Archive for Soil

Garden – plans for this year of 2013

Posted in Blogging, Food, Gardening, Home, Horticulture, Nature with tags , , , , , , on 2013/02/10 by rmolby

Chickens (Photo credit: Allie’s.Dad)

I am getting into backyard farming this year, out of necessity because my pay is not keeping up with inflation and the health care premiums are going up, leaving us short in our household budget.

So I am hoping to make up for it somewhat by growing at least 2-3% of my food this year, and hopefully 3-5% next year, after I expand the vegetable garden, and get the raised bed chicken tractor built.

I am designing the raised beds around 4 foot long planks cut from 2×4, 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, and 2×12 by 8 foot or 16 foot boards, and using 3.5 inch long deck screws to screw the beds into 4×4 foot squares.

I arrange the beds so there is just a little less than 2 feet of space between them for walkways, and I use 12 inch square pavers to line the walkways. This way the beds sit on top of the pavers for leveling and less contact with the soil. I treat the wood of the raised beds with linseed oil and let it absorb and dry completely, then line the raised bed with one or two layers of corrugated cardboard  and fill them with compost/soil mixture.

When I build the wooden frames, I also attach a piece of 2×2 on the inside corners, but offset so they stick out the bottom about one inch. This way I can stack multiple beds for extra depth for veggies such as carrots, as well as stacking the chicken tractor on top of the beds as well.

As the chickens clean up the bed(s) they have access to, by churning the soil and eating every last seed, bug, and plant until there is nothing but soil, I move their tractor house to the next bed, and their run as well, and let them continue to clean the newly accessible bed(s).

The raised bed I move the tractor house from, now is well composted, has nitrogen and nutrient rich soil, that I will plant heavy feeders into the first season, and then alternate with low demand plants, followed by fallow or cover-crop, and then several other crops before I run the chicken tractor over it again.

I have part of this system in place, but I still need to built the 4×4 chicken tractor and 4×4 chicken run that will go on top of two beds, and a connector between the two so the chickens can get to the run.

I will also build a few beds that will be either 4×6 or 4×10 foot and pull the walkway pavers they would straddle, and have some bigger beds to work with for such plants as garlic and cabbages, etc, where I either need lots of plants or lots of room for a small number of large to huge plants that will require a lot of growing space.

I know, this sounds quite ambitious, but that is what I have been working towards for the last three years since I have moved into this house.

I will try to keep blogging about my garden endeavors as I find time to record my efforts. Hopefully I can get some pictures added as well to add tot he documentation of what I accomplish this year.


Raised Bed Gardening

Posted in Gardening, Horticulture with tags , , , , , , , on 2011/01/06 by rmolby
cordoning off square feet of our raised bed ga...

Image by the.sprouts via Flickr

This will be my second year at a new house with a new garden. Last year I didn’t have time to spend in the back yard for growing food crops. I hope this will change this year.

What I learning back at my old place is that no matter how bad your soil is, if you work with raised beds you can grow almost anything. In my case, I only moved  about 12 miles north, and the soil conditions are similar.

At the last place, I had heavy soil that had been good farm land and the clay was brown to black about 16 inches / 40 centimeters deep before I got into the really dense orange clay of our state.  At the new place, the orange stuff is only 3-4 inches deep except in a part of the back yard that used to be a vegetable garden, but that area had been rototilled and it’s not much better than the rest of the yard.

So, last year I put up three raised beds and I was able to rescue that much soil from the last place. I tried to grow some garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers, dill and parsley, but almost all of it croaked from too much water, then too much heat. I did get some garlic and a few of the Stuttgarter Onion sets survived. I transplanted some of the garlic and the few survivor onions are still in the ground.

I put up another bed late in the fall, and ordered three garlic varieties but didn’t get them in the ground soon enough for it to take off, but these last few days, despite the really cold night time temps, the garlic is sprouting greens through the top of the mulch.

For the raised beds, I built them the way I had back at the old place, but I have been seeing some neat designs for cedar raised beds in some of the gardening magazines, and I think I will adopt their design idea of pegged corners, they require no screws for assembly, only a galvanized peg at each of the 4 corners and the ends of the board notched a certain way so they stack properly for pegging.

Anyway, tese were just some thoughts about my new gardening endeavors.

Separation & Gardening

Posted in Gardening, Horticulture with tags , , , , , , , on 2010/11/08 by rmolby

About a year and a half ago I separated from my now X live-in partner in Norman, OK. She had slept around with someone else and was sloppy covering her tracks, and it turned into a separation that was emotionally rough on me.

In the process, I lost 10 years worth of organic garden preparation and planning, and 10 years of soil building. This was a major blow to me, since I am big on eating as natural or organic as possible, and the garden was a major source of fresh food for me, contributing to my good overall health at the time.

The next stage of my life involves one of my former co-workers, now my lovely wife. I worked in the IT group, and she was the property manager for the organization before I joined the IT group. We had know each other for 8 years, when she was laid off due to reorganization of the support team.

We continued to  go out on the occasional lunch, and over time our relationship grew to a point where we decided to become engaged and set a marriage date in early 2010.

Because the X took my garden along with the house we used to live in, I am having to start all over building soil, raised beds, compost, and all the other things that go along with having an organic garden.  Due to the fact that our household budget is limited, progress has been slow, and in this part of the metro there is less opportunity for me to pick up discarded material I can pick up for free, so I am very frustrated with the slow progress.

The only thing I was able to save from my old garden was a few buckets of good soil  to fill two 4’x4′ beds, my 5 chickens and a few of my gardening tools. I guestimate that I lost around $2000 worth of gardening and woodworking and general tools, and $2000-3000 worth of soil and soil amendments, in addition to who knows how many hundreds of dollars of other long term sustainability supplies I had accumulated.

Anyway, as you can imagine, my frustration level is pretty high, and my health has been declining because I have not been able to grow any fresh food for me to eat, and as much as I love my family, our diet is atrocious!

There isn’t much fiber in our diet, other than corn in the form of chips, way too many trans-fats and other processed food stuffs, and a scary amount of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) , the biggest contributor to the modern American health issues, EVER!!!

So,  somehow I have to squeeze more out of the budget so I can get my winter garden put in place. This should allow me to build up the soil in those raised beds by adding shredded paper and kitchen scrap to the bed and letting the chickens “process” it all into a nice fluffy humus.

In order for that to happen I need to come up with enough money to build/replicate my portable chicken coop that I was not able to bring with me from Norman. This will allow me to move the chickens from bed to bed about once a month or so.

In a way I am glad I didn’t get to bring the old coop, because it was heavy and cumbersome to move. I will try to build the new coop in such a way so that I can move each module on it by myself even if that means that it takes me 2 hours to disassemble and reassemble the coop.

I think I will use the  shelving angle iron you can buy at Home Deport to assemble a base frame, and then make nest box and feeder attachments that connect to the frame using bolts and wing nuts. I hope to make it all fully modular so I can attach the modules to any of the 4 sides of the coop so I can configure the coop in many different ways.

I will then use the same angle iron frame configuration to build open air cages to place over empty, weed overgrown beds and connect them to the coop and let the chickens completely strip the weed beds to the soil, tilling in their poop while they scratch for bugs, worms and weeds. Then, when the bed is bare, I will move the cages down one bed, along with the coop.

The bed that had the coop on it should then be completely filled with light, fluffy humus and be ready for vegetables that need hot fertilized soil.

Anyway, there is much work to do, wish me luck in getting it all done before spring starts.

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