Thursday, July 19, 2018

Parsley Surprise

Learning to grow food in the tropics has brought some real surprises, parsley is one of them. 

I started my parsley in the mini greenhouses, then transplanted to teeny seedlings into small pots for growing on until they were big enough to go out into the garden. I didn't even bother to try seeding it directly into the garden bed because I figured the birds or mice would surely eat the sprouting seedlings. This starting strategy worked just fine, giving me plenty of young plants for transplanting. 

I planted 3 small patches of parsley, not knowing if I would run into pests and diseases. It turns out that parsley is very easy to grow here. I really haven't had any problem with it.....(holding my breathe and crossing my fingers), yet. 

The surprises.....,
... It grows year around here. It never stops. So I learned that I planted far too much for my own use and for trading. 
... It never dies back in the winter. It just keeps on going, developing thick stems and looking like miniature trees. 
... It never bolts. This also means that without going to unusual measures, I can't produce parsley seed. 

Above, I just harvested some parsley and now it's easy to see the thick mini tree trunks. 

The plants actually look attractive as mini trees. These plants are 3 years old now. The thick stem keeps the leaves well above the soil, thus keeping them clean. That's a nice side benefit, 

Put my finger in there just for comparison. Right after this, I applied a light mulching (1/2" thick) using sifted compost, then covered that with fresh grass clippings. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Square Footage

Plenty of readers have been asking about how much land do I have in growing spaces. Truthfully I can't say exactly. Some of my garden beds are teeny, some large. Trees, such as bananas and edible trees are planted singularly rather than in an organized orchard. So how would I calculate the square footage in them? 

For those of you who are curious, I'll start posting square footage, If you noticed, I'm including the square footage of the garden beds that I'm reclaiming (beds 1 though 5 so far). For those of you who have a need to crunch numbers, you can add them up for me. You can also add some beds that I've already done this year (I won't include anything prior to 1/1/18). 
... Single trees : 4 moringa, 4 bananas, 2 citrus
... 28 pineapples scattered about the farm
... Turmeric : 300 sq ft + 45 sq ft + 30 sq ft + 324 sq ft = 699 sq ft total
... Yacon in grow boxes = 18 sq ft
... Potatoes in grow boxes = 45 sq ft
... Sweet potatoes 174 sq ft
... Cholesterol spinach 30 sq ft
... Pipinolas 66 sq ft
... Chocolate mint 30 sq ft

I'll continue to mention the square footage of what I'm planting just so people can get a better idea of how much I'm growing. Just keep in mind that not all of this stuff goes onto my own dinner table. Yes, some does. But some also goes to Adam and Matt and to other people I know. Some is used for trading. Some gets sold. Much goes to feed the livestock. Some gets donated to senior centers and local food distribution efforts. 

I'm not one for keeping strict records. Through experience I've developed a feeling for how much I need to grow of this or that. And since the excess can always be sold, given away, or fed to the animals, the exact numbers are no big deal. By the way, I don't weigh my harvest either. I know of plenty of people who proudly know how many pounds of this or that comes out of their gardens. Frankly, I don't have the time to weight everything. And to me it doesn't make much difference if I don't weigh it. As long as there is plenty, that's all that matters. Besides, nothing goes to waste! 

Bed 1 = 180
Bed 2 =   77
Bed 3 = 192
Bed 4 = 112
Bed 5 = 112

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Moving on to Beds 4 & 5

Dry conditions are allowing the soil to dry out enough so that I can get back to farming with a vengeance. Hauling compost, digging weeds, tilling, planting, mowing, watering. I think I'm going to be good & tired at the end of the day! Today I've reclaimed two more beds. This means degrassing them, adding compost and a few other soil amendments, tilling it in to create a light, airy soil bed.

Prepared and ready for planting.......

Bed 4&5 are in the same general area I've been working on these past couple days. So at least this one little patch on the farm is looking like someone actually grows something around here. Each bed is 112 square feet, thus adding 224 sq ft more into what I'm working with this year. Each bed is being planted in taro this time around. In the past you would have seen golden beets, green beans, snow peas, cabbage, cauliflower, dill, onions, cilantro, basil, potatoes, or cardoon.

Taro starts ready for planting.......

Between these two beds, I got 7 more taro varieties planted. 

After planting, each plant is well watered in, using about a gallon of water per plant. Then the entire bed is mulched with grass clippings. 

Below is bed 5. Right after lunch I finished up mulching this bed and got all the labels in place. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Garden Bed #3

(Bed 3 = 192 sq ft)

After finishing beds 1 & 2, I thought about what to plant next. Up at the house garden beds, I have taro that is overdue to be separated and replanted. This seemed to be the highest priority, so I choose the six most overdue varieties. Looking the plants over, I choose the best looking starts, cleaned them up, and planted them. Freshly planted, they look like green or purple sticks lined up in a row. 

As you can see, this garden bed gets shade very early in the morning. By 10, it gets full sun the rest of the day. Most crops have done just fine in this location, so I fully expect the taro to do okay too. 

I'm getting more careful about making garden labels. For short duration crops, a yellow stick & permanent magic marker works fine. But for crops staying in the ground for 5 or more months, I'm resorting to more durable markers. For the taro I'm switching over to repurposed pcv pipe painted yellow and labeled using black paint. 

