Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Random Thoughts While Gardening

I'm interested in a modified form of--I think they call it--microgardening where you maximize use. I'm thinking about growing like 1-3 chickens in the back yard to: a) make eggs b) eat houshold waste c) use droppings for fertilizer. I'd like to learn more about how to use manure to side-dress-fertilize vegetables.I think cow and horse manure used be used for this "back in the day" before chemical fertilizers were developed.

I want to be organic within reason. My main reason for that is not aversion to chemicals, but wanting to be as "do it yourself" as possible.

I need to learn more about harvesting seeds from the things I grow, but right now I'm focusing on just trying to grow things (there is so much to learn, I'm trying to do what I can with the knowledge I have and build on it).

There are 4 places to plant: 1) Area in back yard that gets a fair amount of sun from mid morning to early afternoon (I have not exactly established how many hours--more hours right now because no leaves on the trees) 2) raised beds that get a good bit of sun though not a full day 3) pots in an area along the side of the house that get lots of sun most of the day 4) various areas in the front yard where I can make a vegtable look like an ornamental (e.g. carrots along the sidwalk leading up to the house; I have big beds right in front of my house where I may grow cabbage though it gets no sun till noon and then intense sun till sunset). 5) I could put a few things inside the picket fense if I can find something that will find that amount of light agreeable

May plant a couple blueberry bushes in the front yard along the property live between me and my neighbor. I understand thay have nice white blooms (but I have to crack the code on cross-polinating).

Trying to master a good mix for potting. LSU reccomends a 1-1-1 mix of sand, compost and dirt.

Right now I have the following planted:
a) Fig trees
b) Strawberries (six one-gallon pots surrounded with other pots filled with dirt to catch runners (I hope the plants stay alive and I can multipy the number of plants over several seasons).
c) potatoes
d) Lettuce
e) onions
f) mustard greens [I and trying a little each of c-f in pots, the ground and raised beds]
g) Pole beans
h) Ginger (not sure if it is edible, but want to find out)

And that's no "bull


BJ said...

You can find out a ton of information on these two sites.
both will tell you nearly everything about gardening and raising poultry and livestock of all sorts.
Remember when you think your going to use fresh fertilizer, you will usually burn your plants and gain a ton of weeds if you use fairly fresh fertilizer. When we use fertilizer around here, we go into the barn and with a scoop on the tractor dig deep, it's very old and does good. You don't want to start a bunch of weeds in a raised garden.

On your picket fence, it would be great to grow cucumbers or pole beans.

Some good seed catalogs: www.eburgess.com/ www.henryfields.com www.tomatogrowers.com

One thing that I need to do that you may be interested in is put one of those bug zappers out in my chicken house. Probably a good light would bring a lot of flying bugs and insects in that will feed your chickens quite nicely! I know it brings them in on my front porch! Just an idea.

DK said...

I do have a lot of gardening information--some practical, some not (by
that, I mean from books vs experience. I have actually read--cover to
cover--a lot of gardening books).

When you get information on how much sunshine a plant requires, bear
in mind the source. Most advice is based on Ohio sun (or even less
applicably, British sun), which means in Louisiana you can (or maybe
even have to) subtract a few hours of sun, ie full sun translates to
some shade, etc. Very little will thrive in deep shade even in the
south, but beyond that you will want some shade for most plants
(exception being full sun southern natives). Fruiting plants do need
sunshine to produce fruit, though, but not necessarily full sun (most
garden books will list them as requiring full sun). Morning
sun/afternoon shade is ideal for a majority of plants in the deep
south (saves on watering). Tomatoes need more sun than that to fruit

Here are some books that I've used that are excellent references for
your purpose:
1) Five Acres and Independence by Maurice Kains
2) The _________ Expert by D.G. Hessayon (a series of gardening books
on your favorite topic--these books are invaluable for identifying
pests and plant diseases with full color pictures, etc. They are of
the thick magazine size like "Sunset" books. You can find them used
on Amazon quite cheap.)
3) Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (excellent source for info
on growing vegetables in a small space and a natural way of companion
4/5) Roses Love Garlic and Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte
(companion plants).

