Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Garden and Vineyard

Spring is definitely far along now as the grass gets higher and the fruit gets bigger. Stuff planted out in the garden seems to be doubling in size every day. I've been focusing on getting the vinyard all squared away and getting the garden in. It's been a tough spring in many ways for farmers. Most notable it has been very wet and cold. I couldn't really work the garden beds until pretty late. In fact I think I got stuff in later than I usually would in WI.

The orchard bloomed lushly,with only a minor frost scare one night that appears not to have done any damage. We will hopefully have a bounty of peaches and pears.

Spring out here also means mushroom season, and morels are some of the tastiest you can find. I went out at the same time I had last year and didn't see any. But later in the season I went out and found a bumper crop. It seemed like everywhere I looked there were huge specimens of these strange looking mushrooms. I fried some up for breakfast a couple of days in a row.

The vineyard has been something I've been dreaming of for a long time, and this spring I was able to find a good spot on a south facing slope to plant about 200 grape vines I'd brought with me. I took cuttings of vines I'd been growing for years in my community garden plots in Madison and brought them here. Last year I'd planted them in close together in a nursery row so they could establish their root systems. This year they were ready to plant out in the vineyard.

I was able to get our old tractor going and borrowed a tiller from neighboring Sandhill Farm. I tilled up ten rows about 200 ft long and planted one vine every eight feet. Some visitors to DR helped with digging holes and planting the vines.

It only took about a week to plant the vines, between many other things I was doing. I left about two rows open for softwood cuttings I will take of some wine varieties early in summer. Until I plant those vines, I've planted rows of dry beans in those open rows.

I planted a cover crop of buckwheat around the vines to fill up the tilled areas. This will smother out weeds so I can plant a more permanent cover crop later in the season. I will also scythe the buckwheat throughout the season to add green manure to the soil to improve its fertility. The last steps have been mulching around the vines with straw mulch and staking each vine. I will train the vines up stakes and hopefully by the end of the season they will have good tall trunks. Next season I will put up trellises and train the grapes laterally.

I plan to make and sell wine, juice, and fresh grapes in the future. I will sell the wine to people outside as well as inside the community, whereas the juice and fresh grapes will be for me and some within DR.

I have been doing a little experimenting in the garden with drip irrigation. I don't think anyone here has tried it, but I thought it might be a good idea because we try to conserve water here and because last year I spent more time watering than doing anything else. I laid out a system of tubing with drippers that regulate how much water is dripped into the soil. The system is hooked up to the cistern I set up last year, and gravity is enough to pressurize the system, though if I want the water to come out faster I hook up a little solar powered pump. I am now able to water about a third of the garden by just turning a valve, instead of having to water each plant individually. The system seems to work well so we may expand it to other areas of the garden.

The main drawback to drip irrigation is that it requires a lot of plastic, which is of course made from fossil fuel. I bought thicker tubing instead of drip tape, which is often used in garden systems. Though if you are careful, the drip tape might last 5 years, it is much easier to puncture and difficult to repair. The tubing should last much longer than 5 years, I'm hoping, and is easily repaired. We've been getting so much rain this season, I haven't had to use the drip irrigation much yet.

Everything is growing well though. All the starts I planted, though they took a while to get going in the greenhouse, took off once things warmed up and they were transplanted into a medium of well-composted manure. I've since planted most of them out in the garden.

the plants in the above picture are garlic. I have some really big varieties and planted them last fall so they are getting really big already.

Above are some pics of the gardens, though now these plants are much bigger. We've had a really wet season so far, and I had to wait longer than usual to work up the beds unfortunately. I am just getting the rest of the tomatoes into the ground. We've already harvested walking onions, which are kind of like scallions, lettuce, spinach, and just in the last two days, strawberries.

Speaking of food, apparently the Food Network wants to do a show on DR to showcase groups that grow their own food. The other day Brian, whose videos you may have seen on DRTV, interviewed a number of us on the request of the FN to talk about the food we grow and our diets here. The FN was really excited about the DVD we sent them and will be sending a crew here sometime soon to shoot some footage. Maybe I'll be on TV.

I plan to get started on the new house as soon as I'm done with the garden and vineyard, so watch for more updates.

No comments: