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Amaranthus

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I live in Canadian zone 4b (-28C winter low temp to +35C summer) so not really ideal weather conditions.  120 day growing season that can vary a lot in either direction.  My raised bed garden is maybe 70 square feet.

I have a postage stamp sized backyard facing SW on badly contaminated soil.  80 years ago there was a lumberyard on the land here and the wood treatment chemicals involved a lot of mercury and arsenic.  Before 1960 or so no one bothered to worry about things like that.  I wouldn't want to eat a carrot grown in this dirt. 

Solution is 18" deep raised beds with a wood and landscape plastic base to separate the good soil from the dangerous stuff.  I can modify the microclimate with a small (3' wide) home made hoop house (1/2" electrical pvc conduit) covered in vented plastic to start veg 4-8 weeks early.  One layer of vented plastic=5C of protection, 2 layers on a double hoophouse =10C, add a vented cloche and plants can be kept up to 15C warmer than the outside temperature without any additional heating (eg. jugs of hot water, line of xmas lights, insulating blankets on top at night).  Though you really really need the vented plastic or your veg will fry on a sunny day, even in winter. 

For summer I'm going to try 50% shade fabric if we get another summer with 3 months of no rain, the slightly cooler environment helps conserve soil moisture.  It can also offer protection from hail when thunderstorms stir things up a bit too much.

I want to see how far I can push the growing season with these tricks and with cold hardy/heat hardy veg.  The traditional frost free planting date here is May 24th and first hard frost is around October 5th.  With the weather getting weirder we can bake in April and freeze in September.  Or vice versa.

I'm using the intensive square foot gardening technique popularized by Mel Bartholomew over 30 years ago, and combining it with companion planting and inter-cropping.  So 16 carrots in a square foot, 9 beets in the next, 9 turnips etc. with green onions planted on the dividing lines to discourage and confuse pests.  Basil and oregano around the square of cherry tomatoes...and so on.  A thick layer of mulch is also a good idea, in summer it slows evaporation, blocks weeds and helps keep the soil cooler, in winter it helps keeps heat in.

I've also done some reading on bio-remediation that says berry crops are the safest thing to grow in bad soil, while root veg are the worst choice.  A berry is as far from the root system as it gets, while root veg is physically growing in the danger zone. 

So I have 6 blueberry and 4 haskap berry bushes I planted in the ground last year.  Both types are hardy to zone 2, so bad winters and late frosts won't do them any damage, and as long as I can keep them watered, they don't seem to mind the heat.  We caught the northern end of the 'great american drought' here last year and the new little bushes looked fine.  My neighbour also ran one of the haskap bushes over with a lawnmower, it grew back by the end of summer.  It pays to plant tough and resilient stuff.  I'm a bit skeptical about the size of reported yields per bush but we'll see this summer.

This year I'm putting in some hardy kiwi berries (actinidia kolomikta) over a small arbour and trellised along the deck. 

More adventurously, I've ordered a couple of Pawpaw trees, they grow naturally around the edges of lake Ontario in zone 6, so here they'll need a lot of winter shelter.  Pawpaw fruit taste like a combo of banana and mango, are native to north america and are a tropical type fruit that grow in a temperate zone.  We'll see how they do.  I'll have to keep them trimmed to 6' high and bushlike so I can wrap them properly.  I'm hoping a couple of layers of burlap, a line of mini xmas lights and a tarpaulin will keep them just above the -15C they can withstand.  Since it gets to -28C here I can only hope.

About the only thing I haven't tried yet is timer controlled drip irrigation, it's on my list of stuff to look into.

Any suggestions?  Stuff I haven't stumbled across in my research yet?  Please let me know...this is all small scale experimental stuff.

ivica

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Amaranthus, you did a lot of research, I've nothing really to add (I'm in zone 7), however:

...For summer I'm going to try 50% shade fabric if we get another summer with 3 months of no rain, the slightly cooler environment helps conserve soil moisture.  It can also offer protection from hail when thunderstorms stir things up a bit too much.

I'm playing with "50% shade fabric" nets last 4 y or so, let me emphasize usability of those:
Sun protection
     Helps conserving soil moisture.
     Too much sun light/heat could reduce #growing days (plant depending).

      During winter that can act as Frost-bite protection,
      The last thing a cold sensitive tree needs after a cold night is direct exposition to Sun.