Last task.......apply mulch. In the taro patch I'm using 3 day old grass clippings laid down 6 inches thick. At 6 inches it's fluffy, but in a couple days it will settle down to be about 1 inch deep. In two weeks I'll reapply the mulch so that I will end up with about 2 inches of mulching material. Then about once a month, as needed, I'll add more mulch to keep the ground well covered and the weeds under control. Taro is a crop that can't compete with weeds and grass, so weed control is important. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Refreshed Garden Beds...1&2

Beautiful sunshine yesterday morning...and best yet, no rain! Got the strong urge to go play in the dirt. So without much delay, I was out the door. 

Bed #1 (180 sq ft)
Down on hands and knees (the most comfortable position for this task), I chopped out the invading grass in this small pineapple patch. Dang that bermuda grass! Dumped a couple of wheelbarrows of compost and very lightly tilled it in between the plants, but didn't till up to the plants at all. Didn't want to chop up the plant roots. Then I brought over some of the grass clippings from the other day and laid down a 4-6 inch layer, which will settle down to about 1" thick. 

Bed #2 (77 sq ft)
Using the lawnmower, I scalped the grass down in this section that we had used for gardening before. So I wasn't worried about hitting any rocks with the mower. Attacking the old bed with a garden fork, I worked out the bermuda grass that I could find. Adding two wheelbarrows of compost, I finished up the job with the rototiller. Ah-ha......a ready garden bed! I planted three wide rows of beans, Maxibels, my neighbor's favorite. After all, this particular garden bed is in his backyard (we share the gardening areas), so he deserves his Maxibels. 

In that I'm adverse to leaving soil uncovered, I applied a very light covering of mulch to the seeded bed. As long as the mulch isn't thick, the beans will sprout through it. 

Above, the mulch looks thick but it's not. In fact, it barely covers the soil surface. You can see in the photo below that there's plenty of soil showing through. 

The idea is to lightly shade the soil surface in order to help keep the sun and wind from drying it out and killing the soil microbes. Those microbes, after all, are the things that give me my plant food. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Back to Planting Again

Im finally getting some good garden time in....
... Bed #1--- Weeded and mulched one of the pineapple patches. 
... Mowed around several garden beds, collecting 8 trashcanfuls of clippings. 
... Hauled compost over to the garden area I'm working on and tilled it in. 
... Bed #2--- Started planting some bean seeds and a few taro huli before it started to pour rain.

Rain. Happily the rain proved just to be a brief downpour. Got everything soaking wet on the surface, just enough to stop my gardening efforts. But that's ok. I still feel that I got something accomplished. So I switched jobs to preparing garden stakes and cleaning up the mini greenhouses. Also prepared 4 trashcanfuls of compost tea for using tomorrow morning. 

The grass around these garden beds have been mowed down using the lawnmower's closest setting. That won't kill this grass, but will slow down its growth for a couple weeks. I like keeping the grass walkways because they provide better footing and help control the excess moisture that we've been getting. I can get away with scalping the grass this time of year. It grows back with a vengeance. But during the winter months the grass regrows much more slowly, so scalping isn't a good idea at that time. And scalping isn't something I'd do during drought times either, but it's been raining a bit almost every day, which us keeping the soil moist and grass growing. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Noodles Eats a Rock

The past two weeks have had a full schedule, and our Noodle puppy helped tip us over the edge. For a few days he was not acting his boisterous self, but not acting overly sick either. And at night around 4 a.m. he would wake up and have a dry heave. He was eating but not with his normal enthusiasm. Eating, drinking, no vomiting. Then Friday morning he had some straining when he went to poop. Would only eat a tiny bit for breakfast. Was subdued, but otherwise alert. No vomitting, and though he was drinking water, it wasn't his normal gushing amount. Late Friday afternoon he turned down dinner and water. Late Friday night he vomitted twice, losing all the food he had eaten over the past couple days. I was able to track the time via the type of treats he puked up. 

I suspected he had an intestinal foreign body. Perhaps not a full blockage, but something was going on for sure. His belly wasn't tense, but his eyes told us that he didn't feel right. He had no fever and his gums indicated that he was a bit dehydrated. 

So first thing Saturday morning I called the vet hospital and arranged for an emergency visit. Of course, once I got off the phone Noodles was acting a bit better. He drank water and held it down. But he wasn't interested in going outside for bathroom walks. He actually asked for a dog cookie, but I didn't give him one just in case he would need surgery. Though not his bouncy self, he was willing to go for a car ride. He still had no fever and still was subdued. 

The vet is a 1 1/2 hour drive away. By the time we got there Noodles was acting pretty good. Not boisterous, but alert and comfortable. The vet listened to our tale and suspected that Noodles ate something, being that he's half Labrador retriever. Labs are noted to swallow inappropriate items. An ultrasound indicated intestinal inflammation. No foreign body was seen in the stomach and upper intestinal system. Bloodwork revealed no toxicity although some inflammation of the pancreas was  suspected. The X-ray was the clincher. A radiopaque object was in his colon. Bingo! 

The next morning Noodles pooped out a rock. Once the rock was gone, the pup returned to his normal self. 
That's a big rock to get through some of the tight spaces in a dog's intestinal system!