Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Garden Has Begun Again

Well it is time to being again. I, oops it was Juan, has located some good black dirt for the garden. Juan and I went with my 4X8 trailer and got a load. While using the tractor to transport the dirt from the trailer out by the road into the backyard I had a pin hole open in one of the tractors hydraulic fittings. By the time I moved the last load I must have lost a gallon of hydraulic oil. The whole plan was to take the top portion of the garden’s mostly compost and mix it with the new dirt. OK, that was a good idea which had a hidden benefit. The sugar cane compost was in very hard clumps which got broken up almost to the bottom of the raised bed. Also added with the dirt was a large amount of wood shavings which will help with the tilth of the garden.

Heaped the dirt high and it is now heating up to further break down the clumps and kill the weeds.
 So now seeds are being started with anticipation of bumper corps of bell peppers and awesome tomatoes. Of course there will be other peppers along with maybe one okra plant and right now lettuce. Also there will be lots of garlic planted all-round the edge and some marigolds for some natural pest control. There will be other veggies planted just to get used to how to grow them in Costa Rica.
 Now for something that will be a challenge for some of you, Caroline has potatoes growing in 5 gallon plastic buckets, not 1 bucket but 3 and they are doing extremely well.

I think the bucket on the right was first.
 Of course we’ll post how much she gets from her buckets O’ potatoes. We haven’t peeked so we have no idea just how many or how big they will be. She started them in the compost and added lots of wood shavings plus chicken droppings and some compost each time the plants grew about 6”. The buckets were started at different times so we’ll be able to see if that makes any difference. I’ll see if she starts another bucket for the summer season.
 So that sort of brings you up to date with the garden.

Here (near) are the 2 egg chicks that Henrietta hatched, she should hatch 3 more on the 22nd.
A sad note sort of, the turkeys are gone. They were just too much for our small backyard. One thing to weigh when trying something like raising turkeys is that tom eats a lot of food for what he does. The hen eats well too so to justify a tom you would need to have something like 6 to 8 hens then he pays his way. I don’t know the breakeven point on the feed verses the numbers of turkeys raised but it would be way more than we could raise here. They have been replaced with meat chickens, 6 of them raised by our ever faithful silkie hen, she took to them as they were her own and raised them till they were able to take care of themselves (they were day old chicks when hers started hatching, we just added them under her). They are growing like weeds, good food and free range will give us some fine good meat, no bird full of medications or antibiotics.

Here are a few of the meat chicks and one of the guineas.
  Henrietta started laying eggs some time back and decided to start setting on the 1st of the month, we just happened to have 3 more of Juan’s good hen eggs that were put under Henrietta the same day she started setting. We’re hoping this time we’ll get a nice rooster for the flock so we can raise our own replacement egg hens from the egg hens we have. We will pick one of the egg hens and put her in the brood pen at night so we can collect her egg each day. As soon as she lays her egg each day she will be let out to free range.
Anyway, this brings you fairly well up to date on the ol’ garden and such. This coming week I’ll be doing things around the garden area to make it ready for the new plants. Cleaning up the area from all the rains we’ve had so when those new plants are ready for transplanting the garden will be ready for them. I’m planning on at least a bi-weekly update for the garden.
Take care and happy gardening.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Garden in Paradise Update!

This week I purchased some calico (calcium) and sulfato de magnesia (Epsom salts) as foliate sprays for the few plants still in the garden. I was advised to do so from someone who had lived here before and found that there was a shortage of needed nutrients even in good compost. I have sprayed the plants leaves with both in solution and waited.

 Today I noticed that the leaves look like they are responding to the sprays.  I was also told that the soil needed the calcium so I soaked the top layer with the calcium spray. I will look for calcium in a powder to dig into the soil and also for gypsum (calcium sulfate) to help the overall condition of the soil. The peppers are doing good as well as the garlic.

 The peppers of course are for our table and cooking whereas the garlic is mostly for bug deterrent. The garlic is doing so well that when the blubs are ready for harvest I will share them with our neighbors. I will keep planting garlic and being that I received chive seeds in error I will plant those too. I have been looking for Napa cabbage seed for when I have remixed the soil and start planting things in a controlled pattern as is shown in the Square Foot Gardening book. It will be very interesting to see just how much produce we will get from our size of garden.
  I’m getting lots of potatoes that are sprouting which are unusually as most I thought were treated for storage which keeps them from sprouting as well. I have been saving some as well for planting them to get more seed potatoes for growing in half barrels. It is also good to be able to check how the foliage sprays work on them too. The garden is becoming more interesting with each problem solved and for each step forward. Now as things progress I will be doing a much better job of documenting what I do and what the results are. I’m also planning to try and do an update every week, they may be short till things really start to happen with more photos.

