Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gardening lessons from 2013

This growing season has been a good year for learning, and gives hints of a lot more yet to learn. I thought I would record some of the take home lessons that I want to remember in the future, and that you may find valuable as well.

1) Weeds grow fast. Weeds hurt a garden. Removing weeds takes a lot of work (and sweat). Since the sweat of my brow is the title of this blog, I have put this item first. Weeding takes time, and there are critical periods to perform weeding where if you don't kill the weeds when small, they will forever later be an issue for the garden.

a) Wire cages make it really, really hard to weed inside the cage.
b) Row widths need to be wide enough to run a tiller down the path to help cut down the work. One foot of walkway may be harder to keep clear of weeds than 3 feet of walkway, if you have a tiller to help chew through the path, and throw dirt up on the weeds in the growing row.
c) Plastic ground cover does a very good job of keeping out weeds. We put down plastic for the first time this year. We used it under our sweet potatoes, and had very good results.
d) Wood chips are great for weed control. The occasional weed that does come up is easily pulled out.
e) Weeding the entire garden on a rotation schedule would be ideal, and not let it get out of hand. To be honest, I am not sure if I have ever had complete control of weeds to date, so this is a goal.

2) Wood chips may slow down vegetable growth rates. It is hard for us to separate out the cooler summer here in the north country but crop harvest dates are way late. Some of the difference seems to have been that we planted our melons in an area covered with wood chips. (Just to be clear, we moved the chips aside, and planted in soil, with the melons growing out over the wood chip area.

a) The climate over the wood chips may be cooler and slow melon development.
b) The wood chips may have interacted with the top layer of soil robbing it of nitrogen. Note we have taken great care not to till in the wood chips into the soil, so I was not as concerned about nitrogen loss.

3) Spraying with something is required to preserve the harvest. I started the year a bit optimistic, that grapes could be managed without spray. This was my first year for a grape harvest, and I have now been educated. I could handle the bugs with a vineyard small enough to manually police the vines on a regular bases, and manually destroying the Japanese Beetles present. But with heavy spring rains, our grape bunches developed black rot, and we lost about 50% of our entire crop. We would have lost 100% within another week, but I was able to halt the fungus with an organic spray of copper sulfide solution. Now I know this should have been applied proactively, not reactively.

Apple scab took out most of our apple harvest this year. I did not spray at all, and should have. We had two apples stay on one tree as our total apple harvest, and they were badly marked with apple scab. Apple scab is a significant issue, and I am not impressed with our apple varieties resistance. Only the Galarina seems unscathed by the apple scab. Crimson Crisp show susceptibility to leaf curl and apple / cedar rust. It is doing the poorest of all our apple trees. Complete leaf cleanup this fall, and early spraying next spring may allow a harvest next year.

4) Fava beans are not as easy as I thought when I exuded enthusiasm over them this spring. The seeds we obtained were not able to outgrow the weeds, and weeding that size of a plot was a lot of work. Then the aphids took over and crippled the plants, being so thick the entire plant would appear black. I did not want to apply any commercial bug killers, and did not take the time to experiment with soap sprays-- life being characteristically busy right at that critical time. The beans we did get to maturity were not easy to harvest, shell or clean. I did not get even one good meal out of that entire plot. We used it as a cover crop, and tilled it in. As a cover crop, it may have been more expensive for seed and effort than it was worth.

5) Progressive planting is required for progressive harvests. Duh. Failure in the first, leads to... you get the point. Some things this year were just so delayed, like a month behind. Long season items (watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, tomatoes, etc) took a lot longer to start producing, and that likely is just the result of a cooler summer. But the progressive harvests were missed out on again. I think for me the challenge is back to the weekly schedule, and regularly planting.

6) Home grown peaches are a dream of lovely sweetness. If at all possible, try growing peaches. No sprays (yet), and we had a small harvest this year. I can hardly wait to see how next year sets. Perhaps this next year we will get some of our other fruits as well.

If I think of more lessons, I will add to the above. Did you learn any lessons this year? I welcome your comments.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Small Fruits / Berries

Eating fresh food from the garden is especially beneficial. And if you accept this idea, then you must with me conclude that there is something in fresh food that will degrade over time after harvest. Since the macro molecules seem rather stable, I can conclude that these beneficial elements must be the fragile phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants in fresh food. A portion of our diet likely should be raw food. Note this quote:

"All should be acquainted with the special value of fruits and vegetables fresh from the orchard and garden." CD 312.4

If you study about the colors of foods, you will find some common health characteristics with the foods of a similar color. Try to have a rainbow diet: reds, yellows, greens, whites, blues, purples. Adding a lot of color variety will assure you are getting the maximum nutrition from your food.

There is a lot of scientific research related to anti-oxidant properties of foods, and how these protect the human body from really had diseases, like cancer, hypertension and atherosclerosis. We want to be healthy, not only for the reason of living longer, but that the quality of the years we do live will be improved. The end result of our lives is that we may daily do what best pleases the Lord. (Eph 5:10)

So let's just pause a moment, and survey some of the anti-oxidant research, and then see what foods percolate to the top of the list containing these helpful chemicals.

If you read just the titles, you will be impressed by the health benefits of these berries! This fall and next spring, we are expanding our farm into more berries, and will experiment with many of those listed above. Enjoy good health by expanding the colors of your foods, and make these berries a regular part of your diet.

In 2016, I planted two types of purchased Raspberries in the lower field:

  • Double Gold Raspberry
  • Joan J Primocane Red Raspberry