Building Raised Beds Using Hugelkultur

The Snarky Gardener built raised beds using hugelkultur
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The new bed joins 3 previously prepared beds.  The green plants are a cover crop of turnips with a volunteer dill plant in the foreground.

Hugelkultur is the German term for garden beds made with buried wood. The wood breaks down over time, providing garden vegetables with nutrients and moisture (as in you don’t have to fertilize and water as much, if at all!).  The wood does not have to be brand new as rotted wood is actually better is some ways.

This fall, I decided to utilize this technique to build four 8 foot long by 4 foot wide by 3 feet high raised beds.  In general raised beds are beneficial as they warm up earlier in the spring, keep humans (but not my dog) from compacting soil, and allow plants better drainage.  Usually raised beds are built with a frame around the soil, but my beds have no borders. After completing each bed, I planted cover crops (turnips, spinach and clover) to minimize winter soil exposure. My long term plan is to convert more of my garden into hugelkultur beds, but wanted to perform a trial first, as putting these beds in is labor intensive, with all the wood gathering, moving, and burying.

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Started with a dug out bed
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The middle of the hole is filled with heavy logs
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Branches, and bark fill in over the logs
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Dirt from the surrounding area is put on top of the wood

Many thanks to Paul Wheaton for his inspiring and detailed hugelkultur article – http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

Save the Beans

The Snarky Gardener is managing his herd of Jacob’s Cattle beans.
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Jacob’s Cattle beans before the herd was split up

Saving bean seed is really easy. Allow your bean plants with with beans still attached to turn yellow and die off. Collect the seed pods. Open up the pods and there are your seeds. You will want to let these dry out completely before putting them in an airtight container (I use old vitamin bottles though glass jars will work also). Make sure to keep an eye on them over the winter as they could mold up if there was any moisture in them.

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After I do my “shelling”, I like to divide them up based how they look. Some will be deformed or have some flaw that makes them less than perfect. These will be put into the “eat me” pile. Jacob’s Cattle beans are specifically “dry” beans (think kidney or black beans), but I do eat some green.

So, you might be asking “Why does the Snarky Gardener bother with saving bean seed when it’s so inexpensive to buy at the store or online?” In a word, adaptation. These plants grew up in my garden with it’s specific conditions. Plus beans make the soil better, especially through their nitrogen fixing nodules.

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How to Save Tomato Seeds

The Snarky Gardener shows you how to save tomato seeds using a 5 step process

1.  Let the tomatoes ripen.

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2.  Cut open the tomato and scoop out the seeds

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3.  Put the seeds into a covered glass or jar.  Add water.

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4.  Let sit for 3 days or so, stirring once a day

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5.  Strain seeds from the liquid and put onto a plate to let dry for a few days.

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Fairly Snarky

The Snarky Gardener entered his vegetables in the local county fair.  Now the Snarky Girlfriend will never hear the end of it.
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The Snarky Gardener with his award-winning zucchini

A little while back, the Snarky Girlfriend picked up this year’s Portage County Randolph Ohio fair book. She thought it would be cool for us to enter some items just for fun. She had some photos she wanted to enter, including one of my dog River. According to the rules, our entry forms had to be in by 8/5 even though the entries needed to be onsite when the fair started two weeks later. Telling the future is hard with garden produce, though I did have the option to enter and then just not have them. Going with a conservative first-timer approach, I perused the book, looking for viable vegetable categories.

Vegetables not quite ready for the big show:
1. Tomatoes and peppers – behind all year with cool wet weather
2. Corn – a few weeks off, not sure they would be ready by then
3. Beans – they wanted a quart of beans and I didn’t have that many.
4. Swiss chard – would rather eat it then enter it
5. Carrots – not enough and/or too small

Showable Vegetables:
1. Red potatoes – Red Chieftain
2. Golden potatoes – Yukon Golds
3. Kale – Red Russian
4. Turnips – Purple Top
5. Zucchini Under 10 inches- Sure Thing from Burpee

We dropped them off on Sunday 8/17, the day before the first day of the fair.  Right away I realized something was amiss.  People with kale and Swiss chard were using jars of water to keep them hydrated.  The fair book said to do this, but somehow I didn’t pick up on it (oh well – lesson learned).  On the plus side, we didn’t see any other turnip entries, so I knew I had a good chance of winning something in that category.  The turnips I entered were far from perfect, as they had pits and marks on them.  From the Internet articles I read after the fact, fair entered vegetables should all be little clones of each other and as close to retail sale quality as possible.

