Archive for gardening

The Ultimate Goal Of Farming

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,

but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

― Masanobu FukuokaThe One-Straw Revolution

Planning, organizing, geometry and trigonometry

Lay out the tree field carefully  prior to planting

 

Precision equipment, exactitude and care

Planting Trees 6

 

Prepared soil accepting seedlings

Planting Trees 4

 

Anticipation of a future forest

On My Walk Around The farm Today 023

 

From sapling to tannenbaum

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Through shearing and care

Trees spruce 2013

 

Through drought and monsoon

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The farmer’s  job isn’t complete, and vacations are rare

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Until a decade into the future, when with humankind we may share

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The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.

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The Groundhog Was So Wrong

Spring officially arrived this week, just as Minnesotans were bundling up in their winter coats to brave the near-zero temperatures once again.  This has been the coldest start to spring since 1965.

It was 1971 since the last time that Minnesota had this much snow on the ground so late in the winter.

White Spruce covered with snow

White Spruce covered with snow

I can barely remember what lies just beneath this same snow ~

Echinacea 'Now Cheesier'

Echinacea ‘Now Cheesier’

Perennials; our reward for patience.

Echinacea 'Tomato Soup'

Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’

“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.” ~ George Savile

Gaillardia 'Blanket Flower'

Gaillardia ‘Blanket Flower’

Welcome spring 2013!  You are so worth the wait!

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Planning A Labyrinth Vegetable Garden

Labyrinths

Labyrinths have been used by cultures throughout history, but modern labyrinths are built to help people relieve stress by creating a space to meditate. A labyrinth is not a maze even though the two terms are often used interchangeably.  A maze has multiple paths, entrances, exits, and dead ends. In contrast, a labyrinth has one entrance and exit, and a single path that leads to the center.

Labyrinth at Wychwood

Labyrinth at Wychwood (Photo credit: brewbooks)

The goal of the labyrinth is that you lose yourself in the moment and enjoy the journey of the path, relieving stress and enjoying the space.

We have chosen a circular labyrinth shape. A round garden can be a visually pleasing alternative to the traditional rectangular garden. A circular garden can be pleasing to the eye, and also functional and easy to maintain. A circular garden plot doesn’t necessarily use less land, but it can make it easier to reach the  vegetables to tend to them.  Create walkways that are two feet wide to give you room to move and work, and dig vegetable beds no wider than four feet to assure that you will be able to tend the garden as necessary.

Triple spiral labyrinth

Triple spiral labyrinth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Planning

There are endless possibilities for designing your garden.  We chose a spiral design.  The spiral garden creates a labyrinth where vegetable beds encircle the garden paths so as you walk, there are vegetables on either side of you. Planting knee-high vegetables within the spiral allow you to see the spiral shape from a standing position which adds to the beauty of the garden.

Our garden is 25′ X 20′ plot.  We use the herbs and vegetables for our Bed and Breakfast/Guest House meals as well as for our personal cooking.  Since we run a Guest House, we want our garden to be a place that is inviting to our guests, and  a comfortable place for them to enter and pleasing to look at from a distance.

Labyrinth Vegetable Garden Plan

Labyrinth Vegetable Garden Plan

Plants

We have chosen six different plants, based upon what we typically use for cooking.  We cook with tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce and basil.  We will also plant one vine type plant, a pole bean plant, to be placed in the middle of the circle as a focal point.  The vine will be supported by a trellis or obelisk.

We’re excited and can’t wait to start planting!  We just need to melt this 23″ of snow first…

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Roasted Fall Vegetable Sandwiches

I’m a sucker for neatly wrapped packages and smartly presented surprises.  With fall’s harvest so abundant right now, pita bread and wraps are a staple in my kitchen as a way to help this harried cook put structure to my sandwiches.  Stuff a wrap or pita full of colorful roasted vegetables  and top it off with some tangy cheese as a healthy and easy meal.

