11 Apr 2018

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
How much do I need? These questions are answered by Mini Farming: a Guide to Self Sufficiency by Brett Markham. Starting with nutrition as outlined by the USDA, an average adult needs 456 lbs of vegetables and 365 pounds of fruit. 250 pounds of grains like wheat, corn, rice, and oats, and 159 pounds of meat. Not exactly sure where they are putting potatoes and other starches, but they do consider tomatoes a vegetable. Men do need more calories than women but we'll go with these numbers.

So our family of three adults needs 1368 pounds annually from vegetables and another 1095 from fruit. Assuming we buy our grain and meat from the co-op and farmer's market, that means we need to grow 2463 pounds of our own produce. That isn't too far from my original estimate, assuming we eat 5 pounds of food a day and we try to grow half, 5475/2 = 2737 pounds of food. Yes, it's a lot to grow. We are more likely to meet the fruit requirements with mature fruit trees. Even so, a lot of trees only produce every other year. Last year we grew a tenth of this number. How do we scale up?

First, growing space needs to be maximized. According to the book, I should be able to grow this amount of food in 1400 ft^2. On his quarter acre, the additional 2100 ft^2 are used to raise food to sell so he can buy the meat and grain or have money for other things. I might be able to squeeze 1400 ft^2 out of this yard. Another way to do it is succession planting. Succession planting means following one crop with another to get more crops per season. Crop rotation and planting cover crops are still respected. That gets to be tricky in dealing with shaded beds and microclimates within our tiny yard. Another method is season extension. By starting crops indoors or in a cold frame, the season can be extended from March 1st to November 1st. Another trick is to use some of the unusable space. The driveway or the porch can have container gardens, grow bags and even straw bale gardens. Growing vertically uses all three dimensions. So I am going to work on all of these.

Growing on concrete- The Front porch
I won a grow tower or perhaps I should say I won a deep discount. The grow tower holds vermiculture down the center which increases yield. Worm castings act like growth hormones. It has 6 levels holding nine plants each, so 54 plants. Because it is an enlarged strawberry pot, plants must be chosen carefully. I selected June bearing strawberries for the bottom two tiers, followed by a row each of lettuce, French Breakfast radishes, beets, and violas on top. It moves/rotates (manually) so all plants can get sun. It has a tray to collect excess water, containing compost tea for the other less fortunate porch planters. It also has another tray to collect worm castings for future use. The center tube holds kitchen scraps and worms. It's covered to prevent pests. It's drawbacks are it's weight. I cannot move it in when its gets cold. New models have casters but that wouldn't work here. Too many steps. It would be like owning a Dalek.
(Although I wouldn't mind this Dalek, https://mightymega.com/2016/02/01/dalek-wood-burning-stove/ )

I have two alpine strawberry plants in pots. I want to grow some for seed and start more plants. These are tiny super sweet strawberries that go in salads.

I also have five grow bags, four for blue potatoes and one for zucchini which did very poorly in our soil. Some kind of bug. I picked up more pots and hanging baskets on the curb at the end of last year's growing season. I need to wash these and bleach them. Bigger ones could be used for the trees we have stratifying in the fridge. I am debating on whether these will go along side the house or be on a porch. There is also a small sunny area in front of the garage.

A few years ago, a tree service ran over my pvc drainpipe from the house so I've had a 6" partially broken tube kicking around. I suppose at some point I should figure out where the water goes now, but I'm convinced the drain was blocked anyway. I really could use a rainbarrel there instead. I digress. Many people use the PVC pipes as planters. This video shows you how. https://youtu.be/lBz_Vrq6aTo
I'm thinking the everbearing strawberries should go in this. They spread so rapidly, I almost lost a blueberry bush last year from smothering. The new planter can hang from the porch railing, facing west. I do have some strawberries I need to move.

Early Spring Bookcase Garden

That's a start. Potatoes will go in the bookcase garden and a new bed will be added right next to the compost pile. I have locations picked out for three types of tomatoes. The three types of squash will go vertical in different areas of the garden. I need to buy components, conduit and hardware cloth. Cucumbers already have a trellis as do the scarlet runner beans. I need one more for melons, maybe along the back of the compost garden. I was thinking a tipee style for the yard long beans. Someone suggested I use a PVC frame over the blueberries and put tule fabric over them after they've bern polinated. That way no birds get caught. I think they will anyway. Going to try corn where the straw bales are now. Gotta create a deer barrier around it with trellises. Maybe try the three sisters again. I have a new threat to the garden. Three pugs up the hill. Their owner has no fence and lets them run amock, followed by teenagers trying to catch them. Trellises need to go up asap. Fencing requires a permit. Trellises don't. Some rebar, electric conduit and hardware cloth or chicken wire should do the trick. Trellis video https://youtu.be/9RPLtYpWkg8

The gooseberry bush and black currant from Indiana Berry Co. are doing well. One of my elderberries died. Five red currants took. Red currants are high in pectin which is needed to make jelly. Not sure about the Aronia and one of the Honeyberries. I need to trim mulberry branches to let more light into a lot of areas.

Rooting currant bushes

I need to rearrange hollyhocks along a trellis and pull crabgrass. The front garden can be optimized. Skirret needs a better location too. Rhubarb has already been moved and it's very happy. That will put plants in the correct order of height to avoid shading out. Free up some space too.

Radishes are coming up everywhere. The terrace in front of the mandela can also bee weeded. We don't need quite that much coltsfoot and lamb's ear. There are other ways to increase yield. Maybe I'll actually build a cold frame this year. More low tunnels would also be nice. I need more compost and more worm bins to scale up as well. Will it be enough? No. Not yet. But every bit counts. I expect to hit 500 pounds of food but more would be happily welcomed. Fingers crossed.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Eureka! I think I figured out why the electric bill was so high in March. March is the February bill. January was an estimated month. February was an actual meter reading. So January was estimated too low by the power company. The cold weather hit in earnest, affecting both months. The furnace ran continually over this time period. The furnace fan is electric. So naturally, the bill had 60 days of fan running a lot. Plus the electric heater that gets used to warm up the basement shower, but just on shower days. Plus the new cat was living in the front hallway until she got used to us and needed a heater. She had almost no body mass, 6.5 lbs. Then there is one we used to keep the water pipes from freezing. So yes, of course the bill was higher. Doh!

In other news, I stopped at Construction Junction for some concrete blocks to create another garden bed. They only had five in the same size. Those run 75¢ each. I need more but they can be acquired over time. There were some sweet teak outdoor tables/chairs and metal corrugated roofing. Would not fit in my vehicle or else it would have been mine. Also wire runs. Think of long metal wire trays to hold long cables. Also would not fit in my vehicle. Sigh.

They had recycled rubber tire mulch, organic potting soil, worm castings, and lots of plastic garden pots for 5¢. Need to remember that for next year. I did not expect that.


Recycled rubber mulch

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