Wind protection
    I've a number of potted trees and really I do not like hunting them while they roll over backyard.
    Even under unpleasant wind conditions one can BBQ behind such net.

Hail protection
    I see #such events increasing in my area, what is more sad then a tree/plant after hail?.


Laurent

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You may try this site to see if there is some plants that you can grow !
http://www.pfaf.org/user/default.aspx
Do a search on permaculture and your zone !?

Laurent

Amaranthus

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Thank you ivica, I'm new to shade fabric, just found it this year.  Good to know it's so effective.  Carrots are supposed to be cooler season crops, I'm hoping the extra bit of shade will help improve their flavour in July.  They get 'soapy' tasting in hot weather. 

Thanks for the link Laurent, looks like there is lots of useful information.  I'm always looking for new plants tough enough to survive the winter and tasty enough to be worth the effort.

ivica

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...This year I'm putting in some hardy kiwi berries (actinidia kolomikta) over a small arbour and trellised along the deck. 

One advise (maybe you do not know that already):
Keep cats away from kolomikta!
Kiwi's wood have something what is like a drug for them. Use rabbit metal net or something... cats should have no access to kiwi trunk. This video is harmless, you don't want to see what cat can do to kiwi trunk ::)

Amaranthus

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I remember reading that somewhere, but I'd forgotten about it.  I've got a different kiwi type on the east side of the house, but it hasn't been doing well, that might be the problem.  We have a local feral cat colony in a ravine not far off.  Maybe I can try planting rue around them along with some chicken wire.  I'm told cats hate the smell of rue. 

I use cayenne pepper powder around the garden beds to repel raccoons and mint spray against the squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits.  I can't smell it after about 15 minutes, but I guess the critters still can since nothing tried digging up my garden last year.

Lucas Durand

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I live in Canadian zone 4b (-28C winter low temp to +35C summer) so not really ideal weather conditions.  120 day growing season that can vary a lot in either direction.

Amaranthus,
Sounds like we're in a very similar boat.

Never tried the shade screen, but last year I used some burlap stretched over a welded wire frame (the kind used as reinforcement for concrete slabs) to shade our seeds.
Last spring was so early and warm that the shade really helped with germination.
Also, the summer was so hot last year our cukes were getting really bitter - I think I'll try the burlap shade with them this year.

My wife and I are presently using a temporary garden with plans to make a new garden in the next few years (I've been using the time to come up with some new design ideas).
One of my ideas, is to have seperate beds for "cool crops" and "warm crops" with the cool crop beds near the forest verge so that they get some shade during the hotest part of the day while warm crop beds get continuous sun.
I've also been experimenting with some small hugelkultur beds for herbs but eventually I'd like to consider some larger beds of this type once I get the "bugs" worked out.

Neven

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I hope to join the discussion one day. I fooled around a bit with a small garden at the previous place we rented, but will finally be able to seriously get into it once our house is built.
Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Laurent

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Check this video :
PERMACULTURE - CULTIVER AVEC LA NATURE - Sepp Holzer

Do a search for Sepp Holzer in youtube or google to have more !
Sepp Holzer live in austria (certainly not far from Neven), the weather should be a bit like yours !
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 05:59:02 PM by Laurent »

Lynn Shwadchuck

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I'm inspired to try burlap shades this year, thanks to what I see here. Last year (we're in the same Canadian area as Lucas and Amaranthus) my parsnips mostly failed to germinate under floating row cover. The cukes simply fried. We also have lots of new fruit bushes – extremely well mulched. I've been disappointed in soaker hoses. The sun cracks them. However, maybe if I hadn't bought the cheap kind... One weekend we unwittingly left one on in the raspberry row for four days. It really doesn't use much water, but the canes grew like mad! Our local biodynamic market garden farmer says he favours hand watering during a drought. We now have six rain barrels. By the time we finished looking into ways to get water up from the adjacent swamp, it had dried up.
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John Batteen

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2013, 05:04:21 PM »
I grow fine produce semi-commercially in zone 4a, about an hour south of Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Our weather has been consistently challenging the last several years.  Last year, it was 80 for St. Patrick's day, then we had frost not long after and it ruined a great many fruit tree crops.  Irrigation is also necessary.  Alternating between flood and drought seems more common.  I can't cultivate some lower areas by the creek because they are more flood-prone now than they were, although a lot of this is also due to land use changes in the watershed.

