Thursday, April 16, 2015

Snowing in Colorado... BTE helps delay trees blooming

Well this is another typical crazy Colorado spring.  It is snowing outside today... Cold...  I am very glad for the moisture as we haven't had much, but it is these swings from the 60-70's into the freezing temps that really does a number on our plants, and especially our flowering fruit and nut trees.  All the trees around me that flower are in full flow already and they are just getting hammered.  Thankfully I have been working very hard to delay the bloom on my apple trees.  I have on tree that buds out into leaves early every year and usually it is also already flowering and of course getting killed by the frost and snow.   This year is different... At least so far.  Why?  Because of Back to Eden Gardening...

How does BTE help with early blooming?  Well the deep wood chip mulch is an insulation layer.  It is insulating the ground from the early warm temperatures.  The air temps may be warm, but the ground temps under that deep mulch are still quite cool.  Normally one of my apple trees is already blooming and instead the leaves have just opened up.  So I would say that the deep mulches have bought me at least a week if not 2 weeks in delaying the bloom on those trees.  Now all I can do is wait and see if it is enough to help this early tree to produce fruit for me this year.  Now both of my existing apple trees are planted out in the full sun so no attempt to delay them further by using another trick which is to plant them in the shade on the north side of a building or tree or anything that can provide winter shade and still provide full sun during the spring and summer months.  My new plants I just planted I planted a peach, sweet cherry, and an apricot in shady locations this year to see if it is possible in Colorado to get these trees to produce fruit.  Many of the experts say it is unlikely.  So we will see how BTE and observation/location can make a difference.  It is going to be an exciting gardening year!

I was supposed to put out my cold weather plants last weekend, but I was busy planting the orchard and about a dozen other things.  So this weekend in between getting loads of spoiled hay, leaves, and coffee grounds I need to set out my cold weather plants and get my other seeds started like my melons and a few other things that I like to get started indoors.  My tomatoes and peppers are just doing "OK" this year.  I have them in grow trays under lights with a warming mat.  I am going to give them a shot of worm juice probably next week and think about transplanting them into bigger pots and see what happens.   I am hoping to get some robust growth from them indoors so that I get a better start than I did last year.  My indoor seeds seem to really not beef up/thicken up and get hearty.  So I am hoping that some compost tea from my worms and some worm juice will give them a shot.  We will have to see how that goes.  I will try to do that next week. 

Well sorry it has been a while since I posted.  I have been very busy with other things that are taking up all my time right at the moment... But sometimes you have to pay the bills! LOL  I will be tied up again next week so it is crazy busy around here right now.   I hope your plants are doing well if your here in the Colorado front range! 

Until the next time... Keep on growing!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Urban homestead - orchard planted

Sorry it has been a few days since I have had a chance to post on my blog.  I have been crazy busy planting.  So I opened up the packages from MO Department of Conservation and from Stark Bros.  To my dismay the MO DOC messed up my order and instead of sending me Paw Paw's they sent me Elderberry.  I need more Elderberry on our property in MO like I need another hole in my head... I have Elderberry all over the place in MO so I really didn't need or want them... I really wanted the Paw Paw's.  I may have to reach out and let them know they messed up.  The plus side is that Elderberry will grow in CO and I don't have any on my postage stamp lot here in our urban setting so I planted an Elderberry here.

So what have I been planting... Well I planted 15 trees this weekend.  2 Pear, 2 Plum, 1 Apple, 1 Apricot, 1 Peach, 1 Cherry, 2 Service Berry, 1 Elderberry, 2 Mulberry, 2 Black Locust.

Then yesterday I was out putting in posts for a wire trellis for raspberries and blackberries.  Then I planted those.  I have 6 blackberries, 3 golden raspberries, 3 purple raspberries, and 6 red raspberries that went into the ground yesterday, and we put in some more root stock strawberries to try and get my raised strawberry bed to fill in. 

Also I had a lot of trees from the MO DOC so I had to put them into pots to keep them alive until I can get out to MO this fall.  That is the plan anyway.  So we will see how many of these trees survive in posts until I can get them out to their final home. 

