Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The squash and beans patch, + corn update

Squash and Beans

Last time I was at dad's, I finished digging an 8x30 foot bed, and at the end of the day at wine:thirty we pulled a couple of chairs over and sat drinking our wine and looking proudly over our bare patch of dirt like we do at every day's good work.

I planted it this weekend. The organic matter content in the soil is abysmal, or so it looks. I'm going with it. It is an experiment in minimalism. I'm calling it "farming" rather than "gardening" because farming - generally a much more extensive activity, while gardening is intensive - often doesn't allow for the luxury of trucking in a half ton of compost per 100 sq. feet, as I tend to do when starting a new garden.

So I limed it, put a little bit of compost at the bottom of the trenches and some hot chicken poop/wood chips compost a little deeper under a couple of the trenches. I made these trenches a bit less than 5 feet apart down the length of the center of the bed, and planted three squash seeds about 6"apart in each. I will thin to one plant, so each plant will have a 5x8 foot patch of its own. This is less than Carol Deppe's 7x8 feet, but not by much. I planted in trenches about 4" deep so the seeds will stay moist, walking barefoot in the trench to restore soil capillarity (its ability to wick moisture up from below) before putting in the seed, then put 1-3 inches of looser soil on top of it, which I just firmed a bit by prodding with the back of the hoe.

The beans I planted about 2" apart in long trenches of their own down the middle of the bed, with squash "hills" on both sides. This means that there are two 8 foot rows about 20" apart dividing the length of the bed in half. A "hill" by the way, is just a way of saying "some seeds planted together." In this case, my hills are actually the trenches described above. I figured this out only after I planted my other squash plants in Wojtek and Davi's garden in actual hills. So far, they're fine - the seedlings there have their first couple of true leaves.


My corn has come up! Some are just peeking above, most are an inch or two high, and some are 3 or 4 inches. I have left the remay on so the birds don't pull them up, but I don't like doing it. As lightweight as it is, the plants are bending as they push against it anyway. I'd like to free them up. I will take it off when I get back in a few days and hopefully the plants will be big enough to be left alone. I'll be able to check on them regularly throughout the day at that point to catch evil birds in the act.


I started Basil seeds indoors early last week, and they went leggy on me just after sprouting because the light was not turned on the day most of them decided to sprout. I have put them in the intensive care unit for the next four days: indoors, an inch under the lights which will stay on 24 hours a day to pump them up.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Corn and other late spring news

I planted my corn patch, 125 seeds in a 10'x10' block, about half of which will be thinned out. I didn't add more compost, but I did add a good bit of Steve Solomon's All-Purpose Fertilizer mix. I planted in rows 20" apart, seeds about 8" apart, which I'm thinking I will thin to 16" apart. This results in each plant getting 320 square inches. Carol Deppe plants her corn 42" apart (including the path between them), and about 8-12" in the row. That is between 336-504 square inches per plant. I'm a little below the low end, but I know part of her row spacing is for ease of access, and I'm hoping between that, my deep working of the soil, and occasional organic fertilization, my plants will feel like they have enough space to pop a couple good ears out. Hybrid varieties grown commercially are planted 8" apart in rows 18" apart, after all. I planted the seeds in furrows which I'd walked down barefoot (to restore soil capillarity), then covered them with ~1-3" of loose soil, which I pressed lightly on with the back of the hoe. I covered the whole bed with remay to make sure crows don't pull up the seedlings.

If each plant bears two ears, I'll have 120 cobs to grind flour from. How many pounds is that? For me, probably a year's supply of corn flour, which I'm going to have to learn to use.

I also planted four Sweet Meat - Oregon Homestead squash seedlings. Their taproots were knocking against the bottom of their 4" pots after less than a week, so it was time to get them in the ground, because, as Carol says: "they have a big old taproot that heads right for the center of the earth, which inevitably gets broken off in transplanting." Bush-type summer squash, on the other hand, can be more easily transplanted. That said, my transplanting job was a bit rough - the soil did not hold together well. Next time, for winter squash I would use soil blocks or a potting soil that coheres better. I planted two to each hill, each made with half a 5-gal bucket of compost and all-purpose organic fertilizer mixed in. The hills are about 7 feet apart, and I will leave only one plant per hill once the more vigorous of each pair declares itself. I covered the hills with remay.

Four tomato plants are now in the ground, too: a Stupice, an Amish Paste, a Sweet 100, and one of the 'Shelf Yellow' variety which I saved seed from last year. I started the seeds about 4-7 weeks ago. Really shoulda kept track of that. They're not as big as they were this time last year, but I think they're big enough. They've been hardened off for two weeks. For the last week, they've been brought in only on cold nights.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Three Sisters

I am excited to plant corn, beans, and squash in quite a few places this year. At my 12x12 foot p-patch, I'm planning to plant Carol Deppe's Cascade Ruby-Gold flint corn with Kentucky Wonder pole beans climbing up around the edges, although I'm starting to think that would be a better candidate for the three sisters bed described below.

At my dad's house, I've prepared an 8x30 foot patch to plant beans - Black Coco or Gaucho, I forgot which I ordered, and Carol Deppe's Sweet Meat Oregon Homestead winter squash.

At the farm, Henning's offered an area of around 15x25 feet for planting a three sisters garden, which will be more of the same corn, squash, and a Withner White Cornfield bean, which grows better in the shade then most. A good tutorial for planting a three sisters garden can be found at the Renee's Garden website. The diagram below is from that tutorial.

I also have Dakota Black popcorn seeds, though I think the plants are too small to grow beans up, so I'm still trying to figure out where to put them. In addition, we have Blue Lake pole beans growing at Davi and Wojtek's garden.

More information can be found on the traditional Indian way of growing it and traditional varieties here, including links to audio of a Native American gardener describing various parts of the process. There's some nice corn braiding here, too.