Monday, November 27, 2017

Expanding the Growing Space

While I have plenty of growing areas to produce all the fruits and veggies that we need to survive ourselves, it's the extra cash crops that I'm focusing on. Thus the reason I need more garden spots. But looking around my farm, I see that I'm limited as to available open, sunny areas. Resale veggies are ones that require sun. So the flat, open area in the front of the property will remain the primary growing area.  The problem there is the lack of soil depth and lots of rocks. I've already spent years removing rocks, and it looks like I'm going to be doing more once again. Gee, my first thought was, "Where do I need more rock walls?"

I'm actively working to expand. Besides looking for more nooks and crannies, I'm also coming up with ways to expand the main garden. By removing the grass aisles, I'll gain over 33% more actual planting space. So that looks like a viable option. Plus it would be the fastest way since most of the rocks have already been removed from previous gardening activity.

Above, the aisleway has been turned over, then compost was tilled in. 

Another option is converting the ornamental taro growing area into veggie beds. That's a real tempting option too. 

Down along the chicken pen is a 20' x 15' spot that gets decent sun and has adequate soil. I could move taro to that area, thus freeing up better locations for more veggies. 

Much of my grassy, pasture zones get plenty of sun, but are full of rock and poor soil. Those spots would take some serious work. But it's a thought in the back of my head. 

Above, I've prepared the soil along the back edge of a low rock wall and planted a little taro. Utilizing the narrow, small margins helps increase my production.'s another "edge" garden site. I'm putting 20 pineapple starts along one of the concrete pathways around the house. Noodles helped me remove rocks and till in the compost. Gee, I had to be careful not to run him over with the tiller. He's not afraid of motors, obviously. 

Some of the new areas will be used for vine crops .... pipinola, pumpkins, gourds. So I'll only need to prep the spots where the individual plants will be growing, not the areas in between where the vines spread. At least for now, that's the plan. I can prep more ground after the harvest. 

As for row crops, for virgin garden spots I'm preparing just the actual row only for now --- not the space between the rows. Eventually I'll expand the 12" rows into 3' wide beds, but not immediately. Why? Lack of time. First step is create a row and get a crop in and growing. Then as time permits, I'll remove rocks and add soil amendments to the aisleways. Rather than prepping the entire area first, it's more important for me to get a crop growing. Thus prep will happen along the way as I'm harvesting crops for market. I know that lots of people advocate...actually insist on... getting the garden area fully prepped first, but that would mean working the soil for three years before growing my first crop. A year of rock removal and bed creation and two years of building the soil fertility. Keep in mind that I'm not using commercial fertilizers, which would give me an instant boost now but would interfere with the development of a long term healthy soil system. No, I'm not going to wait for 3 years. I need the crops now and will simply work with what I've got, improving as I go along. And ya know, I'm no spring chicken anymore. Waiting years to get a new crop going isn't in my favor anymore. I want to see these crops getting harvested before I'm too old to do it! 

So here's my task list....
...choose a spot with at least 3" of soil (even if it's just between the rocks) and gets at least 6 hours of sun
...mow the grass down as close as possible. the rototiller shallowly over the surface to cut most of the grass plants off at the soil surface. 
...mark where the rows will be
...use a mattock to open the soil along the rows, removing the rocks as I go along. Remove any Bermuda grass roots that I see. Open the row about 12" wide. the row with compost, manure, and other soil amendments. Work them in with a mattock, shovel, or tiller (whichever does the job). 
...plant beans, peas, or potatoes

There will be lots of more work in the future. Things like building the soil volume, increasing the soil fertility, eliminating the Bermuda and kukuya grass, removing more rocks to widen the growing area. But the goal I'm keeping in mind is growing sellable veggies ASAP. 

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