New use for old fencing (or new if you don’t have old)

Some years back, I bought a bunch of fencing wire to keep Fencingone of our dogs that was chasing our neighbor’s cows close to home.  He ran away before that was finished so the wire became useless to me since we did not have livestock.

Lately I’ve used a piece or two as trellis for peas, beans and squash.  Then earlier this year

wire as trellis

I used some, along with chicken wire to stop our dogs and cats from digging newly tilled/seeded soil.

I pulled a section down to move to another part of the garden (rotation) and had it laying in the grass about the time I transplanted some greenhouse raised eggplant.  The plants need to acclimate to the heat and bright sun so I had to cover it somehow and the wire jumped out and caught my foot.

This wire was constructed by a method called hinged-jointIMG_4506 (Custom)which made it marginal for tomato cages because it was a little too flexible but I realized it would make a IMG_1659 (Custom)tunnel over the plants very easily.  Not only easy, but customizable to the plant’s height.

Now I realize I could use it for seed starting, then raised to protect the young plants, then raised some more to protect full grown plants later in the year from cold snaps.  If the plants are more than a few feet, I can piece two sections together to make an even higher or wider tunnel.

I folded the wire lengthwise in halfIMG_4511 (Custom) then pull it alongside the row I want to protect and unfold it in an inverted “V”.  If I wanted a more rounded top, I just push down on it and the joints adjust to the shape I am seeking.

In my particular case yesterday, a rounded top did nicely.  I was going to use opaque plastic but it would have made it too hot under there, so I used dead weeds on top to shade the plants.  This allowed hot air to lift up through the weeds, allowed rain to enter (if it ever does), allowed me to useIMG_4512 (Custom) three staked to anchor it from our dogs pulling on it,  and the weeds will eventually dry up enough that I will use them for mulch underneath.

One last benefit to this wire.  When I am done using it for that purpose, I can flatten it out and use it for trellis again if I so desire.

The start of new raised beds using logs, hay and soil. Some say lasagna some hugelkultur

Others might say layered, but basically I tilled some new soil

IMG_2086pushed it to the side







Gathered  old and rotting logs IMG_2084







Laid them along the lengthIMG_2087







layered some straw/hayIMG_2088







IMG_2093pushed the soil back on top

and now am waiting for the rain tonight to wash the soil down between the hay and wood.




Later, I will cover the soil with some more hay to hold the moisture in and let it “cook”.  I don’t expect it to get “hot like it would if I had a bunch of green mixed in so in a few weeks I am going to plant in the top soil and let some things grow while the mix rots down some more.

There is a German term for this method hugekultur which actually goes to more extensive lengths to build a longer lasting bed.  I am actually going to do this with the next bed for two reasons.  One I like to experiment and two, I broke a lever on my tractor while tilling and it will need to get repaired before I continue.

After that I will go back to the tilling because I need the soil loose, even as I build these larger beds.  AND because I intend to mix another new bed with rotted wood chips, giving me usable beds a little faster that the hugelkultur  method.  I need about 1200 squ ft of usable beds by later Spring because I came into a windfall of seeds.

Even though I used the tiller and tractor scraping blade for most of the work, it was obviously very tiring for one of my crew. PITA was exhausted.  Probably had nothing to do with playing in the dirt with Spottie.

Whew!  It was tough making this garden .

So much for cutting back this year.

Last Fall, maybe early September, I told my wife I was finished with gardening for everyone else and that I was “cutting back” on the garden.   She quietly listened (or maybe she wasn’t listening at all) and then saw me go out and plant my Fall garden of lettuce, cabbage, beets, radish, spinach, kale and carrots.  Yup, I was cutting back.

This Spring I was only going to plant for us and even then, it was not going to be large because she prefers to get her veggies out of the freezer, with fancy packaging and brand names on the outside.  Yup, cutting back.Veggie-banner2

I proudly pointed to my “reduced” seed order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. Only 13 selections:

  • Chinese Red Noodle Bean (Long oriental)
  • Envy Soya Bean
  • Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli
  • Pusa Asita Black Carrot Carrot-Pusa-Asita
  • Florida Market Eggplant
  • Extra Dwarf Pak Choy
  • Ching Chang Bok Choy
  • Ashwaghanda Garden Berry
  • Lion’s Tail or Wild Dagga
  • Valerian
  • Stinging Nettle (even though we have it growing wild)
  • Golden Sweet Snow Pea
  • Old Time Tennessee Melon

This was to accompany 29 other selections, even though I thought I gave all my seeds away at our last garden club meeting (Weed’em & Reap)  Well….. I made a mistake and went to a seed swap this weekend.

