It’s time for a garden update folks! Things are humming along here at Snail Trails Homestead and I wanted to share what’s going on in our little patch of green. Also thought I’d share our struggles and what’s been working for us. So here we go!
For any of you awesome folks who have been following me for a while, you know that our move to Beaverton has been huge for us. We went from a teeny tiny backyard in Oshawa where we converted practically all of our lawn to growing space, to over 1200 square feet of vegetable garden on a half acre property. This measurement doesn’t include the massive medicinal herb garden and the broken fountain on the property that we converted to a greens bed.
A bit of background on how we’re gardening this year. We decided that instead of trying to turn what is almost solid clay soil into something that is actually workable, we would instead build our own soil. We are using a technique called lasagna gardening which I do hope to write about soon. We began with a layer of cardboard over everything. This served as a barrier to prevent grass and weeds from coming up. It also effectively kills the grass you want to grow on. No need to rip up sod! Then we alternated layers of carbon and nitrogen materials; in our case alpaca manure, straw, compost, straw and then finally triple mix, straw and a final layer of triple mix.
We used our old garden beds from Oshawa and used some leftover wood from the landlord to build a couple more. Over the years we do hope to edge out the other beds with either brick or wood.
We also don’t start our own seedlings… yet. We do not have a single spot in the house that has enough light and the cost of hydro made grow lights and grow beds something that was not feasible for us this year. We hope to add a greenhouse to our homestead in the future, but I also plan on experimenting with hoop houses and winter sowing to see if we can get a jump start on our growing season. We are in zone 5b and start most things by seed.
The first thing that went into the ground here was our garlic back in October. This is a hard neck variety that I got from a local fellow homesteader. In our neck of the woods we will get scapes around the end of June and I have oh so many plans for them.
The next set of crops to be planted were our onions sets and potatoes. The photo above is our potato bed and it’s so very happy right now. I called upon the expertise of my dear friend Munna who has been successfully growing potatoes for many years. Based on her instruction we placed the seed potatoes on top of loose loamy soil and pile straw on. As they continue to grow we will continue to pile on more and more straw. We planted just over 2.5 pounds of seed potatoes and my understanding is that we could have a yield ranging from 50-100 lbs!
The photo below are our onion sets. We planted red onions and yellow cooking onions. They are also doing quite well and we’re excited to see how well this bed produces.
Next we planted our root vegetables and other cold tolerant crops. Three varieties of carrots (show below), red and golden beets and some parsnips are all in one bed. These guys have been slow to sprout but that mostly has to do with a severe lack of rain in these parts. I’m also battling a ridiculous amount of weeds from the triple mix we got. I know it will get better as we’re able to mulch but right now it feels like I’m weeding for hours a day.
This is the broken fountain on the property that cannot be repaired. It gets about 5 hours of sunlight a day so we decided to use the space to grow a lot of our greens. Our other garden plot gets well over 8 hours of sun and our kale, collards, rapinni and chard would have fried. So far everyone seems very happy in the fountain.
We also utilized this crazy heavy table (it’s seriously so very heavy… my back still hurts) to grow purslane, pak choy and spinach. So far so good too.
This is our first time growing sweet corn and sunflowers and I’m happy to report they are doing great! I can’t wait to see their growth in a month or so.
We’re growing three varieties of cucumbers this year – pickling, regular old cucumbers (cannot remember the variety right now) and lady slipper achocha cucumbers. While we do love our dill pickles, I’m most excited about the achocha cucumbers because they are new to us. I first heard about them on An American Homestead and I tried to order his variety. Unfortunately he couldn’t ship to Canada, but the Cottage Gardener had a different variety so I thought we’d give them a try.
Our pole beans are starting to sprout which is awesome. No sign of the sugar snap peas or mammoth melting peas yet but I haven’t given up hope yet.
We also have no sign of our winter squash (except the yellow scallop squash) or our cabbage. We might have to get seedlings for these crops. While disappointing, considering all we’ve accomplished since we moved here I cannot consider this a failure.
We have two beds where we did a mixture of peppers (sweet and hot), tomatoes (16 plants total), eggplants (two varieties), basil and calendula (seeds). We are attempting a bit of companion planting and seeing if this mixture does well together. We got our seedlings from Cottage Gardener and Richters. A few of the tomato plants aren’t growing so well but I still remain hopeful. One of the basil plants has yellow leaves so I’m keeping a close eye and dialing back the watering to see if it helps. Everyone is much happier once we put a much thicker layer of straw down. This helps to retain some of the water and prevent evaporation.
Last but certainly not least is our culinary herb spiral. We managed to salvage all of these rocks from around the property which is great news for this frugal homesteader. We are growing a nice mixture of culinary herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, dill, lemongrass, cilantro etc) as well as a few medicinal herbs that didn’t quite fit into the medicinal herb bed.
Quick picture of the chickens 😀 They are getting so big. We definitely have some pullets but we also have a fair number of cockerels. We should have final numbers in a few weeks.
For those who enjoy videos you can check out a tour I filmed a few weeks back.
Thanks for joining me on the homestead update. I’d love to hear and see how your garden is doing!
P.S. I will do a medicinal herb garden update in the near future as well!