The major 2015 projects were establishing a program of crop rotation and double digging the vegetable garden, establishing a berry garden, and adding to the fruit orchard and table grape vineyard.
With the help of a new tiller,
I was able to start the effort of double digging the vegetable garden and establishing the berry garden. I have decided to double dig the two tomato rows, the pepper row, and the two potato rows each year. With my rotation schedule, this effort will result in the total garden getting double dug every 3 to 4 years.
My process for the tomato and pepper rows is to use the tiller to break down the old row, then dig out the loosened soil and run the tiller through the trough and repeat, until I have removed the soil down at least 12 inches below grade. I then use the digging fork to break up the soil a few inches lower. I run the tiller through the trough again, lay down 6 inches of compost, and run the tiller again. Finally, I put 3 inches of compost on the soil that was dug out of the trough, run the tiller to mix the compost with the soil, and start filling in the trough to create the raised row. I continue this until I have a tall row and the walkway on either side is at least 6 inches below grade. This makes for a significantly high row of soil that over the winter settles a bit and regains some of its previous soil structure.
I plant a cover crop of cole plants and fava beans to help with the process and to provide a little bio-fumigation to kill off some pathogens. For the potato rows, I follow a similar process but do not fill in the trough until the potatoes start to grow. The good news is that this effort eliminates the need for a gym membership.
We established a berry garden this summer. This garden currently consist of a 40 foot long row each of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. The rows are on 14 foot centers. This leaves room to add a second row of each type if we decide we want more fruit. The strawberries are being grown in a 6-inch PVC pipe with 4-inch holes drilled at 6-inch spacing. The pipe is balanced on a t-post at a comfortable picking height. This keeps the fruit clean and easy to pick. I plan to enclose the entire 70’ x 45’ plot in bird netting once I come up with a good plan. I have a fence company quoting a galvanized pipe enclosure and am working on a t-pipe and rope idea as a backup.
We planted 10 new table grape vines and I am starting a few more. This year we were able to freeze a good bit of the fresh grapes and harvest 10 gallons of the juice. When these new vines come into production we will be awash in grapes.
We added two Asian plum, a peach, a filbert, and 3 cherry trees to the orchard. We currently have 7 apple trees, 5 of which produce all the apples for our apple cider pressing event. This year we collected about 35 bushels of apples which we pressed into 57 gallons of apple cider. I have grafted 12 new apple trees that I plan to plant this winter. When these get into production we should produce a good quantity of apples and cider.
The remaining infrastructure projects on the short list include completing the greenhouse, building a small cold frame, finishing painting the barn, and building a deck on the front and potentially back of the barn. In the orchard we are planning to add two more European prune, three more pear, one more peach, one more cherry and three to four pecan trees. With these projects completed, all of the major infrastructure projects and expansions will be complete. I fear these expansions will have created more work in maintenance, harvest, and preservation than I will want to do, but that should put a cap on my expansion efforts.
The vegetable garden was just okay this year. I had a few problems with getting the rows ready in time and with my starts not growing as well as I would like, so most things got planted later that I would have liked. The result of this was less fruit on the melons and winter squash, late ripening peppers, and the worst case of blossom end rot I have ever seen on my tomatoes. I initially blamed the blossom end rot on the double digging, thinking I had mixed up to much acidic subsoil and had not applied enough lime, but a soil test has disproved that theory. The soil test came back good on most counts with a bit too much phosphorus and too little magnesium. I do not think either of these can be the root cause of the blossom end rot, so I am back to the normal causes of water and heat. I will just have to be more attentive next year. In the end, we got enough tomatoes to meet our needs, but not the overabundance we are used to. Zucchinis, cucumbers, onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks all did great! This is my first year to grow sweet potatoes, cardoons, and artichokes. The artichokes should fruit next year, the cardoons are doing great, but we are not big fans of eating them. I have not harvested and cured the sweet potatoes yet but have dug around enough to know there are a good number of tubers.
cauliflower; cardoons; cucumbers
Gravenstein apples; garden mix; garlic
Paste tomatoes; dried beans; leeks
potato plants; fennel
Changes for next year:
- Get the garden and starts ready for early plantings and plant as early as the weather will allow.
- Dig a bit of fertilizer and dolomite lime in to each tomato and pepper hole
- Get the starts out of the germination box and into the small greenhouse as quickly as possible.
- Plant more large size paste tomato varieties. I am planning to run a bit of a “large paste tomato” trial.
- Plant more Virginia Sweet and True Black Brandywine tomatoes.
- Plant more Aleppo, Belecski, Corno di Toro, and Espelette peppers.
- Plant Costata Romanesco zucchini.