This little pepper plant keeps producing but its leaves a yellowing, I’m hoping that the calcium spray will change that. 
Oh, before I forget again, the pepper plants are all sprouting new leaves and growth. I’ll keep updating on that till they are removed for the soil remix. I’m guessing that is due to the removal of many of the other plants, mainly the huge tomato plants that were growing huge but not producing much in the way of tomatoes (see the first photo for the new growth). The blue flower is on the sword bean plant (notice the huge pods hanging on the sword bean).

This blackberry plant is doing real well as is the sword bean plant behind it (that is cilantro in the lower right).

I just had to show this pepper plant, it broke off the main plant a few days ago, I just pushed it in the soil, it now has new leaves popping out. I’ve cut off many of the old leaves as they were turning brown. Across on the left is a start of lemon grass.

  Oh, the new lady in the house is a rescue cocker, Ginger, someone lost a very good dog. She had so many ticks on her when she was rescued that her hair had to be almost shaved off to get them all off and for her to heal, she has been with us 6 weeks now.

She is very camera shy, she will hide if she sees the camera most of the time. We are very happy that the lady, Carmen, who rescued her needed to find her a home as Ginger and her dogs didn’t get along. Funny though, she gets along with our 6 cats, turkeys and chickens and even the over excited Buddy (outside dog).

Well I’m done for another week, happy gardening!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Latest Garden Update!

  Well it has been sometime since I've updated my blog. I guess it has been something like trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong that has kept me busy (and a bunch of other projects). Something that got me into a frustrating situation was too much compost in the garden. I had plants that were huge but no veggies. One tomato plant had lots of fruit but the plant was growing so big that it had to be constantly trimmed back. It was a volunteer which should have been taken out to begin with, it was most likely a hybrid which wasn't very tasteful and it developed all kinds of problems. The tomatoes at first were OK but then they began to have problems like partly ripening and starting to rot on the vine. Some tomatoes grew OK while others started to rot while they were green. Some of the tomatoes grew big and were OK while some were half size and maybe OK, maybe not. The squash plants grew huge but no squash. The one watermelon plant had some melons but they never grew to any size, one grew about the size of a softball. Even some of the flowers that were put in the garden temporarily to get started stunted or died. Well it turned out to be too much of a good thing. The compost is so good the plants over did it and or just died (perhaps they were burned up by too much available nutrients). Whatever, I am now removing all the excess over grown plants and amending the soil. I didn't want to use the local dirt as it is red clay but so far it is all I've got so I am mixing it 50/50 with the coffee and sugar cane compost. I may take and heat the clay soil to kill the weed seeds and other stuff I don’t want. I have plenty of free fire wood so I think that will be the best way for me to go. I've been saving egg shells to add calcium into the soil. I will grind those as fine as I can get them with a blender and mix that in at the same time. Once I get all that mixed in thoroughly then I will see where I can send a soil sample for testing. It doesn't pay to get into too big a hurry. I have a sword bean plant that I want the seeds from. As soon as the pods are ready to take then the plant comes out and everything else in that half of the garden. I’ll mix in the red clay and top everything off with a generous amount of egg shell powder.
 I plan on going to the Ark Herb Farm the 30th for plants and will stop elsewhere and look for some 3” pots for starting transplants. I’m hoping to get something done on my starting soil block press now that other projects have been completed. Once I get the kinks out of that then no more needing of starting pots. I’ve been sprouting parakeet seed in aluminum baking pans for the parakeets in my window greenhouse and am very happy in how fast they sprout. With the compressed starting soil blocks the sprouts won’t ever get their roots disturbed, once the plant is ready to transplant the whole block goes into the garden soil.
  Oh yeah, the chickens and turkeys are doing great. It is time to pen up the holiday turkeys and plump them up. Besides that the two toms are fusing over the hens and that can get very noisy.
  I’ll get the camera out and take photos of the ongoing projects.

So much to do, so little time!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Another Banner Day, the Garden Construction is Done!

It is a fact, everything is done on the block raised bed garden with a roof and wind break! I am so very happy to have it done. I think Caroline is happy to have it done and me happy!

Ain’t it a beauty?

Here is a photo of the person who did most of its construction.

The roof and the windbreak let in all day sunshine but keep the wind and rain at bay. The wire fence keeps the chickens and turkeys out of the garden, we will make them a good place for dust baths where the ol’ banana trees were (more info about such stuff to follow). I will be keeping records and posting same as to what was planted, when and the success. I will also post what problems I have and how it was resolved (IF). BTW, the wood slats I had Juan use over the Poly sheets have already begun to prove no self destructing vibrations up and down which would destroy the poly sheets due to wind. A strong gusty wind didn't bother a thing, nice, very nice. 

Caroline showing our neighbor, Linda, the start of horseradish root we received for Linda McEnery. Thank you Linda. Maybe I should have zoomed on them but it was so bright I had a hard time seeing the LCD viewfinder.