I am looking into high tunnels to help deal with these problems.  They can be easily shaded in the hot summer months, and they protect against untimely frost.  They can also extend the growing season by about 8 weeks in the spring and 4 weeks in the fall.  Solar heating goes a long way, especially in the spring when the days are cool but the sun is shining bright.  Lots of growers in my area are using them already.

I'm already using drip irrigation and it is a lifesaver.  I used to spend hours a day handwatering my garden and now I don't even think about it.  Set the timer for some extra if it's been hot and dry.  Turn it off if it's been rainy.  Plus it's a more efficient use of the water, especially if you can get the emitters under an inch or two of mulch.


ghoti

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2013, 07:58:54 PM »
Lynn your website inspired my wife and me to try growing sweet potato slips for this year's garden. We'll see how it goes. We're in Ottawa so if you can grow sweet potatoes we can too :)

Last summer's hot super dry season was tough to keep up with. We'll add another rain barrel this year. Now if I can find a way to keep the thirsty squirrels from chewing the zucchini leaves and stems to shreds this year I'll be happy.

Amaranthus

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2013, 09:41:09 PM »
Hi ghoti, as to the squirrels, someone told me last year that rodents are all allergic to mint, so I bought one of those mint oil flavour things from the grocery store baking aisle and made a mint spray.  As long as I spray it around the garden beds every two or three days it seems to work. 

I'm in Ottawa too, I'll have to try growing sweet potatoes when I build the space, I got a few little purple potatoes from a rubbermaid bin last year, I'll try again in a larger container.

Lynn Shwadchuck

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2013, 02:27:26 PM »
I bought two sweet potato potted starts from Tom Waller at Elm Tree Farm and the vines covered a huge area and produced quite a heavy crop. I didn't even try eating some of the tender vine leaves, because I had so much brassica. It's worth paying for good plants. Burt's Greenhouse near Odessa is an inspiring destination nursery and they specialize in sweet potatoes, not exclusively, but they do a lot.
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Stephen

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2013, 11:50:32 AM »
I live in Melbourne Australia, not sure of the zone, but I can always grow something 365 days a year.  My biggest problem is sooty-mold.  A fungus that has all but destroyed my tomatoes and snow peas.  It affects different crops.  I have found that the Italian variety "Roma" tomatoes resist best.

Our summer is finally coming to an end after the hottest March on record.  (14 days over 30C) Not the highest maximum mind you, but the highest averages of minimum and maximum.   

I find great success with pumpkin.  They are easy to grow, nutritious, versatile, very resistant to disease and fungus, and will keep for ages in the right conditions.  (Hint, check out where the term 'root cellar' originates)  We really need to also talk about methods of preserving the food we grow because the best crops will only ripen for a few weeks a year.  We need to re-learn the old ways of preserving without refrigeration and artificial ripening techniques.

So, thanks to AGW, and modern horticultural hybrids, its getting easier to grow these warm season vegetables in Melbourne.  There is even now a variety of banana you can grow in Melbourne.

But, back to my garden.  I have about 300 sq mt in my back yard for growing and I have planted 1 orange, 1 mandarin, 2 apples (narrow 'ballerina' hybrids') and a very young macadamia.  the mandarin and orange do very well, and the birds and worms certainly love my apples.  I also planted 3 cantaloupe vines this year.  They did very well.  I harvested 11 a few weeks ago and they are very tasty.  After harvesting the pumpkins, I generally pull the vines out and plant snow-peas for winter, but this year, thanks to our record hot March, I noticed that the central clump was sending out fresh vines, so I left them and watered them.  Well, now I might get a second crop of pumpkins!  Very, very unusual.

I also grow strawberries successfully, but the snails, birds and bugs generally get most of them.  I find raspberries very easy to grow.  They only fruit on last years canes, so you always have the fertile canes producing fruit and the canes for next year growing alongside.  I put nets over them to keep the birds away.

I don't do this because it is cheaper, in my part of Melbourne fresh fruit and veggies are cheap and easy to get. I do it to keep the practice and knowledge. And because home grown is so much tastier. 

Anyway, finally we are having some autumn weather and it seems to be cooling off, I will start planning my winter crops, mostly peas and beans.

The important thing here is to keep trying, see what suits your particular micro-climate.  What grows well for your neighbour, might not grow well for you.  But, if you are just starting off, I recommend pumpkins, snow-peas and beans because they are so easy and disease resistant, they will encourage you with early success.

