Has anyone tried this method? For those who may not know what I'm talking about here's the basic idea:
-Lay out bales end to end keepign in mind that this will establish permanent garden beds over time
-soak the bales with water or leave out in the rain before planting
-To plant, work a small hole through the bale right to the ground
-Fill the hole with manure, compost, soil, or a mix
-water the backfill and transplant as usual
The bales break down over a season or two and you are left with weed free, fertile garden beds...as long as there isn't too much viable hay seed in the bales. Even if there is, I'd rather deal with loosely rooted hay seedlings than any other wild plant.
GlobalMinotor wrote: I don't think Sepp just chucks his tomato seeds just anywhere. Remember, he's got a quite complicated system of heatretaining walls and stone fields and (was it 72?) microclimates all over his farm.
Thanks Pascal. I have taken that into account and am planning measures to create warmer microclimates for this. I have the luxury of practically limitless rocks at my disposal which tend to be perfect size for edging garden beds. I intend to line as many beds as possible in zone 1, and constructing them in a raised sheet mulch style for extra heat generation/retention. Further out Ifrom the hose I'm going to try planting into old hay bales that I'll get from a nearby farmer who is happy to give them to me...His stash of bales is about 3 bales high, and about 30X 50 feet in dimension so thats a hell of a lot of instant garden beds.
I'm looking to make a log splitter. I don't have a tractor so the three point hitch types are out. I'm not very handy but two of the other guys involved with our farm are quite mechanically inclined. Can anyone help me out?
I made maple syrup last year for the first time. It was small scale, only 50 taps and about 30 trees or so. I used steel taps and aluminium buckets. All but two of the trees were red maples, the other two were manitoba maples. The red sap tasted sweeter than any sugar maple I've had before, and the manitoba maple sap had a grassy taste but I added them in to the final product anyhow.
The site was an old trailer park which is now used for outdoor boat storage. It was perfect for syrup production as the trees were spaced well apart to allow for healthy crowns (ranging from about 30-60 feet apart) And the land was on a gentle slope at the edge of a lake so there was plenty of water available to the trees. The maples were pretty old for the most part but with fairly healthy crowns. A few were going into visible decline, showing significant limb death.
This year I plan to have a go at it again but I won't be going to that same site due to the 25 minute drive from my new house. There are maybe a dozen or so sugar maples on our property so enough for home scale but I think I may try my hand at birch syrup since that is one of the predominant species on the land here. I don't know if I want to gather that much firewood though...
The tomatoes that self seed in my garden do usually set fruit but the plants don't get very big and most of the fruit doesn't ripen before killing frosts. Maybe if I weeded the seedlings down earlier to avoid competition and as suggested above, gave them some early season protection I could get decent cropping.
I think this thread has inspired me to try planting tomato seeds around the last frost date here in the spring to see what happens.
I would like to practice the method of growing vegetables among white clover as a ground cover but am a bit uncertain as to the details of this. I am picturing a raised bed with a carpet of white clover and vegetables planted amongst the clover. Is that correct?
My main concern is the spacing between a given vegetable and the nearest clover...Is there a rule of thumb to work with? An existing list? Or can the clover cozy right next to any given veggie?
Some of you are saying not to cut asparagus ferns which I'm not contesting because I haven't enough experience but I have read from a few sources that it is best to cut the female ferns so they do not produce seed as these offspring will most likely be the thinner female spears. I suppose if this is true its only really an issue for commercial growers looking for uniform spears.
I've had success with the following... (I'll try to keep out the plants that have already been mentioned)
Dill Kale (in B.C. province) Swiss Chard (In B.C. province) Lambs Quarters AKA Wild Spinach Parsnip Calendula Endive Radish (though the offspring don't tend to have sizeable roots in my experience) peas (though the germination was minimal in my one time experiment) Spinach Mustard Cilantro Catnip Sunflowers Huckleberry (the one in the solanaceae family)
I've also heard that purple orach, arugula, and beets can self seed
In terms of ethics, I see that since a person can live solely and healthfully off of the product of plants and still have a wide variety of food to choose from, why should they take the life of animals or plants to sustain themselves? Is the life of a human (given or impact on the earth) really worth so many other lives? And yes I know that fruit and nuts have cells that respirate which technically makes them alive but at least the plant that bore them still lives on.
