10 June 2012

Landlocked Farm update - June 2012

Winter squash plants in the foreground (I may have planted them too early). In the background are beans, cucumbers and dill. 

baby fig tree

This is our nightshade bed, since it holds various tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Interplanted are carrots and lettuce.

Beet and brassica bed. Features beets, chard, kale, and, eventually, brussels sprouts.

Sugarbaby watermelon bed. I hope they actually produce fruit.  They're in the most shaded bed, which is far from ideal, but I think it still gets decent sun in the summer. We'll rotate beds each year, so if nothing comes out of these plants, maybe next year!

Raspberry and strawberry bed. One of the raspberry bushes has died. The strawberry plants are nice and healthy.

One of two raspberry bushes. This one has produced a few berries. Still, it's starting to shrivel up, and the other one died completely.

View of the farm.

29 May 2012

home garden update - May 2012

Some pics from my backyard

Tulips from early spring. now dead. I'm going to be lazy and leave the bulbs in the ground and hope they come back next year.

Things are starting to grow. Tomatoes, peppers, and basil in the bed to the left. In right bed: cucumbers, beans, chard, spinach, kale, strawberries, lettuce, and beets. In the rear bed, oregano, thyme, echinacea, borage, scented geraniums, calendula, German chamomile, savory, chervil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, basil, and cumin (which keeps dying on me). I can't wait until next month when that bed will be lush! Marigolds and nasturtiums scattered throughout all three beds.

Flowers around the border include roses, foxglove, and a bunch of others I forgot to label, so I have no idea what they are.

Strawberry patch.

In the pots are lemongrass (left) and fingerling potatoes (the two on the right), to which I'm gradually adding soil.

Marrjoram, thyme, oregano, stevia, patchouli, rosemary, St. John's Wort, bee balm, mint, and lemon balm.

Tangerine tree and aloe.

This rose bush is at least 10x the size it was last year when I first planted it.

07 May 2012

Landlocked Farm progress

We're getting a late start at Landlocked Farm thanks to hungry squirrels and meddlesome cats, both wreaking havoc upon any seeds we sow. Lesson #1: start as many plants as possible to avoid seed loss! We'll be sure to implement this next year. Luckily, we've started lots of tomatoes and eggplants, which we put in the ground over the weekend. We're waiting another week or two for peppers, since our seedlings are still rather small.

My partner-in-crime Farmer Dan securing tomato cages. He's also documenting our project at landlockedfarm.org

Spinach and arugula finally coming up. Beets throughout the middle. The cats and squirrels destroyed all the kale.

A selection of the heirloom tomato plants we're growing: Bonny Best, Arkansas Traveler, Early Tomato, and Riesentraube

Compost bin cooking away

recently-planted raspberry vines

small strawberry patch

future site of a fig tree

12 March 2012

Seed starting time

For this year's seed starting, I'm determined to be more organized. I'm keeping a monthly spreadsheet that lists what I'm planting and when.  With the help of my farming partner at Landlocked Farm, I also set up a seed station that is a little more sophisticated than last year's. I bought an extra shop light and suspended both lights from my basement's ceiling joists. The lights hang from chains, which allows me to raise or lower the lights as needed. Each shop light has one warm-light and one cool-light fluorescent tube.

I use coconut coir as the seed starting medium, and I also cover the seeds with vermiculite. So far, that system has worked great for me, and it allows me to avoid peat moss, which is unsustainable.

I started several plants fairly early--February 10--but it's been so unseasonably warm that I think I'll be able to start transplanting early. I'm so excited to garden! In addition to my backyard, which has 3 raised beds (pics to come), there's Landlocked Farm, which seems like a huge amount of space within the city (900 sq. ft.). It's going to be an exciting growing season!

Seed starting station.  Currently, I only have a few plants started, but I will be adding lots of tomatoes and peppers soon.
I use a plastic spoon to scoop up plants that need to me moved to larger containers.
Marjoram, oregano, thyme, leeks, and rosemary - all were ready to be moved  to larger containers. 

25 February 2012

Urban Farm Handbook Challenge - Soil Building

Sustainable Eats' first Urban Farm Handbook Challenge is soil building, and it's a three-part challenge.

Step one is to plan for compost. I already had a backyard bin, so I decided to investigate how it was doing. Previously, I had been composting in 5-gallon buckets, but last year I "splurged" on a $40 compost bin.  It ain't pretty, but it's 9 sq. ft., which is the minimum space needed for hot composting, although I suspect the bin may need to be a bit bigger to really do its thing. I've been adding vegetable scraps, dried leaves, shredded newspaper, and spent potting soil to the pile. Since I'm currently taking a woodworking class, I also have access to sawdust. Living in the city means I don't have an abundant source of carbon materials (with the exception of newspaper), but nitrogen-rich materials are never a problem. I don't bother shredding the few leaves I do get or cutting up my food scraps. This means everything will take a bit longer to compost, but it will do so all the same.  When I finally turned the pile (which was long overdue), I was thrilled to see lots of rich, dark compost and that numerous fat worms have made their way inside. I think I'll be able to use quite a bit of the compost in my garden beds this spring.
outdoor compost bin with fresh sawdust 

Compost after turning - can you see the fat, happy worms?

I must admit, I haven't gotten to step 2 of the challenge: buy fertilizer in bulk or make your own. I'm terrible with fertilizer - meaning I tend to neglect it.  I use lots of compost and also worm castings, and my plants seem to do ok. I know this is not good gardening practice, and I occasionally supplement with an organic fertilizer from Dr. Earth. I don't have anything growing yet, but I do plan to fertilize more often this year, especially after reading the comments section. Who knows, I may get an abundance of tomatoes because of it!

The third part of the soil building challenge is to build a worm bin. Again, I got off easy because I already have a worm bin, though I bought it rather than building it. I started out with a large tub, but last year I made another splurge (this time, it really was a splurge) on a stackable bin. It was pricey but well worth it, since it makes harvesting so much easier. I harvested the first castings this weekend, and got 7 quarts out of one tray. Not bad! 
Harvesting bottom tray of worm bin.  A lot of the egg shells, but they'll decompose eventually, so I don't mind.

An expensive investment, but well worth it. 7 quart-size bags of castings harvested from 1 tray!

06 February 2012

I'm taking the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge


When Sustainable Eats posted the above challenge, I knew I had to sign on. I have several reasons. First, this will be the first full growing season at Landlocked Farm, a former parking lot soon-to-be urban farm. Second, I'm trying to transform my small backyard into a flower and food garden. Third, I want to become as self-reliant as possible, and this challenge will be a great motivation.

So, stay tuned!