We are still clearing land and building at our farm. That takes a lot of time with just a couple of guys doing it, and yet we wanted some veggies this year. We still don’t have the fencing up, so deer and hogs can get into any garden we might make, and the rabbits are everywhere. We have a spring fed creek cutting across the property, so the critters are everywhere. It’s nice, but also means a lot of things get munched on, dug up and outright eaten before we even notice it.
The previous posting was all about how making what we call “GroBeds” can make things easier for gardening. The GroBeds also make it more difficult for varmints to tear through your hard work making a garden plot. We are also trying something new this year, that we call bucket gardening.
It’s pretty simple thing to plant your veggies in a planting bucket. What we have here in the south is a lot of heat and sun in July and August, which makes the water usage climb quite a lot. It isn’t uncommon even for sun loving veggies to simple burn and wilt. So a little shade is not necessarily bad, and it is most needed during the mid-day hours.
We de-limbed all the pine trees near the buildings up to about 8-10 feet. After some additional east-west trees were dropped, the eastern sun comes in strong on these tree trunks until about noon, then shade takes over at the base of the trees. At about 4pm, the western sun hits the plants again.
This shade during the hot portion of the day seems to make the plants do pretty well. We also used pine straw mulch to cover the dirt in the pot, helping to retain moisture. LIkewise, the water tray at the base of each pot allows some additional drinking for them.
Weed control is limited to the base of the plant here, instead of the space between rows in a typical garden. The pine straw mulch pretty much stops weeds in each bucket, save for the occasional sprout of Johnson Grass.
We can’t mow close enough to these trunks anyway, so the bucket isn’t in the way of the mower. We don’t need much for climbing veggies except a way to get the vines to hit the pine trunks – which is done with string, wire or whatever is handy. Once the vines latches to the trunk, it runs right up the trunk. The gourd vine in the first picture is running out the lower pine limbs at this point. You may be able to see that if you zoom the picture.
All this is sort of an experiment in seeing how densely we can get these seasonal veggies to grow effectively. It’s also trying to maximize use of the land we have already cleared. If it works, then we can leave more land uncleared than is traditional in a farm setting.
A third item is that this is recently cleared land – the topsoil is thin, as it is solely from leaf litter decomposing. The previous owners used this for tree farming, so a lot of the topsoil was left to erode after clear cutting. Using the buckets lets us amend only the soil that we have in each bucket, and lets the land recover and build more topsoil.
So far, by having these buckets near where we actually work and live, the deer and hogs have steered clear. Rabbits may jump, but they don’t seem to be bothering these buckets. We tried planting at the base of trees last year, but oaks have a root mat that just creams the veggies in terms of nutrient grabbing. Pines seem to have a similar issues near their trunks. So this year we are trying the buckets, and it looks promising.