Despite us having overly focussed on bees, ducks and chooks this summer, and thereby grossly neglecting our vegetables and fruits, together with it being one of the hottest and driest years we’ve experienced, a select few crops still came through.
The corn didn’t grow sky high, but it looked good and it bore well. Planting it in a solid block in a no-dig flat bed at Dreamland definitely paid off. It was also one of those areas that got irrigated well every day. Corn is a thirsty specimen. Previous plantings in Homeland’s raised beds didn’t do nearly as well.
At one stage we had corn almost every night and for the first part of Patricia’s parents’ visit, we were six hungry people who shared in that. And we weren’t the only ones – the young growing chooks got more than their fare share too. In fact, they are still enjoying the straggling left-over cobs.
We have often tried growing cucumber in Homeland’s raised beds, but we never had any real success. This year we planted them directly in the deepest (second generation) no-dig beds at Dreamland and they did much better. At one stage we had quite an overload, so Patricia made a delicious refreshing cucumber pickle, which went down well over the hot days. Mmmm, it may not last all the way into winter.
Where to now?
This brings me to an interesting question. It seems as if the Homeland raised beds are bearing less year after year. This could be due to two possible reasons, in addition to our recent lack of focus and attention. Either the big Eucalypts from the school behind the vegetable patch are growing too many too long roots underneath the vegetable beds, or the soil is getting tired – i.e. we are not topping it up enough with fresh compost. These are all the original raised beds that were filled with garden loam, manure and bought-in compost when we started off – before we knew anything about no-dig beds.
So now I have a wild idea – namely to slowly use the “tired” soil to plant chicken greens and fescue and clover paths over at Dreamland. They’re all a bit like cover crops. I still have two areas that must be developed and the two “hidden” lawn areas aren’t looking the best either. The one could actually also be suffering from a similar Eucalypts roots problem…
Anyway, then as I clear the boxes at Homeland, we can replace their contents with proper no-dig beds with straw, Lucerne and compost. (Or how about wicking beds?) I just wish our Lucerne and Tagasaste would grow faster, then we can stock more of the beds mostly from on-site materials. (OK, we will be using some of the straw that we bought in for chicken bedding.) We would also require less nitrogen-rich plant material if we use the old chicken deep litter – there should be enough nitrogen in there – but all the texts say it should ideally be cycled through the compost heaps first. Slow and steady solutions, right mr Holmgren?
One of Patricia’s ideas is to rest Homeland over winter and focus on getting it right for spring; so we only plant autumn and winter crops in the new areas over at Dreamland. Slow and steady solutions, right? I may just try a bit of both, sort of as a control experiment, but more about that later.