Quick garden update

Ryan Mooney

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As some might recall I hand dug a pretty good sized chunk of garden space this spring.

We had a few adventures along the way.

First of course was getting everything ready, but I kind of half knew what I was getting into with that. The soil is hard clay so the extra digging and turning over the triticale cover crop that was planted last fall has really helped. The non turned parts are at this point unworkable concrete mostly. The turned parts are.. ok.. ish..

Next up was the squirrel apocalypse. The place had a much worse than anticipated or known infestation of California grey digger squirrels, which are a terrible non native nuisance species here. I natively started by trying to use the pew pew but quickly came to the conclusion that I didn't have time for that especially given their rather elusive nature. After a series of escalating trapping schemes I settled on a homemade box setup with a conibear 110 trap inside (not legal in all states..). The box keeps dogs, skunks, and curious kids out, but let's squirrels in. After a couple iterations I settled on a design I liked and deployed a dozen catching somewhere north of 100 squirrels in the first two months within a couple hundred yards radius of the garden. This was of course after they had eaten basically all of our first attempt at cabbage, radish, carrots, parsnips , various other bits, and beans especially beans. The squirrels are mostly under control at least within the immediate local at this point. I'm still catching two to four a week when it's not too hot around the perimeter.

Next up was the earwig apocalypse. Right around when I was getting the squirrels under control something like ten million earwigs descended on the garden. That finished of any surviving cabbage and put a serious dent in the early beets killed all of the other greens, and knocked back the surviving beans pretty hard. Also their cousins showed up at our house and ate all of the second generation of cabbage starts. We attacked them with a mixture of traps (tin cans with water, oil, and soy sauce to attract and down them), spinosads spray (an organic pesticide from soil bacteria) both directly on non flowering plants and also on cardboard "death hotels" (basically sheets of cardboard lightly split then sprayed heavily, lays lasts three to four days), and liberal applications of diatomaceous earth. Plus we've spent a fair bit of time just squishing them. This fight is ongoing.

Despite all that we persisted and have been finally getting a bit of stuff out. Quite a few beans from the second planting (and a handful from the first) have given us quite a few good green bean feeds. We're finally getting a good crop of beets. The third round of turnips are yielding a nice bunch of greens (and maybe eventually a few actual turnips). The fall crop of carrots and parsnips are coming in strong. We've gotten the first handful of tomatoes and the other thirty some plants are getting closer (yeah I know, we're sharing them pretty generously if they produce), the fourth planting of melons have melons, the 30 some pepper plants are in full bloom with a few actually starting to ripen. And it's looking like we might even get a couple egg plants!! A surprisingly delicious treat we just harvested was fresh chick peas not quite ripe but fully filled out roasted in oil in a hot pan then tossed with salt and chili pepper and a dash of lime. Sort of like a slightly smaller but maybe even more tasty edamame.

A couple of pictures, we're aggressively rotation planting so some of this has been recently pulled and replanted.

From the bottom.
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From the top by the tomato pepper and melon row, also near some squash and corn hills.

IMG_20200801_125853.jpg
 

fred hargis

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Wapakoneta, OH
Ahhh, the hobby of gardening...you have to love it! I guess every area of the country has a different set of challenges for gardeners but it sure sounds like you have more than the fair share!
 

Leo Voisine

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East Freeetown, Massachusetts
Looks more like a mini farm. Your garden about 10 times larger than my postage stamp sized garden.

Lots of bugs and critters.

YES, the life of gardening. Fortunately the farm stand is not too far away. Even still, there's nothing like getting fresh stuff from our very own garden.
 

Chuck Ellis

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Tellico Plains, Tennessee
I have given up gardening... it's more work than I want to do, plus we have an Amish or Mennonite farmers market just outside town... better veggies than I can grow and not all that expensive... easier to buy than to grow.
 

