Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Garden: Phase 2.5

Finishing the garden

Phase 2.5 started with going to a cemetery last week.

Why, you ask? Well, this cemetery has piles of rocks and dirt that you can haul away for free, so we selectively collected gravel-sized rocks to fill up the 5th, small wicking bed since I only purchased materials for 4 beds.

We also had to get more cedar fencing to complete the outside of the bed.  There's my boyfriend, doing all the work.

That's not true, I worked very hard, too. Promise.
Here's a wicking bed half finished. Underneath those pretty, decomposing leaves is...HORSE MANURE!

I picked up a few more herbs at Shoal Creek Nursey as well to fill in some of the gaps.

The five beds are now complete.

Everything looks really darn happy, gotta say. Especially the sweet potatoes!

Here's a shot of a pepper. I got a variety of hot and sweet peppers and I'm not actually sure what this will be!

I also planted some amaranth last week and LOOK! My first successful seedlings!

Here is a pretty cucumber plant. I have two of them...this one may be the Chinese cucumber. These guys like to climb, so my boyfriend and I are planning making a teepee structure using leftover cedar fencing, which cucumbers particularly like.


I have already discovered some pests (little caterpillars) that are enjoying eating through my leaves. However, they aren't doing significant enough damage to hurt the plant. Nature has all sorts of checks and balances and if I end up with too many caterpillars, their natural predators are likely to swoop in and clean up. I have only seen two caterpillars and have lovingly pulled them off and set them in the grass far away from my stuff. They seem to prefer the sweet potatoes and peppers.


I just bought Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening by Garrett and it's great...came recommended to me by Dani at Yard to Table Gardens. He has a recipe for "Garrett Juice" which is a compost tea that you spray occasionally. Not only do the plants love it, but it can be a very powerful pest repellent, also. I'm considering using the concentrated liquid that the Bokashi bin produces to make my own compost tea. The Bokashi bin is's a Japanese design that uses microbes to break down foodstuffs much faster than they would in a compost pile, which means you can even put animal products into the bin. There's a reservoir at the bottom that collects the resulting, highly-concentrated liquid, and you drain it every 2-3 days, dilute in 1 gallon of water, and give it to your babies! There will be leftover food scraps that you can just throw into a regular compost pile, which I'm planning to build next weekend using pallets from a big box store. AND, I can get 75% of the cost of a Bokashi system reimbursed to me by the City of Austin through the Green30 Challenge. All you have to do is take a free composting class (it was super fun) and downgrade to a 30-gallon trash cart or smaller. Then you fill out out this form, include your receipt, and voila, check comes in the mail!
Note that if you have a compost that you built for a free or you lost the receipt, downgrading to a smaller trashcan is cheaper. Upgrading to a larger one costs you a fee, however, so be sure you're ready to downsize!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Garden: Phase 2

Today I started my actual garden! I am, to say the least, EXCITE.

I hired Dani from Yard to Table Gardens, who came up with an ingenius wicking bed design that utilizes kiddie pools. Wicking beds are, well, totally wicked! In short, you fill up a reservoir with water and the soil (along with the help of other materials) wicks the water up gradually.  This means I water once a week; it's very resource-efficient and low-maintenance.

We filled a kiddie pool + tumbled, broken glass from the City of Austin (free) and a pot with soil that's in contact with the bottom of the pool/reservoir. You can do this with pool liner or even a big tupperware.

We put some burlap over the glass and stuck a PVC pipe into the glass. Then we layered horse manure and leaves. "Like lasagna," Dani said. And then topsoil. Here's what it looks like all finished with sweet potatoes planted. We sprinkled a type of protective fungus on the roots before we planted them.

That's an ugly rock covering the reservoir tube but I'll find something more attractive later. If I don't cover it, mosquitos may breed in there, which is my worst nightmare.

We went down to Natural Gardener in Oak Hill for the soil as well as all my transplants. I have:

  • Kefir lime tree (for Thai food)
  • Lemongrass (for Thai food)
  • Garlic chives (for yummies and pest control)
  • Rosemary (for yummies and protecting me from pests)
  • Sweet basil
  • Sweet pepper varieties
  • Serrano peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Amaranth (ancient grain, from seed)
  • Sweet potatoes

I'm also going to try to plant ginger from an existing ginger root. I also get to transplant my marigold, tomato, and AngelMist, which I introduced here. I can try to plant my arugula, although it seems pretty done, but I also have some seed pods from it that I can try to plant. Who knows, it could work!

Dani is a big advocate of planting varieties together instead of monocropping, although the sweet potatoes were an exception.

Later today, Kamon and I will get more wood for the rest of the beds, and some rocks to top off on the 5th, small kiddie pool that my neighbor donated to me today. He said a friend came over last night with a kiddie pool in his backseat, took it out so they could go somewhere, and then left it in the carport. That's kind of a ridiculously awesome coincidence. Makes you believe in stuff.

Phase 2.5 will be underway shortly! Phase 3 is probably not killing them.