Garden To-Do & Soil Test Results

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Current view of the acre garden plot

Well the frogs have emerged in the dugouts and are loud as ever, so despite the snow we got this past weekend, I call Spring!

Since we have approximately one month until planting time, Clay and I are busy with plans and logistics for the gardens. He built me some beautiful beds around the south side of the house/deck and we will be filling the largest one with hugelkultur this weekend. We are getting a load of compost from Uncle Ross sometime (hopefully) soon, and I’ll use that to top dress all of our house beds. The chicken garden is coming alive (even with all of the chicken attempts to thwart it) and my chives, mint and a few garlic survived the winter. I’m anxious to see what else will come up. I will be planting peppers and tomatoes against the house as well as grape vines, roses and peonies against the lattice of the deck, most of which will be a summertime project.

The largest item on our list is the acre garden and we have a lot to do. The plan is to plant the large trees and shrubs of our forest garden, build some swales, plant a traditional row garden with this years veggies, install a few perennial beds and put the rest under cover crops of buckwheat and red clover. In the fall I’d like to build some large scale hugelkultur beds, but we’ll see where we get. Oh yes, and then there is the building of a small greenhouse up by the house… By now you should know we are very optimistic people.

When starting this journey last year, we conducted a soil test. I even had my very own specialist on hand since my husband is an environmental scientist. We also tested for pesticides as our plot used to be commercially farmed and is located next to traditional farmed land. Here are the results:Soil Test Results

Since I’ve never done an actual soil test on a garden before I went to the all knowing Google to figure out what these numbers meant and what I needed to do about it.

  • Organic Matter: 10.7 – Apparently this is ridiculously good. The sources I found said the 4-6% would have been great soil, so we’re sitting pretty on this one.
  • Nitrate: 9 ug/g – Ideally we want this number to be 25-30, but medium lies in the 5-20 range so I guess we’re okay
  • Phosphorus: 24 ug/g – We are in the ideal range of 21-28, hooray!
  • Potassium: 397 ug/g – The highest ideal amount I could find was 120, so I guess this is good? Not sure…
  • Sulfate and Ammonium: I couldn’t find much info on this except that these are secondary nutrients.
  • pH: 5.8 – it seems we are a little on the acidic side of the pH scale but most veggies do well in a range from 5.5-7 so I’m not going to worry about it this year.
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After a good old fashioned squeeze test, it seems we have loam (ideal) soil! Not too much clay, not too much sand

Our pesticide test came back negative and we are glad for that. Although it was expensive, I really wanted peace of mind when it came to possible issues. We tested for over 40 types of pesticides and we are free and clear… phew! All in all, I think we are looking pretty good and I don’t plan on adding much to the soil besides compost and organic mulch. The cover crops will provide organic matter and extra nitrogen in the un-attended areas and we will address any issues in the fall.

Today I came home to a big box of goodies I ordered from westcoastseeds.com who specialize in organic, non-gmo and heirloom varieties. It included my seeds, potatoes, hops, cover crop (buckwheat) and asparagus crowns. Oh good golly it’s like Christmas in April! (don’t take that too seriously universe, we don’t need anymore snow I assure you). I also placed my fruit tree/bush/nut/grape order with a nursery in Manitoba who specialize in zone 2-3 plants. I’m SO excited to get it all in to my house, but less excited to get it all in the ground on my tightened schedule. Here is a list of things we need to do before we can plant:

  • Finish the 2015 aspects of the garden design, continue to work on design to finalize
  • Purchase and install 8′ wire elk fence – 3 rolls at 330 feet each
  • Install working gates – tractor gate + walk-in gate
  • Run piping/hose from well to northwest corner of garden site
    • Our plan this year will be to water mostly by hand which isn’t ideal, and as we grow into the full space we’ll need to come up with a better plan. But for the first year, I think we’ll be okay.
  • Till the entire acre with borrowed till from our cousins
  • Find a bunch of compost and wood chips
  • Buy a few bales of old, spent alfalfa for mulch
  • Plant, plant, plant

I am hoping to grow enough to make it to the local Farmer’s Market this year on Saturdays as well, so we’ll work it into the schedule. Ah yes, the farm/full-time work schedule. At this rate I’ll either be invincible by the end of the summer or they’ll find my body face down in the garden dirt with an invoice in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. Let’s hope for the first one shall we?

