November 24, 2009
Before: The garden is staked and outlined with string
My last workshop of the season was held in Casey, Stephen, Sol and Flora’s tiny backyard at their home in the new Mueller housing development in East Austin. During the workshop, we installed a 3′x8′ double-dug, in-ground vegetable garden in their 12′x20′ backyard. Yep, it’s tiny so it was especially important for us to prepare the soil deeply so their veggies would be able to stretch their roots to absorb as much nutrition and water as possible!
After staking the garden, the first step was to remove the existing vegetation (in this case, it was a solid patch of zoysia grass):
Once we finished removing the grass, it was time to double-dig the garden! Backyard Farmer Casey poses here with a digging fork – an indispensable tool for working in the garden!
After cultivating the soil as deeply as we could by double-digging, it was time to add compost and soil amendments. The easiest way to add these is by sprinkling them on top of the bed and sifting into the top few inches of the soil with your digging fork:
Next, we shaped the bed with our hands (or you could use a sturdy rake):
We planted broccoli and cauliflower starts in their garden. We also seeded several rows of carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach and peas:
After planting and watering, the new garden was ready to grow!
Note: We were not able to build the path around the garden during the workshop. Casey, Stephen and family plan to lay a weed barrier such as newspaper or cardboard in a 2′ foot perimeter around the garden and then cover with a thick mulch. I highly recommend digging and installing a path around your in-ground gardens to allow for better access and weed suppression!
Thank you Casey, Stephen, Sol and Flora for sharing your yard and your garden-building experience with everyone in the workshop! Here’s a shot of the family next to their garden-in-progress:
November 15, 2009
Thanks for a fabulous fall workshop season! I’d love to offer an organic garden management workshop over the winter – if you have a garden that needs some help, let me know and perhaps we can do the workshop in your garden. Here are a few shots from a workshop I taught this fall (thank you Sari Albornoz from Sustainable Food Center for snapping these):
In my workshops, I emphasize hands-on instruction. I believe in learning by doing. Experiential education. Theory-to-action. I think that you and your garden are your best teachers. So, get out there, start your garden and learn from the process. Remember that healthy soil grows healthy plants. Cultivate deeply, add plenty of compost, keep your soil covered with mulch and begin your learning process.
November 7, 2009
The farkleberry or sparkleberry is Texas’ wild blueberry. Vaccinium arboreum is a gorgeous small tree or shrub that grows just east of town in the Bastrop area. There are a few other Vaccinium species that grow in East Texas, but Vaccinium arboreum is the most common in our area. The berries are ripe right now and are delicious eaten raw just like cultivated blueberries. There are pockets of sandy, more acidic soils east of town (think the Lost Pines of Bastrop) that accommodate these lovely plants. And check out the fall-colored red leaves – don’t let anyone tell you there’s no fall color here in Central Texas! Chris picked these berries a few days ago on our land out near Smithville; the kids enjoyed a sparkleberry treat!