Happy New Year!

Plans are underway here to get a jump on the 2016 growing season and really make this year a good one.

I just placed my seed order from Baker Creek heirloom seed Co.
Including varieties suggested to us by the permaculture students when they designed our mandala garden layout plan. As well as making some switches on a few varieties due to availability and preferences.
The following is on its way:

– Delicata Squash (One of my favorites!)
– Candy Roaster Squash (An Appalachian native. The seeds we tried from Don last year didn’t germinate, he said they may be too old. So we’ll start with this fresh pack and see what happens)
– Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin
– Gill’s Golden Pippin Squash, an Acorn variety
– Waltham Butternut Squash
(The Permie students planned in lots of winter squash into the garden diagram because I told them how it is my favorite vegetable category.)
– Golden Berries and Pink Bumble Bees Cherry Tomato varieties
– Amish Paste Tomato
– Homestead Tomato
– Blue Curled Scotch Kale
– Mignonette Bronze Lettuce
– Red Romaine Lettuce
– Flashy Lightening Lettuce
– Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach (a very heat tolerant variety)
– Formanova Beets
– King of the North Bell Peppers (can be eaten green or red)
– Corbaci Sweet Peppers
– Sweet Chocolate Pepper
– Tam Jalapeno Pepper (a jalapeno that’s a bit no the mild side)
– Pusa Rudhira Red Carrots
– Parisienne Carrots (these grow into small round balls instead of the normal long carrot we’re used to)
– Kuroda Long Carrots (good for juicing, or so it says)
– Ruby Wallace’s Old Time White Cucumber (an heirloom from right here in NC. Touted as one of the most distinct and wonderfully tasty cucumbers)
– Beit Alpha Cucumbers (variety developed on an Israeli Kibbutz. Now used as the standard type for Israeli pickles, which we all love! So hopefully this one turns out well and we will pickle and can our own.)
– Cocozella Di Napoli, a true Italian Zucchini variety
– Lemon Squash (going to try these interesting little things instead of traditional yellow straight or crookneck summer squash this year.)
– Ronde De Nice Squash,  a new summer squash to try
– Perfection Drumhead Savoy Cabbage (taking a gamble on starting cabbage from seed. Savoy is my favorite though. Fingers crossed!)
– Henderson’s Bush Lima Beans
– Streamline Runner Bean (Good for soups. Beautiful burgundy color)
– Landreth Stringless Bush Bean (Had to have some green bean variety on hand just in case the seeds I saved from the Sow True Seed variety of this past year don’t end up germinating.)
– Mayflower Bean (another heirloom preserved from right her in NC. Reportedly this variety has been passed down originating from being brought over to “the new world” by the pilgrims, hence the varietie’s name.)
– Papa De Rola Bean (Honestly, it sounded good, but I mainly picked it because it is pretty. lol)
– Tendercrisp Celery (Apparently celery is hard to grow? That’s what I keep reading anyway. But we shall see. I hope it works out, because I love celery. And the greener and fresher and crisper it is, the better!)
– Orange milkweed (flower to attract pollinators)
– Crackerjack Marigolds mix
– Lemon Balm and Hyssop (Herbs for companion planting, attract beneficial insects and helping repel some of the badies.)
– Olympia and Papermoon Scabiosa flowers (because they’re amazing and pretty and I want to keep scattering wild flower seed around the area we tried to establish as a flower bed last year.)

There are some things, like Broccoli, which really would do better as starter plants, not from seed. So I will have to get a few things at a later date from a local greenhouse. Cabbage and/or Kale too if they don’t want to come up from the seed.

We are not yet equipped to start our own seeds outside of just planting in the ground. We have no greenhouse, and since our actual house sits on a shaded north side slope, and does not have central heat, the house itself does not provide enough light and heat to germinate plants. I was looking at indoor stackable seed starter trays equipped with grow lights, they’re on sale right now from Gardener’s Supply Co. but even on sale its still a few hundred dollars to drop that we just cant prioritize right now.
So we’re going to plant seeds right into the ground as we did last year, and see what comes up.

Last year we saw what the land could do of its own accord, just the good ol HaC2-Hayesville Clay Loam soil type we have in the garden area. HaC2 is rated “Farmland of Statewide Importance”, so its decent soil to have, and Don had formerly planted some winter rye cover crop a couple times, but it was a few years ago. All in all, despite the pretty drought-filled summer we had, the fact there was no water immediate to the site of the garden, and we started virtually everything from seed by the end of May and beginning of June, it really did perform rather well all said and done. Not enough to go to market with by any means, and not maximizing use/productivity of the allotted space either. So hopefully this year it will do even better.

This year I’ll be trying sheet mulching as our garden soil amendment approach. Sheet mulching is a good way to build concentrated new and better (i.e. healthier) soil on top of existing soil and smother weeds out at the same time. I believe that doing this approach for just this one year will help us really get on top of things in the garden and save labor time where weeding is concerned, as well as maximize drought tolerance.
I broadcast a mix of winter rye and wheat a couple months back, and I’m happy to report the cover crop is popping up as little grass shoots fairly well all over the garden now, which means all of the scattered seed was not just immediately eaten by local wildlife before getting a chance to germinate.

Come February we’ll lay broken down cardboard boxes flat all over the garden, this is the first layer of sheet mulch that acts as the primary weed smothering mechanism. You can use newsprint too, but since I work at a grocery store, cardboard boxes abound as a free medium – plus they dont have so much chemical ink printed all over them, they’re thicker so they can hold more moisture, and apparently as they get soggy and break down earthworms love to eat it.

Technically the first layers of sheet mulching should be soil amendments as needed – such as lime, or gypsum. I don’t know that we’ll need much of anything, our soil samples that came back from the state labs had the garden area’s soil showing to be pretty neutral across the board. I’ll consult with out friendly regional Ag. Extension Agent, Craig, to get a second opinion though. Then, some nitrogenous material, which in this case will be all the shoots of weeds and cover crop already poking up and adding greenery, as it gets smothered out by the cardboard layer and decomposes it will help add nitrogen to the soil.

Next will be a layer of composted manure put down to be a couple inches thick on top of the cardboard. I was able to get the local contact of a horse farmer who has already composted horse manure in the area and delivers for very reasonable rates, he has supplied Ashevillage their compost this past year and that is how I found about him.

On top of the manure goes a thick layer of mulch, which can be straw, leaves, or bark mulch. I may do a mixture… we’ve got a lot of leaves on the property, straw is cheap, and Canton seems to have a perpetual local roadside wood chip/shavings dump along the side of the road here which anyone and everyone who runs wood through a chipper then goes and dumps there and anyone and everyone who wants it is willing to come and take some and haul it away for free.

Then some more manure, and some more mulch.

Then commence planting in the new and improved planting medium.

 

On another positive note, using gifted money from the holidays we just ordered ourselves a Black and Decker battery powered string trimmer. It was the highest rated one we could find. We’re wanting to try electric mainly because it should be lighter weight and less stinky to use…. if it cant hold up to the size of this place though, we may have to do gas in the future. For now, we’ll hold on to the hope that electric is the way of the future!

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