Any advice from those experienced gardener’s out there?

~Katy

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No trip to the garden plot is complete without a visit from these two

 

Work-Life-Farm Balance

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Our egg and crocus bounty on Easter Sunday

Oh hello there, long time no see…

Things have exponentially gotten busier around these parts as spring has officially sprung (thank god). I started a job in town 2 weeks ago and we are in the throes of dealing with this new concept we like to call work-life-farm balance. Just when we thought we were tired and had too much on our plate I was hired on a s a business manager for the Cultural Centre (yes!) and I’ve been getting back into the groove a 9-5. I definitely miss my time spent solely on the farm, but am finding I do enjoy meeting new people, taking on new challenges and getting to walk to yoga everyday. Yeehaw.

Within those two weeks, the animals (and the husband) had a tricky time coping with the lesser amount of attention from me and our road washed out. Again. So for the first week of the new gig I had a double vehicle commute – side-by-side to SUV. I made sure to change out of my muck boots and into my ballet flats in my car before I went in, you know, as not to blow my professional office person cover, but my coworkers busted me by the telltale sign of mud on the back of my pants. Apparently you can take the girl off of the farm but you can’t take the farm off of the girl… not even with crappy public washroom soap.

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Clay attempting to get our culvert to thaw and drain

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My commute

Wyatt is completely healed up as his nickname has changed from Pus Bucket to Scabs. The drains and stitches are out, he’s back to full patrol duty and seems to like all the attention he’s been getting. Not only did the local paper feature his story on the front page and an entire back spread, the local news channel came out to the farm for an interview. He got to show the nice reporter lady his manners, his chickens, his cat, his territory and his red rocket… sigh… I knew it wouldn’t all go to plan. His brother Maynard was so jealous, he willed himself an abscess (seriously, we have NO idea how he got it) and landed himself in the vet and on antibiotics as well. Never a dull moment people, never.a.dull.moment.

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Here we see Pus Bucket lounging on his bed… his two larger drains drained all over everything we own for two solid weeks. He managed to pull them both out by himself. Thanks Pus Bucket

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Healing up and getting some outside time in the soon to be melted snow

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Oh yeah… Maynard looks really sick here…

The chicks are growing fast and will be 6 weeks this Friday. Holy crap. It’s exciting to see their plumage grow in and their colors begin to show. Josephine sleeps with them at night but has left them for dead during the day as the snow is going fast and there is green grass to forage. Oh the life of a Canadian Acres chicken.

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Hazel and Mable chilling on the top roost when the big chickens are outside

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They get bigger everyday

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Philomena getting in some beautiful plumage

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The chickens enjoying the sunshine and the green grass

We spent the holiday weekend enjoying the nicer weather and Clay built me a beautiful flower bed along our back porch. The south facing location is ideal and I have big dreams of grapevines and peonies on the horizon. The compost piles are thawing and actually freaking look like compost (hooray!) and I am oh so proud of myself on that front. What a delight to finally see things happening after a long winter. The dogs and I hiked the hills in search of the springtime crocuses and found many popping up in the sunshine. The boys found a few old wolf kill bones to chew on and we were all happy to be in this place.

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New garden bed… we plan on putting up some lattice beneath the deck which would be perfect for grapevines

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The compost looks like compost!

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Look mom, one of those stupid wolves left behind this wonderful bone

Though life may seem over busy and hectic, nature and our land bring us together and remind us that all it takes is love, patience and gratitude to find the balance… and casually ignore the sh*t ton of work to do on the garden this month. Happy April!

~Katy