Backyard chickens are a great idea. We had some when I was a kid, so
I know it is quite doable in a suburban backyard. They have plans
(which I am sure you have seen) for the mobile compact coops that you
move around the yard. I have also heard it recommended that keeping
chickens roosting on/near fruit trees as a way to grow fruit without
having to spray (a very difficult thing to do--fruit trees have many
natural pests). Chickens apparently love the bugs and worms that
fruit trees attract. For this you would have to have the chickens
able to roam under/on the fruit trees nearly 100% of the time, so not
the same as the mobile coop. (Never tried this myself, BTW).

I happen to know from experience that composted chicken manure is
excellent fertilizer--doesn't have to be fully composted (but of
course smells if not). Cow/horse next in line. (BTW, fresh strawy
horse manure is the medium of choice for growing mushrooms.)

As far as trying to be organic: try harder for organic pest control to
lessen harmful exposure of nasty chemicals to small children and
animals (and they are nasty). Also making any exception in organic
pest/disease control tends to negate any other organic pest control
you may be using. Fertilizer not so important as an exception does
not negate the organic fertilizer you use, but if you rely entirely on
chemical fertilizer, the food you grow will be significantly lacking
in minerals and your soil will degrade over time. With a lot of
composting, you should not have this problem, though. A very helpful
(but not 100% effective) way of organic pest control is companion
planting. If you are growing food, you will probably need to use
nearly all methods of organic pest control to have success--just one
method is likely to be frustratingly ineffective. Don't forget the
"go out into the garden daily and pick/crush the bugs by hand" method.

Blueberries are excellent plants--it'll be easier on you if you make
sure you grow the southern varieties. I think growing more than one
variety of the same type will take care of cross pollination. I think
southern and northern varieties won't cross pollinate each
other--stick to one type.

You need a minimum of at least 25 strawberry
plants to get enough berries to do anything with. I grew 16 plants
last year and never got more than 4-5 berries (usually less) in a
single day.

Lettuce is hard to grow in the south in the summer. Spring/fall okay.
Heat makes it bolt very quickly, and lettuce gets bitter when it
bolts. Loose leaf lettuce is a great cold frame plant.

If the ginger is the wild variety that is native in the U.S. it is not edible.

Some varieties of pole beans are quite ornamental and can be grown on
a trellis near the porch, etc. (Scarlet runner beans, for example,
have beautiful flowers).

When deciding what variety of different vegetables to choose, try to
get varieties that don't ripen all at once. Most varieties developed
for commercial use do because it is easier to harvest that way.
However, the vegetables not ripening all at once is usually much more
convenient for a home garden.

Plant stiff neck garlic. Great companion plant and interesting plant
to grow. You can plant the stuff you buy in the grocery store.
Onions and especially garlic take a long time to mature.

Plant a couple of fennel plants for the kids (may want to wait until
they are older). This is a butterfly plant par excellence. They can
watch a tiny caterpillar turn into a fat caterpillar, then
caterpillars crawl off and form cocoons and then turn into

Nasturtiums and French marigolds make good companion plants and help
ornamental-ize a garden. Peppers, sweet or hot, are quite ornamental
and easy to grow. Last year I grew an orange and a purple sweet
pepper and one jalapeno plant that was not only beautiful, but must
have produced over 200 jalapenos. Eggplant (if you like it) is also
ornamental and easy to grow. They would probably do very well in the
front of the house as they are heat tolerant. I'd make sure I grew
only heat tolerant plants in the front (with afternoon sun) in the
summer. I don't think that is true of cabbage (I haven't grown much
cabbage, but I know it is not a high heat tolerant plant). You may be
able to grow kale and winter varieties of cabbage in the front during
winter--just make sure the plants are well established before cold
weather sets in. You have to be careful, because even if your cabbage
survives the heat, it tends to become bitter when grown in it. This
is true of lettuce and endive also.

