Monday, January 6, 2014

composting leaves and garden plans

Happy New Year!

I think of the beginning of the year as kind of the beginning of the garden season.  So this weekend I spent a big part of my time making garden plans.  Last fall I ran out of time doing my fall garden chores so I have a mixed bag as far as being ready in the spring.  Last year I spent quite a bit of time getting the new cornfield ready to plant and with our wet spring we were late getting in.  This year I want to get an earlier start and having part of the garden ready to go should help.

I started with a resource that gave formulas for when to start seeds indoors and when then to plant those transplants outside related to your last frost date.  For our zone four garden our last frost date is May 23.  So I used the formulas to figure out when I need to sow in the greenhouse and what I should be looking to transplant out first.

I have two main choices for where to plant things--the cornfield and the potager.  I am thinking that I will try to use the potager with its raised beds for the carrots and beets and the greens and use the cornfield for the bigger transplants.  In looking over my records from the fall I have nine rows that should be ready to plant early in the spring.  They were made into raised rows last year and they had a cover crop of oats planted early enough to grow a crop that was a few inches tall.  Those rows will just need the dead oats turned under and a layer of compost added and they will be ready to plant.

I also have a bunch of rows--fourteen--that I planted the oats late and they did not germinate at all and I will need to watch for them in the spring and hopefully they will germinate and a grow a quick green manure crop that can be turned under a little later and some summer crops can go in those rows.

I have a few more rows that were made into raised rows right before winter and I have two options there.  I can either quickly plant some oats in the spring and let them grow for a few weeks and add transplants later or I can plant transplants there right away and wait to  cover crop those this year.  I guess I will have to wait until spring gets a little closer and we see what the weather is looking like and how much other spring prep needs to be done.  There is a lot of stuff to do to get ready where the corn was planted last year.

I also have a few more rows that need to be made into raised rows.  Those will likely be the last rows planted.

This weekend my son sent me a TED talk video on making compost from fallen leaves.  It reinforces other reading I have done about how valuable leaf compost is.  I have two items on my 2014 farm goal list that pertain to leaves and composting leaves.  One is to build a structure to hold leaves that I collect and the other is to purchase a chipper/shredder for the farm.  I like the idea of reusing or repurposing so I am hoping to be able to build a set of bins from pallets to hold the leaves.  We have a lot of leaves that fall at the farm and last year I was gifted with leaves from my sister's house and my parents' house.  I already compost our manure and bedding from the barn where the herd spends the winter.  Last year I added part of the leaves to that pile along with garden waste and kitchen waste.  This year I am considering composting leaves separately in addition to my other composting.

Where to locate the leaf storage is one major consideration that I will have to give some thought to.  My yard is quite large and my gardening areas are not close together.  Do I locate the leaf composting near where I will use the finished compost or where the most leaves fall?  Right now I haul compost in a wheelbarrow or in a small cart that pulls behind my lawn mower from the pile to the garden spaces.  Does it make sense to have more than one, one close to each garden spot?  Where will I shred?  Do I need to have electricity for shredding or will the shredder use gas?  I guess I have the rest of the winter and most of the summer before I will need to have leaf storage in place so there is some time to decide.   

Sharing this with Susan at Between Naps On The Porch

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