Well - long post - I'll go now, but I love to read these stories of how you go under tough conditions.  I know I have it easy in a mild climate.

The ice was here, the ice was there,   
The ice was all around:
It crack'd and growl'd, and roar'd and howl'd,   
Like noises in a swound!
  Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lynn Shwadchuck

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2013, 05:15:28 PM »
Nice report from a warm climate, Stephen. We don't want this thread specializing in Cold Canada.

One important tip from my most scientific gardener friend: Don't save seeds from pumpkins and squash if you grow them near each other – close enough to cross-pollinate. You'll get some weird and often tasteless fruits if you plant them. My next door neighbour had a lot of volunteer butternut squash one year and they proved my scientific friend correct. Bleah.

I can peaches, pears, jams, pickles, apple sauce, rhubarb sauce, beets, and tomatoes. I buy fruit from this province in season. My personal guideline is to avoid buying 'fresh' produce that had to be transported by refrigerated vehicle a long distance. Canning pureed pumpkin is forbidden on USDA sites. I freeze mashed cooked pumpkin to use in sweet loaves. But I keep meaning to try 1" canning cubes of squash by the hot pack method in my pressure canner, including all the ingredients I'd normally put in squash soup. Then I'd just open the jar, heat, buzz with the hand blender, and serve. My understanding of root cellars is that they're for things like carrots, potatoes, newspaper-wrapped cabbages, etc. – things that need damp cool air. Squash and pumpkin are fine in a cool dry room. The trick is not to forget about them in a covered box while the moldy one infects all the others.

The organic strawberry grower I visit annually to pick my own says if you try to grow a small patch, there will be enough rodents nearby to polish them all off. I found that to be true my first year here in the bush. I had a big patch in the city thirty years ago, but maybe our big solid fence kept them out of sight, out of mind of most of the squirrels.
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Glenn Tamblyn

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2013, 01:12:02 PM »
An important factor to bear in mind is that temperatures for growing aren't just about air temperatures. Just as important is soil temperature. Often soil temperature might be a stronger indicator of how well your crops grow than air temps.

Put advanced seedlings, raised in a hot house, out too early in spring when the ground hasn't warmed enough and they can get quite retarded. Less advanced seedlings planted later may out perform early plantings that are slowed by the cold soil.

And managing your soil temperature gives you something else you can manipulate to produce better crops.

For example, putting out cheap cheap plastic coverings, simple greenhouses, can be used long before you might plant a crop to start raising the soil temperature. So you might be able to plant earlier and be successful.

Conversely, managing soil temperature in hot weather can protect your crops. The Golden Rule. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Thick insulating layers, that let water penetrate but not heat. They reduce evaporation from the soil but also they are a huge insulating layer for the soil. And mulch doesn't need to be pretty.

For larger size crops - brassica's for instance - you might even consider adding a reasonably thick layer of gravel or stones after they have grown a bit; 4-6 inches. The gravel lets all the water through, doesn't hold any. And because it isn't wet, it is a poor conductor of heat downwards compared to other, wetter mulchs. And the air gaps make it a good insulator.

You might even consider how you do shading. Shading during the day in summer is good. But that same shading at night can restrict heat loss from the ground at night via radiation. Can you come up with ways to use shading that can be easily removed at night to maximize loss of the heat from the day.

Or can you do the reverse when you want to get soil temp's higher? Unshaded during the day for warmth, then shading returned at night to reduce radiative losses.

Think about what is below, not just what is above.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2013, 05:56:35 PM »
I listed some crops for a 5C temperature increase over at the consequences page. Cover cropping is an important part of maintaining soil health and water conservation. I farm several acres solo, riparian , zone 8-9. Family dry farmed beans with a  stationary threshing machine and horse teams. The tack shed with tack, the threshing machine and dozens of oil burning lamps for night work were still in grandpa's barn, the draft horses were gone, but I at least saw a part of what is was before oil took over from steam. I try to stay very efficient ,everything I sell is within 3 miles of my farm. I plan on building a very large solar dehydrator for some of the overload that fruit trees and tomatoes produce. I think I will investigate solar ovens and see if I can make one that is sufficient for sizable (10-20 loaves) of bread a day. If anyone is thinking of farming ,here is some advice from my grandfather ,think water first. There was not a single agriculture well in Ventura County when my relatives settled there. Water in a dry climate is almost religion. Pumping water out of deep aquifers is energy intense so if you can find land with a water table < 60 feet you have a much better chance of hand pumping Archimedes screw , windmill or ox team should the past revisit us.     
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 08:36:32 PM by Bruce Steele »

Justin

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2013, 03:11:27 PM »
Growing Citrus in Nebraska using geothermal heating:

http://www.citrusinthesnow.com/geothermal-book.htm

There's a website somewhere with pictures of his greenhouse, construction and information but I can't find it right now.