Peppers and eggplant are also easy to grow in containers, but do
yourself a favor and make it at least 16" or you will be watering all
the time when it gets hot. That is true for all the plants you try to
grow in containers--if the container is too small, you may have to
water twice a day to just keep the plant alive during the hottest part
of summer. However, as long as the container is large enough, most
plants tend to do better in containers than they do in the ground (as
long as the container is outdoors and not in the house). It is very
EASY to underestimate how large a container you need.

Two major rules for saving seeds for further planting:
1) Do not harvest the fruit (or whatever) until it is nearly ready to
fall off the plant (ie, way past prime eating stage). Even a day too
early can reduce the germination rate of the seeds significantly
(depending on the plant, of course). If you want to save seeds, pick
out in advance the very *best* fruit, tie a ribbon around it so you
don't pick it too early, and let it nearly rot on the plant. Then
separate the seeds, let dry, and
2) Store in a place that has as consistent a humidity level as
possible. In most homes, this is the refrigerator. Also, some seeds
need a cool period before they will germinate, so using the
refrigerator (not freezer) will help them also.
There are other tips for saving seeds, but they are all minor compared
to the two given above. The easiest seeds to have success with
(although probably the hardest to deal with) are tomato seeds. They
have a high germination rate even under "abusive" conditions.

That's all I can think of.

SM said...

Way to go, farmer Brown!! Chicken droppings are excellent, as well as cow manure, but you're supposed to let the cow manure age quite a bit so it won't burn the veggies/fruit.

I also, haven't had time to research much on harvesting seeds; I'm concentrating on first things first; lemme get it growing, first! On compost, just make sure you don't put cooked food (table scraps); anything cooked in oil, butter, etc. will make the compost smell rancid & attract vermin. Raw waste only. Also, no dairy products or meat. I forgot about grass clippings; we haven't really started to mow much yet this spring, but there's always a bag on a curb somewhere.
I've been studying the Farmer's Almanac online to time my planting by moon cycles; see this excerpt from their website:

"The best time to plant flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground is during the light of the Moon; that is, from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full. Flowering bulbs and vegetables that bear crops below ground should be planted during the dark of the Moon; that is, from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again."
Here's the website - you just put in your zip code & it tailors the results to our area: http://www.almanac.com/garden/plantingtable/index.php.

I'll be growing corn, green beans, carrots, lettuce, tomato, onion, potato, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, yellow onion, green onion, spinach & broccoli. Also a plethora of herbs. I've started my herbs, tomatoes & bell peppers inside, & will transplant them outdoors when warm enough. I'm also very excited about this undertaking; should've started it long ago. Since I won't be growing any fruits right away, we may be able to barter some of our stuff. I love strawberries, blueberries, etc.

Happy gardening, everybody !!!

Civis said...

Okay, I am dead serious here: I make compost with all kinds of meat, egg shells, table scraps, leftovers that went bad etc. and I never have an odor. You have to know what you are doing and keep the chemical process going, but as long as you keep the stuff in the hot part it doesn't smell. Grass clippings are awesome because the chemical process starts within minutes. Maybe that's why I have had good luck: because I always have lots of grass and keep it real hot.

LeatherneckJoe said...

Organic gardening is not all that difficult to get started. First you need organic seed or good starter plants. Then you need a good fertilizer, like Neptune's Harvest. For pest control we like to use food grade diatomaceous earth. http://www.gardenharvestsupply.com/home/

Civis said...


Thanks for the comment. I looked quickly at that link. I'll show my ignorance here: I had no freakin' idea you could order heirloom seeds on the net. BADASSS! I'm going to have to order. Do you have a blog? Is this your company?