TCLynx wrote: So how much time Have you gotten to spend exploring your 100 acres to see what treasures might be living there?
I've spent a bit of time and explored most of the property but I've only seen it in fall and winter so the herbaceous layer is a mystery to me aside from the evergreen ferns, grasses, and poison ivy that I've seen.
Thanks for the suggestions on propagation and leads as to how to find free or bartered plant stock. I have some experience taking cuttings and plan to do so in a big way, as well as trying grafting. There's a farm nearby who I hear offers cuttings for free and they apparently have some exotic stock including several grape varieties, hardy kiwi, and apricots of the top of my head. There's also a native plant nursery just down the road who has offered their stock if I want cuttings and they have a red mulberry that I've got my eye on, among other plants.
I do wish to go big on a few tree crops that I don't think I'll find anywhere else including asian pears, hardy fig, plum, apricot and seaberry among others so I'll probably have to bite the bullet and shell out some dough for those. I fond what seems to be a great source for these types of trees and more in Quebec.
Paul...have you or someone you know planted a commercial stand of trees with 100 foot spacing? I agree with you that diversity in an orchard is important but that seems inefficient in terms of travel time for both harvest and care. Maybe I'm wrong. My plant was to have something like:
Every 200 feet or so there'd be a solid windbreak line of eastern white cedar or possibly white pine or spruce. I also would like to incorporate gooseberrries and/or currants on the south side of each row in between each tree. Oh, and the Seabry stands for Seaberry or Sea Buckthorn
I've just moved onto a 100 acre piece of land and plan to use the forest gardening model to produce most of my food and income. I'm a bit overwhelmed at all the possibilities and my lack of experience with forest gardening but luckily I have the winter and a nearby library at a college of natural resources at my disposal.
My biggest hurdle will be getting the funds to buy the trees and other plant/seed stock. I have a lot of wild plants to draw from but around here its mostly pioneer species. If only buying trees could work like buying televisions or furniture " buy now, pay later"
I think that Lierre is mistaken and that a vegan diet is the best thing for the planet. But not just any vegan diet... I'm referring to a diet consisting of almost exclusively locally grown fruits and nuts.
There's a big difference from someone who eats a lot of soy and grain produced industrially, and say a fruititarian.
Plant and nut proteins are overall superior to animal proteins. They are more easily digested, come with greater residual health benefits, and are much less likely to be cancerous.
The amount of land needed to produce feed for a given animal is more efficiently used by planting a tree based polyculture. Animal manures as a soul source of nutrient input on the land are not a sustainable practice especially compared to green manures and nitrogen fixing plants. You lose so much of the nutrient by putting a plant through an animal, even if you eat the whole thing, and you salt the earth in the process. It just doesn't add up to me.
I didn't read every post so I hope its not mentioned yet:
My most significant low tech tool has been sheet mulching instead of using tilling machines. If you have compacted soil, a pitch fork, hoe, or pick axe works to loosen soil. The sheet mulch can be as simple as cardboard with soil and/or manure, with hay or woodchips on top if you're short on materials, or time. I've also been successful without the cardboard and simply layered composted woodchips, then weeds and hay, a layer of semi composted vegetable scraps, and fresh woodchips on top of this. we grew a successful tomato and zuccini crop in this last example to give you an idea of whats possible
The whole idea of growing ornamentals doesn't sit well with me. Especially if they take 5-12 years to mature and you can't really grow anything underneath them in the meantime.
That being said; I saw a tv news item about a christmas tree operation that does home delivery of potted christmas trees that can be replanted and resold the next year. Of course they charge extra for the pickup, which could make it worthwhile and solving the landfill problem. But then you have the fossil fuel you would have to burn for after-xmas-pickup. Unless of course you're running a sustainable alternative fuel in your vehicle which could be an even greater marketing angle.
I'd be interested to see a side by side comparison of teh same crop grown in a double dug bed and a sheet mulch bed of the same fertility levels.
Maybe I'm lazy and short-sighted but unless you're dealing with hardpan I don't see any reason to double dig. Radishes are great at loosening soil, there are stubby varieties of carrot, potatoes can be grown on top of soil if covered in enough mulch, and lettuces grow fairly well in compacted soil.
I've worked with both methods and will never put my back through a double digging again.
