Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boone St. Garden: Week 2

Last Saturday 3/26 was week two at Boone St. garden. We tilled!

That's a "front-tine" gas powered roto-tiller that we rented from our friend Dale (you can see photos of his Greenmount West garden in March 2011:Getting Started). Sharing tools and other resources is a great aspect of the growing network of Baltimore urban farmers. It doesn't make sense for each small farm to purchase the same piece of large equipment when we could easily share one for less.

The rows are about 100 feet long and about 3 feet wide.

It's pretty funny because we were checking out a catalog that morning full of interesting non-electric toys and tools, but tilling this ground by hand would certainly not have been a good time. Maybe if we had a horse! Electricity and gas power can be a beautiful thing, as long as we are being conscious of the resource we are using.

As you can see, we are using burlap sacks between rows to create walkways. The burlap also kills the grass and will prevent it from crowding out the food crops. Coffee roasters are a great resource for free or very cheap burlap. Straw or wet newspaper also work, but I think burlap is more durable and also looks nice.

It took a few passes over each bed to rip up the grass, and a pickax and shovel are still going to be really useful for taking out the big clumps of roots. Tiring work, but I know we'll be glad we did it in a few months when we don't have to constantly weed out the grass.

We're not going to till every single row. I hope to get two or even three rows of my "Three Sisters" experiment where usually corn + beans + squash are grown together as an inter-planted system.

Instead of corn though I hope to grow sorghum, since corn always gets devastated more by insects. I also wanted to try making sorghum syrup, but it looks like pressing such a small batch might not be worth it. But using the sorghum grain will still be good for extra chicken feed, an alternative type of flour and maybe even beer!

Instead of beans I think I might try to grow peanuts since they also are a legume and provide the same function of fixing nitrogen in the soil. I'm worried the soil is still too compacted to give the peanuts enough space to grow underground, but I'll break up the soil a lot and mulch with straw so we'll see.

For the squash part I'm planning to grow red hubbard squash which is my favorite since the flesh is sweet and not very watery.

I'm hoping this experimental "Three Sisters" method will let me simply pickax a large hole in the ground every two feet or so, and then I can plant three crops in the same hole. Instead of tilling all 100 feet and ripping up the grass, we'll only have to break up about 1/3 as much ground. I'll probably put the seeds in around May 1st, and then everything will be ready to harvest in August/September.

In the Boone St. Garden: Week 1 post, I mentioned the cucumbers, melon, tomatoes, and peppers we started for the community garden. I forgot that Cheryl and I also started about 100 tomatoes, 50 pepper, and 50 marigolds for the farm side of Boone St.

What's the difference between the community garden side and the farm side? The community garden side is to give neighbors a place to grow their own vegetables and learn more about urban gardening. The farm side will have food grown for purchase and distribution as part of a CSA, so that all of Boone St. will have some funds for construction materials, seeds, plant starts, tools, etc. to continue operating and growing.

In addition to the plant starts, we also direct seeded radishes, peas, carrots, and beets for spring crops. It's supposed to rain today and tomorrow and for once I sincerely hope it does, since we don't have a water hookup yet!

In addition to water, getting an enormous amount of compost is the next big step. We are working on that piece by piece, and hopefully everything will be worked out by this Saturday. Last week I did drive out to a dairy in Harford County and got one load of compost, but my new pickup would have to carry about 20 loads of compost to get enough to cover Boone St.

At least I got to eat Broom's Bloom apple pie and vanilla peanut butter cup ice cream and see some cute cows.

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