January 7, 2017

What's Hoopening in the Garden

The hoop house is hoopening. Ha ha, pretty corny, I know. Dan thinks I don't have a corny bone in my body, but we just showed him, didn't we? 😉  Actually, he's right. I'm too analytical to be corny.

My fall garden should have been planted last August and September but with no rain and daily temperatures still hovering near 100°F (37.7°C) I didn't want to risk it. Once the rains in November softened the soil, I started working on soil preparation. Weather permitting, I've been working on the garden and pastures ever since. Growth is slower this time of year, but at least I've got seeds in the ground. A few things are starting to come up:

Garlic. I planted carrots here too, but they have yet to germinate.

Multiplier onions are beginning to come up too. I'm trying
them this winter because last summer was too hot and dry.

Also I have turnip and collard seed in the ground, but like the carrots they have yet to make a showing. Most of the action is in the hoop house. There isn't much to harvest at the moment, except for a few baby greens leaves for salad.

Kale with some volunteer chickweed.

Bloomsdale spinach

Claytonia (miners lettuce)

Radishes aren't ready to harvest yet but they're coming along.

I'm also getting Jerusalem artichokes from the artichoke bed.

I feed these to the goats and we like them lactofermented.

These weren't terribly prolific due to lack of rain last summer, but at least they survived.

More planting in the hoop house:

Garlic bulbils I collected last summer...

... are now baby garlic plants.

Weather permitting there is plenty to do.

This is last summer's green bean and cantaloupe bed.

It has a 6-inch layer of wood chips with wiregrass growing through.

Whenever I blog about my wiregrass problems, someone mentions the "Back To Eden" film in the comments. I always mulch as heavily as I can, but last summer was the first time I had enough wood chips to mulch large sections of the garden. Because wiregrass indeterminate (keeps on growing like a vine) it grows right up through thick mulch or into a raised bed and keeps on going. I've pulled strands of wiregrass that measure five feet and more. Every so many inches it sets down more roots and thus entrenches itself everywhere. It grows the same way underground and can strangle out anything else growing there.

A messy mass of wiregrass roots strangling this poor strawberry plant

Soil prep in those previously mulched areas involves raking the wood chips back and then digging out as much of the wiregrass as I'm able. It's got me thinking that the wood chips created more work instead of making things easier.

First section done. Wood chip mulch is raked back up against
the Jerusalem artichokes to be reused and the wiregrass dug out.

Why not just continue to add mulch? Because seeds need to come into contact with soil to grow. They won't grow in pure mulch. I already have about six inches of mulch down; the more I add the farther we are from the soil.

In the house we just finished the last of the tomatoes I picked before first freeze. I have a few peppers left which I'd better chop and pop into the freezer. Also, my lone hope sweet potato is coming along.

No leaves yet but it's growing roots.
And oops, I see it needs more water.

Seed catalogs are arriving daily, so I'll hit those during this bout of frigid, icy weather. Those catalogs, a cozy fire, and a cup of something warm to drink make a great combination.

So what gardening activity is going on in your part of the world?

36 comments:

Kev Alviti said...

Busy in your garden I love it. I agree about the back to eden approach, everyone always asks if I've send it but very few practice it. It involves bringing so much material in it wouldn't be sustainable in a gris down situation and that's why I don't like it.
Here things are much quieter, I'm harvesting lots of roots and leeks and altering all my beds to be smaller and the same size but far more of them for even better rotation. also putting my seed orders together, how much is too much when spending on seeds?

Dawn McHugh said...

Our garlic is coming on, In the poly tunnel I have onions putting on growth, I am hoping they will be out in time for peppers to go in, beds outside were prepared before winter and covered over to let the worms do there work, we are harvesting, leeks and brassicas, seed lists are been put together.

Leigh said...

Kev, thanks for mentioning that about the eden approach. It's a great film and I love the idea, but you're right that having a source of wood chips is key. That's been something we haven't had, unless we want to pay a pretty high price for them.

Every year I make an impulse list from my seed catalogs, then total it up, and then have to go back and start crossing things off! Probably just as well because sometimes I run out of room and my impulse buys never get planted. :)

Leigh said...

Dawn, sounds great! I'd like to give our peppers and tomatoes an early start to try to beat the heat this year. We'll see.

Jason and Michelle said...

It's 5 am, with a temp of 4 degrees. I have tons of snow. My chickens let me know they aren't impressed. Yesterday at the hardware store, my son and I spotted seed packets. I am going to go online and look at seeds as well. I am planning on starting seeds indoors the beginning of February. we have goat heads weeds here. They are horrible with the way they spread out and grow.

Kate said...

