The Snarky Gardener has several hugelkultur beds at Snarky Acres. Here’s his Mother Earth News article on them.
Hugelkultur beds are built using buried wood and other organic material. These ingredients break down over time, providing your plants with nutrients and moisture. Breaking down over the next 5 to 10 years, the wood will eventually transform into rich beautiful soil. I recently wrote about my hugelkultur beds at Snarky Acres for Mother Earth News, including what veggies I planted on them and how they are working out for me so far.
The Snarky Gardener is expanding his food production area in 2015.
The Snarky Gardener is expanding his growing space by 100% in 2015. He has plenty of room east of his current fenced in primary 50 ft X 30 ft garden. The new area will be approximately 60 ft X 20 ft (1,200 square feet). It won’t be fenced in but instead will be planted with vegetables that groundhogs and rabbits find less desirable (see Groundhog Love for the complete list). Garlic was already planted outside this fence during the fall. The Snarky Gardener doesn’t usually believe in rototilling as it damages the soil so he will be strategically broadforking just what he needs and when he needs it. He might also schedule a “broadforking class” a la Tom Sawyer through Kent Food Not Lawns or the Kent Community Time Bank to get additional assistance.
Potatoes will be planted next to the garlic in April or so. Since potatoes are in the nightshade family, animals normally leave them alone (unless they are really hungry deer). Tomatoes will be planted along 2 fences (50 foot long and 5 foot tall) running east to west. These steel fences will be reused to fence in and protect other crops in future seasons. Added in between these tomato rows will be onions, leeks, peppers, and bush zucchini. Members of the Allium family (onions, garlic, chives, leeks) are generally avoided by animals, especially deer and rabbits. Some gardeners will specifically plant garlic around areas they want protected from unauthorized munching. The bush zucchini will be protected with fencing and/or cover until big enough to have protective spines. Years of groundhog intrusions (and watching the neighbor’s unprotected garden) have taught the Snarky Gardener that they won’t seem to mess with the spinier vegetables. Turnips, mustard, and clover will cover any other bare soil as living mulch. Turnips and mustard have been outside the fence for the years now at Snarky Acres without so much as a bite. Clover could be eaten by herbivores, but there’s plenty already out in the yard, so the SG is not concerned.
The Snarky Gardener will also be adding more hugelkultur mounds to his property. Last fall, there were 4 raised beds built with much sweat and cursing. At least two more will added to the south of these in the spring. The six plus will be filled with plenty of annuals, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, and greens. There are additional plans to build hugelkultur beds north of the garden where big, giant pine logs (2 feet in diameter) have been attracting groundhogs, poison ivy, and brambles. These logs will be cut up and used to create perennial herb, onion, turnip, and rhubarb beds. All these can handle a little shade as this area is in the 4 to 6 hour daily sunlight realm and should be left alone by the aforementioned plant-eating wild animals.
One more thing: the Snarky Gardener may be adding second-hand vegetables (aka livestock) to Snarky Acres in 2015 and will be writing about it in the spring.
Last year, the Snarky Gardener discovered wintersown.org, which gives away seeds that can be used to grow plants outside during the winter. The idea is to sow your seeds in milk jugs (or other recycled objects) and then put them outside until the temperatures are correct for germination. I had mixed results with the WinterSown system but I believe I made several mistakes that I am pledging not to make this year. First of all, I tried plant too many seeds at once – 8 different varieties in just one carton!. This time, I’m using my new 2” square soil blockers to keep the number of plantings to a minimum – just 7 starts per carton. And only one variety per carton with identifying labels (what a concept!). I’m also keeping the choices to those I know well, and that I have too many seeds of already – Red Russian kale, spinach, cilantro, parsley, and leeks. All of these are cold weather hardy, so they are perfect for being winter sown.
Another issue I ran across last year was watering. The instructions explicitly said to open the milk carton to water but I got lazy and sprayed into the opening at the top. The one carton I didn’t put bottom slits in did the best as it didn’t go dry like the others. For me, putting my seed starting efforts outside leads to the “out of sight, out of mind” problem. This time around I’m putting them right outside my back door, which I will pass everyday on my way to work and back.
On 12/22/2013, we had a Winter Solstice miracle with temperatures in the 60’s with just a little rain. This allowed the Snarky Gardener to check out his garden to see what had survived. The mustard was a dried out brown, as the previous week’s lows in the teens killed it off (as expected). Next year’s potato patch will appreciate the extra biomass, fumigation and sulfur the mustard will provide. What did survive was the purple top turnips and the corn salad (pictured above) plus onions, leeks, and thyme. I picked through the turnip greens to thin them out then covered the remainder with leaf mulch to protect them until mid-March (like I did earlier this fall for the spinach, rosemary, and peas). Leeks and thyme were also pulled before the weather turned nasty again the next day.
Even though I’ve been fall gardening the last few years, I’m always amazed at what survives through the cold. This winter has been early and often with plenty of ice and snow. But out in the garden the greenness and deliciousness continues. And March is just around the corner.
In case you have Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) and don’t know what to do with them, here’s what I decided to make with my own turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, and garlic. I made a few modifications, including adding turnip greens and not peeling anything (I’m lazy if not anything). I would make this again so, but alas, I’m out of turnips for now. Could always buy some at the local farmer’s market.
1 leek, trimmed
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 pounds turnips diced plus greens
1 1/4 pounds sunchokes, diced
2 tart apples, cored, and diced
Coarsely ground black pepper or Aleppo pepper
Medium-coarse sea salt
1. Cut leek lengthwise in half and rinse well. Finely chop leek together with onion and garlic.
2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a gentle simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until water is almost completely evaporated, about 15 minutes.
3. Add turnips, artichokes, apples, and remaining 2 cups of water. Cover and simmer until apple is soft and flavors have blended, about 30 minutes more.
4. Puree soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Add salt to taste. Serve drizzled with oil and sprinkled with a grinding of pepper and with salt, if desired.