So now I need to start back filling the wood chip mulch as much as I can around the trees.  I did pile up a fair amount while I planted, but I need to finish filling them in.

Next projects this coming weekend are to get my cold weather plants and seeds out into beds.  I have a lead on some leaves and some wood chips that I will probably be doing a lot of hauling this weekend.  I promise to take some pictures of things soon and post here on the blog.

Now I need to go get a long drill bit so that I can drill holes in my cedar posts that I put up for the raspberries and blackberries so I can string a wire to act as a trellis to separate the new canes from the old canes as they have to be managed.  So now I wait eagerly to see these trees spring to life and what steps we have to take to prune and shape them. 

Also as a neat side note as I was out potting up trees I found some volunteer cilantro that had sprung up from seed that dropped last year that landed on the ground.  It is so funny to think we have to plant at certain times and certain plants when you see something like this just take off on it's own, surviving the cold nights and freezing temps with no care or intention of planting it there.... I think many times we over think this gardening thing and we should let nature do more and we do less... Just something to think about... :-)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fedex bringeth good things... Stark Bros!

Well the plants all arrived in boxes from Stark Bros so now I have a BUNCH of trees and bushes to get planted this weekend.  It is good to see everything is here... Now for the fun part! 

I will get you some pictures of the plants how they arrived in the mail and of course I will try to get you some pictures of the BTE beds and locations where I am planting them.  It will be a busy weekend planting it looks like!  And of course a recap of what we are planting and how it looks.

I was out checking the apple trees we already have in the yard to see how they are doing.  They are starting to bud out with the little leaf cluster buds.  So the deep mulch does appear to help slow the trees response to try and leaf out and flower early.  So we will see how it goes this year.  This morning we had SNOW on the ground!  So 70+ degrees one day, and snow the next... This is why it is so hard to grow fruit trees in CO!  You end up loosing your blooms to the crazy frost and temp swings.  So far so good with the deep mulch around the trees in delaying the trees a little bit.  So all we can do now is wait and see how soon they start to bloom out.  This year was the first year I have pruned my apple trees since I planted them a couple of years ago so I am excited to see how they respond this year to the thinning and pruning.  So it is an exciting time to watch and learn! 

I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.  It is a wonderful time of planting and spiritual reflection.  :-)  God Bless!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Converting raised beds to a hybrid Back to Eden Beds

Just a quick note... I just started converting some of my raised garden beds to a hybrid type Back to Eden bed.  So here is what I did...

My raised garden beds are 11.5 - 12 inches tall.  I decided that I really want to go all BTE garden beds, but didn't want to rip out my existing raised beds... At least not yet! :-D  So I decided to try a hybrid this year.  I am digging out the top 4-5 inches of bed soil in the raised beds to make room for the wood chips.  This still leaves 6-7 inches of soil in the beds and of course the plants can dig down into the dirt below the beds....  I started with my first bed and it looks like it should work OK as an experiment with the raised beds this year.  We will see how it goes with plants like my Kale, Collards, Chard and other early plants. 

So if your already gardening and have raised beds and are toying with ripping out your raised beds give this at try... It cannot hurt and it allows you to save some work this year as your experiment with BTE gardening methods.  I don't know about you, but my free time is in short supply so anything that will allow me to leverage something I have instead of creating a lot more work is great.

In a side note, I spent some time ripping out and removing my hugleculture bed that I had placed in a poor location a few years ago.  That is finally all moved out and I have 2 nice looking BTE garden beds in the place where the one large bed was.  I think this will be a more productive use of the space right outside of the back door....  The hugleculture bed was a great success and it has been relocated to a further out zone away from the house and will be much larger.  That will be a fall and winter project at this rate... but we will see what happens.

So give a hybrid raised bed a try... Make sure you give yourself enough depth for the wood chips, and remember they will settle so you will want a little more than you think in the bed to allow for that settling.  We are looking for a finished depth of about 4 inches of chips.  Of course don't forget to put some nitrogen on the top on a regular interval so that the chips start to decompose and feed your beds! 

Trees trees trees... They are arriving... Now to plant!

