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Old 11-13-2018, 02:25 PM   #51
Ben E Lou
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Greensboro, NC
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Originally Posted by corbes View Post
Haven't seen mini-greenhouses before but am intrigued and will look into further...
There are tons of them on Amazon in a ton of sizes. I simply picked the largest size that will fit in the one specific spot on my deck that is acceptable to She Who Must Be Obeyed. I'm not looking to use it to extend my growing season on the back end--just to start seeds early without having them inside on freezing nights. In the end it *might* even save me a little money because I'll be starting everything from seeds instead of buying seedlings/small plants. (And of course, if it turns out that some of my seed-started plants don't do well in March, I can still just buy stuff in late April/early May to supplement whatever didn't make it.)

There are larger ones that can be put directly in the garden if you're looking to protect a particular section. These things scale upward in size/cost quite granularly from around 30 bucks, all the way to a few thousand if you want to have a bona fide big ol' greenhouse on your land. And there are so many options that--at least for the size I went with--you can just filter on 4-star reviews or better and still have multiple options. (I started with around seven 4-star-plus options in the size range I wanted and narrowed it down from there.)



My situation is that there's a power outlet on the deck right by the "acceptable" spot, and I've read that simply putting a small space heater on the bottom shelf at a low temperature is quite effective as a fail-safe on nights where there's a really hard freeze. We did have a few 20-degree nights and some snow in March last year, and I already own what seems to be the perfect space heater for those situations. (Automatic turn-off if it gets tipped over, ability to blow air that's as cool as 70 degrees, etc.) Point being, it makes more sense for me to just have it on the back deck than to get a larger one.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:08 PM   #52
tzach
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I'll admit I was drawn to this thread from the nice choice of words in the title.

this is absolutely a great read and i'll keep following, ben. I wish I had a big garden + available time to plant organic veggies instead of buying them.
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Old 11-20-2018, 03:48 PM   #53
Ben E Lou
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SQUASH AND ZUCCHINI--Seeds. These were doing great early on, then suffered the great groundhog attack. They came back strong and produced a solid crop until squash bugs and squash vine borers destroyed them completely. I'm considering going non-organic with these next year by just using good ol' Sevin dust.
So, methinks I'm going to stick with organic for at least one more season. Upon further reading and discussion, I think I'm going to try a bit more companion planting along with a combination of Neem Oil and insecticidal soap to combat those nasty buggers.


I turned piles #2 and #3 completely yesterday. And by "turned completely," I mean that I actually moved them over a few feet, essentially creating new piles where what was on the bottom is now on top. I'll do the same for #1 this evening. #2 definitely is moving seriously toward being usable compost. I'd imagine that #1, especially near the middle, is going to be heavily decomposed.
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Old 11-20-2018, 06:16 PM   #54
Ben E Lou
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Originally Posted by tzach View Post
I'll admit I was drawn to this thread from the nice choice of words in the title.
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Old 11-24-2018, 10:51 AM   #55
Ben E Lou
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I turned piles #2 and #3 completely yesterday {11/19}. And by "turned completely," I mean that I actually moved them over a few feet, essentially creating new piles where what was on the bottom is now on top. I'll do the same for #1 this evening. #2 definitely is moving seriously toward being usable compost. I'd imagine that #1, especially near the middle, is going to be heavily decomposed.


I assume that the cold weather is affecting the heat some. The temperature has been in the mid 30s or lower just about every night for the last week-ish. Pile #3 (the newer) is the hottest, coming in at 154 yesterday. Given how new it is and with a complete turn, I would have expected the low 160s. Not complaining, though. Pile #2 was at 147. Again, I would have guessed 5-8 degrees hotter than that for it. And as I'd guessed, pile #1 is fairly close to looking like just dirt, especially in the bottom/middle, and it has only managed to heat up to 128 since being turned on 11/20.


Because I moved those piles, I grabbed a few bags of leaves from around the 'hood and started a relatively small pile in the back corner where the original one began. That area is in shade from the storage shed and back fence, and can't be tilled because of cable/phone lines, so growing much of note there isn't really feasible. Instead, I expect it to be where I keep an ongoing pile throughout the growing season where I'll dig into the middle to use some if/when I need small amounts.


ACTUAL NEWS ABOUT PLANTING SOME STUFF!!!

