Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Playing in the dirt

We’ve had some nice weather the last few days. The temperature has been very nice – in the 70s the last couple of days. There was a chance of rain at the end of last week, but thankfully we didn’t get any. I’m thankful because that allowed things to continue to dry out enough so that we could work on the gardens.

Three weeks ago I was able to disk the garden areas, including the new ground in the turkey pen I tilled last fall. This particular spot is within a fenced area where we’ve grazed goats on a rotational basis in the past. For the last year or so, the turkeys have enjoyed it as their main paddock. That’s why we call it the turkey pen garden areaturkey pen. It’s a nice, level piece of ground near the main garden area. It’s grown some nice clover during the last six years since we’ve lived here. I worked it up because of its apparent fertility and because it’s already fenced. We had problems with deer eating things in the garden last year, primarily sweet potatoes. Although deer can easily jump over the 4 foot fence around the perimeter of this area, the existing fence will make it easier to keep them out. Adding extensions above the field fence will not be too difficult.

Last week I hauled two truck loads of manure from the stock yard in town and dumped on the turkey pen garden. Each load was approximately 3500 pounds and consisted of a lot of saw dust. I spread it out with a shovel and rake as evenly over the ground as I could after dumping it – completing this task on Sunday of this week.

On Monday, I borrowed some equipment from a friend. He’s a very generous and kind person who we are truly blessed to know. I borrowed his  sub-soiler, tiller, broadcast spreader, and field cultivator. I had hoped to use the spreader to put lime on the garden areas. sub-soilerHowever, it didn’t work for spreading lime (it’s designed for broadcasting seeds). So, Dad and I threw lime out of the back of the truck onto the turkey pen ground. We dumped what was left over to be added to other garden areas as desired (we didn’t want to throw it by shovel over the other garden area which is much larger).

I used the sub-soiler on both garden areas and two other small fields. It helps to open the ground up fairly deep – about 18-24 inches with this single-shank sub-soiler. We actually spread the lime after doing the sub-soiling. After that, I tilled both areas, preparing the ground for planting.

main garden areaIt’s still early in the season, but weather like we’ve had starts the itch to play in the dirt. The things that can be planted at this time are the early-season, cold-hardy crops. While I continued working on the other fields that needed to be worked, Dad pl anted onions and potatoes yesterday and today. We usually don’t grow enough onions. So, we have purposely set out to change that this year. Dad bought 5 pounds of onion sets a week or so ago, and he set out several in his garden near his house. Dad planting onionsI bought 6 pounds of onion sets last week and another 10 pounds on Monday. Dad planted all that I bought and what he had left over – about 18 pounds of onion sets (about 1,000 feet in 20 rows). I hope they grow well so that we can have enough onions this year!

Dad finished planting the onion sets this morning. After lunch we sorted out some of the smaller potatoes we have left over from what we grew last year (we planted 100 pounds of Kennebec potatoes last year). Dad put these in the ground this afternoon. I don’t know how many pounds we had to plant, but he planted 13 rows (each row is 40-45 feet long – so about 500 feet of potatoes). We will plant more Kennebecs and some Yukon Gold (I bought 50 pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes on Monday).

 planting potatoes planted area

Our idea is the to try to grow plenty of the staples: onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. I made a hot bed for starting sweet potato slips. I dug a 2 feet by 3 feet hole 12 inches deep, added about 5 inches of fresh cow manure, and put 3 inches of sand on top of that. I’ll lay out sweet potatoes saved from what we grew last year and cover them with more sand. The manure will heat up, keeping the soil warm (sweet potatoes need warm soil to sprout). The sweet potatoes will send up multiple sprouts. When they’re big enough, these slips can be twisted off and planted in the garden (once it’s warm enough outside – they don’t like it cold). I hope to put out about Dad on tractor400 sweet potato slips with the primary variety being Georgia Jet (these did the best for us last year out the five varieties we grew).

I’ll be starting tomato seeds soon. We saved seeds last year. We grow open-pollinated and heirloom varieties so that we can save seeds. There will be a lot more things to get started and planted in the next 6 weeks or so, but it sure is nice to get started on the process. There’s just something about playing in the dirt.


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