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2020 Gardening

Discussion in 'The Off Topic Room' started by Mark Brock, Feb 25, 2020.

  1. Hi All. I thought I would post a few pics of my garden through this winter. Most folks, including myself until now, give up during the winter time. This year I pushed through and had some pretty surprising results.
    My wife and I are largely keto now, a little less large since I made the switch. So I try to make half my plate green these days. Organic veggies are pretty darned costly and I wanted to see how much I could grow myself. Besides, mine taste better, and I know what goes into them (no glyphosate). There are about zero pests in the winter months, so that is a huge plus.

    My list of stuff I am actually growing and harvesting now includes:
    Broccoli, kale, arugula, mustard greens, bunching onions, spinach, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and carrots.
    Of all these the carrots do the worst. They live through just fine, but they barely grow at all. So if you sow them a bit earlier than I did and they get to a good size before winter, it's a great way to store fresh garden carrots for when you need them through the cold months. :)

    So here are a few photos from 2019/2020 winter.

    This is my broccoli which went through several snows, one up to 5 inches. Also several nights in the low 20's.
    1. We started harvesting these in Jan and are still getting smaller secondary bunches. They grow quite a bit slower in the winter, but taste is wonderful and it's better than letting my beds sit empty. You don't have to water nearly as much in winter. Probably once a month if you get any rain at all.


    This is what they look like the morning of a hard freeze, but they pop right back after some warm sun.

  2. cheflarge

    cheflarge Founding Member

  3. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

  4. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  5. Hey, have any of you folks looked at the book "Teaming with Microbes" ?
    It is a no till ideology employing living soil to ensure high nutrient availability to your plants.
    I've been playing with it for about 2 years now and seems to be good.
    I'm also making my own vermi-compost from oak leaves using red composting worms.
    It is the next step beyond organic gardening.
  6. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  7. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

    Mark how is your composting different than traditional composting? I use everything plant based in a rotating drum composter and get excellent results. Just curious if we are landing at the same place... via different paths.
  8. Hey Jason, from what I understand, chicken poo is one of the highest nitrogen sources out there. I just bought 2 bags of composted chicken manure and am giving it a try in some of my beds. Especially my leafy green beds as it's supposed to do very well with leaves.
    I have been gardening my whole life, but I think I've just begun to understand gardening this year. From what I hear, if the manure isn't composted there may be a risk of introducing bad pathogens. The heat from composting kills all that. There are even guidelines for how hot it must get to be considered safe for gardening. Perhaps the overwintering is also killing it. I really don't know.

    Jim, I have a conventional composting pile this year too, for the first time ever. Honestly I've always just bought bags of various stuff and thrown it in my beds and hoped for good results. And I've done ok.
    The worm composting is different. It does not heat up like conventional compost. It is made of 99% oak leaves from my trees, and it is a fungal process that breaks it down.. I run it through my shredder, and comes out looking pretty beat up.
    Then I throw it either in a rotating drum, or just a huge planter bucket that is maybe 35 gallon size. I wet it with rain water pretty well. Rain water doesn't have the chemicals in it that kill the bacteria and fungus that helps break it down.
    After about 6 weeks or so I check it and the leaves are just covered in a white fungus and are starting to break down. That's when I put the worms in. I cover it loosely in the bucket with an old garden compost bag and make sure it gets rain water as needed to keep it moist and the fungus growing.
    The worms start a food cycle where they begin to eat the bacteria and fungus and everything just keeps breaking down from there. There are also tons of other critters in there at the microscopic level that all contribute to the breakdown process and help release the nutrients in an available form for the plants.
    After about 6 months all I have are about 35% leaf bits left over by weight, and 65% pure black worm castings. Worm castings are dark black 'dirt' but not really like composted soil. They are kind of a spongy dirt that are apparently packed with good live bacteria (think probiotic) and nutrients.
    This is the first year I will really be testing them out in my garden. My broccoli did pretty well over the winter with them and didn't show any signs of any deficiencies. Seems to be working out.
    Here are some photos of the process.
    It might sounds like a lot of work, but really, just the shredding to start with, then occasional watering, then sifting at the end.

