WE HAVE GATHERED VIRGIN TOP SOIL FROM THE FOREST, PURCHASED BAGS UPON BAGS OF MIRACLE GROW POTTING SOIL FROM LOWES, ADDED TONS OF OAK LEAVES AS MULCH WHICH WE LATER COMPOST AS WELL AS MIXED IN CHICKEN MANURE, BUT NOTHING HAS HAD THE EFFECT THAT OUR AGED HORSE MANURE HAS HAD.
Our two horses contribute 80 lbs of raw manure every day. We gather, pile, turn it over, keep it moist and then apply it generously to the raised beds after 10 to 12 weeks of cooking. We know it is ready when our indigenous earthworm population appears throughout the blend. To say that we have to step back and let the garden grow is an understatement. Things are doubling in size every 7 to 10 days. We are harvesting lettuce, collards and rape as fast as we can and cannot stay ahead of it. Cucumbers, squash, sugar peas, tomatoes, peppers and carrots are soon to follow and then everything else will start.
I am not complaining. I have had a garden for 40 years and never seen anything like this. I think it is the combination of the raised beds, deep oak leaf mulch and the properly aged and composted horse manure.
I was not able to capture either of the two bee swarms that emerged a couple weeks ago. I have two swarm traps in the forest but the bees found better tree hollows elsewhere. My son and I tried to physically capture the lowest swarm but we did not get the queen so they reassembled and flew off. I am trying to get a good swarm into the top bar hive I built a couple years ago. Once done, we will have four hives which will be enough to satisfy our honey and pollination needs.
I will pick up 12 new pullets tomorrow. Three of each: Silver Wyandotte, Colombian Wyandotte, Welsummer and Cookoo Maran. All brown egg layers. That will give us a total of 16 hens and two roosters. NOTE: The Columbian Wyandotte did not come in so I doubled the number of Silver Wyandottes to 6.
VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
Both the blackberries and the blue berries are set and filling out. The figs and pears are starting to show but the citrus is not having a heavy bloom. In fact, some of the trees are not blooming at all. The tangerine are showing the best recovery from the winter cold. I planted 7 new plum trees (all different varieties) this spring so that we can enjoy a plum harvest. I cannot get peaches to grow here nor can I get grapes (other than our slip skin varieties) to live longer than a couple years. The apples are a disappointment so I guess we will have to settle on what we can grow.
I have decided that I wanted to try to grow super sweet corn this year. I have avoided growing it because it attracts raccoons which will go after more than just the corn. I will fence the raised bed with chicken wire and liven up the electric fence which charges the inner fence around the garden. We will see.
Lots of other things going on but I will save them for later.
Here are some of the photos of the garden…
rape – a cooking green that we also use as a green salad
I was going to add the 14 photos one at a time and put a caption under each but word press added them all at once so I will try to caption them now.
Photo one is of our early blackberry set. We have a moderate crop this year. I did not water the canes enough last summer and they are weak and will not produce an abundant crop this year. I will learn from this and pour the water on them after they finish producing.
Photo two is the tomato bloom which promises to give us a lot of tomatoes. I am growing the Celebrity variety this year because it is supposed to be the best one to grow here in South Carolina and it is resistant to most tomato pest. Photo number 14 is of a new set Celebrity tomato. I have also started 24 cherry tomato plants of 4 varieties and have placed them in the garden. They are 1 1/2 foot high and will give us an explosion of little tomatoes. In addition to these two, we have 6 Roma and 6 Cherokee Purple plants.
Photos 3 and 4 are of the garden in early April. Compare it to photo 6 which was taken 3 weeks later. It has got to be the horse compost.
Photo 5 is of a fig plant in the fig hedge which should be ready to prune next year. Remember that I am going to trim it to 4 feet high and 4 feet wide so we can harvest the figs from both sides of the hedges without using a ladder.
Photo seven is our first artichoke. We now have 12 plants which will produce 3 or 4 chokes each next year.
Photo eight is of our sugar snap peas. They started blooming yesterday so we should start harvesting in a week. What a sweet pleasure they are to eat in the garden. I have to force myself to take some to the kitchen. (By-the-way, no asparagus gets to the kitchen).
Photo nine is our crop of rape which is very tender and has just a hint of fire so it blends with the lettuce very well. It is primarily a cooking green but I like it fresh.
Then we have photos 10: flowering red tip, 11: flowering snowball Viburnum, and 13 which is the wisteria arbor two weeks after the soiree without a bloom.
Photograph 12 is of our squash tubes. We cannot grow squash here because the squash bore (a moth) destroys the vines just before they start to produce so I found a parthenogenic zucchini squash that is self pollinating and can be grown under a cover. If this works, we will have all the squash we want.
Last but not least, we are mulching the beds and the walkways with live oak leaves to inhibit weed growth. It has worked well in the past. All areas now are getting ample water coverage so are ready to start enjoying our harvest.
We have several new members this month. I welcome you all.