Leigh, I plant individual garlic cloves, but it looks like you plant the seed head? Also, I've always cut out the scapes because it supposedly lets the bulb get bigger; do you find that not to be true? I learn so much form your bog, thank you!

Quinn said...

Gardening? Ha. Well, I've got a jar of lentils getting ready to sprout. There will be at least one jar of sprouts on the go from now til Spring.

Caroline J. Baines said...

Hey Leigh, What about solarizing the ground? Would that kill the wire grass? You'd lose a season of gardening but with the heat you have, you can't plant anyway...

Ed said...

I'm glad we don't have that stuff growing up here. From what I have read, the only thing that works at killing the stuff is multiple applications of roundup.

Nan said...

Hi Leigh,We fight the wire grass here on the coast of NC also.Terrible stuff! This year our hoop houses are doing really well lettuce kale radishes and a mesclun mix.I finally figured it out and now we'll be moving to our dream homestead come spring. Only problem different soil and grow zone but hopefully no wire gras😊

Leigh said...

We woke up to about 4" of snow this morning and the chickens refuse to leave the coop!

Your goat head weed sounds pretty nasty, and I'm guessing there are obnoxious weeds almost everywhere. Dealing with them is always a challenge isn't it? Another one we get is deadly nightshade. That stuff even has thorns on its roots! I usually spend a number of days every summer pulling it from our paddocks. I haven't gotten rid of it yet, but I keep at it in hopes of conquering it someday.

Leigh said...

Kate, I planted both. The top picture (with the goats in the background) is garlic growing from cloves, the one in the hoop house is from the bulbils. The bulbils are a new experience for me.

From what I understand, scrapes form on hardneck garlic. Hardneck garlic needs cold, where as the softneck tolerates mild winters, so it's preferred in the south. So I grow the softneck and don't get the scrapes. For size, it seems to me that the size of the clove makes the most difference in the size of the bulb. That's not a definitive opinion, just something I'm noticing. :)

Leigh said...

That counts! Good for you for growing at least some fresh food. :)

Leigh said...

Caroline, I tried that one year and it seemed to work for, well, about a year. :)

Leigh said...

Ed, you're lucky. I've read that even the roundup is only a temporary solution, I'm guessing because the roots grow so deep. Wiregrass is the main reason I haven't gone to no-till gardening. Tilling doesn't get rid of it entirely, but at least I can rake and pull out enough to get to the soil and plant.

Leigh said...

Hi Nan, welcome! And congratulations on your upcoming move! Good for you for growing what you can. Yes, every move means learning anew. It's interesting how big a difference even a small relocation can make. And here's hoping you never see another strand of wiregrass ever again!

Mama Pea said...

Oh, Leigh, I just don't know how you maintain the energy and enthusiasm to garden with that terrible, awful, horrible, bad wiregrass problem you have! What a battle it makes for you. Gardening is work, no doubt about it, but it shouldn't be so, so hard as you have it.

I tried wood chips as mulch one year in our blueberry patch and, I swear, more weeds grew up through it (and were just about impossible to get out) than when using any other mulch. Then, of course, in our northern climate it took forever for the wood chips to decay and break down. I am not a fan of wood chips as mulch.

What's happening in my garden? Hahahaha! Not a thing, as you can imagine with the snow covering and our temps below zero. I wondered if you got snow from the storm out your way. It must have been an unusual sight to see the 4" of snow! At least it was moisture for the soil.

Sam I Am...... said...

Nothing here as I am trying to get house ready to sell. We have Bermuda and wire grass here and they are noxious weeds for sure! Bermuda grass is the same way in it's rooting and traveling underground.....nothing stops it! Good luck and happy gardening! Also, Happy New Year!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, very interesting about your experience with wood chip mulch. I really like it in my front yard herb beds, because it doesn't blow away. Our yard is pretty much on a crest of a hill, so breezes blow stuff out of (and in to) our yard all the time. The wood chips look nice and stay put! (Although I still have the same problem with the wiregrass. The difference is that with perennials, I can just keep adding mulch on top.)

Leigh said...

Well, that makes sense because I read that "wiregrass" is actually an uncultivated Bermuda. Bermuda is a popular pasture grass and hay around here, but I'm reluctant to plant it, LOL Good luck with selling your house!

Mrs Shoes said...

Hello from the Great White North, where my gardens are buried under 2' of snow. I have made noises about building a greenhouse, I even collected 694 windows to that end (may be a SLIGHT exaggeration), but my request is not high on Mr Shoes list... yet. He's a terrific finisher, I'm a really good starter, so I guess it's up to me to get the ball rolling.

Ngo Family Farm said...