Maybe this is simplistic and naive of me but I think that there wouldn't be a shortage of labour, especially if you look to casual volunteers as a significan portion of that labour force.
Granted there can micromanaging headaches dealing with untrained souls in the garden but in my experience it's still worth it. Look to local colleges, universities and highschools, welfare or employment insurance recipients or others who need volunteer hours for program completions. I've worked with at risk youth at a community garden and it was painful at first but I saw amazing transformation in some of the kids who acted hard at the beginning.
If there were government programs to get the unemployed and underemployed into the agricultural workforce, this could curb any shortage that might occur in the wage earning work force, and could get us out of this recession.
I've only been able to market a few herbs and in small amounts to high end chefs. I charge a dollar per ounce which doesn't seem like much but when you figure that most are perennial I think its worth it. The ones I've had success with are:
chives (the flowers are an even hotter item) parsley (italian type seems most popular) basil (purple type goes over well usually) tarragon (can be a tough sell) summer savory bee balm flowers marjoram (cousin to oregano) oregano sorrel (sold by the pound) lemon balm chervil (as an addition to salad mixes) lavender flowers thyme
In my experience at Toronto Markets herbs don't sell very well at all, with the exception of basil and chives during potato season. this is not to say that in your region it couldn't work out. I've also heard of a stat somewhere that only about 10-15% of farmers market customers would consider buying dried herbs from a market stand.
I'd also suggest talking to local soap or tea companies to see about starting a business relationship with them. I have a friend who's soap business is taking off nicely and I'll be selling to her in the coming years.
Have you tried making syrup with your red maples? I found a stand of about 45 mature red maples near my cottage and the sap from them was sweeter than any sugar maple I'd ever tasted, with more of a complex flavour as well. Almost fruity. Maybe this is not the norm and was due to specific genetics or microclimate but I couldn't believe the difference!
I highly recommend giving it a try if you haven't already.
Are you looking to do a homescale 'feed yourself' set of guilds or are you going to be marketing some of these plants? If so that's a real game changer.
Oh and a tip for finding nitrogen fixers in the Evergreen Database link I gave... At the bottom in the 'Interesting Tidbits ' section, you can type in 'nitrogen fix' and it will give you a list of species that do just that.
tel wrote: it might be more complicated, but certainly not impossible. I'm not even sure polyculture would present that many new problems. you'll encourage folks to stay on paths, you'll be extra good about signage, you'll get a feel for who needs a few extra minutes of instructions before you let them out into your gardens. I might be a bit biased, but picking in polyculture is very much more appealing to me than the alternative. with 100 acres, you'll have plenty of room to experiment to see what folks like. experimenting with long-lived tree crops is a bit risky, I suppose, but probably worthwhile.
any chance you feel like divulging your general location?
My location is central Ontario, Canada. We are about 1.5 hours northeast of Toronto, in zone 5 B.
I definitely agree with you that picking in a polyculture is much more appealing. There is no comparison in my mind. I've seen the bliss on my volunteers faces when they are immersed in a keyhole bed with 5 different crops in it. And then I drive by a strawberry U-pick and try to imagine a balance between the two.
The signage and guidance is of course a must, and maybe pictoral handouts too? This is going to be a hell of a lot of signs.
The tree crops are the one thing I most worry about. How to grow veggies and mulch plants underneath while taking into account peoples tendency to not watch where they are walking. I used to do work for a community garden that was completely no-till raised beds and I lost count of how many people I had to ask to keep off the beds.
I’m thinking that having four small paths leading right to the branches would work, with understory plants in obvious raised beds, or at least mulched with a different material than the path. If you think of the circular footprint around a fruit tree as a clock, the paths would be at 12, 3, 6, and 9. Maybe 4 paths is overkill
I’m also thinking of keeping the trees that are farthest from the house with simply a groundcover of clover incase the polyculture deal isn’t working out due to damage or something like that. In that case people can still walk along the forest garden area on the main paths and then arrive to the U-Pick section. If customers become inquisitive enough or convey enough knowledge of vegetables, then maybe they can be let off at the polyculture section.
