Saturday, May 14, 2016


This year I am expanding the garden.  The place is really starting to feel like a farm. Our front yard is about a 1/4 acre and the long term goal is have a mix of perennials and annual food producing plants.  I want to have it look like an English cottage garden and be a beautiful place to spend my time.

Now that it is mid May we have lots of projects underway.   Mulching is a big part of the work.   Our soil is very sandy and full of grass and the mulch should reduce the weeds and watering. We are using wood chips over cardboard around our woody perennials. The annual beds are getting a layer of compost and mulched with grass clippings or mulch hay we got from a friend last year.
  There are a lovage, 2 rose bushes and 7 blueberries that need better weed protection and the cardboard and wood chips should make a big difference.  Our town transfer station has free wood chips so when Alec has time he picks up a load of them for me.  

This bed still needs a bunch of clean up.  It is my favorite part of  the garden.  From May to October it is full of flowers.  The ditch has a bunch of cardboard mulch that the chickens shredded for me last fall.  They love to destroy mulch.   The ditch is one of our swales  that  catches water from the driveway and waters my flowers and apple trees.  It will also get yard waste and mulch to make compost for us.

Kitchen herb and veggie garden (new in 2016!) right outside our front door.  Planted with snap peas, arugula, spinach, romaine lettuce.   Cooking herbs, kale, and other crops will be planted as the leafy greens mature and get harvested.  

When we dug the swales we put a big rock here for a nice place to sit and enjoy the garden view.

This bed up front with daffodils, iris, walking onions, strawberries, and comfrey is new - we made it late last fall while re-digging the pond.

Rhubarb, planted 2 years ago.  Pond in the background (along with the 4-in-1 pear tree and garlic bed).  My rhubarb is finally big enough to start harvesting from.  

Our 4-in-1 apple tree is blossoming for the first time.

Cold frames and cardboard in the background. (I did mention that I have lots of projects to finish...) We've been using the trailer and wheelbarrow to get free wood chips from the town dump.

Perennial flower swale from another point of view. The bed behind it will have some of my tomatoes, basil, and carrots.  I am hoping to get it planted next week.

The Baldwin apple tree.  Baldwin is a 276 year old multi-purpose variety that's good for fresh-eating, pies, and cider.  It's also more pest resistant than larger apples like Macintosh, and can be grown without chemicals (as we plan to).

I planted approximately 90 cloves of Music Garlic last fall.  The smaller green plants sprouting on the left side are potato onions.  The are an older style of bulb onions that form  a cluster of bulbs under ground.  the onions should range form 3/4" to 4" in diameter each.   

Perennial herb bed with egyptian walking onions, catnip, an edible crab-apple tree (too small to see), high bush cranberries, strawberries, aronia berries, bee balm, oregano, lavender, fever few, sages, thyme, mint, roman chamomile and a few other things I can't recall. There is way too much grass in this bed.  I will be digging the clumps out and adding more herbs to fill the holes. 

Our two newest beds in the annual part of the garden.  We split an old bed that was too wide; we'll eventually turn 5 very wide beds into 8 or 9 beds that are far more manageable.

40 crowns of asparagus planted this year in a new bed, and mostly mulched with grass clippings.  With luck we'll be getting as much asparagus as I can eat for many years out of this bed. 

The line of berry shrubs.  We're using cardboard (shown earlier) and woodchips to protect these plants from grass competition.  Some have been growing here for two years and are still small due to the grass.

View facing uphill (west) over the whole front yard garden.  The wood is from sumac that we cleared last fall to let in more light; we'll be giving it to our neighbor for bonfires.

Free wood chips from the dump.  This is about 2-3 yards; I can fit ~0.6 yards in our little trailer and do one run every ~30 minutes (so I'm still looking for more efficient ways to move it).

King George and the girls.  We switched feeders a few weeks ago to reduce food waste (the new feeders make it harder for them to knock the food they don't like to the ground).  I think it's working but I don't have great measurements yet.

Pak choi in our Kitchen garden.

Our original asparagus bed from 2 years ago that we thought the deer wiped out.  Some made it, so we mulched them with grass clippings.  Grass clippings are more work to collect (I estimate 10-12 times as much labor as free wood chips) with a walk-behind mower, but there are certain uses like this where you need the nitrogen and lack of weed seeds.  Angelica is on the right.

Peach tree, daffodils, garlic that didn't get harvested last year, and crab grass (ugh!)

Fruit tree swale.  We have 2 peaches, 2 plums, 1 apricot, 2 cherry trees, and a sweet crab apple tree.  It also has blueberry bushes (arranged in order of harvest date from front to back), cherry shrubs, and more.

Fenced in back yard garden next to the bee hives.  We used a 16'x20' 16 mil tarp to kill the grass last fall, and it worked great.  We're trying to use a lighter weight clear tarp to kill more grass behind it, but it's not as effective.

The same 16x20' heavy weight tarp, killing a new section of grass for us.  This will get planted with flower bulbs for the bees - a good use of space over the leech field that we don't want to disturb too much.

Our "immobile" chicken tractor.  After 2 years in the sun and cold, the tires are shot.  We've cleaned it out and will put the new hens in it when they have finished feathering out next week.

Bee hives.  We got the two taller hives in 2015 (they're Italian bees), and the shorter ones last week (Russians).  We're slowly adjusting the position and orientation of the hive on the garden cart - it will end up on those concrete pavers with the opening facing East.

Bees coming and going from one of the new hives.

Bees in flight outside an old hive.

Chicken run and rainwater harvesting.  The two IBC totes give us 550 gallons of water storage.  The birdbath in the foreground has rocks for the bees to land on so they can drink without drowning.  We installed little red & black solar powered flashing-red-LED "NiteGuard" modules after seeing a bobcat in the back yard.  We haven't lost any chickens to predators yet, but a lot of that is probably luck.

Bird bath being used by bees.

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