Ryan Mooney

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The Gorge Area, Oregon
Great garden! Are you keeping busy canning and freezing what the critters left you? I could see some landscape fabric in your future.
We've actually been drying a lot so far. Once the tomatoes get going is when the canning will really kick in. Drying is IMHO one of the underappreciate preserving techniques that often yields a superior product to frozen or canned. For instance we've dried quite a lot of beans, when added back to stews or soups in the winter they rehydrate really nicely and keep an excellent texture. Historically the dried beans were called "leather britches". Since it's a bit early to cellar beets we've got several batches of those drying as well.

We did use floating row covers for a couple weeks in the spring when the weather turned on is for a bit. I'm anticipating using them again in the fall to stretch some of the pepper and tomato ripening season a bit.

We've also been sharing fairly liberally with the landowners and another couple who are sort of participating.
 

Darren Wright

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I was wondering how the garden was fairing. It sounds like you're starting to get some return on the investment, not without challenges. We have similar soil here, which has been one of reasons for not putting a garden in. We've considered raised beds, but always seems like we just have "other" projects that seem to take priority.
 

Ryan Mooney

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We have similar soil here, which has been one of reasons for not putting a garden in.
Well I'm definitely learning some of the tricks with this type of soil via trial by fire. My previous gardening has been largely on glacial till washed down rivers (except a sojourn to AZ where it was caliche which is basically clay concrete haha) which has it's own set of challenges (also low in organics and nitrogen but rich in micronutrients and most of the other mega nutrients). The moisture retention characteristics are vastly different, the glacial till lets water run through almost like sand, the clay... is different... it really holds water well, but has the problem that once it's dry it's hard to re-hydrate, it also tends to compact really hard from watering and because the moisture retention is so good it's hard to get moisture to "flow" out so you end up with dry hardpan/powder and muck within a few inches of each other.

The long term solution to the moisture (in both types of soil) and compaction (in the clay) problems is biomass. We have a bit of a strategy on that but it not being actually my land also complicates that a bit as well :) With some relatively low cost soil amendments and a couple years of properly planned rotational planting I'm pretty convinced I could have the place yielding bumper crops..

Now dealing with the fairly cold nights up the mountain and relatively short season is another issue hah.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Glad to see all your work is starting to pay off. :thumb: That's a lot of area to till by hand.

My tomato plants are the only thing that survived in my meager veggie garden this year. The ground squirrels ate all of my bean, pea, and melon seedlings. The little suckers are living under our shed and digging all over the orchard as the colony expands. Unfortunately, LOML thinks the squirrels are "cute" and therefore they cannot be harmed. I need to get my hands on a live trap so I can start a relocation program. ;)
 

Ryan Mooney

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I need to get my hands on a live trap so I can start a relocation program
I had deployed a handful of havaheart traps initially, but had minimal luck with them. I've had decent luck with them with other critters but the squirrels just didn't seem to like to go into them very well (we had several sizes and none were super effective).. What DID work (despite the corny name) was the "squirrelenator". Not the cheapest trap in my arsenal, but if there were squirrels in the vicinity I'd get one to three every night.
Disclaimer some of the fatter old squirrels seemed to kind of freak out and have a heart attack when caught, so .. there's that risk. You might want to do the removal discretely... The basin is reportedly cheap plastic so if you're just letting them go I'd skip that, carrying a small caliber personal protection device might also be desirable in that case (I've found a 800-900fps 0.177 break action pellet rifle to work pretty well for most of what you might encounter releasing a squirrel).

I was baiting that trap with chicken feed corn, just sprinkle a small pile in the center, and then a thin trail from that out through each entrance to a couple feet past the trap. Malted barley also worked quite well.. and some left over MRE bars were also a favorite... Walnuts are a sure favorite.

Your squirrels are probably a bit different but if they're rock squirrels probably similar enough that similar tactics would work pretty well.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Thanks for the suggestions, Ryan. :thumb:
...I've found a 800-900fps 0.177 break action pellet rifle to work pretty well for most of what you might encounter releasing a squirrel...
I want SO bad to borrow my buddy's .22LR pistol with a suppressor. If it weren't for LOML's rules about killing rodents, I could shoot it in the back yard and nobody would know it was happening. Loaded with subsonic ammo, all you hear is the action cycling and the light thud as the bullet hits the berm.
 
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