Lynn Shwadchuck

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2013, 03:55:39 AM »
Wow, Justin, I'd never heard about air geothermal heating. You have to buy the book on Citrus in the Snow, which I'm sure is worth it. But I found just a bit more free info than he offers here http://www.extension.org/pages/27790/geothermal-heat-for-greenhouses
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Justin

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2013, 11:52:38 AM »
This is the link I was looking for:

http://www.altenergymag.com/emagazine.php?issue_number=03.08.01&article=finch

Geothermal heating with air is a bit different than with a liquid medium. Liquids like water have a high heat capacity, gasses like air a low one. This influences the design:
- higher heat capacity media are pumped through the system slower to allow them to take up more energy. Even a small increase in temperature can be extracted by the heat exchanger basically by running it through a refrigeration system and cool vent the hot side with air. You transform a small increase in liquid temp to a large increase in air temp.
- lower heat capacity media only contribute a small amount of energy, it's basically 1:1. 1 cubic meter of air with a 10°C increase can warm 1 cubic meter of air for ~10°C. This means that you need a longer exposure for more energy or a larger surface for higher medium velocity.

His system uses air, which cuts out the refrigeration step, but increase the required surface area (more tubing). You can still use refrigeration but it makes less sense.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2013, 01:46:06 PM by Justin »

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #22 on: April 06, 2013, 04:05:18 AM »
Any suggestions?  Stuff I haven't stumbled across in my research yet?  Please let me know...this is all small scale experimental stuff.
One of the challenges of growing things longer term is obviously the changing climate.

If you haven't encountered them yet, I strongly recommend trying jerusalem artichokes (sometimes called sunchokes). If memory serves they're frost hardy and in my experience almost indestructible (excepting an absolute chronic lack of water). Last year I grew some that were so neglected they grew to only 1-2 feet due to being potbound (usual height 6-10 feet) and regularly only got watered when the were collapsing (it was a very hard situation for them...) and temperatures were going up to 40C regularly (sometimes hotter).

Not only did they almost all survive that but I have a few small tubers that let me retain and continue the stock (which was the whole point last year).

They used to be popular but commercial agriculture favours the potato which yields a bit more heavily and is a lot easier to handle with mechanisation. They're a potential staple, if not quite as nutritious as the potato (unless you're lucky enough to be able to digest inulin properly). They can be used as a potato substitute (taste a little sweeter) and make a very nice soup.

Amusingly, while they're a tuber - they're also a variety of sunflower. You may get little yellow flowers at the end of the season. The tubers can be expected to overwinter in the ground just fine, even if it's frozen (not sure how cold they'll go - I don't think I've had them in the ground below around -5C for prolonged periods of time, and the snow blanket might have insulated them as they're below the surface a bit).

I've seen the hollowed out tubers (where pests or rodents got to them) still trying to grow sprouts and roots in the spring from just the skins.

They do require changing daylight length to trigger tuber formation properly if memory serves and so are not suitable for the tropics where day length varies too little.

Of the various things I've experimented with and looked into - they impressed the hell out of me. And they're obscure to most (hence the mention).

Lynn Shwadchuck

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2013, 03:01:37 AM »
Jerusalem artichokes are one of my permaculture items for easier food production as we age. I planted a dozen up on the hill where we'd cleared away junipers and they grew nicely till the deer ate them. They kept growing back, so it will be interesting to see whether they return this spring. I like to think that there will get to be a dense enough patch that the deer will graze it without decimating it. The advice you see most often is that you have to be careful what you plant them near, because they're really invasive.
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ccgwebmaster

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #24 on: April 07, 2013, 03:50:03 AM »
Jerusalem artichokes are one of my permaculture items for easier food production as we age. I planted a dozen up on the hill where we'd cleared away junipers and they grew nicely till the deer ate them. They kept growing back, so it will be interesting to see whether they return this spring. I like to think that there will get to be a dense enough patch that the deer will graze it without decimating it. The advice you see most often is that you have to be careful what you plant them near, because they're really invasive.
I have a feeling it's still ideal to rotate them for optimum results (like potatoes), but yes, once you have them, getting rid of them is a whole different story  ;)

They do tend to produce most of the tubers in a more centralised fashion than potatoes though.

