Monday, February 27, 2017

Dead Coolers

Way back on Nov 26, 2015 I posted a blog entry about a person here that lives on lava land, but still successfully gardens. She's been using half barrels and plenty of old, dead coolers salvaged from the dump. She just sent me some new photos of her efforts and I want to share them. 

She makes her own  "soil" Old Hawaiian style, by taking the old "soil", layering in organic material (weeds basically), then planting a new crop. By mulching the top, she keeps the plant roots moist and cool. Ya know, it works! 

She's solved another problem by using salvaged metal grates...........cats using the soft soil for a catbox. The crops will grow up through the grate with no problem, and the cats are aghast to find themselves thwarted, actually cheated, out of a good place to poo. I plan to help her out by watching for grates at the dump. Or perhaps some other kind of firm mesh, be it plastic or metal. I like her solution a lot. Cool! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

More Lambs !

Went out this morning to hand out the morning goodies and to check on Stacy's two new lambs and was surprised to see a trio. Tidy (Ewe-L Tide) has brought her new little ram lamb out of the back woods to join the flock. Quite the handsome boy. I just wish that he was a little ewe. I'm getting far too many rams lately. Anyway....looks like for now I now have three lambs sired by Mystery Ram. 

When I called for the flock, in the distance I saw Blacky (Ewe-Soblack) half hopping, half walking up. She'd stop every 100 feet or so, let out a good baaaaaa, then come some more. What the heck? By the time she reached the first feeding trough, she popped out a coal black lamb. My, my. Blacky sure is one sheep that doesn't plan to miss a free handout! 

Eventually the lamb stood up on wobbly legs, tucked under mom who took turns licking her lamb and eating more haycubes. 

I took a peek and saw that it's a ewe lamb. Good, a girl! She's coal black and sired by E-Ram. This is most likely E-Ram's last lamb, though possibly Tan (Ewe-ka-tan) is carrying a lamb he sired. We shall see in a few weeks if Tan's baby is E-Ram's or Mystery Ram's. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stacy's New Lambs

Stacy's my favorite ewe. She's smart, for a sheep. She's the flock leader. Three days ago she left the flock and hid in the back woods. Lambing time! Goody! 

Today Stacy brought her new lambs up to the feeding station. They are healthy looking and full of curiosity.  And soooooo pretty. 

They are very similarly colored and marked, almost twins. But the little ram is a darker chocolate while the little ewe is a lighter milk chocolate. And the boy has more color on his face. 

I plan to keep the girl, for sure. I'm not sure if I'll keep the boy. But we'll see what happens as time goes by. 

Now it's time to come up with names. 

Stacy's lambs is the second lamb birth this year. Goldie birthed a stillborn little white female lamb two weeks ago. Although it looked full term, it was quite small. Goldie didn't even go off into seclusion for the birth. It's as though it happened quickly and by surprise because she dropped the dead lamb right at the feeding station. Sad, but these things happen. I put Goldie on antibiotics for a while in case she had some sort of uterine infection, plus I dewormed her again, ahead of schedule. She's doing fine. It's just that she lost her lamb. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Transplanting Seedling Starts

Now that I have several mini greenhouses, I'm able to grow plenty of veggie seedlings for transplanting out into the gardens. I'm finding that I'm far more successful using seedlings than I am directly sowing seeds into the garden soil. Too many things cause the direct seedlings to fail. 

I've recently discovered that planting technique has a big, big bearing on the success of the seedlings to survive. This is the method I've come up with so far that's giving me the best results, whether it be in the community garden bed or my own scattered growing spots around the property. 

First , I prepare the soil by either digging or tilling in soil amendments. These may include the old mulch, compost, chicken pen litter, coral sand, lava sand, wood ash (if the pH test indicates it's low), biochar (if the soil is hydrophobic), crushed heat treated bone, ocean water (just a light sprinkle). It all depends upon what the amendment schedule is or what is needed. 

With the soil ready, I'll scoop out a hole about 3" deep. 

Then I'll fill it with water and let it soak in. 

Next, the seedling gets planted and the hole back filled with soil so that the seedling root ball is completely covered over. Now I'll give it a second watering to wet the soil at least 6" around the seedling. 

A plastic protective collar is set into place. 

Once all the seedlings are planted, I'll apply a light mulch to cover the entire soil surface to protect it from the sun and wind. Below, is a mulch made from chipped up tree and brush trimmings. 