    Raw leaves that I start with. These are Emory oak leaves.


    After going through the shredder.



    My rotating bin, which I never spin with this kind of composting. You don't want to break up the fungus in this case. Just let it sit. The worms move it all as they do their work.


    This is what it looks like after 6 months or so. It's pretty well broken down. Whatever isn't at this point just goes into the next batch for further processing.


    Finished worm castings sifted by 1/8th screen. They are little round balls of black 'soil'
    You can buy this stuff at many nurseries, but lots of folks use things like newspaper or cardboard to produce their castings. That just doesn't seem natural enough for me.
    I want to replicate nature as best I can to get the most nutrition out of the food I grow.
    Also lots of folks use food scraps to feed their worms. I don't see anything wrong with that, I just can't produce enough food waste to get this volume of castings for the garden beds, so I use leaves.
    I get about 3 5 gallon buckets of pure castings from a 35 gallon bin at the end.

  9. Leaf composting with worms:

    Teaming with microbes. Understanding the soil food web.

    The idea is putting nutrients and living organisms back into your soil to build it up naturally vs chemically.
    I personally think this is the thing that explains why our home grown food tastes so much better than industrial farmed food and also makes it more nutrient dense.
  10. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

    The first garden here we used epsom salt around the plants. And spread 13-13-13 which is nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. We also mixed in bags of manure, and horse manure from next door. We got great results, but we always get great results.

    Last year was the 2nd garden and throughout the previous winter I tossed all the chicken poo all around the gardens. I use Sweet PDZ on the poop boards in the coop so it got some of that too. Which I think adds more nitrogen. I also cleaned the coop out entirely, all the poop boards and all the pine shavings and spread that on the garden. But wait there’s more....I also spread 13-13-13 around. In the spring I tilled it all under. And as we planted we fed them with epsom salt. So no bags of manure or horse manure, just the chicken poo.

    Last year we got WAAAY bigger cucumbers, and overall much much bigger harvest with the plants we had. We were really surprised to see the difference in the plants appearance and yield from the previous year. But the darn cucumbers were the biggest surprise. They grew super fast and almost to large to use. Zucchini as well. I have no idea if it was from the chicken poo but that is the only change we made. So I’m doing the same this winter.

    This year when we plant we will rotate the plants to different gardens than last year.

    I’ve heard many things about using manure. The old man next door swears that chicken poo in the garden is worthless. I think he’s foolish. I’ve also heard that if you use cow manure you really should let it “mellow” for a year before using it. Or something like that. If you use it fresh it will burn the garden up.
  11. butch

    butch Founding Member

    watch th echicken poo less you love hot peppers and strong onions all the sulfur from the chickens is what does it
  12. That is a very good bit of info! Thanks Butch!
  13. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  14. butch

    butch Founding Member

    we have not even started thinking baout what all we ar putting into the garden this year theh kids taste hahs changed so we will likly mix it up a bit.
  15. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member


    Not sure what we can make out here but this was green grass and hardwood leaves last September.
    Things slow down over the winter.
  16. ackvil

    ackvil Founding Member

    Here is AZ we can garden in most of the year except for the hot months of July and August. Right now I have a small bed that is filled with arugula and peas. I have some hot peppers but they have frost damage. We had two nights when it dropped to 31 degrees and that is all it took.
  17. Houston, close to the lake there are not too many freezes in the winter, and I normally have a winter garden, but lazyness, and deer , until I go the fence in place kept me to a nice little crop of Maltese garlic.
    I think this is a heredity type of garlic .. A friend gave the starts. Hardly gets much bigger than first little finger joint , but is atomic in flavor... I try to grow a 4x4' patch each year.
    My garden is a raised bed, with an automatic watering device I built, as one starts to get older it is no fun to bend over to work . This is about crotch high... 24feet long, with three offshoots making the shape
    of an E.. Added together, about 40x4', and very productive. Compost top 5" layer, rose bed soil below..
    For some reason getting a server error for the pictures I had hoped to send....
  18. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  19. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  20. I wish my garden was in that much trouble. :)

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