I remember my mother telling me potatoes were really good for breaking up the ground - come time to dig them up - yeah, I see how that works...

Laurent

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2013, 09:33:26 AM »
It is possible to grow the potatoes under a stack of mulch like that :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1OShZZUt0k
I tryed something even more simple, you let your potatoes down on the earth and cover them with some wet leaves. It works too !
I did it in February 2012 but you may try it now !
I am sure you can do it with Jerusalem artichokes too (topinambours or Helianthus tuberosus) !
« Last Edit: April 07, 2013, 10:05:20 AM by Laurent »

Lucas Durand

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2013, 06:21:24 PM »
I planted a dozen up on the hill where we'd cleared away junipers and they grew nicely till the deer ate them. They kept growing back, so it will be interesting to see whether they return this spring.
Lynn,
I'll bet they do just fine.
The deer snack on the stalks of mine all the time, but the patch keeps getting larger every year.

Amaranthus

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2013, 07:07:47 PM »
I've been reading up on hugelkulture and I figure I can use it to drought proof my main raised garden beds and double my growing space.

The process is going to have to wait for fall because I'll need to dig most of the dirt out, lay down a layer of rotting logs with smaller stuff piled on top, and a few more layers of good composty stuff then reapply the soil in a peaked shape and tie it down with mulch until I get plants into it next spring.

If I build up the structure to a 30 inch peak above the top of the raised bed frame I'll have about a four foot high actively composting highly absorbent soil sponge that can be soaked early and will retain enough water for most of the growing season.  I might need to water only once or twice all summer.

The two 60 degree sloping sides make 6 feet of growing slope width on top of the 3 foot wide soilbed by 12 ft so I can go from 36 sq/ft feet to 72 sq/ft.

Laurent

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #28 on: April 09, 2013, 09:33:31 PM »
That may interest you !?
Green Gold - Documentary by John D. Liu

Principes de permaculture en montagne. (ENG. SUB.) Morvan - France.

Amaranthus

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #29 on: April 10, 2013, 12:08:11 PM »
Neat vids, thanks Laurent.  First time I've seen a grower working with PawPaw trees, I'm expecting mine to  arrive this month or next.  Hope I can keep them alive in this climate...mulch mulch mulch...and more mulch....

Neven

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #30 on: April 10, 2013, 10:59:38 PM »
That second video is great, Laurent. Thanks a lot.
Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Amaranthus

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #31 on: April 11, 2013, 06:56:29 PM »
Here's an interesting and very busy organic farmer who claims a well designed permaculture system can feed one person on 200-500 square feet of space.

http://www.permaculture.com/node/141

As far as I know I was one of the only farmers fully utilizing permaculture to produce surplus food for sale in the US as a full time occupation. On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.

I did this for almost nine years until I lost the lease to my rented land. My yields were often 8 times what the USDA claims are possible per square foot. My soil fertility increased dramatically each year so I was not achieving my yields by mining my soil. On the contrary I built my soil from cement-hard adobe clay to its impressive state from scratch. By the end I was at over 22% organic matter with a cation exchange capacity (CEC) of over 25. CEC is an indirect measure of soil humus or the ability of the soil to hold nutrients available to crops. The higher the number the more nutrients are stored and available. For reference, most Class I commercial agricultural soil is lucky to hit 2% organic matter—the dividing line between a living and dead soil—with a CEC around 5.


The math is easy. With a polyculture, yields of 3-10 pounds of food per square foot are easy to come up with in most climates. For comparison, commercial agriculture in California , which is way inefficient, routinely runs about 1.5-2.5 pounds per square foot per year across a wide variety of crops. People need to eat about two pounds of mixed food a day if active, or around 750 pounds a year. In a good but somewhat sloppy design, you need about 500 square feet per person MAXIMUM. In a very good design, 200 square feet will do the job. If your diet is heavy on grain you'll need more space but not an astronomical amount.


