GARDEN DIVERSITY

Lazy Gardener

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We are scattered across all corners of our beautiful nation, and have representation from other countries on either side of the equator. Therefore, what works for me, will not work in Texas or Australia. Different temperatures, soils, water availability, weed pressure, and pests, So, let's hear it for diversity, tenacity, and perserverance! This thread is a celebration of garden success, review of garden failure, and a tool for us all to learn from each other to become better gardeners. Feel free to copy the questions into your post, and use them as the skeleton, as you flesh out your answers. please add or delete as you see fit.

1. What is your general location, garden zone, type of soil, amount of daily sunlight?

2. How long is your NATURAL garden season? (how long can you grow crops without microclimate adaptation)

3. Do you have any natural, or man made climate extenders? What microclimate adaptations are working for you? What are you thinking of adding in the future? (could be season extenders in the cold north, or methods of protecting crops from excessive heat)

4. What crops do well/thrive in your garden? What can't you grow?

5. What diseases and insect pests are particularly damaging?

6. What do you do for pest management? Any new ideas you want to try?

7. Till? No till? Mulch?

8. Intercropping/companion planting?

9. Soil improvement plan, and how has that worked for you?

10. Bird and mammal pests? Fencing?
 

Britesea

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1. What is your general location, garden zone, type of soil, amount of daily sunlight?
Located at 4400 feet above sea level, in the Eastern Cascades of Oregon. We are rated at 6B Zone, with volcanic soil, arid, long days in summer. In general, summer temps are in the 80’s-90’s with a few triple digits usually in August.

2. How long is your NATURAL garden season? (how long can you grow crops without microclimate adaptation)
Hah! This is a fun one. Supposedly we have a 90 day season, but have recorded snow in every month of the year. Some years you win, some you lose.

3. Do you have any natural, or man made climate extenders? What microclimate adaptations are working for you? What are you thinking of adding in the future? (could be season extenders in the cold north, or methods of protecting crops from excessive heat)
We have an unheated greenhouse, and some woven frost cloths (not the thin ReMay stuff- these are three years old and going strong) and I am working slowly on building a wall along the north side of the garden to cut the prevailing winds and act as a heat sink.

4. What crops do well/thrive in your garden? What can't you grow?
Most of the cool weather crops do well, although cauliflower is problematic because the summer heat comes on quickly and they tend to make little button heads. Root crops of all types do well, green beans but usually not dried beans, tomatoes, peppers, melons, and squash all need babying. I am working on selecting seeds for better adaptation to our microclimate.

5. What diseases and insect pests are particularly damaging?
Our worst pest is aphids, but also see grasshoppers, ants, and occasionally squash bugs. Occasionally the squirrels will make a raid.

6. What do you do for pest management? Any new ideas you want to try?
We got rid of the grubs in the beds by adding beneficial nematodes. The chickens free range all around the fenced garden and keep the grasshoppers and ants under control. I got some praying mantis eggs a few years ago and we see them around every year. I buy ladybugs every year but so far they haven’t seemed to establish themselves. The codling moths around the apples seem to be dwindling ( I think the chickens again). Other than that, I use soap spray for aphids, pepper spray for squirrels, and Neem spray if I see anything else munching.

7. Till? No till? Mulch?
I have raised beds with wooden sides (and ¼” wire mesh in the bottom to keep the gophers out) No tilling in there. I mulch with pine straw and wood chips (generously donated by the local tree guys) both in the pathways and the beds.

8. Intercropping/companion planting?
I don’t do a whole lot of this.

9. Soil improvement plan, and how has that worked for you?
I make compost with everything I can get hold of. We have friends with horses, and he will load our pickup from his oldest piles (4 years old, usually). I added mycorrhizae to the beds, as well as trace minerals and I try to rotate plantings (nitrogen fixers, followed by leaf-and-fruit, followed by roots)

10. Bird and mammal pests? Fencing?
Birds (including our chickens), squirrels, rabbits, ground squirrels and gophers, but especially DEER. We have a 6 foot tall fence all around, plus a partly buried 2” poultry netting to stop rabbits. Also have ¼” mesh nailed to the wooden boxes for the raised beds, and an A frame of poultry wire over the strawberries. The critters STILL get some of the food though.
 

Lazy Gardener

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1. What is your general location, garden zone, type of soil, amount of daily sunlight?
Central Maine. Zone 4B. Garden is sandy loam, while native soil is acidic rocky clay. Garden receives at least 8 hours of sunlight/day during the growing season.

