How much food could you grow in your own yard? We're about to find out...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two timely articles from Mother Earth News.

Vertical Gardening

this article outlines a great many ways to trellice up different plants.  It advocates for using arbors to further increase food production.  a message board thread at shows some advocacy for this method as well with proven results.  i think the permaculturists are interested in creating micro-climates to cater to different plants.  one suggestion would be to plant tomatoes, peppers and other plants on the west side of an arbor where they'll appreciate higher temperatures and afternoon sun, and to plant cucumbers and greens and other cool-loving or quick-to-bolt plants on the east side of an arbor to give them late day shade.

frankly, the material costs of the arbor is my first barrier.  cattle panels and other arbor materials are pretty expensive.  i think i'm inclined to really push the limits with trellices, though.

in summer 2010, i used what seemd to be large tomato cages for tomatoes and they simply weren't tall enough.  the indeterminate heirloom varieties (black russian, mortgage lifter, and an heirloom orange and yellow variety) all were far taller than the cages and ended up crashing down into the dirt again after they outgrew the support i provided for them.  i also used a metal post and horizontal wire for pole beans which worked out quite well.  another place, i used an 8 foot tall 1x3" tipi sort of thing with less laudable results.  i think the variety i used wasn't as suited to such high trellicing.

in retrospect, i should have used the smaller tomato cages for peppers and eggplant, which grew to be out of control and needed of support.  it seems like tomato cages would be great for peas and raspberries, too.

Wood chips as soil ammendment.

looking back on building the first four raised garden beds i have no doubt that they'll be great in the long-term, but i had raised some concerns about the soil being nitrogen starved in the near-term.  it seems like those concerns were valid and i may need to ammend the beds with some high nitrogen options, like blood meal (or urine).  since blood meal will disintegrate in water, it may be a good idea to mix up a high nitrogen tea and inject it about 12" below the surface of each bed, like with a syringe.  a long automobile fluid funnel may do the trick nicely.

you may remember that the chipped/shredded wood that was delivered was half fluffy shavings and half small chipped wood.  i had known that this would make the surface area of the wood sky high and speed along decomposition.  but it also seems like i underestimated the nitrogen-lock that may occur where the wood chips meet dirt.

since this blog and this project is about immediate results and really pushing things to the limit, i think i'm going to gamble with a small dose of blood meal now and maybe another one in the spring.

mother earth news is an amazing resource!!  for 40 years now, this magazine has been at the forefront of the upcoming eco-nomic and eco-logical transition that is needed so badly these days.  here's some links to some of their great publications:

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