Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lessons Learned 2008

Many blessings in the garden this year. Although not as productive as the 2007 season, I was also more focused on chickens and work travel during the 2008 season. Now that the chickens are under control, I shall try to be more focused on the gardening aspects again.

Procrastination Kills Plants!

  • Spring planted peas - probably they could have benefited from mulch and a floating row cover, but by garlic harvesting time in early June, they were going like gang busters.
  • Garlic - planted on time in the fall of 2007, mulched and fed and watered at the correct times
  • Fruit trees growing well - bloomed nicely before winter came and froze the buds. No fruits yet, but the trees are maturing nicely and are starting to look like, well, real trees (as opposed to sticks)
  • Sunflowers - planted in basically pure sand. They were stunted, but all grew. Watering enough was a challenge. Planting in trenches, watering deeply and mulching probably will help. As well as some fertilization. Chickens loved the sunflower seeds (what few they got) and loved eating the leaves, too.
  • Chickens - grew well and started laying right on schedule in mid-November.
  • Corn - well, not successful in that people didn't get to eat it, but very successful in that chickens enjoyed the heck out of their corn stalk forest and ate and shredded both the corn, the leaves and the stalks. Going to grow some for them and some for us in 2009.
  • Zucchini - Eight Ball - will grow standard zukes next year, but the protected ones did well. The others were eaten to the ground by the young chickens.
  • Oregano, Rosemary, Lemon Balm - surprise survivors that overwintered from 2007
  • Shredded paper mulch - made mostly of bills and junk mail. Need to do this for the trees this year.
  • Watering the compost pile and keeping it mostly covered - I noticed a seemingly overnight improvement in the speed of the pile decomposing as soon as I started doing that.

Chickens Kill Plants!

    Problems and Challenges
  • Chickens - they are cute and they love scratching around the garden and eating everything green in site. Meaning, anything unprotected got trampled, eaten or trampled and eaten.

    • Zucchini
    • Young tomatoes (they didn't eat them; just trample them as they hunted tomato worms)
    • Bearded irises
    • Strawberry plants

  • Tomatoes - tomatoes plus desert sun equals no fruit setting; fruit setting in Sept won't ripen before the first hard frost
  • Cukes - keep planting these too late, but the flowers are pretty, so not a total loss
  • Didn't plant garlic for 2009 on time; going to be a small harvest this year
  • Sunflowers - wild birds got to the seeds before I was able to feed them to the chickens, so the chickies only got to eat some of the seeds.
  • Beans - too hot for them. Miss one day of watering and they wilt and die when the temps are over 100°F. Mulching and planting in trenches might help. Grasshoppers loved them.
  • Lots of space yet unused. Need to fill it or Nature will fill it with weeds!

The Desert Kills Plants!

    Some Ideas for the 2009 Season
  • Tomatoes - grow in 3 - 5 gallon buckets and haul in and out and grow under lights so that they are well on their way when the last frost is done
  • Make cages for the plants so that the chickens can't get at them - SLW in photo above is showing her disdain for the fencing I used to protect sleeping garlic bulbs!
  • Plant some corn in the chicken run - protect until it is well matured. That will give them shade in the summer and something to play in throughout the fall and into the winter.
  • Shred more paper - it's tough to keep up with, but it works wonderfully as both mulch and chicken bedding
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch and mulch some more
  • Compost more
  • Make manure tea for the trees and plants
  • Implement an automated drip or sprinkler system
  • Plant more hybrid poplar trees along the front - plant in trenches, flood irrigate and mulch and feed well.
  • Plant a few hybrid poplars on the outside of the south and north sides of the chicken run - this will provide shade and wind blocks during the summer. (If I plant them inside the run, the chickens will be able to use the trees to escape from the run!)
  • Plant extra herb and tomato plants so I can give some away
  • Try early maturing, "closer to wild" grape or current tomatoes to see if I can get a harvest this year; protect them when the nights start getting colder
  • Grow enough basil to make pesto

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