June 2009 - The New Garden
Starting with nothing but bark covered granite and clay on a slope in my front yard, the month of May was spent building soil depth to between 2 and 3 feet. My objective this year is to demonstrate how much produce can be generated on a small garden plot in the first year if a few basics of garden building are applied.
While I am not an experienced gardener (this being my second), and I also run a more than full time business, so my gardening time has to be worked into a very busy schedule,the real purpose for sharing this personal process is to inspire more people (regardless of your schedule) to begin growing your own food now, and refine your knowledge over time.
The true benefits of growing a garden extend far beyond the the simple cultivation of food. A garden can become a true "space of love" that nurtures both body and soul. The love you put into its development is magnified by the space itself and returned to you through the uniquely tailored healing benefits of the food that you grow.This garden has become my frequent 10 minute vacation away from the calls and computer work of my busy schedule. A Sunday of working in the soil and with the plants is a refreshing and fulfilling experience that I look forward to whenever I can work it in.
The question is, "Will the garden pay for itself during the first year?" Of course it will in terms of enjoyment, but I also want to see if it can make fiscal sense as well. Let's see if these two worlds can be joined in the home garden even in the first year.
If you already have good soil to begin with, or you have more time to build the quality of your soil through composting, cover crops and amendments, much of the effort I have chosen to put into this garden will not be necessary. But since my goal is to maximize my first season harvest, and I could not wait a year or two to work with the soil I now have, I chose to put forth the effort to build soil depth and composition at the start, believing that this would create a permanent foundation that would not have to be repeated in subsequent years.
What I learn from this experiment can then be extended to other areas of the yard until my entire yard develops quickly into both a botanical garden and a significant source of food.
Here is the space we are starting with - bare ground composed mostly of granite & clay that had been covered with bark for the last several years. The ground has a slope to it which will be used to increase humus soil depth in the deeper areas and level out the actual garden top.
The first layer going in above is about 4 inches of alfalfa and straw.
On top of this I placed 6 inches of a combination of sandy loam and mill pond mulch amended with a local organic bagged compost/mulch with all the typical goodies in it, and worm castings from my own compost pile. This series of layers was repeated 5 times until the deepest part of the bed was 3 feet deep.
In hind sight, after seeing how the two basic components of sandy loam and mill pond mulch failed to provide the quality base I anticipated, I realize that a more expensive approach would have produced better initial result. Knowing that a biologically active humus composition is essential to good soil, I would have done better by increasing the humus content of my soil with one of the more expensive locally manufactured compost blends which uses a good amount of goat's milk and other ingredients to increase the biological activity of the soil.
After a few weeks of growth I began amending each remaining bed with additional amounts of straw, fine bark mulch, alfalfa, kelp, worm castings, mushroom compost and mycorrhizae inoculations. While more of this could have been done and in greater amounts, as you will see, we will do fine starting the way we did, with a few corrections made over time. This is still laying a good foundation for years to come.
Here is a picture of the garden just after completing most of the the planting and seeding which began June 1st. Additional beds will be created over the next two weeks which will extend the growing space and build out the surrounding vegetation to maximize both food and beauty.
The basic bed formation, terracing, seeding and transplants are now complete. Some of the seeding that took place over the last 2 weeks are now starting to break through the ground.
What you see here is almost 650 square feet of both growing and walking space. The far right corner is 3 feet deep before encountering a granite base.
The walkways were scooped out and piled onto the formed raised beds providing an additional 6 inches of humus soil for roots to drive through. The goal is to create soft humus soil as deep as possible for roots to extend into. The principle here is that longer roots result in higher crop yields.
By placing moisture-holding food sources (lots of straw and a little alfalfa, kelp, fine forest mulch, mushroom compost, Silica Rich & Liquid Gold) for the plants at the deeper levels, the roots will drive deep to access the food and moisture.
Terracing the outside slopes turned out to be an excellent creative use for the perimeter creating an additional 50+ beds. This also allowed for additional creativity in design by giving upper garden plants time to grow before the taller lower garden plants shaded them out, or by growing the taller upper garden plants where they can provide shade sooner to some of the lower shade-loving plants.
Over 65 small beds have been carved out of the pyramid shaped garden with each bed contains new varieties of garden produce and flowers.
