Summer Time Update

Time sure flies when you’re having fun!

As I hinted in the last post, I’ll add a few pictures of my ‘front’ garden, which is home to the tomatoes and peppers – but more than that, it’s a work in progress.  I want to create a self-sustaining wildlife garden, full of native drought resistant, self-seeding or perennial plants that will feed the butterflies, moths, bees and birds.

The rear garden is a resounding success in terms of good bug population.  The earthworms are outstanding!  I see spiders duck and run every time I turn the water on.  Winged things are numerous, mostly tiny flies and wasps, but also lacewings, ladybugs, dragonflies, blue winged wasps and parasitic wasps.  It’s a good thing, because I’ve seen a good share of the bad bugs too!

Nearly discouraged, I’ve fought to keep my course with the gardens.  They’re not pretty and tidy.  There are no neat rows of voluptuous vegetables.  That’s a tough pill to swallow for an OCD type, let me tell you.  What I have, as you’ve seen, is a structured series of beds, fraught with untidy, self-strewn weeds and such.  Oh My!

The good news is that it’s working.  I’m experimenting with self-seeding, to allow the garden to become less time intensive for me.  What I learned by mistake is that many things we weren’t really aware of will survive a hard winter.  You’ll be as surprised as I was to learn that Pole Beans (particularly heirloom rattlesnake beans) will overwinter and produce heartily.  I now have them springing up nearly everywhere in my garden, right along my overly productive cilantro.  Cantaloupe has also made its own special appearance, along with dill, parsley, watermelon, potatoes, and lettuce.

I’m going to purposely allow several plants to rot on the vine/plant, and just do a minimal rake in and leaf cover at the end of the growing season.  This will allow me to find out how many of these wonderful, fabulous heirlooms will simply grow when they’re ready to grow.

Back to work for me – and for those who are new viewers, mine are gardens of full-on experiments, as I struggle to produce a winning combination of many gardening theories:  permaculture, forest garden, hugelkultur, polyculture, and medicinal native edibles.  Join in, but expect random posts, cuz I’m a busy dreamer.  :)

 

Rough paths and patches of 'weeds' for winged visitors.

Rough paths and patches of ‘weeds’ for winged visitors.

Permanent wood strip cage for the tomatoes, with space for wire cages inside.

Permanent wood strip cage for the tomatoes, with space for wire cages inside.

It’s hard to tell, but I dug a deep trench between the tomatoes and the peppers and have filled it with a deep layer of straw.  I fill the trench to provide deep watering, as the Kansas heat will take a toll on these plants if I conventional water them.

Tree limb lined paths and patches of native weeds and self-seeding flowers.

Tree limb lined paths and patches of native weeds and self-seeding flowers.

 

And a final picture – the most recent from the rear garden:

rear garden view

 

Back to work!

Dreamin’

 

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Voila, Olla!

A necessary component of gardening – a necessary component of life, in fact – is preparation.

Last year, our area experienced extreme heat and draught and I was not prepared.  Experience is such a great teacher.  This year, I’m trying to plan ahead.

Already, our weather has been warmer than normal, and spring has come early.  We’re just beginning to catch up on the rain deficit, but there’s no telling what moisture we’ll see through the rest of the garden season.

One of the methods I’ve seen is the use of ollas.  Ollas are terra-cotta jugs or receptacles, buried into the gardening area aside the plants and filled with water to deliver it slowly (via the porous material) to the roots of the plants.

There are excellent options to purchase ollas, but I found them cost prohibitive.  I found this great tutorial to make them from clay pots.  I was inspired to make my own.

Homemade Olla

Materials:

  • Clay pots (two per olla)
  • Gorilla glue
  • Plumbers epoxy
  • Silicone caulk
  • Stone/ceramic plugs
  • White exterior paint

Tools:

  • Gloves
  • Caulk Gun
  • Dry cloth
  • Container of water

I dipped one clay pot top into the water container and set it on the dry cloth to dry slightly.

Gorilla glue was spread thinly over the rim of the other clay pot top.  The two pots were placed together, top to top.  This was done with each clay pot pair.

The pot pairs were weighted for an hour while the gorilla glue dried.

Once the glue was dry, the plumbers epoxy was used to adhere the stone pieces to one opening on each pot pair.  The assemblies were left to dry for 24 hours.

Using the caulk gun, I placed a seal of caulk around each stone piece, and then around each glued section.  With my finger covered by the dry cloth, I smoothed the caulk and pressed it into any remaining gaps.  The pots were set out to dry for 24 hours.

All that’s left is to paint the tops of the ollas, which I’ll do when the weather is warm.

I can’t wait to see how well these work.  I’ll keep ya posted.  :)

Dreamin’ Girl

A Simple Step Toward Water Conservation

The internet is my favorite tool, but hubby cringes every time I mention that I have a new idea I want to try.

He does get extra points, because all groaning aside, he has been a mostly active and supportive participant in my schemes.

The largest scheme to date is the rain barrel system.

I’d seen a few samples and the obsession began:  I searched online, reading how-to articles and watching how-to videos; and then shopped for weeks.

I decided to try the most affordable option:  I found numerous barrels for $15 each on Craigslist, and less than an hour away.

I arranged to purchase seven of them, and hubby willingly went along with me to meet the man we purchased from and load the barrels into the truck.

These barrels are food grade, 55 gallon, and have a screw top lid. As a bonus, some of the barrels also have a secondary insert under the lid.

Water barrel materials: clamps, threaded connector, tape and adhesive, hose bib nut, hose bib

I shopped at Home Depot for the necessary parts: hose bibs and nuts, overflow connectors, clamps, hose, and screen.  The hardest part was finding appropriate overflow tubing/hose that would fit the large overflow connectors I had purchased.

I’m thankful for helpful employees!

I explained the basic design to Hubby and he set upon making realistic barrels from the picture in my head.

Score!

Hubby got caught up in the design, having explained my crazy scheme to co-workers who were looking for updates on the build.  He was as excited as I!

He set up concrete block bases, because I wanted to be able to set a bucket under the hose bib to fill with water. The higher the base for the barrel, the better gravity flow/water pressure.

Each barrel also requires air flow and overflow, in order to prevent vacuum when using the hose bib and to allow water to escape when the barrel gets full.

Additionally, the barrels that sit directly under the downspout require an opening for the rushing water, and a screen to filter the debris and keep out mosquitos.

Each opening also requires screen to keep out mosquitos.

Overflow barrels do not need the barrel top alteration.  This saves on screen as well.

Our results were mostly right on target. Even a small rain will quickly fill a barrel. Large rains were planned for, by chaining three barrels together for each downspout.

Score!

The season turned out to be incredibly hot and dry last year, so having an additional 330 gallons of mineral rich rainwater available for the garden each time it rained was a practical necessity.

Are you using any water conservation techniques?

Later!

Dreamin’ Girl