I had about 8-10 new seeds and was nonchalantly chatting with some folks when I noticed a new arrival start putting her seeds out on a table.  The familiar look of Baker Creek Seed packets caught my eye and then I noticed HUNDREDS of packets coming out.  HUNDREDS!!!!chinese-red-noodle

Intervention was needed, but no one came to my rescue.  Actually, I was good. I ONLY came away with 60 new varieties!  Now I have a new problem.  Creating new gardens to grow all these lovely, lovely plants!

Cool weather garden has not been challenged much with this mild fall

Since I planted on September 5 the weather has been almost perfect for a Fall garden so the toughest challenge has been keeping our newest dog out of the garden and stopping her from tearing up the spun bound fabric O used two nights for cold weather.

Winter greensI lost some of the fabric, but the plants have done superbly. This is actually a few weeks ago and the plants have filled in even more.

The radishes have gone wild and are becoming huge yet still tender, and sweet (for a radish).

The lettuce has been providing many a sandwich and in combination with the radishes have made some delightful lunches.

radishes (Custom)They have also supplied many of our friends.

The kale, bok choy, collards,etc. have done their share but I actually need to use them more.

While the mizuna has grown exceptionally well, I have not developed a “taste” for is so I guess it will not be invited back.

I planted a new batch of seeds a few days ago, 12-13-15 in bathtubs for nurturing through the cold months.  They should germinate fine but doubt they will grow much until early Spring.

The tubs look like crap since I have to put wire over them, then stand tomato cages to anchor the wire, ALL to discourage our new pound puppy from tearing them up, but luckily, we do not have neighbors to worry about looks and my wife is OK with it.

Add a little mulch, a few days and things are starting to pop!

After the first rain I sprinkled a little rotten (that sounds bad, how about “aged) straw on top of the seeds to hold moisture in case the sun came out.  But no worries, it has been 90%+ overcast for the last few days.

Lightly mulched seedbeds to keep the sun from drying the seeds out.
Lightly mulched seedbeds to keep the sun from drying the seeds out.

I tried not to put it too heavy so it would not “hold down” any little babies and it seems to be doing exactly what I wanted.

Little green sprouts are popping up and with at least two weeks to go before our first average frost, they should be producing by the end of October.  I’ll put a light non-woven fiber on top in a few weeks but will  put a wire hoop up first or all our pets will walk all over it.  They’ve already put their footprints and our 100 pounds dog firmed the soil around many of the seeds, but since it was before they sprouted, they should do fine.

I am contemplating a sowing of sugar snap peas and letting them run on the ground.  That will make them easier to protect and 60 days should produce a nice crop, sweetened by the cool weather.  Planting them in the spring usually causes heat issues, so this should be just right.

Official start of the cool weather experiment.

Even here I hate to admit that winter is coming.  I guess I need to hang around the Australian and South American sites for a few months.  They’re talking Spring and Summer!

BUT, the cold weather is coming and I am about a month behind schedule for planting a Fall/W garden.  ( Another) BUT, I have just done it.

I kept waiting for a string of wet days and MAYBE we have them.  Got a little just this morning and before it came I got out with the hand-tiller and mixed the topsoil a little so I could plant my seeds.

IMG_2934This is approximately 25′ by 4′  and had been tilled previously to a depth of about 20″.  Although I have been adding wood chips to this bed for over 5 years, most has been “eaten up” by the heat and soil microbes so the surface had become semi-hard again from the clay.

My old body is slowing down so this time I added a granular material (small chips of plastic) on top that will “open” the soil.  I tilled it in to the top four inches .

Considering the frequent use of plastic mulches, even in “organic” gardens, I decided to try this method of opening the soil.  From numerous studies, I found no leaching to be taking place and therefore see it as being no different that the plastic mulch.

In the far back is a bed that was made opposite to this direction and given a similar treatment.  I planted several types of squash, corn, beans, tomatoes and okra.  All grew well and the little moisture that was added sank quickly into the soil, to the roots.

Another nice aspect is that the weeds that grew were easily pulled up by the roots, where other areas of the garden would not “release” the weeds and roots without digging.

I ran the tiller back and forth across the 4 foot width.  It created little furrows for planting as can be seen by the picture. All totaled, I planted 21 different varieties of cool weather veggies in 25 short rows.

IMG_2936I scattered the seeds on top of the furrows as the rain started and did not try to cover them up.  Nature does it this way so…..

Of course, I removed the packets but logged them all down in order, so I know what is or is not coming up.  One other thing, I took a pack of radishes and scattered them along the whole length of the bed.