Well it is crazy around here... it is that time of year.  We are planning, growing, and planting stuff... Well my orders of trees have started to show up and I am up at night when I should be sleeping trying to sort out where I want to put them, worried about getting these bare root trees in some dirt fast, and trying to keep them alive and happy as I figure out where things can go here in our urban homestead and how to keep the ones I cannot plant here alive so that I can get them out to our rural property in MO. 

So the first bunch of trees arrived from the Missouri Department of Conservation.  I had ordered these trees back in November.  The purpose of these trees was for my rural property.  Sadly my plans to go out to the rural property have been delayed due to other crisis and priorities so now I am left with the task of finding a way to plant these trees in pots to keep them alive until I can get them out to MO.  Possibly by the fall which is the best time to plant them anyway.  So I am juggling what to do with these trees.

They arrived with the mail and are bare root starter trees.  The price is right, now to see how many of these trees survive.  I will be planting a few of them here in the urban homestead but the space is at a premium here so not a lot can be planted here, but we will squeeze a few in.  I will plant a few June Berry(Service berry), a few Paw Paw, a couple of mulberry and a Black Locust or two depending on the space left. 

These trees come bare root, meaning no pot or anything.  They are dug up while dormant(ie no leaves and hibernating).  Your supposed to get them planted and in the ground as soon as you get them.  I got them this past week but have not been able to plant yet.  So I am now losing sleep over getting the time to get them in the ground! LOL

I just received confirmation from Stark Bros that my fruit tree and berry bush orders have shipped.  So I am going to be CRAZY busy around here for the next week between work schedule and trying to find time to get trees out and of course lets not forget the ever important time to set out our early cold hardy greens.  They should be set out to harden starting this weekend and will be planted some time next week... So BUSY really is a 4 letter word when it comes to making time to plant.

Some quick tree planting tips... When planting your trees don't go and put compost and rich soil in the hole with your tree.  You are effectively making an in ground pot for the tree which will not want to leave that spot you put the rich material.  Instead just dig the hole about twice the width of the root and twice as deep.  If you happen to have some fungi to give your root system help then great, if not don't worry... If your using BTE gardening the fungi needed will be there soon enough with your wood chips!  Put your tree in your hole and backfill with the dirt from your hole.  Don't pack it down and stomp it down.... You don't want to compact the soil.  Next layer some manure over the top of the soil.  Next put on a deep layer of wood chips and add plenty of water for the tree.  The first year or two is when your tree will be establishing its roots and are the most critical time for you to water and keep an eye on your trees. 

I will post some pics of the trees as I am pulling them out to put in pots and to plant so you can see what they look like.  Hopefully the Stark Bros trees will be here soon and I can do them all at one time over a couple of days.  Time is in pretty short supply right now so anything to allow me to break off a chuck of time at one shot would be great.  I will keep you posted and will post some pics of the trees and process.

I hope your having fun... this is a great time of year, exciting, challenging, and a great time for learning.  :-)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dangerous time of the year in Colorado for fruit trees...

This is a dangerous time of year for those of us who garden and plant fruit and nut trees.  We get the most insane weather imaginable...  30 degrees one day, and it is 80 degrees the next... That is NO EXAGGERATION!  String together enough of those warm days and guess what happens?  Those wonderful trees start to wake up and they start to bud out... They try to go into early bloom... They think it is summer, after all it is 70 degrees out right?  And tonight it will drop down into the 20-30 degree range... Those poor trees, the blooms cannot handle the extreme cold and they will get frost killed... And we of course have another year with no fruit or nut set on the trees.  Sure the tree will survive, but it largely becomes an ornamental tree at that point with no productivity that we hope for as gardeners.

Now speaking for myself I am a fruitaholic....  Yes, I make words up! LOL  But I love fruit and it is very hard and expensive to get organic and healthy fruit anymore.  The stores don't have it and if they do they want an arm and a leg for it... EXPENSIVE!  So it is time to grow our own.  It takes some time for trees to get large and begin to produce... 3-5 years depending on the size of the tree you get and plant from the nursery.  So this is a long term project and it is quite heart breaking to watch the Colorado weather year after year freeze out our trees...  So here are some tips for you to keep your trees sleeping as long as possible so that they don't wake up too early.  Maybe, just maybe you will get to reap a harvest of those elusive fruits we all love here in a Colorado climate.

