Gardens Galore!

2011 was a hallmark year with new lambs born, bronze turkeys joining the "crew", and pigs ploughing out a field for the summer. But perhaps the most exciting adventure on the farm was the new mandala garden we built, workshop-style, in one weekend in early June. Measuring 44'x44', it has a round, small, central bed with a tayberry, a thornless blackberry, a cornelian dogwood and a goji berry in it. Around that bed are 4 keyhole beds, each with one main crop (tomatoes and basil; brassica--cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli; potatoes; and corn, with other crops interplanted. It was a hot summer, but a short one, and everything except the tomatoes did really well. We harvested more than 100 cups of corn (cut from the cobs) plus ate almost 50 cobs; 140 lbs of potatoes kept us (and friends) going through the winter, while we harvested the last cabbage from the garden in early spring.

What blew us away was the size of everything. We have gorgeous bottom-land soil--black and rich, although slightly acidic--and we put 2-4 inches of that soil on top of about 8 inches of manured straw from the barn. That sat on top of cardboard covering a huge carpet of weeds and marsh grass. As you can see, the result was a prolific garden that fed the household and friends right through the winter. The size of some of the produce was staggering. Two of the cauliflowers weighed in at 6 1/4 lbs, and the smallest cauli was 5lbs!

Here Brandon Bauer shows off a 6 1/4  pounder by trying to put his hat on it!
 Even More Gardens in 2012

At the end of last summer, a small pond was dug to help lower the water table in one of the few arable fields we have here so that we can plant a small market garden. With Brandon's tireless help, the soil from that pond, left in two huge piles, was shaped into gardens, so that this year (2012) we have begun our venture into market gardening. So far, in a 100 square foot area, we have planted blueberries, cranberries, runner beans, bush beans, broad beans, carrots, beets, lettuce, mesclun greens, turnips, radishes, peas ground cherries, parsnips and asparagus. A few of the plants are up already, in early June. But much of the garden will be devoted to winter planting, as I really want to experiment to see how much we can grow right through the winter. There are more than 30 veggies which can grow well here on Vancouver Island without cover right the the winter--some for actual winter harvest, some for early spring--so I am excited to see what works in this place with this micro-climate in this soil. Stay tuned!

Unformed garden

Ready to plant