Use whatever local vegetables you’ve just picked up at the farmer’s market or, for that matter, whatever is in your refrigerator.  Every vegetable’s flavor becomes nearly exotic when it is grilled.  I’ve used;

Fresh Vegetables And Herbs From The Garden

Fresh Vegetables And Herbs From The Garden

1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4″ pieces

1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4″ pieces

a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 onion cut in to 3/4″ pieces

a handful of Portobello mushrooms, halved

1 stems of fresh rosemary chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 pinch coarse salt

Chopped Veggies And Herbs

Chopped Veggies And Herbs

In a large bowl, toss the vegetables and rosemary with the olive oil until lightly coated.  Spread the veggies out on a baking sheet so they are in one even layer, and grill or bake in a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes until roasted and tender.  Remove for the grill or oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt.  Serve in pita bread, wraps or any other bread of your choosing.  For added zing, stuff the wrap with your favorite cheese, fresh chevre is particularly nice.  Enjoy with wine.  Now that’s a wrap!

Roasted Fall Vegetable Sandwiches

Roasted Fall Vegetable Sandwich

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Greek Flat Bread Pizza

 

Greek Flat Bread Pizza

Greek Flat Bread Pizza

*Italian herb flat bread

*Cherry or Grape tomatoes

*Quartered Artichoke hearts

*Pitted Kalamata olives

*Feta cheese

*Fresh Rosemary

*Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

 

I like to use Sun Gold tomatoes, a sweet and pretty variety of cherry tomato, to make this dish.

Sun Gold Tomatoes

Sun Gold Tomatoes

 

Any good cherry or grape tomatoes, or a chopped large tomato, will work too.

Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and Grape Tomatoes

Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and Grape Tomatoes

Slice tomatoes and place them on an Italian herb Flat Bread.

Tomatoes sliced on Italian Herb Flat Bread

Tomatoes sliced on Italian Herb Flat Bread

Add quartered artichoke hearts.

Artichokes and Tomatoes on Flat Bread

Artichokes and Tomatoes on Flat Bread

Add sliced pitted Kalamata olives.

Kalamata Olives, Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes on Flat Bread

Kalamata Olives, Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes on Flat Bread

Chop fresh Rosemary or another of  your other favorite herbs.

Fresh Rosemary snipped from the garden

Fresh Rosemary snipped from the garden

Sprinkle fresh Rosemary over the flat bread.

Fresh Rosemary sprinkled on the flat bread

Fresh Rosemary sprinkled on the flat bread

 

Crumble Feta cheese over the top.

Crumbled Feta cheese over the top

Crumbled Feta cheese over the top

And a pinch of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper.

A pinch of kosher salt

A pinch of kosher salt

Place the pizza in a 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.

Baked pizza ready to cut and serve

Baked pizza ready to cut and serve

Serve with your favorite red wine ~ magnificent!

Greek Flat Bread Pizza

Greek Flat Bread Pizza

 

 

 

 

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Espalier Apple Tree Fence

Mature espalier apple tree fence

Mature espalier apple tree fence

Espalier is the art of training trees, very often fruit trees, to grow on a flat plane. This technique not only creates an interesting plant structure – a ‘living sculpture’, but also is useful as a space saver for small space gardens.   Trees trained in the espalier technique are trained against a flat wall, building, or against a free-standing structure.

I’ve long been fascinated by lovely photographs of espaliered trees in beautiful garden settings, which prompted me to do some reading and sit in on a seminar where I took copious notes.  It is from this research that I gather my information to share with you.

I’ve chosen an espalier project in an effort to create a ‘living fence’ for along a wood plank sidewalk which leads up to the entrance of my bed and breakfast/guest house.  The walkway was wide open to the driveway, yard, and the harsh winter winds, so it was in want of being a bit cozier.

Plank sidewalk with post structure

Plank sidewalk with post structure

I’ll need to build a structure to support my trees rather than utilizing a wall for support, but for blogging purposes, the technique of espalier is the same no matter the structure you select.  I chose apple trees as my plant material for the benefits of spring flowers, summer foliage and fall fruit that will dangle from the structure like ornaments, beckoning my guests to help themselves! During the winter months I’ll utilize the structure for stringing white mini lights.

Apple trees lend themselves well to many espalier forms.  The pattern I’ve chosen is a horizontal tiered cordon method, therefore the structure I’ve built is specific to the horizontal pattern as seen in figure a.

When planting the trees, orient the branching along the cables where they will be secured during the pruning process.

