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My Gardens ~

So i’ve been growing in my topsy turvy’s for the first time this summer. I have zucchini, cucumber, green peppers and tomatoes in them. I’ve learned that you definately need lots of fertilizer to grow anything decent in the topsy turvy. I have been using guano (bat poop) Whenever I see my leaves start to turn a bit yellow…I add more . I’m not sure how much fertilizer is the right amount yet, but I figure by the end of the season I should have a good idea of what to do next summer. It’s all trial and error this year.

However, my garden boxes and garden patches are doing exceptionally well this year. We added horse manure and chicken manure in the garden and tilled it in late winter and early spring. We have potatoes, carrots, onions, strawberries, green beans, asparagus, rhubarb, shallots, broccoli, sunflowers and kale.There is a separate garden with just corn.IMG00263

The garden boxes have a salad mix, spinach and melons. There are 3 garden boxes. I am so pleased with the lettuce and spinach especially. It has been so easy to keep weeds out and so nice to just go cut what I need for a meal. Of corse i’ve had way too much for our family so I have given a lot away :) 

I have attached some new pictures taken today July 12th of my garden.

People often ask me how we can fit everything we have into only 1 acre. Well, I decided to take some pictures of my yard, animals and garden to show how it can be done. We have things very well organized, but it’s far from being complete. So please overlook any bad areas… : ) We are a hobby farm in progress.

My Garden~

 

I have started planting in my garden now. We are in zone 6 so I usually wait until May 1st to start planting outside. Here are some pictures of the different things I have going on in my garden. I will be updating pictures as things grow and mature in the gardens this year.

* We have 3 raised beds that we planted lettuce, spinach, and cantaloupe in this year.

* We have a 26′ x 26′ garden for corn that we plan to dry, crack and feed to our chickens as a supplement to their layer pellets. Currently we purchase cracked corn at the local feed store.

* We have an 20′ x 60′ garden space that we put strawberries, onions, potatoes, garlic,  broccoli, rhubarb, and asparagus so far. I’m not sure what else I will put in there, there is about 3 rows left to plant in.

* We have topsy turvy’s hanging on a wooden structure we built out of scrap material. Planted in the topsy turvy’s are cherry and roma tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini so far. I have room for 3 more topsy turvy’s on the wooden stand.

*We have a berry garden  that we started last year. We moved the blueberries that were already 15-20 years old to the old chicken yard. Then next to the garden we started raspberries, waldoberries (thornless blackberry), concord grapes, white seedless grapes and goji berries.

To build the Topsy Turvy stand we used the 20′ 2×4’s from the old shed we tore down, 2×2 stakes from the old chicken yard, and 4×4 post (still in good shape) from the old mostly rotten deck we took out. We built the garden boxes also from the old deck material and the old wood siding that had some rot, but we  cut off the rotten parts and built the garden boxes.We salvage as much material for our garden and animal structures as we can from our old house as we are restoring it.

We went to a local horse barn and picked up several truck loads of manure mixed with saw dust for free that we rototilled into the garden in late winter.We also scooped out the hen house and tilled the chicken yard and put it all into the garden. We then add more saw dust to the chicken yard and hen houses.

In the garden boxes I use rabbit droppings, some horse manure and housed the bantam chickens in a chicken tractor built to fit the garden boxes over the winter. We rotated the chickens around the boxes all winter and early spring until I was ready to plant.

This is how we keep our garden nice and fertile using only organic material.

When planning your garden, evaluate the space you have, and how much you are willing to devote to garden space. Decide what you want to put into your garden, and figure out if it will fit. Some good options for people with limited space are the garden boxes, 5 gallon bucket garden and the topsy turvy’s.

The topsy turvy’s do not take up much space at all, they can even be hung on eves of an apartment balcony making it possible for everyone to have fresh vegetables. The best part is…. there are no weeds to pull! The topsy turvy is not only for tomatoes, I have cucumber, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes in mine. The only downfall is that you have to water regularly with a water soluble fertilizer or your vegetables will not grow well. There are some good organic fertilizers you can purchase online.

The garden box is great for those who have yards, but do not have a large area for a garden. Also good for the elderly, people in a wheel chair, and children’s gardens. You can add compost the same as a large garden, making it so you have a good fertile bed to plant in. I planted watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumber in my 3 garden boxes last year and they all did very well. This year I have lettuce, spinach and cantaloupe in my garden boxes. These are also good for containing things like strawberry’s and herbs that like to spread and take over the garden/yard.

I chose to do all types of gardens in my yard. I enjoy the benefits of all types-the topsy turvy, garden boxes, and conventional gardens.

My 17 year daughter showed an interest in gardening for the 1st time this year, so we got her started with her own bucket garden. So far she had 3- 5 gallon buckets planted. She planted a cherry tomato, carrots and green onions. This is  a great way to get kids of all ages started in gardening without  all of the  hassle of tilling a garden, building a garden box and is much cheaper than the topsy turvy. Just make sure to drill holes in the bottom for drainage, and as with the topsy turvy, you will need to fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer often.