I decided to get my feet wet at running a CSA last year with 9 members. I charged $525 for families and $375 for single shares. I'd say it was definetly worth it for me, and I am planning to expand to 60 to 80 members this year. I've talked to a local farm that did an 80 member CSA their first time and said that they didn't pay a cent through advertising. They simply got coverage in local news media, and got free advertizing via the internet on sites like Kijiji and I think their own website. I've also mulled over the idea of offering discounts if members get friends signed up too. And I definetly echo what was mentioned above about making installment plans available.
Overall I'd say its a viable model but there were some headaches though, for sure. I had a few crop failures that left me scratching my head as to what would fill their place. And plan as you might, it can be hard to grow the right amount of produce without having years of experience to draw from. You also don't really know if people are liking what they're getting or are just smiling politely and telling you what they think you want to hear. I plan to have member surveys for the beginning and end of next season so I can hopefully provide more of what people actually want. Another problem was people not showing up to get their food. If its an On-farm pickup then maybe its not such an issue as they could come the next day but otherwise it could be a hassle. There's also the possible problem of getting your boxes back. Some of mine are still out there somewhere...
A weekly newsletter is a great way to go, and has multiple benefits. The buyer feels more connected and is more informed about their food. Plus you can more easily introduce new foods by giving a background story and/or recipes. It also keeps customers informed as to what week it is, as long as you state that somewhere in the letter.
if we really want to replace the dreaded modern agriculture, agrotourism shouldn't and won't play a part in it
I agree with just about everything you said except the above. One of the pitfalls of modern agriculture is the disconnect between producers and consumers. I'm not saying you need to have a B&B but I think that generally a good idea to get the public onto farms through tours, CSA pickups, U-pick, corn mazes, etc.
I just bought a 100 acre farm with a few other folks on a highway with a significant amount of traffic and we're hoping to do a CSA but transition into pick-your-own once the PYO crops come of age. I'm hoping to start small with about a quarter acre each of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, while establishing rhubarb, asparagus, blueberries, and fruit tree crops.
I think I may have a tough time balancing polyculture plantings with the logistics of a U pick operation. I don't want to have monocropped straight rows but I understand whats been said above about neighboring crops getting ruined one way or the other.
Use the standard products as the foundation of a farm marketing strategy. Get your bills paid. From there you can explore specialty products like golden tomato sauce, goats milk cheese, and Kentucky Fried Guinea.
I think your advice would be well heeded by growers who sell chiefly at farmers markets or roadisde stands but that it can be dangerous to take such a hardline approach without considering the supply and demand in the arena you wish to sell. You run the risk of markets being flooded and not being able to get a good price, or not being able to sell at all.
With minimal effort I have been able to successfully create a local market niche for cattail hearts, wild spinach, and an assortment of relatively unknown vegetable varieties. People are willing to try new foods but you're right...it is a tough sell for most. It's all in how you go about it. Samples, infosheets, recipes, and word of mouth can go a long way.
If you're doing a CSA foodbox program I think that you can get away with selling more exotic and unknown foods (as long as you provide info and recipes). I had a lot of good feedback with last years assortment of wild edibles and unfamiliar cultivated crops. I also sell to a few chef's in the city who love experimenting with new foods and flavours.
if you want to look at the market in general... To me it seems better to do your homework, call around to potential customers (caterers, restaurants, farmers markets, breweries, bakeries etc.), see what they're in need of and if the numbers all work out go for that if its feasible.
I partnered with a vegetable farm two years ago and we had stands at a few Toronto markets. Overall I thought it was worth while but of course you have some weeks where you wonder why the hell you're doing this...usually due to bad weather. I also found it hard to get a balance between growing what people want, and NOT growing too much of the same stuff as the others at the market. I did appreciate the social interaction and the weekly culture injection of Canadas largest city.
One major drawba(besides travel and setup time) was trying to introduce new varieties of standard veggies, and new types of vegetables altogether (especially wild edibles). People seemed to tend to have a hasty attitude when at the farmers markets we did, and didn't really read signs or be willing to consider buying the more 'exotic' items. I will say that a small segment of those who came to us were quite thrilled at either the prospect of a new veggie, or excited that they could finally find things like garlic greens, or wild spinach, or a bunch of multi coloured carrots.
The other biggest drawback to my mind is the need to have picture perfect, clean as a whistle grade A produce with top notch presentation. I know its important for food to look good but its still a pain in the ass when I consider alternatives like CSA foodbox programs, and selling to restaurants who are usually fine with B grade stuff and still willing to pay top price.