I did some reading of the extension service's recommendations for planting in my area, and it turns out that I need to be planting my garlic....now. (Technically, I'm actually a week or two late.) Garlic is an excellent pest deterrent for the garden (both rodents and insects), and ideally I'd like to intersperse it near the plants that benefit from it. However, because I still need to till, my thinking is that I'll do two plantings:


1. FOR HARVEST--To harvest/use/eat actual cloves of garlic, it would appear that I need to get it in the ground ASAP, so I've ordered some California softneck garlic for planting, and it should be arriving today. I'm thinking I'll put it just outside the brick perimeter to help deter rodents from the entire area until time to harvest it in June/July.


2. FOR COMPANION PLANTING--Several organic gardening resources list garlic as THE #1 crop out there to help other crops. A significant portion of the stuff I intend to grow is listed here (and in other places) as benefiting from having garlic nearly, so once I cover with compost, till, and get stuff i the ground, I'll be interspersing a garlic clove or two near the appropriate plants. I don't expect to be able to harvest any of that garlic, but based on my reading, I liken this strategy to signing a 20/20 minsal mentor in FOF: you're not signing him for his production, but for how he helps the youngsters thrive.




I intend to get the first round of garlic planted today or tomorrow. The planting guide for my area suggests November 15th as the last date, but since I live on the far northwest of the area in question. I'm hoping I can get away with doing it 9-10 days too late.


EDIT: In case you're wondering why I waited late, it's simply because though the planting calendar had been on my radar for several weeks, only a few days ago when reading up on pest management for my squash plants did I fully realize how revered garlic is in that arena.
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Old 11-25-2018, 08:05 PM   #56
Ben E Lou
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Planted 24 garlic cloves today along the top side (closest to the camera,) just inside the mulched area near the bricks. I have four more bulbs left, and it looks like 12-15 cloves per bulb, so that should be enough to plant them all the way down the long side of the garden just inside the bricks over the next few days.
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Old 11-26-2018, 02:30 PM   #57
Ben E Lou
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Ok, so this is kinda fun. When I was taking my trash out this morning, I noticed that the neighbors across the street had two pumpkins sitting on top of their trash can to be thrown out. I couldn't resist grabbing them.


1. Opened up two pumpkin-sized spaces in the newest compost pile.
2. Lifted each pumpkin overhead and SMASHED it into the ground in the space.
3. Scooped out the seeds.
4. Covered the pumpkin pulp and shell with the material from the pile. Now I've got lots of pumpkin matter in my compost.
5. This evening, I'll get with the girls and follow these instructions for saving the seeds to plant next year.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:18 AM   #58
Ben E Lou
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I've been doing some reading on growing raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Nearly every source says that raspberries and blackberries should be grown at least a few hundred feet from one another due to some air-borne diseases that they can give one another.



My yard is big, but not that big, so I have to pick one. Based on what I read about ability to grow them in my area and given the locations I have to work with, the choice seemed fairly easy: blackberries win, and they'll be grown in a location away from the main garden:


https://www.dropbox.com/s/wm5j1y1uhkjrb9f/blackberry_location.png?dl=0


The pic above was taken from the back corner of my yard a few minutes ago. I'm going to put a simple twine lattice up on the back side of the deck that you can see. The deck (not including the stairs) is 16 feet across, and it's 6 feet from the ground to the bottom of the deck. I'll let the blackberries climb the lattice in that area.


Blueberries thrive in soil even more acidic than the 5.8 pH I have outside of the garden area. 5.0 to 5.5 is listed as the ideal range for them, so I'm going to create a bed a few feet up the yard from the existing main garden bed for them. I'm thinking one row of five bushes.


COMPOST
I'm continuing to move the piles farther up the beds as I turn them so it won't be as much work to spread it all when the time comes. Pile 3 is almost at the top of the bed now. I haven't turned the other two in a week, but expect to do so this afternoon. Here's an update on the piles:


PILE # BUILD DATE LAST MATERIAL ADDED LOCATION LATEST TEMP LATEST TURN COMMENTS
1819-1 9/2/2018 10/29/2018 main bed, bottom 126 12/2 Looking like mostly dirt, but based on temp, clearly is still active.
1819-2 10/2/2018 10/29/2018 main bed, middle 133 11/26 Also mostly dirt-like, but with observable leaves in particular still breaking down
1819-3 11/5/2018 11/5/2018 main bed, top 145 11/26 When I started turning it this morning, there were pockets of dry leaves that appeared to have not decomposed at all, so I watered each layer as I turned it.
1819-4 11/24/2018 ongoing additions back corner of yard 130 11/26 Hoping I won't need anything from this one until I'm planting the first fall crops in July-ish 2019. Assuming the temp is low because right now it's not big enough to get hot.