This mulch is grass clippings. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Toy Choy Bok Choy

For the first time I'm growing a variety of Chinese green called Toy Choy. It's one of those dwarf bok choys. I've never seen one of the dwarf types before, but I've heard that they are suitable for quick growing and hydroponics. The quick growing trait caught my eye. 

I opted to start the seed in pots. Once germinated, I gently transplant them into individual growing cells. Then once they are big enough to handle easily, generally 4 leaf stage, they go out into the garden. I'm using the plastic bottle hotcaps for the first week or so, followed by a plastic collar. So far I've had very good success with almost no seedling loss. 

This variety lives up to its reputation of quickly growing. Within 3 weeks out in the garden, I was sampling baby choys. Two weeks later the plants were big, lush, and mature. 

(Not bolting yet....that is, no flower being produced.) 

What hadn't been harvested at this stage were in the brink of bolting. One week later a few plants were bolting though others were still holding ok and getting bigger yet. 

(Starting to bolt. The beginnings of flowering. Still edible though borderline marketable.) 

(Bolting. Flowering, plus the plant stem is growing longer, making the plant get taller. I ate this plant and it was fine tasting even at this stage.) 

This variety is a definite keeper in my gardens. I grew it out in the full sun. I now plan to try some in semi shade and see what happens. I have a lot more semi shade than sun gardens, so I'm always looking for veggies that will produce in my less than ideal veggie locations. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Plastic Bottle Protectors - The Next Step

George has left some comments that got me thinking again. Thus I'm still tinkering with the plastic bottle idea. Using bottle hotcaps has its pitfalls (too much heat). So do the collars (not enough wind protection).  So I think.......could something half way in between work better? Thus my latest twist is the bottomless/topless bottle. These end up being a tall collar, twice as long as the original collars I made. 

I'm thinking......
By removing the bottle top, the seedling won't overheat and bake to death. 
By having tall sides, the seedling is protected from the drying wind, plus the air around it will be warmer and have more humidity than if it were unprotected. It will be somewhat of a greenhouse effect. 

So in theory, these tall collar-like protectors should give better results than either the hotcap design or the short collar design. Now for the test. 

I'm thinking that with some veggies, these tall collars can be left in place even as the plant keeps growing, such as with broccoli, chard, kale, tomatoes, and other tall growing plants. With shorter or spreading veggies, the tall collars would need to be replaced with a short collar before the seedling grew too large, such as with dwarf bok choy, cabbage, parsley, and such. If perchance these plastic collars keep most of the slugs off, then I'll use them on as many crops as possible. We'll see. 

Now for some photos of results to date.......
We've been having sunny, windy days which have been brutal on the young seedlings.  The ones protected by the bottle hotcaps have been doing fine. Those with no protectors are totally wilted, even though the soil is damp under the surface. 

But even a short collar gave protection. Only the parts of the leaves above the collar rim have wilted. The rest of the seedling is fine. So it's the wind that's the main culprit. 

This bed should have had all the bottle hotcaps put into place and then munched, but I was still searching for more bottles. Plus I was short on mulch. Dang. But it's nice to know that the bottle method has potential to be very beneficial. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Plastic Bottle Plant Collars

This idea came off of the plastic bottle idea. The plastic bottles have worked out great and are now a routine method used in my gardens. The bottles effectively block cutworms, but once removed from the seedlings, the cutworms still damage some of the baby plants. Often they (the cutworms) can't cut through the stems but manage to girdle them, thus ruining the seedling after all.  

Ok...the bottles need to come off early so that the seedling can grow. But protection from cutworms is still needed. What to do that would be easy, cheap, and reusable? Why not plastic bottle plant collars. 

I tried cutting down several different types of bottles. I found that the Gatorade type bottles worked best. Made into collars, they were still strong enough to hold their shape while being pushed down into the soil around a seedling. I made the collars about 3 1/2" to 4" in height. 

Funny thing......the Gatorade type bottles aren't smooth walled. Thus they were difficult to use as bottle hotcaps. The soil tended to stick to the inside of these bottles, making it a challenge to remove them. So while they're not desirable for bottle hotcaps, they make far better collars than the smooth walled plastic bottles. The smooth walled ones aren't strong enough as collars, as they tend to bend or collapse while trying to push them down into the soil. 

Other benefits from the plastic plant collars....
1- the collar holds the young leaves up off the ground
2- the collar helps stabilize floppy seedlings until they can harden up
3- it makes watering the seedling very easy, getting the water right to the seedling root zone
4- slugs seem to be somewhat deterred by the collars too
5- most type plants continue to grow into maturity with the collars in place. No need to remove them.