2015 Garden Part 11 - The part where we be come dangerous criminals....

The garden is humming along and it has become apparent to me that going "au natural" is not the best way to get a productive harvest. This saddens me greatly....

I thought that by improving the soil, increasing the organic content, and putting everything back into the soil each year, we would automatically get great yields.

I was wrong and I am increasing my fertilization efforts. I am also realizing that starting the garden, outside in the cold, did not produce "hearty" plants that would outperform. Instead, it most likely stunted the plants and made them weaker. Lessons learned.... 

Peeking in on the Amaranth, you can see no flowers or seed heads! Seriously, these are taking forever! I opted out of growing chia for this very reason. Perhaps amaranth will have to be scrapped in zone 4? Or I need to source an earlier variety.

I thinned out the plants to just 4 plants. I ate all the others by sauteing them in butter and rice wine vinegar.  Not bad...but not as good as spinach or swiss chard. If they won't make seeds, then this variety is finished in our garden.

Here's a look at the beans, swiss chard, beets, and yellow crookneck squash. I have 3 tranches of beans growing so the heights are all over the board. This is due to flea beetle damage. Severe flea beetle damage!
 A small handful of black and red raspberries.
A look at the casa blanca lillies in our front pots. These have improved tremendously, but the other plants in the pot have not performed at all. I planted pansies, sunflowers, coreopsis, and cosmos in these pots!!!

I have had the WORST luck growing things in the organic miracle grow potting soil. The bottoms of these pots (where the casa blanca bulbs are is eco scraps brand soil.) The top, where everything else was is miracle grow. So disappointing!


Between the two pots, there are 19 flower buds.
 The ground cherries are starting to get larger. I would like to see these take over some of the dirt space. These and the little canteloupe seedlings - that were started 3 times thanks to flea beetles and rabbits!
 And finally the flaxseed.... Oh how they hang their heads in shame....
 My daughter coined that phrase. She said "look mom...they are hanging their heads in shame, just waiting for you to decapitate them!" Really!!! But in all honesty, they are going to be decapitated. I covered the heads in mesh bags because birds were starting to pick at the seed bolls. They are no where near ripe, and they were starting to damage a lot of them. Plus....birds ravaged through and ate almost all of my pak choi seeds, so I did not want a repeat. This way, the bags will catch any that drop, birds will stay out, and the mesh will still allow air flow.
 The flax branches will be used as mulch.  They have also been useful for repairs! My daughter patched a spot in the fence and used a flax branch to tie a splint onto one of the onion flowers that had broken in half. You can see it below.
 Upon the realization that plants actually need to be fed to be productive....I fertilized the potato boxes for the first time this week (7/8/2015). Here they are in all their yellow glory:

A close up of one of the potatoes. Yes, they probably have blight. I have been picking out all the yellow and blighted leaves over the past few weeks. 

A quick glance at the fall raspberries. They are nice and tall, unfed, and without any flowers yet. Perhaps I should feed them too? Maybe next spring...
 The strawberry bed has been replanted. You can see how I killed them all and revamped the soil here.
 The bottom layer is cardboard, followed by unfinished compost, followed by finished compost. Then I planted 2 different varieties of strawberries. These are runners from my previous batch and the forest wild berries. I mulched with leaves from the forest and lava rock around the actual plants. I will not allow runners in this patch and will try to keep all leaves off the lava rocks to prevent slugs.
This strawberry patch is a lesson in fertility and plant longevity. I went about this strawberry bed all the wrong way. I let the plants run all over the place. More plants is better, right? Wrong. I did not improve the soil, aside from adding mulches to the hard clay. I let the original plants stay forever (or about 6 years, 3 years too many.)

If I can remember....I will feed these plants with an organic fertilizer, mulch them with leaves in the fall, then remove them in the spring. Add a non-leaf mulch (due to slugs) for the summer, cut off all runners until the last year, and remove them at 3 years. At that time, I'll move the rocks, add more compost, and add new plants saved from the runners.  I will also intermingle peas, beans, and walking onions to deter pests and add fertility back to the soil.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, it gets infinitely more complicated. I want this garden to be self sufficient and not rely on outside and certainly not "chemical" inputs.

To truly be self sufficient - I will need to source a local mulch that doesn't attract slugs, a renewable/organic fertilizer source, and a way to protect plants during the cold season that does not stunt their growth.

I will be experimenting with using pond scum as a fertilizer source in a limited way in the near future, and will ramp up my harvesting of forest pine needles for mulch. I'm also going to move my compost heap from the area where my husband drops his herbicide riddled grass clippings so I can finally start to use my compost in the garden.

I am also looking into mushroom hunting events so I can learn to properly identify and incorporate fungi into our garden soil.

More articles from this year's garden:
19 Tomatoes and counting
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without electricity
2015 Garden Part 1
2015 Garden Part 2
2015 Garden Part 3
2015 Garden Part 4
2015 Garden Part 5
2015 Garden Part 6
2015 Garden Part 7
2015 Garden Part 8
2015 Garden Part 9
2015 Garden Part 10
Keeping Slugs off Your Strawberries Forever!
Growing Flaxseed in the Home Garden
Growing Potatoes from the Grocery store 
Growing Espalier Grapes on a Fence
Can Tomatoes Survive temperatures below 28 Fahrenheit?

A full list of the edibles in our garden as of July 2015:
Aronia chokeberries
Asparagus
Walking onions
Rhubarb
4 Varieties of Blueberry
3 Varieties of Red Raspberry (2 summer, 1 fall)
Red, White, and  Pink Currants
2 Varieties of Gooseberries
Black Raspberry
Dill, Sage, lemon balm, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil
Garlic chives
Onion chives
6 Varieties of Tomato
2 Varieties of Potato
2 Varieties of Grapes (1 red, 1 white)
2 Varieties of Strawberry (1 june, 1 alpine)
Fava beans
Bush beans
Snap peas (2 types)
Butternut squash
Cucumbers (2 types)
Bell Peppers
Parsnips
Leeks
Onions
Garlic
Sweet Corn
Popcorn
Amaranth
Buckwheat
Pineapple Ground cherries
Watermelon
Radishes
Cantaloupe
Crookneck squash
Swiss Chard
Beets
Bok choy
Purslane (2 varieties)
Golden Flax
Sunflowers
Scarlet Runner Beans
Honeyberries (2 varieties)
Sunberries

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!

Angela

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