Lower cordon of the espalier apple trees

Lower cordon of the espalier apple trees

The art of espalier is based upon the complex relationship between auxin and cytokinins, two growth hormones in plants.  Auxins have a cardinal role in coordination of many growth processes and are essential for plant body development.  Cytokinins promote cell division in plant roots and shoots.  Pruning changes the relationship between auxin and cytokinin. When a leader branch is growing straight up, auxin levels are at a higher rate and growth is more vertical.  The more you angle a branch, the greater you are changing the relationship of auxin to cytokinin, and there becomes less vertical growth, but more horizontal branching and more fruiting.  This is the reason for pinching back perennials and annuals, and is witnessed when you bend a rose bush on a hoop as a result there are more prolific blooms.

My young trees were supple and with good lateral branching, therefore I capitalized on that attribute and merely secured the lower branches to my first tier wire cable, using soft vinyl stretch tie.  I pruned subsequent buds and branching from the trunk moving up to the next set of branches at the second tier of cable structure, securing the supple branches in a similar manner.  Had the branches been woodier, I would have slowly moved the branching down to position, creating a temporary structure to ease the branches down in to place at the cable wire.

Espalier tree with two horizontal cordon tiers

Espalier tree with two horizontal cordon tiers

As you’re training your apple tree, keep the small shoots along the cordon trimmed back to 4” to 5” long.  Your tree will continue to grow and mature, and every flower will become a fruiting bud.  Eventually your fruit tree will become its own support structure.  In general, espaliered trees’ fruit will be larger and sweeter, because their fruit is exposed to more sunlight and the trees have been pruned regularly to keep their shape.

Three espalier apple trees after one month growth

Three espalier apple trees after one month growth

The three espalier apple trees have been growing for about one month.  They are all healthy and filling in nicely with leaves and new growth.  I have pruned off any new budding branches that have sprouted from the main stem, in order to keep all of the growth directed on the two lower lateral cordons that I’ve secured to the horizontal cables.

I had selected two buds to become the third cordons which will become next year’s growth along the third cable on the structure.  These young branches are growing out nicely.   Depending upon the rate of growth, I may secure these branches to the third cable later this summer.  You can see the upper new branching in the photo below.

Selecting new growth for the next cordon

Selecting new growth for the next cordon

An espalier tree is never ‘finished’.  They require pruning at least three times each season in order to maintain the beautiful structured shape; I recommend June 1, July 1 and August 1.  This particular walk way enclosure will require two more years of growth to reach the uppermost, fourth horizontal cable.  Then after wards, it will just be ‘maintenance’ pruning.

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Eradicating Buckthorn

Purging Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica

Image via Wikipedia

Clearing brush and eradicating the invasive species ‘Buckthorn‘ is an ongoing project on the farm.  Today we’re working to clean up an area on a slope toward the lake.  Buckthorn is a problem because it out-competes native plants for nutrients, light, and moisture, it degrades wildlife habitat, it threatens the future of forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural habitats, and contributes to erosion by shading out other plants that grow on the forest floor.

In a days work we can go from this

Fallen rotting trees and Buckthorn brush

Fallen rotting trees and Buckthorn brush

to this

Buckthorn and decaying trees removed to allow hardwoods to thrive

Buckthorn and decaying trees removed to allow hardwoods to thrive

After cutting the Buckthorn we create a burn pile to burn the brush so as not to spread the seeds.  Buckthorn is listed as a ‘restricted noxious weed’ in Minnesota, and it is illegal to import, sell, or transport buckthorn.

For removal of the Buckthorn we use a chainsaw and sometimes a brush cutter.

Our tool of choice, a chain saw

Our tool of choice, a chain saw

Stumps should be treated immediately after cutting (within 2 hours) with a herbicide containing Triclopyr  or Glyphosate (Roundup) to prevent re-sprouting.

Managing Buckthorn is a part of life on an 80 acre farm in Minnesota, something that all farmers and many homeowners accept.  We choose to focus on the positive aspects of clearing brush such as, “it’s agood workout” and “it’ll be nice to be working outdoors today” or “the dog would love the exercise”.

Dylan

Dylan

An almost greater problem while working with a chain saw in the woods, is unknowingly sawing in to wire grown in to a  tree from a former farmer who used the tree as a fence post.

Tree trunk with wire grown in to it

Tree trunk with wire grown in to it

This really messes up a chain saw.

We spend most ordinary Sundays trying to be good stewards of the land.  Our goal is to leave this farm in better shape than it was when we took it on.  Someday we’ll be Buckthorn free and I  can promise I’ll never use a tree as a fence post.

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast, MN

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast, MN

Our little part of the world, now Buckthorn free!

 

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