Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mulching at Night

We've made some progress with the mulching. These pictures make it look like we're almost done, when in reality we've probably got about 15-20 more truck loads of mulch ahead of us. Thank goodness this stuff is free!

Anyways, here is what we did with our Friday night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mulching in the Rain

Here are some pictures of the future garden site. We will be starting of with a 50 x 75 foot plot. We have room in the yard to expand at some point, and have plans for a fruit tree orchard, but right now we're just concentrating on veggies and berries.

The garden will be just to the right of the greenhouse. It will back up to the trees and be even with the front steps of the greenhouse. You might be able to see in some of these pictures, or guess, that our soil quality is pretty poor. We're planning on using raised beds to overcome this, and bringing in topsoil. Eventually we'll have our own compost to add into the mix as well.

Most of the grass that you can see on the far side of the compost bin will become garden. We'll have to take out a couple trees to start with.

I took this picture standing on the western boundary of the garden. The garden will extend to about 5 feet from the driveway and the side of our house. It is about 50 feet from the greenhouse to the trees on the left.

Based on some comments from my previous post, and feedback from my all-knowing mother, we decided that the best organic bet for mass weed killing for our future garden would be mulching or "sheet composting," if you will. Today we hit the free mulch get-as-much-as-your-back-can-handle jackpot! This should be no surprise as we live in a logging town, but we feel very fortunate to have found such a wonderful source of mulch. The mulch has some larger pieces, but it has aged for some time (in a town of 2,000 people, how much free mulch can people really consume?) and has broken down a lot. To my largely untrained eyes, it looks like pretty good quality for free!

Despite the rain, we got our first load of mulch today. Hmm.. maybe 20 more to go? It looked like so much more in the back of our truck.

I'll post completed mulching pictures as soon as we are down. Hopefully the snow will stay away for another week or two while we complete this project. After that - bring on the snow!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Advice on weed killing

If anyone reads this post - I would love to get some advice on large scale organic weed killing. We have a large area that we are planning to use for our vegetable garden next year. Maybe 100x75' or so. Currently it is covered in weeds that have seed pods on them. The weeds are dried out and dormant right now.

We are trying to figure out the best way to prepare this area for an early start in the spring. Our idea right now to do things organically is to mow the weeds and hopefully remove some of the seed pods by bagging clippings and disposing of this material. Then we're thinking about roto-tilling the rest of the weeds into the first few inches of soil. To prevent additional seeds from blowing over and to suppress weed growth in the spring, we were thinking about putting landscaper's black fabric down somewhat permanently. Then in the spring, we'll build our raised beds on top of this, and just mulch the pathways.

Does this sound like a good idea? Comments would be very appreciated!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Jeff built us a compost bin today!

It looks great! Now we just need to find some things to compost.....

Finished product.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Greenhouse Transplants

We transplanted the rest of our plants to the greenhouse. They were looking pretty healthy, so why not? We're forecasted to have lows in the 30's this week, so it is a relatively safe time to put stuff in the greenhouse.

Here is some bibb head lettuce looking healthy.

Early vienna kohlrabi... (I have a hard time thinning plants - I know, I really need to get over this.)

Sweet curled fennel...

and some Brunswick cabbage.

We're crossing our fingers that things keep looking good!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's happening in the greenhouse

I mentioned before that we had some passive solar heating in the greenhouse. Here is a picture of the high-tech system we've got. Ta-dah! Metal drums filled with water. The sunlight hits these drums during the day warming the water which then radiates heat out at night. It is difficult to tell what gain we get from these, but it must be better than nothing. Unfortunately, with our hopes of winter gardening in such a cold climate we'll be needing some additional heating features and insulation. Right now, we have some experimental bubble wrap placed over top of some beds. That really seems to help and we might end up using some bubble wrapped hoop houses within the greenhouse. We'd rather not actively heat the greenhouse if at all possible.

Below you will see our current pride and joy - the radishes! We planted these about 2 weeks ago directly into the beds. They are just starting to get true leaves, but look very healthy. When we had a cold snap down to 1 degree Fahrenheit last week we lost a couple, but some were completely frozen and still pulled through.

Below are some onions that we direct sowed about 2 weeks ago. Grow onions, grow!

These are burpee's golden beets that we direct sowed 2 weeks ago.

Lastly, here is the arugula. We started these indoors about 2-3 weeks ago. I panicked about winter coming last week and we transplanted these way early against all of the sound gardening advice out there. However, we got lucky and most survived.