2. How long is your NATURAL garden season? (how long can you grow crops without microclimate adaptation) Ground is frozen from early November through Mid April. Depending on the season, we may have ice pack in the yard that persists well into May. Typical Mainers plant their gardens on Memorial Day weekend, and wrap things up after the first frost (sometime in Sept. My garden style allows me to plant as early as mid March, and I am enjoying salads as late as Thanksgiving.

3. Do you have any natural, or man made climate extenders? What microclimate adaptations are working for you? What are you thinking of adding in the future? (could be season extenders in the cold north, or methods of protecting crops from excessive heat) Lots of climate adaptations: Cattle panel green house (8' x 8'). Low tunnels. I leave rebar and T posts standing in the garden over the winter. They capture heat from the sun, and transfer it to the ground. The snow will melt and the ground will thaw in a circle around a tiny little piece of 1/2" rebar! The frost is also out of the garden on S side of my raised beds long before the frost leaves the raised beds! I use sheets of plastic to warm up garden beds, and protect seeds until they are sprouted and growing well. Always plenty of plastic available, if I am timely at removing the plastic from the chicken's sun-room! Cut off milk jugs over tomatoes and pepper plants, and individually seeded areas. Mulch is an often overlooked season extender. A good layer of mulch keeps frost from going so deep, and it also helps prevent the soil from being waterlogged in the spring. Last night, when we had a frost, I grabbed some fistfuls of hay and laid them over the newly sprouted pea plants. Strategically placed rocks or milk jugs filled with water will act as heat sinks to warm the soil around them, and protect tender seedlings. I am intrigued by @Alaskan 's description of how a friend put a plastic "fence" around his corn planting to help bring that crop to maturity. I toy with the idea of replacing part of the fence on N side of the garden with corrugated polycarbonate panels.

Elliott Coleman has a number of books in print about extending the season. He states that it's possible to eat fresh produce from the garden all 12 months of the year, by using high/low tunnels, cold frames, mulches. He gardens, in Maine, just a bit south of me. Per his literature, every layer of protection (glass/plastic/spun fabric) that you provide will essentially create a micro-climate that is 1.5 zones or 500 miles south of your unprotected location. In order to be effective at producing year round crops, it's necessary to plant those crops that will be harvested in late fall/early winter by late July, early August.

For starting cold weather crops in the heat of summer: Soak the ground well, add a few trays of ice, then cover the bed with a board or other heat excluder until the crops are sprouted. Place late plantings of cold weather crops in the shade of taller plants.

4. What crops do well/thrive in your garden? What can't you grow? I continue to push the envelope.

Cold weather crops always do well for me. I have a hard time growing carrots well. Tend to over seed, then don't get them thinned well and soon enough. Carrot maggot also a problem. So... this year, I'm trying a new seeding method: prep and water the bed, then make a tiny dimple in the soil every 1.5 - 2" and drop a couple seeds in each dimple. Then, lightly water again, and cover with a board or other light excluder. I'll let you know how it works!

Melon: more often a failure, but... I keep trying! Potatoes are my favorite crop to grow. Tomatoes do well. I had my best ever crop of peppers last year, but it was spotty. A couple plants produced bumper crops, while plants right beside them grew well, but did not produce.

5. What diseases and insect pests are particularly damaging? Potato Beetles! Squash bugs. Cucumber beetles. Slugs. Giant slugs. More slugs. Snails. Cutworms. Cabbage worms, Japanese beetles. Occasional blight on tomatoes. BER on tomatoes. Powdery mildew on cucurbits.

6. What do you do for pest management? Any new ideas you want to try? Ducks and chickens work the garden in the off season. I ran both species in a partial moat around the garden last summer. Limited use of Sevin, Permethrin, have tried dipel in past, and will most likely buy it in future. Iron Phosphate pellets for slug/snails. Slug dough. DIY borax/sugar ant bait. Chickens and Ducks are my main defense, and I'm seeing very few cutworms/grubs as I work the soil this season. While at the same time, grubs are decimating areas of my lawn. I welcome crows, skunks, and ducks to help clean up the grub infestation. I make a hand held Japanese Beetle trap from an old ammonia jug and zip lock baggie. I allow trap crops to grow up at edges of the yard, and collect JB several times/day, dumping them in a bucket so the chickens can play bob for beetles. I also want to put up some fencing between/around beds to allow ducks and possibly chickens into the garden during the growing season.

