Fields, Elysian – Market Garden 2009

The title is referring more to some lyrics in one of my favorite Clutch songs than to my favorite section of Hades, but regardless I am in Full Farm mode. Also, it is high time I put some meat back into the posts and stop navel gazing and essay writing.  There’s work being done and I need to write about it!   Finally, I find it fitting that this post celebrates the day when One Straw broke 100,000 page views.  Thanks everyone!

Last weekend I broke ground at the Market Garden and took some “before” pics.  It was great to get out into the soil again!  As I begin chronicling 2009’s leap into a more focused effort into gardening for profit, I though it may be best to take a monthly shot of the gardens.  Here is April Wk 2 first shot is taken facing South West, and works around counter clockwise from there:

April 2009 Market Garden, NE Corner

April 2009 Market Garden, NE Corner

 

North West Corner - rye/vetch mowed clean by geese!

North West Corner - rye/vetch mowed clean by geese!

 

South West Corner - this section was 3 Sisters last year

South West Corner - this section was 3 Sisters last year

 

South East Corner - Garlic in '08, stubble is winter kill cover crop.

South East Corner - Garlic in '08, stubble is winter kill cover crop.

The plot is roughly 90′ x 70′ of growing space including the 300 sq ft hoop house.  The soil is a sandy loam, rich in organic matter and had been rotationally grazed horse pasture for the past several years.  The only thing holding it back from being paradise is that it is 8 miles from my house.  

Weed pressure is typical – some perennial quack, sow thistle and a very aggressive  rhizomatous   sedge.  Last year the weeds won, but I hit them hard with cover crops in the fall to set them back, and know better what I am in for this year.   My biggest failure last year is that I tried to farm like I garden – tight spacing and bed planting.  This maximizes yields per sq ft, but I can’t hand weed 7000 sq ft!  This year I am planting in rows spaced wide enough for a wheel hoe to go in between.  

To that end, last weekend I dusted off the Grillo, threw the tiller on it and very lightly tilled in 2 beds for spinach.  The tiller can be set to till as lightly as 1″, and I did 2 quick passes at that depth to prepare the seedbed without disturbing the soil layering.  

 

Grillo 85D w/ Tiller, Earthway Seeder and a Rogue Hoe.  Ready to Rock!

Grillo 85D w/ Tiller, Earthway Seeder and a Rogue Hoe. Ready to Rock!

The Grillo kicks up a beautiful seedbed in no time. I then went back and scuffle hoed the path and a foot on each side of the beds to take down the early weeds.  Next the Earthway was loaded with spinach seeds (Space) and 2 rows were run down each 30″ bed.  Finally I put up some portable electric fence as a chicken deterrent until I can get my permanent fence built this weekend.

 

2000 spinach plants in and fenced in under 2 hours including drive time.  I love good tools!

2000 spinach plants in and fenced in under 2 hours including drive time. I love good tools!

 

 

Last year I designed a .1 acre sustainable market garden that I would like to dust off and begin to implent.  With the housing market in the tank, we won’t be moving any time soon, so I am sinking roots, literally, on this plot.  This year will be spent primarily in eradicating the perennial weeds, but I am definitely moving towards permanent 3′ beds running north south.  At the least the fence line will be planted to flowering perennials and I intended to bi-sect the plot with a west/east bed of perennial herbs and medicinals to provide a reserve of beneficial and a truly undisturbed soil ecosystem.  Sage and Rosemary transplants are started!

If the weather holds this weekend I intend to start sinking fence posts for a 40″ welded wire fence to keep out the landowner’s 100 free range chickens and 30 geese.  The 8 peacocks will laugh merrily at that fence (they roost on top of telephone poles…) but its better than nothing.  The fence will run about $400, but I am confident that we will be on this land for 5 years.  Given that we will earn about $1500 net a year off this plot, its worth it.  We could triple that if I spent more than 5-10 hours a week on site, but it is what it is.  We will also have 2 other plots on this property each about 2500 sq ft- one in potatoes and the second in a Sudan Grass cover for mulch and to begin breaking weed cycles.  Plus I really want to mow Sudan Grass with my scythe!

This year could be a banner year for organic farming -either the bottom will continue to drop out and we will all suddenly be very interested in sustainable food, or the Green Movement will continue to gain momentum and we will all suddenly be very interested in sustainable food.  Likely it will be a bit of both.  Regardless, I’ll be out in the fields working on my farmer’s tan.

-Rob

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4 Responses

  1. Glad to see it’s warm enough for you to get back in the dirt, Rob! (But 37 degrees??? Really? **shivers**) I do quite enjoy your “meaty” posts and I look forward to reading what you are doing this growing season.

    –Natalie

  2. It was a *warm* 37! In the sun anyhow…

    After months of being cooped up, it was heaven.

  3. You mentioned in passing that you wouldn’t be moving soon because the housing market is in the toilet. A friend of mine has just sold his house with a large garden, based on a single craiglslist ad. It was on the market for three days, it will be turned into a working suburban farm.

    He had a couple of other serious inquiries- all based on the gardens and chicken pen. (He’s moving to a DANK piece of farmland, BTW)

    Our area’s real estate market is healthier than most of the country, but the point is that a backyard garden has become an asset on the real estate market. Of course, it hurts to leave the soil you’ve poured your sweat into.

  4. Matt,

    That is great news!

    My response got to 400 words, so I am changing formats…

    You’ve inspired a post!

    -Rob

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