The beds have each been fertilized with Liquid Gold, Silica Rich (in only a few strategic test locations), worm castings along with a few of the standard organic soil amendments.
Having started planting our garden early to mid June, the end of June is just now showing the first real signs of beginning growth.
The isles have been layered with chipped up blackberry vines and tree limb cuttings.
Soaking the isles are a great way to give the garden a deep soak without disturbing the growing beds that are already getting plenty of water by hand.
About a month from planting. Watching the garden grow has become a pastime. Radishes, radish leaves, collards, scallions and basil are the first to be harvested. Lettuce beds are just now being seeded. Deer have been getting in eating our sunflowers, zucs, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and some of the potatoes and radishes. Finally built enough fencing to keep them out - hopefully.
Garden in the early morning sun, July 10.
Having viewed a few of my friend's gardens which were planted sooner and had been in place for several years gave me an inkling of what this may turn into over time. I learned something new from each one and was grateful for the opportunity to see their creative techniques in small backyard spaces and gardening knowledge.
Also visited the local Farmer's Market today. Seeing the produce of the more experienced farmers is feeding my commitment to turn this garden into a year-round food source for my family with more than enough to share. In spite of our late beginning, I still believe we will be happy with the results. Here's one example of why:
Effect of Silica Richon Corn - July 10
This is a picture of a bed of corn on which Silica Rich was sprinkled over the right 3/4 of the bed shortly after the bed was seeded. The gradation in height begins at about 8-10 inches on the left to 16-18 inches on the right.
Effect of Silica Rich on Spaghetti Squash July 10
Three beds of squash are shown here, each of which were seeded on June 7th: yellow squash in the bottom right, and spaghetti squash in both the upper left and upper right. Due to the terracing, the squash in the upper right sits about 18" lower than the squash in the upper left, and even with the yellow squash plants.
Silica Rich was sprinkled on only the upper right bed shortly after seeding. The plants now stand even in height with the unamended plants of the same species (and same seed source, being our last year's garden) on the upper left, and three times as tall as the yellow squash plants (though the angle of the photo makes the yellow look bigger than it is).
This is the back side of the same squash beds showing the relative heights. The upper bed plants barely show above the lower bed amended with Silica Rich.
Clearly, we are seeing a dramatic improvement in early plant growth in those plants amended with Silica Rich. The differences are likely due to the amorphous silica present in Silica Rich that activates the nutrients in the soil causing them to be taken up more readily by the young start.
The garden is getting established with the corn, basil, radishes, watermelons and squash producing the greatest amount of growth. Our first ears of corn are beginning to show their silk, but only among a few of the plants amended with Silica Rich.
The tallest of the plants in the background are the ones amended with Silica Rich just after seeding. None of the other plants in this picture received the Silica Rich.
Silica Rich Amended Squash July 21st.
The squash and pumpkins on the higher elevation were planted the same day, and are still barely rising above the amended plants sitting almost 2 feet lower.
It is interesting that the leaves of the plants throughout the garden are 95%+ free of bug holes and disease. Transplants are generally weaker than the seeded plants and take longer to get established.
With the addition of Silica Rich & Liquid Gold at time of seeding, I suspect the majority of transplanting will be unnecessary since the seeds will quickly catch up to the transplants and prove to be a much hardier, healthier plant overall.
The Carrots in the lower half of the picture were amended with Silica Rich, whereas the carrots in the upper half, barely visible, did not receive the Silica Rich. Both were seeded the same day, June 7th '09. They seem to be surviving the 97 degree heat this week just fine.
The two beds they are in were amended with the least amount of additional humus matter. Realizing how much the soils I chose ended up compacting (not a good thing for carrots), the remainder 3/4 of the garden were amended more deeply with forest humus, straw and mushroom compost.
August 11th, 2009- Roughly 2 months from seed. Edible harvests total over 100 lbs. Garden size is now 850 square feet.The garden foliage remains 90% blemish free. No pesticides, natural or otherwise, have been used, only the Liquid Gold & Silica Rich and common organic soil amendments of alfalfa, straw, kelp, mycorrhizae, mushroom compost, forest humus and worm castings. I have been digging up the isles between beds and burying our daily compost. This is to provide additional worm food and help to improve soil composition for next year.