I tried the wood chip method for a couple years on a small-ish scale, and found it too labor intensive as well. You need about 12 inches of mulch I think, but of course unless it's composting quickly under that, like you mentioned, the seeds can't germinate. And we have a pretty long winter, so I don't think the decomposition rate was fast enough for me here...I could possibly see it working after maybe a five year period of just building the soil under the base layer of mulch. Nevertheless, I've gone back to raised beds, which is what seems to work best for me - easier to weed, too, especially since I've usually got a kiddo strapped to me ;)

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!
-Jaime

Henny Penny said...

I wonder if there is wire grass here. I need to get a close look at it. I haven't done much in the garden lately except clean it up and I keep adding litter from where I rake the goat lot and under the rabbit cages. I've also added horse manure. Your little plants really look good.

Leigh said...

A greenhouse sounds wonderful! And you all sound like a great team. :)

Leigh said...

Wire grass is a wild Bermuda, very invasive and very tenacious. Even so, it seems all gardeners have something to battle, often a grass, but sometimes something else.

I'd say adding litter and manure is doing a very good something for your garden. :)

Leigh said...

Jaime, thank you for that. It's comforting to know others have had trouble with this method as well. I recall from the film that it's not a weed-free method, but it seemed like the weeds he was dealing with were pretty easily dealt with with a rake or hoe. He just hoes rows down to the dirt to plant in the mulch, adds manure, and then more mulch after the plants come up. Our wiregrass will completely swallow a mulched area, or even a raised bed. But I'm finding my few raised beds are a little easier to manage, so we may be going with more of those in the future.

withhimalone said...

We have heaps and heaps of snow and my chickens have finally started laying two eggs a day again, since we moved so that's nice. *smile* We also have those horrid goats head weeds and they hurt the dogs feet, garden, and they get tracked in on the shoes in on the carpet for bare feet inside to be punished. They are horrid! How do you get rid of them other than burning them? I have them everywhere at our new place so was thinking of doing a hay bale garden this year. Have a great day ladies and lovely post of your hoop bed. Thank you for sharing. Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

Mark said...

Oh Leigh! Good for you! That is wonderful and looks to be a huge success.

We've not got a lot of snow at the moment, but were having single digit (F) temps so gardening of any sort is out until March at the earliest and more likely late April or early May.

Our garden nemesis is quack grass, and to a lesser extent crab grass. It's fight all year, every year!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Wow! Gardening going on already! I am still unpacking boxes and hanging pictures! So cold today but spring will be here before you know it! Nancy

Renee Nefe said...

I signed up for this Chip Drop service last year I think. The idea is that people who need chips and tree services who need to get rid of chips are connected. But I'm not sure any tree services ever signed up...if they did, they must have wanted money for the chips. bummer. I need to check and see when my town has recycled christmas trees ready.

Leigh said...

Mark, it seems everybody had some garden nemesis! usually grasses. Certainly keeps things a challenge.

Leigh said...

Nancy, I'd say you've got your hands full with that! Glad your new home has turned out so nice.

Leigh said...

Interesting! I would like something like that, but around here they sell the chips so it's out for us anyway (even if it had been a success in the garden). I'd like to have them for the front yard anyway.

St. Benedict's Thistle said...

Love your blog, Leigh. I live in North Texas and have the same wiregrass issues, as well as having five acres we are learning to farm. However, I also have small mountains of wood chips, courtesy of local tree service companies. I let them dump as often as they like. Consequently, I can put a foot of chips down on my garden at a time, which is about a third of an acre in size. The wiregrass still grows but much less, and is easy to pull up because of how the chips are transforming the soil. Where I have no chips the garden is overrun with grass. Also, just purchased a small flame weeder. Hope it helps keep the grass and other weeds manageable. I think the key with chips is quantity. This will be the first full year with loads of chips on the garden. It has been "chipped' since last spring and we hope it pays off this summer. The ground beneath is springy. The grass is almost the only weed that creeps in. I truly hope they work. Spent a whole season chasing trucks around our rural roads and begging for chips. Have learned so much from your blog. I'm grateful.

Leigh said...

I would love to know how this works out for you. Nice that you could finally get a source of chips! I have noticed that where we've piled brush, it kills the wiregrass, so it's true thickness makes a big difference. It does pull out easier if the mulch is thick, but it seems that about harvest time it really gets away from me because I'm too busy harvesting and preserving to do much weeding. I also know it doesn't grow as well in shade, so when I've had a fairly thick growth of garden plants.

This year I'm going to add more phosphorous to the soil, because I found an article that said some types of wiregrass thrive in low phosphorous soil. I'll do a blog post when I get to it with a link to the article.

Leigh said...

I know I complain about our wiregrass a lot but I'm very thankful to not have that goats head weed! We do have sand burrs, which are a nuisance, also deadly nightshade. I'm guessing straw bales gardening would really help. I hope you blog about it!