Friday, October 10, 2008

October 08-Harvest, Chicken Tractor and Building Composting

Our October work party was really fun and really productive.
We harvested two buckets of cherry tomatoes and a few other veggies, but given how late we had started and the low organic matter in our soils the harvest was not as bountiful as we had hoped for but we had a plan for next season-Build the soil!

Cherry tomatoes

Purple broccoli

We built a chicken tractor!

What Is A Chicken Tractor?
A chicken tractor is a movable chicken cage, allowing you to keep your chickens under control while still moving them around the yard.

Why Would I Want One?
-Have your chickens till and weed your yard
-Buy less food for your chickens
-Eliminate your need for petroleum-baed fertilizers
-and, last but not least: make your chickens happy!

The chickens are all the left over veggies and bugs while removing the soil and fertilizing it.

It was quit the entertainment for the kids too.

After the chickens finished with one bed we moved them to another and with the added fertilizer we were ready to plant our winter veggies.

Dan was a great help clearing out this area for the plant nursery staging area.

The other project that we started was building our own soils. We realized that the soil we had bought was not rich enough so we started our own compost.

Composting is simply decomposed organic material. The decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for enriching garden soil. Invertebrates (insects and earthworms), and microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) help in transforming the material into compost. It is the way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. It's easy to learn how to compost

Yard and food wastes make up approximately 30% of the waste stream in the United States. Composting most of these waste streams would reduce the amount of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) requiring disposal by almost one fourth, while at the same time provide a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention. When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened, and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.

Composting is a dynamic process which will occur quickly or slowly, depending on the process used and the skill with which it is executed. A neglected pile of organic waste will inevitably decompose, but slowly. This has been referred to as "passive composting," because little maintenance is performed. Fast or "active" composting can be completed in two to six weeks. This method requires three key activities; 1) "aeration," by turning the compost pile, 2) moisture, and 3) the proper carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. Attention to these elements will raise the temperature to around 130=-140=, and ensure rapid decomposition

We build our compost by adding one layer of food scraps and one layer of dry garden waste, some times adding straw to increase the C:N ration, and as you see Giancarlo in this pictures we turn it about every 3 months and water it. Our worms and micro organism in the compost are really happy.

Like father like son

This are the newly planted winter veggies. We covered them with chicken wire mesh to prevent cats peeing on the soil and squirrels digging their walnuts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

September 08- Fertilizing Trees

There were a few existing fruit trees in the garden that Matt and Jane had planted when they first moved there. The trees needed a lot of care, punning and mulching.
The existing fruit trees are apricots, two different kinds of plums, mayer lemons, tree different apples and a volunteer peach. Except for the peach they are all delicious!

We got the organic compost for free from the City of Berkeley. Even though the City claims that their compost is tested and is all good Giancarlo doesn't trust it to be used on our annual veggies, you can never be sure what people put on their compost pile, but it was good enough to be used to fertilize the trees. Harmful metals, if existing, would not reach the fruit in a tree.

We follow the same principle of sheet mulching around the base of the tree. Adding the compost around the base of the trunk.

This should help the trees out for next season

Our veggies are starting to produce

Mini pumpkin

Tomatoes and basil

Japanese cucumber


We also planted a few wild flowers, even though it was really late in the season and they didn't grow that much, they made a lot of seeds for next year.

Friday, August 8, 2008

August 08 - Hoop house Shade

We came back to continue our work on the hoop house.
Took off the plastic to add the shade.

Giancarlo found a black shade tarp and we used that as the shade.
It worked pretty well.

We attached the tarp to the bamboo with zip ties.

Folded the ends of the tarp to keep the entrance clear.

And put the plastic back on

It still got hot but it was more manageable

It worked out pretty well

Thank you Kate and Andreas!

And here is the progress of our summer veggies.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

July 08- Hoop house

We decided to build a hoop house to have a place to start our seeds and extend our growing season and grow tropical plants that require more heat in the summer. And because I've always wanted to have a greenhouse....

Cleared the area to sheet mulch

Lots of hard work and some dancing...

I gathered all the PVC from Urban Ore a refurbished material shop in Berkeley.

Covered the cardboard with mulch from an old pine that got sick on the site and was removed and mulched.

We connected the side hoops with a top PVC line to give it more structure

Lunch and beer under the shade of the plum tree. The least I can do to help all my beautiful helpers

We covered the PVC hoops with a UV protected plastic.
We also added Bamboo on the sides to provide a stronger structure.

Alex was doing some heat calculations with his new iphone

It works. I got immediately hot in there. So hot that we had to figure out some shade. But that will be on the next work party...

Giancarlo added a gate from his garden to the Algarden for easier access.

We also added two new beds, a short one and a long one along all the short ones to experiment a different orientation. It was late on the season so we bought plants that were ready to be planted versus starting from seed.

Good job!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

June 08- Groundbreaking


By June after signing the agreement we order a truck load of soil, mulch and cardboard to start the garden

This is the first day that we started work.

 The land was covered in weeds and we had to start by cutting down most of it and pruning most trees to make space.

We also got a truck load of soil, a truck load of mulch, and a truck load of cardboard.
Soil samples were sent to be tested. This always the first thing to do when thinking of starting an edible garden. You must know your soils, they are the base and it cannot be overemphasized how important this is. The soil had no lead or other harmful chemicals,but it was very hard, mostly clay and with no organic matter so we decided to build our planting beds with the soil we bought on top of the existing soil.

Sheet mulching

Sheetmulching is an organic way of eradicating weeds and grass.

The cardboard we used was recycled cardboard that we bought from a cardboard collector. It  was soaked overnight to speed its decomposition into the ground. The cardboard was laid on the ground and then it was covered with soil and/ or mulch. The weeds and grasses underneath don't get sun light and most of them suffocate and die. The cardboard eventually decomposes and becomes part of the soil and provides a habitat for worms and other critters.

This proved to be very true, because raccoons found the worms under the cardboard and would come attack the garden at night ripping up the cardboard to eat the worms.

We laid out the site and removed some of the clay top soil of the planting bed areas before setting the cardboard down.

 It was an exhausting day but at the end of the day we had three planting beds planted with tomatoes, basil and lettuce.

The shade of the tree was a welcome spot.

The first set of beds are ready.

Tired and happy at the end of the day.