At the height of the season, harvesting corn, squash, zucs, watermelons, tomatoes, radishes, basil, cilantro, yarrow, collards, choi, beans, okra, onions, chives, potatoes, peppers, jalapeno, cucumbers, and others.
Through Sept 22nd, edible harvests have exceeded 360 lbs.The garden is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate in some areas.
Roughly 4 months from seed. All crops are still producing. Edible harvests total over 400 lbs.
Season is slowing down. Early corn has been harvested and removed, sunflowers are producing flowers 12-14 inches across.Pumpkins in the foreground are covering the radishes. Purple okra, our favorite raw garden delectable, even though sized down by the local deer, are still producing.
Edible harvests have exceeded 475 lbs. and still producing.
Season is virtually over and the garden is being cleared so the soil can be reworked and the garden remodeled. Garlic and onion seeded midsummer are now showing up, but are being transplanted to a holding bed along with the lavender, catmint and other surviving herbs.
Bok Choi and radishes are still producing food for the deer. No effort is being made anymore to keep them out. They are getting a little desperate here, even consuming one of our largest remaining pumpkins.
As of Nov 5th, total harvest has exceeded 500 lbs. plus the taken-for-granted tithing to the local deer population, along with gifts to family and friends and the local food bank.
500 lbs. is equivalent to approximately $1,000 of store bought produce (averaging about $2.00 per lb.). OK for a first season with less than optimal soil, although I feel, with adjustments we will be making during the winter, next year will generate much more.
We still have winter crop potential (if I can find the time to work on it, being as late as it is in the season). I am focusing on garlic and onions in the side beds while the larger garden is being remodeled.
Similar to last year, none of our food crops were damaged by insects. I attribute this to the hardiness given to the plants by Liquid Gold. Due to over watering in a partly shaded area we developed some potato blight on the leaves. A single spray of Liquid Gold on the leaves and soaked into the soil, along with a sprinkle of Silica Rich, ended the blight entirely, followed by fresh, new green foliage growth.
The only other problem area experienced this year was with the typical white powdery mildew on expiring squash and pumpkin leaves. Spraying the leaves regularly with worm casting wash mixed with Liquid Gold turned out to be the most effective at stopping its development and preventing its spread.
Winter Soil Reconditioning
This winter the project in front of us is to turn the garden in to one large worm bin and amend the soil with gravel, sand, leaves, straw, Silica Rich, Liquid Gold, a new herbal soil amendment we are developing, along with this year's garden foliage.
Gathering knowledge from several experienced gardeners, a new design is underway which I anticipate will significantly increase next year's harvest rate.
This is a Watermelon Radish weighing in at just over 1 lb.
In due course, I will continue to post the regular growth and harvest events of the 2010 Garden Experiment.
Until then, enjoy the simple gifts from life,
The new 2009 version of Liquid Gold Plant & Soil Revitalizer contains Silica Rich Clay,other full spectrum mineral sources, Worm Casting Wash, Humic Extract, Sea Solids and Ormalite Clay.
The above examples bring up some important questions worthy of thorough scientific investigation (stay tuned). Is it possible that the DNA and subsequent genes are being improved upon by the nutrients in the Liquid Goldand Silica Rich causing this exceptional growth? If they are able to do this for a plant, could this explain the remarkable benefits that humans are deriving from the use of the Mineral Manna and the Sacred Clay?
Dynamic Gardening Part 1 - Vermicomposting
Worms in Your Soil are the Prime Indicator of Soil Health
Dynamic Gardening Part 2 – Soil Composition
The Importance of the Soil's Biological Terrain, Soil Composition and Humus Soil Depth on Plant Growth
Dynamic Gardening Part 3 – Build Your Soil
How to Build Your Soil for Maximum Plant Health & Production
Dynamic Gardening Part 4 – Worm Castings
Worm Castings & Red Wrigglers – Your Garden's Best Friends
Over 10 Ways to Use Sacred Clay for Health Maintenance
Clay & water are the most ancient health remedies of all time for both human and animal. It is my belief that they will be among the ultimate remedies of the future as well.
How to Improve the Human Biological Terrain to Your Greatest Advantage.
A Simple Health Building & Weight Management Program that Breaks All Dieting Rules