Thursday, June 20, 2013

Growing green, and growing up.

All the world is green, and the garden is growing. Life around the homestead is going well with a few challenges ranging from slugs to impending rabbit adulthood.

Let's start with the challenges first, and move to the good things going on. First challenge is that Twilight's litter is reaching 12 weeks as of yesterday. We've gotten used to Dawn's litters where we can wait for 15 weeks before maturity becomes a problem. Well, this morning I came out and the one female of that litter was being harried and mounted over and over. She was super stressed out about it, and so since we didn't have a better response, and it's time to start butchering anyhow, I killed her and processed her this morning before work so she wouldn't be stressed out all day. Not something I was happy to have to do, but better than leaving her running from her brothers all day long.
The other challenge I mentioned was the slugs. They seem to LOVE our squash and be doing some damage to the lettuce. Left is an example of some of the slug damage on one of our better squash plants. We're obviously not at all thrilled about the level of destruction they can inflict in a very short period of time, so, time for anti slug measures. Step one, and you can sort of see one in the top of the picture is a beer trap. There's a huge number of methods for beer traps, and we went with the simple, cut a water bottle in half, turn the top upside down, and put it facing down into the cut off bottom. Put some beer in the bottom of the bottle, and let the slugs come in and not be able to slither their way out. We're also picking them off and giving them to the chickens. We will let you know how the anti slug measures work out.
But now on to the good news, things are growing very well. The things that are growing best are the pepper plants that we purchased from Crabapple Farm. They have already started setting peppers even after being transplanted. We're very excited about that for a couple reasons. One, they're setting peppers, and two, I love peppers of all kinds so it will be great to have them out of our garden.
The peppers aren't the only things that are thriving though, most of what we are growing seems to be doing well, and the potato plants are some of the best right now. We still have a lot of variation on just how well each plant is doing, as you can tell the center two are doing the best, and the side plants are a bit  behind, but that just means that we will have a bit of a rotation on when we harvest the potatoes. The radishes are also doing incredibly well, and we need to start harvesting them because a few of them are beginning to bolt and seed. We only want a few of them to seed for us to save, the rest we want to devour. Our garlic is also doing well, and is finally starting to put out scapes. We can either harvest and eat them without harming the growing bulbs, or we can let them seed, but not be able to bring the bulbs up to store and have to eat them as soon as we dig the plants up. I've been saying we should save seed from at least a few, and the Lady of the House would rather just eat them this year, and buy more seed garlic. She's probably right about this, trying to save seed from the more difficult plants, and learning to start garlic may not be the best first time choice for us. I just really like garlic, and want to be able to have a self sustaining crop that isn't just clones as it is when you sprout from the sprouted cloves. We'll figure out exactly what we're going to do by the time we come to the dry season if we ever have one.

The other big project we did yesterday is preparing trellises for the tomato plants. There's at least half a dozen good ways to support tomato plants that I've seen, so we had to select what would be the best for our land and our finances.

We selected in the end what I've seen referred to as the "Sicilian" style of trellising. It's sort of a combination of line trellising and cages. It seems to be keyed to rocky soil where it's difficult to drive anything deep into the soil which definitely fits our location. I'm not entirely certain it'll be able to support the weight of the tomato plants as well as we'd like, but we will try it.

What we did we we bought a bunch of bamboo poles, and drove them into the ground as deep as we could as the first step. The aim is to place them as effectively an equilateral triangle around the plant. That's the easy part. The harder part that we are still in process on is stringing twine around the plants to support the branches as the plants grow up. We so far have two differing styles of twine. First is Above Left which is a spiral. Tie at the bottom, and pull it relatively tight and spiral up the outside of the stakes tying off at the top. This is easy, fast, and efficient. The second method Below Left is more time intensive in that you're tying off around each stake at each level rather than spiraling. I think that by tying off onto each stake we won't see the twine move as much as I think it will on the spiral style. We'll see.

Ideally what we would be doing is trellising or caging with the mesh you use to strengthen concrete or cattle panels. But to do those we'd have needed minimum 6 of those, and 18 T posts to secure them coming out to around $650. The method we've used here came out to a total of $40 between the twine and the stakes. If some of the stakes aren't sufficiently beefy as I have more time I'll be grabbing branches out of the woods to replace them. When we have more money I'd certainly like to use the cattle panel trellises, but that's a dream for a more monetarily stable day. For now, we're doing things on a tight budget, and seeing how it works out! Follow along to see if our plants stay upright the whole season.

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