Why scattered?

  • Because I had an extra pack 🙂
  • because they should sprout first and attract some of the nasties that will want to eat my other plants
  • they have synergistic value with those same plants

When I am sure the rain has soaked the seeds, I will lightly scatter the remnants of these bales. They did their first

IMG_1772re-purposing by growing summer plants but are now well decomposed and ready for their next use.  Their first purpose?  They grew grain.

After being used as mulch for the seeds they will finish up by adding organic material and nutrients to the garden.


Lost in the weeds! Help!

I got safely out but in the process found some winter melon and fuzzy melon that I gad almost forgotten about.  Actually, I planted them and left them alone, so that is about as good as forgetting them.

Yesterday I found two fuzzy melons (oriental mao qwa) in an experimental patch I started about 6 weeks ago.     They’re just right for stir fry or soups.

Experimental because I mixed a recycled product into the soil to break up the clay, making it easier for the plant to put roots down further into the soil and therefore get moisture and nutrients that have “burned out” of out hot Southern topsoil.

Even though I add plenty of organic matter and mulch with wood chips, the organic matter is almost all gone in one season.  I am getting a bit older and this exercise is getting old too so, a way to aerate/loosen the soil on a more permanent basis appealed to me.

I will still add my organic matter, but I won’t be adding for soil structure as much as just feeding the plants.  Aahh, my muscles are feeling better already.

Winter and fuzzyI also experimented with seeding buckwheat at the same time as setting my melon plants.  The buckwheat grew fast and the melon leaves were almost lost under the canopy.

Good, the squash bugs were passing them by and the sun was not burning the moisture away.

Above are the fuzzy and winter melons harvested yesterday and today.  The winter melon was not an experiment but a surprise none-the-less.

I planted it months ago in an area of garden I was letting go fallow. (a fancy way of saying it went to weeds)  I knew it was there from the yellow flowers I kept seeing mixed in with the beautiful, but unwanted, morning glories.  Boy are they pretty!

This morning I decided to see if anything had formed.  To do that, I had to follow the vines and pull weeds so I could track the vines down without pulling up the plant.

While doing that I saw a white “something” in amongst the weeds. Not sure what it was, I tapped it and to my surprise found the mature winter melon pictured here. Winter melon

This is actually the same one in the picture above with the fuzzy melon, but in handling it a lot of the white chalky surface came off.

The winter melon is a close cousin to the fuzzy, but I am sure it has some important differences to the connoisseur.  For one, I have seen it used as a sort of bowl for soup and other delicacies.  The fuzzy melon could not pull that off very well. Here is place to find the seeds, although there are many alternatives.







Spring gardening 20 days before Spring? I could not help myself.

March 1st is MY declared start of Spring.  Don’t get confused, it is not official, but I decided that I am through with this Winter and everything I think about, write about and talk about will be Spring.

Maybe that will not be enough to do it, but my mind cannot take anymore of this so……. today i started my Spring garden planting, using (w**nter) sowing methods iN plastic jugs.   It totaled up to 18 varieties of  mostly cool weather plants like lettuces, cabbages, broccolis, kales, collards, and spinach, but also some lemon grass and of course, catnip for our 30+family of cats.

Yes, I typed 30+.  Hungry Bunch of cats copy-TGWe seem to be a magnet for drop-offs, orphans, etc., so our family seems to keep growing.  But that is not my topic so more on them in a different post. Here some outside ones are waiting for their evening meal.

I tried not to sow more than 20 of each lettuce, since I want to stagger these over the next few months, but I did load up on cole crops since I can freeze extra if necessary.  They could be starting to sprout about the time of a projected hard freeze so I am cheating a little by keeping them in the greenhouse until after the freeze.

Some of these may find their way into my new aquaponics project.  If you stumble upon this blog in the next few months and are interested, I will tell the good with the bad.  I am trying to utilize a small goldfish pond to get more than just goldfish.

Goldfish Pond aquacutlure experiment T-GWe usually maintain about 30 in here, even though we keep giving them away and since we spend money feeding them, why not get something back?

I’ve always been interested in the concept since way back in the 70’s.  Mother Earth News and Organic Gardens and Farming were mini bibles and still are in many instances.  I could never bring myself to get rid of them and much of the information is good today.

I met a fellow at a market garden group who rolled his eyes when i told him what I was thinking.  He does hydroponic but felt aquaponics was way too expensive.  The way I figure it, I am already half way there so….. why not try.  Likewise, he is half way as well with his hydroponics.

