, toss in some green. Repeat a few layers of each, then move chipper forward or around to the next spot. Once a certain type of waste is depleted, put one more layer of the other stuff on and quit. It's ok if the basil or alfalfa patch outgrows your supply of waste. You can always sell, eat or donate the surplus. Cuz that stuff isn't cheap at the store.

natethebrown 03-22-18 07:28 AM


Originally Posted by jeff5may (Post 58851)
Ok guys, be careful with the free tree chips and mulch that you get from the community center pile. They're typically infested with the kind of thing that runs amok in the locality. Bugs, weeds, and bad bacteria are prime examples. Also, the stuff is ultra super fresh and green, so besides growing what you don't want, they leech from the site they're spread upon. I always compost the stuff first; sometimes I let it sit a year if the compost pile starts its own garden of woe.

Thanks for your concern, I will keep an eye out for any plant issues this year. Like I mentioned in problem 3, I believe you are correct about the "greeness" of the wood chips. I don't know that I had a problem with bacteria or bugs. Speaking of bugs, I saw a YouTube video recently that an Organic Mulch Producer said chunky mulch is a good thing because it also gives the predator bugs like spiders places to hide as well.

Anyways, the leaf mulch is still rocking. Very little in the way of weeds and grass so far. I picked a few blades of grass around the edges of the garden, but that is to be expected. I got my soil test results back.

Obviously, I was a bit concerned about the Phosphorous and Potassium, so I called the Auburn test lab and spoke with one of the Professors there. He said it is fine and don't do anything with the soil. He said, "you should be good to grow in the garden for a couple of years without adding any fertilizers." I'll call that a win in my book!

Here is an update on the blackberries. The thorny blackberries (I haven't determined their variety yet) are about half way done trellising. This is definitely the heaviest pruning I have ever done on them, so it will be interesting to see what my overall yield will be.

Before heavy pruning and trellising.

Halfway through pruning and trellising.

natethebrown 06-12-18 08:29 PM

Plants can be hard to kill!
I have been a bit busy lately to post any updates. Any ways, I grew a lot from seed. 5 different varieties of tomatoes, squash, herbs, peppers, and, later, sun flowers. April was warming up quite nice. Things were starting to bloom. I planted all my seedlings in the garden on April 27th. Disaster struck! We had a freeze on April 29th!

Here are the results the next afternoon:

Tomato Plant

Squash Plants:

12 Tomato plants and 9 squash plants all looked like that. Well, you can imagine how upset I was. I had a few leftover seedlings still in pots (3 tomatoes and 3 squash) so I replaced the worse plants with the still good seedlings. It turns out all the plants that froze all came back! Here are some pictures of the garden today:

The entire garden.

Those Tomato cages are about 5'6" tall (the width of remesh).

The squash is roaring to life even though 70% of the plants froze!

Mammoth Sunflowers are growing quite nicely.

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