7. Till? No till? Mulch? Only till when breaking new ground. Lots and lots of mulch of all kinds. It just melts into the ground. What was once tan sand is now deep, black, friable, sandy-loam. Love my broadfork. I can prep a bed faster with the broadfork than I can with my Troybilt.

8. Intercropping/companion planting? Yes. Favorites: Potatoes and corn. Cold weather crops either planted in bands, or mixed in bands. I use French Breakfast Radish as row markers. Flowers: for show and for their beneficial properties: Marigold, nasturtium, calendula. And, thanks to @Beekissed, I've started adding zinnia. This year, I intend to mix it up even more, dropping a few carrot seeds here and there, tucking onions in here and there, etc. I also plant ornamental veggies in my flower gardens, using annual flowers between islands of veggies for a splash of color. I may turn the flower bed by the road into a "help yourself" bed for my neighbors to enjoy.

9. Soil improvement plan, and how has that worked for you? Initially, I got chickens for the soil benefit they could provide. I have become concerned about the risk of even bringing cow manure from a source where the animals may be fed hay that is sourced from a herbicide treated field. Deep composting litter in chicken coop and run has produced all of my manure/compost needs. I buy hay from a chem free farmer. Pick up wood chips, and compost from town composting yard. Every fall, we drive to a town across the river to p/u bagged leaves for my chicken/duck bedding. We use a bagger on the lawnmower. Those clippings are added to chicken coop/run, and garden. Never enough material to keep the garden covered!!! Vermicomposting in winter months, along with some stuff being put in a tumbler, and tossed to the chickens. I bring coffee grounds back from church. Coffee grounds are great soil amendments.

10. Bird and mammal pests? Fencing? Hawks and fox are a constant threat to chickens/ducks. I can not free range my chickens b/c of the threat. Currently, I'm taking a risk by allowing the ducks to free range. Rabbits, squirrel can be a problem. Every couple of years, a ground hog shows up, and has successfully tunneled into the garden to cause a lot of damage. Mice, voles, and sometimes rats are among of my greatest pests. Garden is fenced with cattle panel, which is then wrapped with deer netting. This does a fair job discouraging most critters. Target practice is a good option. I am looking at "added fencing" options as a more permanent solution around the garden, and to block off some beds/paths to allow duck access during the grow season. I find that deer netting breaks down too quickly in the sun. I run electric poultry netting around 3 sides of the garden to provide a chicken/duck moat during the growing season. The flocks intercept a lot of insect pests before they make it "into" the garden.
 
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Lazy Gardener

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6. Pest management: I LOVE my snakes. I make sure to provide lots of welcoming habitat for my snakes. A board propped up at one end, a few rocks placed in a pile where the morning sun will hit them. Toads are also welcome. When hubby mows the lawn, I make an effort to gather any slithery and hoppy critters and place them in the garden. I hate it when the mower or the dog decimates a snake.
 

Hinotori

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1. What is your general location, garden zone, type of soil, amount of daily sunlight?

Western Washington state. We're supposed to be 8a. Glacial till which has lots of rocks. 16 hours sunlight at summer solstice. Rainfall averages about 50 inches, but some years are much more.

2. How long is your NATURAL garden season? (how long can you grow crops without microclimate adaptation)


Usually can plant in April. Seeds rot before then. Plants can grow until October with light frost protection.

3. Do you have any natural, or man made climate extenders? What microclimate adaptations are working for you? What are you thinking of adding in the future? (could be season extenders in the cold north, or methods of protecting crops from excessive heat)


Working on a greenhouse to start plants earlier.

4. What crops do well/thrive in your garden? What can't you grow?


Cabbages, peas, beans, squash. Blackberries, plums, apples.

5. What diseases and insect pests are particularly damaging?


Tomato late blight, various fungal diseases brought on by cool temps and rain.

6. What do you do for pest management? Any new ideas you want to try?


Tomatoes grown under cover and never splashing water from soil onto plants.

7. Till? No till? Mulch?


Till because grass takes over everything there. Mulch helps.

8. Intercropping/companion planting?


Havent because most things that will grow well here are resistant to problems. Have plenty of space.

9. Soil improvement plan, and how has that worked for you?


Keep chickens on spot to kill everything and fertilize. They get lots of straw to stay dry. All gets tilled in. Has made for nice topsoil.

10. Bird and mammal pests? Fencing?


Deer and Elk. New fencing going up around garden. Not much problem from native rodents because dogs eat them especially if they find a mole hill.
 
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