Our Garden Helper

Baxter - The Garden Helper

Yes, that’s dirt on the tip of Baxter’s nose. He likes to “help” in the garden.

8 Yards of Compost: Spread

Let’s be honest…shoveling dirt is a lot of work. A lot. A. Lot. I know from experience, although I’d rather not.

After getting our raised beds built, I realized I actually needed to put something in them. We’ve got a decent amount of compost in the works but it’s not ready and it’s nowhere close to being enough to fill all seven of our beds. So, I had eight yards of compost delivered from a local landscape materials company.

As you can see from the photo below…eight yards of compost is nothing to shake a stick at. Or a shovel. But a shovel is precisely what I needed to get that junk in to the beds.

Compost Pile

So it began. I made around 50 trips with the wheelbarrow from the pile to the beds and finally got it all finished yesterday. Relief.

Compost
Compost
Compost
Compost

Building Our Raised Beds

Last year we made our first foray into raised bed gardening. Our attempts directly in the ground had always failed (most likely because of the awful soil we have). But last year was a big success, so we’re sold on using raised beds.

I wasn’t very happy with the beds we built last year (1″ cedar just isn’t strong enough to hold in dirt without warping) and we wanted a much bigger garden this year anyways, so we pulled out the old beds and significantly expanded our growing space by building some new beds!

This past week I went to Home Depot and picked up the materials to build seven new raised beds using pressure-treated 2×8′s. I’m aware of the “pressure treated” controversy, but decided based on the research I’ve read, that it’s just not an issue.

raised_beds-1

At any rate, here’s the materials we used:

  • 17 – 16 foot 2×8″ pressure treated pine
  • 4 – 6 foot 4×4″ pressure treated pine
  • Box of 3.5″ screws

Each box was made of…

  • 2 – 15′ lengths of 2×8
  • 2 – 3′ lengths of 2×8
  • 4 – 10″ lengths of 4×4

I made the 4×4′s a couple of inches taller than the main boards to give me some room to work with our painfully un-level yard (which turns out was a GREAT idea on my part…high five, me!).

Then you just put the 4×4′s in the corners, put 3 screws on each side of each corner and BOOM! Raised bed. That weighs a metric ton (pressure treated wood is stupid heavy).

raised_beds-4
raised_beds-4
raised_beds-4
raised_beds-4
raised_beds-4

Then, we hauled the beds out in to the yard and got them leveled.

Using the skid-steer definitely saved us a ton of time and energy, but I still had to pickaxe for a couple of hours to get the beds how I wanted them.

Next up, we’ll truck in a few yards of top soil to fill in some dips in the yard, then it’ll be compost time! Whoohoo!

We now have about 315 sq/ft of planting space, compared to the 144 sq/ft we had last year.

How about you? Do you use raised beds?

Dream Come True: I Rented a Skid-Steer

This past Friday, I finally fulfilled one of my dreams: to run a heavy piece of machinery.

Skid Steer

We had an old tiered garden area built in to the side of a hill that needed to be regraded, and I wanted to smooth out our new larger gardening area as much as possible. Given the ground around here is all clay and rocks, doing it by shovel was a sure-fire way to make me gouge my eyes out. So, skid-steer to the rescue!

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Photos From the Farmstead: April 2, 2013

I’m starting what I hope becomes a weekly featured called Photos From The Farmstead. It’ll largely be a gallery of photos from the past week.

So, here’s the first installment. Enjoy!

Aquaponics: Farming Without Dirt

vertical_grow_system

FarmedHere, a company out of Chicago, is working hard to perfect the process of indoor farming…without a single grain of dirt. They’re using a process called aquaponics.

The seeds of basil, arugula, and other leafy greens are placed in small baskets made of coconut shavings, called coconut cores. The seeds germinate under artificial (compact-fluorescent) light. Once the plants are about two to three inches tall, they are transferred to a vertical grow system, made up of five to six stacked beds. Each basket is placed in a foam float so that the roots of the plants are submerged in the water.

The water comes from four 800-gallon tanks containing around 800 tilapia. The water, rich with fish waste, is filtered and clarified before it’s fed to the plants. The water then goes back to the fish tanks in a closed-loop system. This enables the facility to conserve 97 percent of fresh water per farm acre compared to regular agriculture, according to Hardej. (Once the fish are full-grown they are also sold at market).