Have fun, be creative and enjoy fresh organic food for a fraction of the cost.

The orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria) is a gentle beneficial insect that is a pollinator of apples, cherries, and other tree fruits and garden plants. It is found throughout most of North America, particularly in wooded areas but often around homes even in the city.  

People are concerned when they see the bee entering cavities under shake siding or investigating nail holes or other cavities in wood during March through early June. These are not destructive insects, They do not create the hole. To prevent the bees from nesting in the house, holes may be filled with caulking.

In nature they nest within hollow stems, woodpecker drillings and insect holes found in trees or wood. Sometimes there may be dense collections of individual nest holes, but these bees do not connect to each other or share nests. They do not help protect each others’ young. Also, they are active for only a short period of the year. They are not aggressive so you can get close without fear of being stung, which makes them excellent for enhancing our yards and gardens. They add beauty, activity and pollination to our plants and fruit trees. However, they do not produce honey. We are looking at all of the beneficial garden bugs for our organic garden, and Mason bees are a great addition.

About The Mason Bee

The female  Mason Bee visits flowers to collect pollen for its young. She forms a small ball of pollen and nectar in the back of the nesting tube and lays an egg on the ball. She then collects mud to form a cell partition and repeats the pollen ball-egg laying process until she reaches the mouth of the tube where she caps the end with mud. Starting the life cycle in the spring, adult males emerge from tubes first, but must wait for the later appearance of the females in order to mate. This event often coincides with the redbud (Cercis) bloom. Females alone, begin founding new nests in holes to make a row of 5-10 cells in each nest. Females collect the pollen and nectar and lay eggs. Their short foraging range is about 100 yards from the nest. Activity continues 4-6 weeks and then adults die. During the summer, larvae develop inside the nests, make cocoons, and become new adults resting in the cells. With the onset of fall, the adults become dormant as they go into hibernation. These bees require some cold temperatures before spring in order to break their dormancy. The orchard mason bee is usually slightly smaller than a honey bee and a shiny dark blue in color. The actual size of the bee depends largely upon the size of the hole in which it grew. 

Nest Block Construction

The native eastern species of Orchard Mason Bee will nest in holes drilled in a wooden block. Untreated 4″ x 6″ lumber works great. Holes can be drilled in the wood on 3/4 inch centers. They should be 4-8″ deep (depending upon the size lumber used), smooth, and a 5/16″ diameter hole is important. A smaller hole encourages higher production of male bees which reduces the reproductive potential of the population. Blocks may be drilled from either face giving shallower or deeper holes. Shallower holes may produce more male bees. Do not drill completely through the lumber. Drill the hole to a depth about 1/2 inch from the back of the block. Attach a roof to provide protection from the midday sun and rain. Outside surfaces may be painted or stained, but do not use wood preservatives. One hole may be drilled in the back to provide a means of hanging the block. Face nesting blocks as close to the southeast direction as possible to catch morning sun and affix it firmly so that it does not sway in the wind. It should be located at least three feet above the ground.

These bees need mud to construct cell partitions, so adding a mud supply may be helpful if needed. This can be a trench or tub located nearby where muddy soil is maintained during the nesting period. The mud should not be highly organic or sandy. Clay soils work well.

Do not move the block once it is placed and bees find it. The Mason bee will return to the hole to build a nest for their offspring before dying.

You can be creative with your nesting blocks. Blocks can be made from any shape wood. They may be cut to a fancy shape, be a small piece of dead tree limb, fence post or scrap of firewood. You can vary the diameter of the drilled holes to attract different species of tube-nesting bees or nonsocial, beneficial wasps.

We placed our Mason bee home above the door of our barn. This way it is sheltered by the eve and will never have to be moved. We learned about Mason bees from a family member who has kept them for years. He made ours for us out of 4X6 untreated lumber.

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    My Greenhouse ~

    These are pictures of my little greenhouse, it isn’t complete, but it’s what I have for the time being. I would love to eventually build a larger temperature controlled greenhouse, but that all takes time and money! : )

     Right now I have seedlings from the following plants growing inside the greenhouse; Roma Tomato, Cherry Tomato, Yellow Pear Tomato, Broccoli, Corn, Spinach, Goji berry, Walla Walla onion, Green Onion, Carnations, Pansies, sweet pea. I also have Holly hocks (2nd year plants), Dahlias, Peonies (3 varieties), Daffodils, and a Passion Fruit vine.

    I will be planting more seeds later this week, probably some Lettuce, Cucumber, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and probably more Goji and corn seeds.

    The rest of our vegetable seeds will be planted directly into the garden in April, after the frost threat is over.

    We will be planting peas, bush beans, cabbage, red potatoes, yukon gold potatoes, and more…..

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