On Thursday (a long 4 days later), we attended the fair with some friends to see how I did (at least that’s how I saw it).  They seemed to be interested in other things first, like seeing the Snarky Girlfriend’s pictures (she won a second place ribbon for a flower picture), and eating fair food.   Finally we arrived at my vegetables and lo and behold, some had ribbons!  Two firsts and a second (yeah).  My red potatoes didn’t win (3rd place out of 3) as they were noticeable smaller and less uniform than the other competing entries.  But my Yukon Golds won second place (out of 4) – not bad at all.  My sad turnips garnered a first place ribbon as they had no competition.  But the topper was my zucchini which earned 1st place out of five.  Mine seemed to look the most like the ones you see at the grocery store.  Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to spend all the prize money on.  I wonder what I can purchase for $5.50?

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Zucchini 10″ and Under – First Place out of 5
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Root Vegetables – Turnips – 1st place out of 1
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Golden Potatoes – 2nd Place out of 4

Kent Food Not Lawns – September Food Swap

Kent Food Not Lawns is hosting a food swap

Where:  Kent Social Services – 1066 S Water St, Kent, OH

When:  September 10, 2014 – 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

A food swap event is where people meet to share homemade, homegrown, and foraged foods (including plant starts and seeds).  No money changes hands but instead attendees bring items they wish to swap for other’s produce.  Packaging and labeling does help.  Value of each item for trade should be around $5.

Each unique item will have a sheet placed in front of it.  During the “walking around” phase, swappers will write down what they are willing to trade for a given item (sheets will be provided).  For example, if you have jars of jelly and you want a loaf of bread, you put down your name and “jars of jelly” on the bread sheet.  During the swap phase, you find people who want your products and whose produce you want.  Sometimes you can get someone to trade even if they didn’t write down a bid on your sheet, but this is usually only if they have extra they don’t want to have to take home.

Here’s some advice on how to succeed at your first food swap.

Schedule:

6:30-7:00   Sign in and set up

7:00-7:30   Walk around, sample, and bid

7:30-8:00   Swap!

Sign up here:

For additional questions, please contact kentfoodnotlawns@gmail.com

 

Groundhog Love

The Snarky Gardener discusses not his love for groundhogs, but what groundhogs love to eat from his garden.

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For the garden, groundhogs are very destructive. They have great appetites and can wipe out a whole season’s productivity. Fencing does help, although groundhogs are known for going under or over to get at the buffet the Snarky Gardener has provided. After seasons of experience, the SG has developed a strategy to mitigate vegetable loss. Below is a list of groundhog favorites and another list of those that have never been touched. Some of the “groundhog safe” plants have even been grown outside the fence with no munching, including garlic, onions, turnips, and various herbs. Going forward, more of these will be planted outside the fencing and efforts will be redoubled (more fencing!) to keep these little guys out of the good stuff.

Groundhogs have never munched on:
Turnips
Garlic
Onions
Leeks
Herbs (lemon balm, thyme, sage, basil, rosemary)
Tomatoes
Potatoes
Peppers
Zucchini (bush)

What groundhogs really love (in order):
Broccoli
Carrot tops
Sunchokes
Peas
Beans
Cucumber leaves
Kale
Spinach
Lettuce
Corn (pulled down the stalks to eat the cobs!)
Pumpkins (the outside of the fruit).

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Yum! Broccoli

Kent Food Not Lawns – August Food Swap

Kent Food Not Lawns is hosting a food swap

Where:  Kent Social Services – 1066 S Water St, Kent, OH

When:  August 13, 2014 – 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

A food swap is an event where people meet to share homemade, homegrown, and foraged foods (including plant starts and seeds).  No money changes hands but instead attendees bring items they wish to swap for other’s produce.  Packaging and labeling does help.  Value of each item for trade should be around $5.

Each unique item will have a sheet placed in front of it.  During the “walking around” phase, swappers will write down what they are willing to trade for a given item (sheets will be provided).  For example, if you have jars of jelly and you want a loaf of bread, you put down your name and “jars of jelly” on the bread sheet.  During the swap phase, you find people who want your products and whose produce you want.  Sometimes you can get someone to trade even if they didn’t write down a bid on your sheet, but this is usually only if they have extra they don’t want to have to take home.

Here’s some advice on how to succeed at your first food swap.

Schedule:

6:30-7:00   Sign in and set up

7:00-7:30   Walk around, sample, and bid

7:30-8:00   Swap!

Sign up here:

For additional questions, please contact kentfoodnotlawns@gmail.com

 

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