Covering the gardens

It is officially fall, the calendar not withstanding. Frost could come any day. We’ve had frosts as early as the last week of August many years. This year has been quite warm (all hail global warming and bow down to the all powerful SUV drivers and their steeds!) so there hasn’t been a threat of frost until this week. The evenings are getting quite cool and frost could be any day.

We covered the tomatoes, basil, melons and other frost sensitive plants. The shorter sunflower spread in among them hold up the plastic film creating long greenhouses. We had frost warnings on the weather and it was supposed to get down to 36째F or lower. It actually only got down to 45째F. As usual, the act of covering the plants worked quite well to keep the weather warmer. :) Maybe we’ll get another warm fall effectively tripling our growing season into November. Sometimes if we can keep the more sensitive crops going through the first few frosts we can get another month or two of growing season in a year with a warm fall.

Soaker hoses work like this too. Many years in the late spring we go through a period when it gets really dry. Each time I finally take out the soaker hoses and lay them all to keep the garden from parching. And of course, then it rains. I’m not complaining in the slightest! I truly appreciate Mother Nature’s help and don’t mind having to remind her each year that we need rain by dragging out the soaker hoses. I’ll do what ever it takes including a rain dance if that will keep her happy.

This year the tomatoes and corn are both very late. But they seem extra sweet and are coming in great bounty now. We’ve been eating corn two meals a day and there is more for the animals as well. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, basil and potatoes have done wonderfully. This year I planted three experimental plots of flit corn with seeds from a friend at church. Unfortunately none of the three patches of flint corn did well. The field corn has done well, even with the dry weather we had in July and August. The sweet corn was slow to start but has also done very well and is most excellent.

Today I let the pigs and sheep into a section of the corn – they were in seventh Heaven. Giving them a portion of the harvest seems only right since the pigs did till up the area fertilize it and help plant it in the spring. I will admit to ulterior motives. I had used that section of the field as a early spring holding area for the sows, boar and gilts when the fields were still too fresh and soft to take the impact of grazing. That plot was a bit of an experiment – I had poked holes in the ground with a stick within the corral and then Ben and Will had followed along behind filling the holes with feed corn from last year. The pigs followed along behind Ben and Will. The pigs dug up the corn (my goal) tilling the soil in the process. They left enough kernels behind that the whole area grew up in corn quite nicely once we moved the pigs out a couple of days later.

The reason for doing this was to get the pigs to dig up the soil and mix it to prepare it for planting. We had used this technique in the past but always rotated chickens in after the pigs to scratch and weed the soil which results in no weeds all summer. This time we kept the chickens out and the corn had a chance to sprout, grow tall and produce a nice crop. Much easier than machine rotor tilling the area and planting it carefully by hand. It will be interesting to compare the harvest there with other sections – so far so good.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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3 Responses to Covering the gardens

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey!! I REALLY like the idea of raising yor own feed for your animals. That sounds much healthyer and it will save money to. I want to get out of this dirty city and start farming if only for my own needs so i have healthy food and clean air to breath

  2. Evelyn says:

    I've been thinking of doing something similar. Feeding the pigs some kind of seed while they rotate thru the corral just before being turned out in the spring. I'm hoping they'll plant & fertilize the seeds they eat. I'm not wild about feeding grain to any of my animals. But, if they pass most of it thru to be planted, I guess I'd be OK w/ it. So, any idea how much grain does pass thru?

  3. Evelyn,

    I haven’t pursued these experiments. We do get a fair bit of volunteer tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, tomatillos and such out in the fields from the pigs (and chickens) passing the seeds through. Since I don’t know how many they ate I can’t tell what the pass through rate is.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

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