Monday, July 8, 2013

Putting a new plot into production

For the last few years, most of our gardening has been done in our own yard. This spring, however, we had a huge windfall when my much-loved Uncle and Aunt moved into town from further north... and bought an 11-acre homestead just 3 miles from our place.

Half of that property was filled with grass, woods and landscaping - the other half was a 5-acre field that was being farmed by a neighbor.

Since he knew that I was interested in testing a few different corn varieties, my uncle talked with the farmer and we marked out a space at the end of his rows of southern peas for a corn patch.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, after the farmer's peas were harvested, my uncle granted us another 1/4 acre strip down the side of the field. Now we've got some serious space for experimentation.

Here's my goal: I'd like to grow enough grain to feed our chickens - plus enough dry beans to feed the family. Doing this isn't easy in a small space, so this overflow garden will help a lot.

Challenge: I need to do this without irrigation. Getting water to our new patch would be pretty tough, though not impossible. I'm going to pretend it's impossible, since I like the challenge - and the idea of growing food on just rainfall. A few weeks ago I posted a little about that; however, we've had a wonderfully rainy year thus far, so I'm probably not getting fair results. The corn in the picture above is now reaching over my head and is totally happy.

Now - back to the new plot. After the farmer tilled under his bean patch, we marked off our new bed with bamboo stakes and colorful rags.

This will hopefully keep us safe from tractor accidents, since the remaining 4.75 acres are still being conventionally farmed.

After marking the boundaries, I raked out the tractor ruts and leveled the ground as best as I could. Then, I busted out my new row-maker/furrow digger:

Nice, eh? I found the original design here on YouTube. Brilliant and simple. It's also a great workout.

As I made planting furrows, my wife planted. Occasionally, we'd meet in the middle. Awwwwwww....

Since we just planted this patch last week, and it's really hot this time of year, we only had a few crops to choose from. We put in black-eyed peas, lima beans and a couple rows of small red beans, just to see if they could take the heat. This fall, we'll be planting mangels (those are big fodder beets, also known as mangolds) and patches of buckwheat for compost and seed. I'll probably also work in a few rows of small grains for the birds and additional composting material.

We'll keep you posted - I'm excited. This is the largest single patch of ground I've ever had to work with. If I can pull it off, I'm totally gonna jump into large-scale monoculture factory farming on thousands of acres.

No - I'm just kidding. That would take the fun out of things... though I certainly wouldn't be adverse to farming a few more acres and sharing the abundance.


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