I also suspect that pile 3 is lacking enough nitrogen; when I built it, there simply wasn't as much grass available, and I haven't been able to use the van to get copious amounts of used coffee grounds lately because my wife has had it pretty much constantly filled with presents for foster kids. (Yeah, can't fuss at her about that...) The last of the foster kid Christmas events is this Thursday, so I hope to add more nitrogen next weekend.
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:03 AM   #59
Ben E Lou
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When I started turning it this morning, there were pockets of dry leaves that appeared to have not decomposed at all, so I watered each layer as I turned it.
Well I haven't addressed the potential nitrogen issue at all, but watering the layers seems to have helped. Temperature was up from 145 to 153. That said, I'm not nearly as concerned about the heat for that as I was for the others, as it contains zero clippings from my weed-infested yard. To the contrary, whatever grass clippings were in that pile were from grass in the neighborhood that was still growing enough to need to be cut in early November--the healthiest lawns around, in other words--typically those with few weeds.
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Old Yesterday, 07:43 AM   #60
Ben E Lou
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BIG SNOWSTORM

We received over a foot of snow at my house over the weekend. The broccoli and strawberries have been completely covered in snow for over 72 hours, and I don't want to try to dig them out yet, for fear that I'd step on them while trying to locate them. I'm wondering if I should have put some sort of cover on them for identification. Oh well, I guess we'll find out how cold-tolerant they really are.




MAJOR EXPANSION--PREPARING NEW BEDS
We've eBefore the snow came in, I put the mower on the lowest setting and shaved off a large area to being prepping it for more planting next year. If all goes according to the new plan, the garden area will extend all the way from a little in front of the storage shed to being even with my back deck. If I've measured everything correctly, the length will be ~93 feet now.



The expansion will mainly do two things:
1. Allow for a good-sized (18x16) area that's dedicated to blueberries. It's looking like I'll do six large rabbiteyes and four dwarves, or perhaps just eight rabbiteyes and one dwarf. (I already bought the dwarf. Couldn't resist. The nursery I visited where I was planning on just going in there for advice had exactly one thriving dwarf blueberry plant left from last spring.) As mentioned earlier, blueberries grow best in soil that's even more acidic than what occurs naturally in my yard, so I'd prefer to have an area just for them. I sent soil samples from the soon-to-be blueberry bed to Raleigh on 12/4, and have ordered some organic soil acidifier in advance of getting the results, so I can apply it ASAP to have close to two months before I purchase and plant the blueberries in February. This area will be mulched with pine straw eventually.

2. Give space for a truly targeted pollinator/beneficial insect flower garden, and for me to have room to experiment with growing flowers from seed. Plus I figure beautifying the area will enhance SWMBO's willingness to sign off on all of this. I finished mulching this area with leaves in the dark on Saturday evening, and the snow came in Saturday night/Sunday morning, so I haven't gotten a picture nor do I have a good feel for how much bigger the area looks with



So with all that said, HERE is a link to the updated plan. (Too big to post a pic here, I would think.)


There are a few green areas not filled in. That's intentional. Some of the empty space will likely remain empty; some of it will be used for either extra planting of stuff that's struggling, or if I run across some seed or plant that looks interesting and I decide to stick it in the ground.



COMPOST UPDATE

The piles were cooling a bit anyway, probably due to not having been turned, but I'm pleased to report that the hottest one was still at 138 as of yesterday, despite being buried in snow. No complaints here, and the good news is that I'll have plenty of moisture around when I turn them again--probably starting today since I'm off work due to school being out and the temperature is slated to rise into the mid 40s with direct sun on the back yard. The heat of the piles has made them the first areas in my yard where you can see the soil. Pic coming in the next post. (Easier to post pics with Tapatalk, I've realized...)
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Old Yesterday, 07:45 AM   #61
Ben E Lou
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