The white material will break the wind while still allowing the afternoon sun into the garden. I’m hoping that the clear poly roof and the “al malla antitrips blanco” material will let in all the sun light necessary to grow tomatoes, okra, BELL peppers, bock choy, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beets and whatever we can get to grow along with marigolds and herbs to help deter bad insects. That woven material came from ferreteria Agroservicios Cafeteros Occidente S.A. San Ramon 2447-4534 for C1,261.00/running meter. Normal 5% discount, perhaps cash has something to do with the discount. The material is 3 meters wide, the ferreteria that I had bought from before, they were out, only had material 2 meters wide which was what I had expected so the extra meter wide was a surprise but we just folded it back from the bottom up and left it like that. I think it was very close to the price per running meter that I had paid for the 2 meter material.

I thank all of you for your critique, encouragement and just making such grand comments on our endeavor. That makes things soooo good, thank you!

Much, much more to come. . . . . . .

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Roof, Roof, Roof!

Hooray! We have a roof over the garden!!!!

Ain’t it great? Notice the wood strips we used to keep the screw heads from pulling thru the poly sheets. Back behind us is a chicken farm, last year they had several sheets of metal roofing blow off the chicken building. I thought for some time about that and the fact that I didn’t want that problem with the poly sheets, they aren’t cheap. Tomorrow I will install the chicken wire and maybe the windbreak cloth. Next week, the planting of the first seeds (well maybe a little before that, after all this time who can wait???? Of course I’ll post more photos of the chicken fencing and the wind break. I did look very close at the amount of sun light getting thru the poly sheeting compared to the amount with no poly. That was a major concern. So many folks told me that it wouldn’t work that there wouldn’t be enough sunlight getting thru to grow veggies, well I now am sure they were wrong. Of course the proof will be in what does or doesn’t grow but that is the case with any endeavor to do with gardening. Soon I’ll take photos of a sun rise thru the garden area to give you an idea of the orientation of the garden. Next week will begin the starting of seeds in the window greenhouse.

The greenhouse faces east-southeast, it will get great morning sun and as the sun gets hot it will be filtered thru the tree outside the greenhouse. With the tree and the back open it never gets super hot, there is now a water spigot next to the greenhouse on the left.

Can you find all six of the chompipes in the two photos?

They almost disappear don’t they?

And of course one of our helpers, what would be a day without our furry friends. Samonia is a good helper but she keeps dropping her hammer J. Others have come out and gone back in, too much work for them (they know where the food dish is)!
More update and photos tomorrow.

Sorry about this but my internet provider has been messed up and my blog wouldn’t load, so I hope you enjoy this as late as it is, hopefully my next posting will be on time. Art

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back working on the garden after a log wait.

A new chapter in the garden blog.
It has been a long time coming but the garden will get it’s roof this week.  Yep, the corrugated poly sheets got here Thursday. I have been painting the wood strips that we will use over the poly sheets to keep the strong gusty winds from pulling the screw heads thru the poly. Last year the strong gusty winds blew several sheets of corrugated sheet roofing off of the chicken farm behind us. I don’t want to chase $16.00 sheets (replacement costs for one sheet) of roofing down the road, besides the sheets bang up and down all the time without the wood strips holding them down.

Does that look like $240.00 (20 sheets)???? Well, no matter, it will give me the kind of roof needed to keep the rain off and still let the sun light thru. I’ll sort of have a green house without walls. This poly is supposed to last a life time, now whose life time they are using for a scale is the big question (of course it should last as long as I do).

Juan did manage to get the gate put up already, you can’t see the green fencing to keep the chickens out of the garden but it goes up to the middle cross brace on the gate. We may have to clip one wing of the chickens to keep them from flying over the fence.
Oh yeah, the mutts are growing!

They are now the Hounds of Baskerville!!!! Nothing is safe from the jaws of steel, they’ll chew anything even with us buying soup bones from the market for them they aren’t satisfied.
Oh yeah, we added some poults (turkeys) to the flock.

This was them when we got them at 3 weeks, cute huh?

You don’t see how much they have grown but here they are 4 ½ weeks. To us it seems like they have doubled in size. Caroline had said some time back that she would like to have turkeys. About 2 weeks ago Lorraine’s brother had to show me all of his animals which included 17 young poults. I had asked him if he would like a couple of silkie chickens so after he said yes I asked if his momma sold the poults. I said I would like to get 2 for us to raise for the table, it was to be a surprise for Caroline. Well I couldn’t get them for another week at which time I took Caroline along. Boy did she get excited about the poults. What I didn’t know was she planned to keep the 2 for raising our own stock. After that was disclosed I went back to see if I could purchase 2 more for this year’s holiday meals. I also picked up 2 poults for our neighbor and will hold them till she gets her coop finished.

Well it is back out to finished painting the wood strips so we can work non-stop tomorrow. I’m hoping that we can get the whole roof on tomorrow, if it is up to Juan we will. He is a real go-getter!!!! For sure there will be an update tomorrow.

Well the internet was acting up so this didn't get posted when I tried. Actually that worked out OK as the wind was so strong we didn't even try to work on the roof. the wind is supposed to drop so we may try tomorrow, Wednesday the 16th.