I'd love to make this work, if I can figure out how, since 200sq/ft is about as much sunny space as I can find on my itty bitty lot without the neighbours getting grumpy.  I like a good tricky challenge...
« Last Edit: April 11, 2013, 07:03:36 PM by Amaranthus »

Neven

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #32 on: April 12, 2013, 11:47:21 PM »
There's this German book that I bought, but haven't read yet (my wife did and was enthusiastic). It was written in 1926 and describes how to grow food for an entire household on 300 square metres.
Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Clare

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #33 on: April 16, 2013, 02:16:06 AM »
Here's an example of extreme growing conditions! I have been in the one at McMurdo, lovely & warm & HUMID, with easy chair & green all around you.
http://cleaneatingmag.tumblr.com/post/43507562496/growing-food-in-the-south-pole

I'm not sure how I feel about hydroponics otherwise, I have read of systems integrating growing plants with fish, so that might be better? I'd be interested in others thoughts.

Like Stephen in Oz I can grow fruit & vege all year round, we have a coastal mediterranean type climate here where I am in NZ. Not sure how it would match your US zones, think The Med with more rain?
We have 11 x 1.2 x 2.4m raised beds (= 360 sq ft) plus lots of fruit trees, have been gardening here 30 years.
So yes we are spoilt but actually growing stuff still presents lots of challenges here too.
Even just the heat & our very clear skies means needing to avoid the UV during the main part of the day!
And trying to keep the supply even, trying to avoid feast/famine.

No big critters tho' like some of you mention, but birds & neighbours cats mean I have to cover every new planting & patch of mulch to stop it getting dug up again. Again like Stephen we have a lot of soot, on our citrus trees, and the past few years I haven't been able to plant potatoes because of a new (to NZ) sucking insect pest, Psyllid. They attack all the potato/tomato/pepper family, hide on the underside of leaves & are a real problem for commercial growers. Peppers & tomatoes struggle but mostly I get some. They are currently breeding up a type of ladybird to be a control agent, sprays dont work v well tho' I dont want to use them here. Actually we have a lot of insect pests = cabbage white butterflies (so I just plant the cabbage family now its autumn), beetles on berries, codlin moth in apples, various sucking flies & hoppers....

I am fascinated by the various solutions others mention to extending the growing season & protecting your crops. The xmas lights sound specially nice!
Last winter I did try a covered salad bed & it worked v well,. Otherwise in winter if we get short on variety or crave salads I have returned to growing bean sprouts and also have been trying microgreens in shallow trays. Or planting greens in polystyrene boxes that I can move about to chase the sun or bring indoors for shelter. We get about 20 frosts a year, tho' they can be almost any month! But the ground never freezes.

I think everyone growing stuff will have difficulties of some sort of another, even just the variations in the seasons from year to year. It's all part of the challenge, the 'gardening game' to me, but I can sort of understand why people find it too hard or dont want to bother.

Justin

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #34 on: April 17, 2013, 05:25:30 PM »
Here's an example of extreme growing conditions! I have been in the one at McMurdo, lovely & warm & HUMID, with easy chair & green all around you.

Is that the setup that was featured in that documentary "Encounters at the End of the World"? I remember something about a demotivated tomato grower.

Latent

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #35 on: April 22, 2013, 04:27:54 PM »
Has anybody experimented with hotbeds?  We have just taken on an allotment here and I have been reading about their use in Victorian times to bring on crops in cold conditions.  We have access to horse manure so we have dug a pit and are going to give it a try.

Clare

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #36 on: April 24, 2013, 08:13:23 AM »
Is that the setup that was featured in that documentary "Encounters at the End of the World"? I remember something about a demotivated tomato grower.
[/quote]

It's a good while since I saw that doco but it must have been the same one, Justin, there was only one such setup at McMurdo then.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Growing some of your own fruits and veggies in difficult conditions...
« Reply #37 on: April 27, 2013, 06:56:03 AM »
Master gardener is a title I would reserve for a small list. Carol Deppe would make my list. But residing within her book " The Resilient Gardener " there is mentioned a little wonder. Printed in 1917 is a amazingly complete Ph. D. Thesis about a Hidatsa woman's gardening and food storage techniques. It is anthropology that has much to teach us. Seed saving, ground preparation, storage , planting schedule.   " Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden " by Gilbert Livingstone Wilson. 1868-1930.           http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden.html