I have not been a big lettuce grower.  For some reason I never had much success but with my 6th heart attack behind me, an emphasis on vegetarian seems to be in my future so I have gone from 0 to 5 different types of lettuce planted just today.  Heat and sufficient watering seems to have been my biggest weakness, so the aquaponics might help, along with some of the water growing media will be in the shade during the summer.

Aah the eternal optimism of gardening. 🙂

Organic farming & Gardening, Organic Gardening and now….Organic Life

Rodale Press quietly announced that at the beginning of 2015, after 72 years, Organic Gardening magazine will cease publication, or at least as we have come to know and love it.OGDecJan00Cover-300

I have many of the original Organic  Gardening and Farming from the 40’s and complete years  from the 50’s and 60’s but after it changed to the larger format I started backing off because they started getting too far from gardening,  They moved back but it appears they are going to be doing it again.

Not that this is a bad decision for Rodale but it dilutes the information I want the most so….. I will turn to other publications.  Besides, it is amazing how much of the information from the original publications apply to gardening today.  Newer versions were re-hashing much of what came before.

I would still subscribe and support them if they had stayed true to their roots since there were always new ways of looking at the old.  Always great photos and personalized stories, new developments and updates on laws surrounding organic growing.

I visited their office in Emaus, PA back when Mike McGrath was editor and met a few others that gave me a warm feeling about the ‘family’.  Toured their demonstration farm and and made a lifelong connection with a Chinese agriculture emissary who was interested in learning more about the organic movement.

While in Beijing last year I watched a program about their growing organic movement and saw my friend being interviewed.  What a small world.  Regrettably, we were not able to get our schedule to intersect.  He was in Southern China (Guangdong Province) and I was stuck in the Northeast.

All of this and my interest and knowledge of organic growing were sparked by the Rodale family and their  qaality vision of an organic world.

What happens when you tinker with ‘Mother’?

Soybeans, a base for so much of our food
Soybeans, a base for so much of our food

A reader who now lives in Georgia was nice enough to bring this to my attention. He knows I am a supporter of healthy food and thought I might find this interesting.  

It is about what happens to a basic staple of our food system when we do genetic engineering for yield not quality of food. One doctor apparently feels wheat has become a “chronic poison”.

Similar nightmares are occurring with genetic engineering to stand up to Roundup. Here is a statement from Wikipedia. You may know that just because Wikipedia states it does not mean it is so, but do a little research of your own and you will find more supporting documentation.

“Some crops have been genetically engineered to be resistant to it (i.e. Roundup Ready, also created by Monsanto Company). Such crops allow farmers to use glyphosate as a post-emergence herbicide against both broad-leaf and cereal weeds, but the development of similar resistance in some weed species is emerging as a costly problem. Soy was the first Roundup Ready crop.”

Who knows what the genetic engineering of soy has done to the actual food stream. Do you realize how much soy is in our diets?

Post from Beth:   Soy is in almost everything that we eat now. The government has allowed scientist to create “Frankenstein” type vegetables and fruits without any concern on what it may or may not do to us.

For anyone who is interested in see some of the foods that are genetically modified, you can check out :

Nice link Beth, thanks! Papayas? I wonder what strange thing they have done to those and why?

Why would papayas be modified?
Why would papayas be modified?

There are numerous links in this article to help you do more research on genetically modified organism (GMO) and the fact that the genes can cross pollinate with standard crops is scary.

Some seed manufacturers have developed seeds that produce sterile plants. These are plants that cannot make a viable seed for the next generation. When that crosses with other plants it seems to sterilize those plants as well, which could lead to a catastrophic event and quite lucrative to the seed companies.

The organic movement has been discussing this for many years, at least 18 that I know of but it is STILL on the fringe of news. They also talked about the dangers of combining different chemicals when eaten.

Mmmm, looks great, just don't touch or eat it!
Mmmm, looks great, just don’t touch or eat it!

Then as if by an amazing discovery, scientists deduced that when certain chemicals (deemed to be safe when evaluated alone) were combined while eating, they made a more dangerous substance. We were not scientists, just used common sense to say it should have been evaluated.  Learn a little more:

To qualify those statements I should disclose that I held a position as certification chairman and inspector for an organization in the State to certify organic farms, the TLSA. I used to be very involved in the discussion.

The shame is that we still have not been able to make a big difference. I cringe at what it will take to finally get the general public’s attention and create a demand for more responsible food production.

Don’t blame the farmers. They are trying to survive themselves and look for anything that appears to be able to help. As with many investigations, follow the money and it is NOT in the average farmer’s pocket.

The meanderings of a twisted mind