25 April, 2010

The Kitchen Garden

We have been working on our kitchen garden for 3 years now. When we bought the house the remains of the kitchen garden included two mature apple trees, one pear, 3 mulberry and a peach tree. Sadly the two pecan trees had fallen in the back yard during hurricane Hugo 20 years ago. We have started a new pecan tree from a seedling that we got from our neighbor but I think it will be quite a few years before we get

pecans. Our goal has been to put in atleast 2 raised beds a years. So we have lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, tomatos, herbs, blueberries. strawberries and asparagus growing in raised beds. We still have one larger tilled garden where I grow sunflowers, collards, squash, beans and cucumbers. I try to grow watermelon, cantalope and pumpkins but some years they do well and others not so much. We don't use any kind of pesticide or fungicide so sometimes things just don't do too well. I have found that spraying milk cut in half with water really helps to keep the white mildew off of the vine vegetables and the black and yellow spot off of the roses. Of course it is harmless to us and our poultry but is causes a harmless fungus to grow on the leaves that pushes out the bad ones. You have to do it before the growth starts or soon after in order for the treatment to be really effective though. Our chickens and guineas take care of the bugs and then make us eggs out of those bugs...pretty cool!
My husband built me my beautiful chicken coop.
We have 19 hens, one rooster , 2 guinea hens and one guinea cock. The guineas really only eat bugs and weed seeds but the chickens are omnivores and will eat the garden up so we have the raised beds netted off. In the fall we take down the nets and let the hens clean up the beds and fertilize them!

When we clean out the hens house in the winter we dump it in the beds and in the summer we dump it in the spot where we are going to start the new beds next year. The chicken dropping are too hot to put right on the plants so they have to sit for at least a few months but boy do they make great fertilizer! We got tomatos until the first frost last year. Chickens are pretty easy to care for. I spend about 15 minutes a day feeding and watering and about an hour every 2 to 3 months cleaning the coop. In return they give us at least a dozen fresh eggs a day with the most beautiful dark orange yolks. In the summer they get to eat all the apples and pears and mulberries that hit the ground and they love it.Happy chickens lay better tasting eggs, its a scientific fact!

My newest project is the bee hive. I have started one hive and they seem to be doing quite well. By next year I hope to have two hives and produce between 50 and 80 pounds of honey for our pantry. Back in the day when our bungalows were new everyone had a kitchen garden and a few hens in the yard. People were not completely dependent on huge companies to produce and deliver our food. I believe that we can have this independence again and take back control of what we eat and what we eat eats! Last year during the summer we produced 40 to 60 percent of our food and I hope to top that this year.

Even if you can't have a complete garden stick a few tomato plants in some pots, grow a patio container of lettuce, use squash and other flowering vegetables as accent plants. The joy of eating what you have brought forth from the earth is lost to many of us but it is really as close as your bungalow's back yard!

16 April, 2010

Well I have spring fever so bad that I can't think about anything except working in the yard!

We put in Mazus, both white and purple between our stepping stones. It seems to have taken well...I hope it survives. I have tried moss and thyme and not had much luck with either. Our front yard is shaded by two 100 yr old oaks so the sunlight is filtered after about 10:00am in the morning. I also put in 10 new rose bushes and my husband dug in a small slate stairway next to the driveway. We mulched the rose garden and the quinea hens promptly scratched up all the pine straw! We pulled all the ferns and Brugmansia out of their dormancy in the basement and brought them out into the sun. The elephant ears were heavily mulched in the fall with straw and soil. They have to be gently uncovered and checked for frost damage. If there is damage you can smell it. It smells oddly like paint and the damaged area of the tuber will be very soft. Take a spoon and scoop away any soft areas scratching down to solid tuber. I have found that they recover quickly when the soft part is removed otherwise the tuber may continue to rot. Fortunately, even after such a hard winter ours were in really good shape. My elephant ears were given to me 42 years ago by my Great Uncle Neal when I was 8. I loved his so much he sent some home with me and I have carried them with me ever where I have lived always leaving some behind for the next family when we moved.
As you can see from the pics we have had a massive oak pollen fall. It is rolling like tumble weeds around the yard.
My allergies have never been quite this bad but they can't keep me out of the yard!

The front porch is now the favorite room in the house at least until the heat of deep summer when its best for early morning coffee and ice cream in the evening after dinner. My big project this week has really been our food garden and I will do my next post on our garden editions. I have just completed a 9 week course on bee keeping and added my first hive to the garden last week so hopefully we will now be able to produce our own honey.