So that is what's going on right now! I wish we'd been able to move in to the house a few weeks earlier to get a better jump-start on winter. We've had snow 4 times already! It is crazy cold weather, even for Montana. Next year I'll be starting the winter veggie crop at least 3 weeks earlier.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Citrus & Snow

With winter coming, we've been spending a good deal of time collecting firewood. I had never done this before, but with the cost of a wood permit being $5 it is such a cheap way to heat our home. I wasn't looking forward to getting our wood, but I've actually had a lot of fun spending time out in the woods while being productive. Here I am posing with the truckload of firewood that we worked hard for!

We're trying to get 2 cords of wood for the winter. Our goal is to heat the house with the wood stove only. I think we'll be able to do this as we've already been here 2 weeks with night-time lows consistently in the teens to 20's and haven't had to use any type of heating. We our very excited by how energy efficient our home seems to be! Our house is one of a couple hundred in the US called an Ekosea house. The way it works is very cool. Here is a link to a website about this style of home: Ekosea homes.

I'm hoping that the solarium will make a lovely climate for our new citrus trees. We have now got dwarf lime, lemon and mandarinquat. With the sun and temperature in the solarium I think they will thrive. I can't hardly wait for them to reach their mature height of 6-10 feet. The solarium will feel like a tropical jungle!

Lastly, some gratuitous pictures of the pets. Meet Chloe the quaker parrot.

Here is our puppy Noah. This was his first time in the snow. He loved it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Look Closely

Look closely and you just might see the rainbow swiss chard seedlings that we transplanted this morning into the greenhouse. We are crossing our fingers that these were not too small to transplant. I found conflicting answers about when to transplant from a variety of resources, and being the impatient person that I am - I went with the advice that you transplant right after the true leaves start to show up. I think part of my impatience is coming from the fact that winter is almost here. On the mountain next to our house we can see that the snowline is only a couple hundred feet above us. In fact, I think we're going to have snow tonight. Then later this week we are forecasted to have night time lows in the single digits!

In the picture above are the radishes that we direct sowed about a week and a half ago. They are doing great and I just sowed another row of each type - purple globe, white globe and white icicle.

These beds contain tom thumb lettuce, bibb head lettuce and arugula. Also started indoors and transplanted this morning. All of these seedlings had true leaves that have been showing for the past 2 days. Too early? We'll see.

This critter is estimated to be the largest threat to the crops in the greenhouse. This is our 3 1/2 month old puppy Noah. He loves to eat dirt and almost took out our sprouting onions this morning when we weren't watching close enough! Gotta love puppies.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Citrus Trees

I just put in my order for some citrus trees. I chose to go with Four Winds Growers after reading excellent reviews online. Their prices are more expensive than other companies, but it sounds like the trees will arrive in great condition and be fruiting earlier than trees ordered from other companies.

Bearss lime

Meyer Lemon

I ordered an "improved" meyer lemon, a bearss seedless lime and an indio mandarinquat. Jeff wants to get an indoor mango tree as well, but we're going to wait a little while on that one.
In the greenhouse the carrots, beets and some onions started coming up. Everything else is doing really great. We are now just waiting on the leeks to germinate.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I'm so glad to finally be able to post some pictures of the greenhouse! We've been in the new house for almost a week and are having so much fun. The internet was just hooked up today, so it's back to life as we know it.

Before we had even finished moving our things over to our new pad, we had the greenhouse beds prepped and planted. This task took me and Jeff about 1 1/2 days of digging, watering and breaking up soil clods. It seems like the previous gardener used lots of peat in the greenhouse beds which were bone dry after 2 years of not being touched. We learned that just trying to water bone dry peat is like watering concrete! It doesn't work. The soil is nice and damp now though!

So far, only the spinach and radishes have germinated in the greenhouse and we are waiting on the onions, carrots and beets. In the solarium I have 2 seed trays going with lots of lettuce, chard, cabbage, leeks, onions, herbs, violas, arugula, turnips, endive.... and others that I'm sure I'm forgetting. These are going strong and I'm thinking about hardening off and transplanting in the next couple weeks.

We've got a min/max thermometer out in the greenhouse with a probe inside and outside. We've been getting down to 28-32 degrees at night outside, and the lowest greenhouse temperature was 48 degrees. During the day it's been averaging between 60 and 75 outside but the greenhouse has gone up to 110-120! I'm thinking we need to get some better fans installed than the small solar ventilation fans in the greenhouse right now. I don't imagine many plants will do well with such drastic temperature extremes.
So that is the story of the greenhouse at this point. Jeff and I are both drooling over the thought of our own fresh veggies soon! I've been digging up recipes with arugula and radishes to be ready for our first crops.