Here is some of the fruit they tell us we cannot grow... Peaches, sweet cherries, apricots, nectarines, and many others that I know are escaping me at the moment... Just some of my favorites is all!  LOL  Even apples, pears, and plums are challenged in the Colorado climate and have problems with the late frosts that kill the blooms.  So here are some tips that you might find helpful for new plants.

1. Select varieties that mention they bloom late.  The later it blooms the better it will be for us here in the mountains where the temp swings freeze the blooms
2. Plant these trees in the northern shade of buildings, trees, and other things that shield the location from the winter sun, but gets plenty of sun in the summer when the sun is higher in the sky.
3. DEEP MULCH!  Pile on the wood chips and other deep mulches to insulate the root system and ground around the trees.  This mulch will delay the ground warming up to the point that the tree will start to bud out early.

Now if you already have trees in the ground my tips for selection and plant location may not be much help.  But you can absolutely do the deep mulching.  Besides these trees feed from the top, the decaying wood chips will feed those trees as they break down, they hold in moisture so your trees will need less water, and they will help you to delay the tree from blooming and possibly get you through the crazy weather swings to where you too might be able to see fruit from plants they say we can't really grow reliably here.... 

I know other people in other parts of the country have similar issues with the weather killing the blooms on these trees.  So these tips should help you also. 

So it is a dangerous time for our trees, but it isn't too late to protect them from these crazy temp swings...  And possibly give you the opportunity to reap an wonderful harvest from your trees...

Take care and God Bless,

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Depending on where you live it is time to put out our first plants!

Well depending on which USDA Zone you live in it may be time to start thinking about putting out your first plants.  I live in zone 5 here on my urban homestead and it looks like next week we will start putting out our cold tolerant plants that were started from seed.  This includes kale, onions, collards, chard, cabbage.  And I will direct seed some miners lettuce, mache, and sorrel into a bed to become a perennial bed this year.  So it is an exciting time to think about getting plants out, making room to start more plants from seed in our seed trays.  We have tomatoes and peppers started that are spouting and will be inside for a while yet and we have a lot more seeds to start as soon as my cold weather tolerant seeds are outside.   So lots and lots of things happening here...

Also an update on finding free stuff for our gardens.  I mentioned that you should look for resources like coffee, spent brewery grains, and for juice pulp.  My arrangement for the juice pulp really didn't pan out.  The location for this business is downtown, they mix "biodegradable" plastics and other "earth friendly" garbage in with the pulp.  I attempted to make a collection run last week and and was not much fun.   Hard to get into the place, hard to find a place to park, and then to have to sift through the "garbage" to get some pulp just wasn't worth it.  So for now I am collecting my coffee grounds.  I get probably at least 100 pounds a week and have already filled one Geobin large compost pile heap and about to start a second one.  I am just layering wood chips, coffee, straw, coffee, hay, coffee in layers and then adding just a little water to get the process cooking.  It was a little slow at first to build up some heat, but it appears to be hot now and getting hotter as I watch over it.  So for now the coffee collection is working out great for me.   If your still looking for resources locally for your garden I highly recommend you check out local coffee shops and other places that serve the beverage and ask if you can collect their grounds.   All I do is provide some 5 gallon buckets and lids and rotate them out ever few days.  It amounts to about a 5 gallon bucket a day at one coffee shop and I pickup the Starbucks coffee next door while I am there which usually is at least one garbage bag that is about 20lbs of used coffee.  So it has been working out very well. 

One more note... I am anxiously awaiting the shipment of my trees and berries from Stark Brothers.  I saw there were trees and bushes over at Lowes the other day and I was like... Oh man!  So I am anxious for the plants to get here.  I pruned one of my grape vines the other day and I have one more to get puned very soon to start training it to the space I have for them.  I am hoping to get those trees and bushes in the ground as fast as possible.  I have been so busy that getting garden time is very tough, but we juggle as many balls as we can right? 

Anyway, exciting time of the year and LOTS of things to be doing.  I have a load of manure in my truck and a load of wood chips on my drive to get moved.  I also got a hugleculture bed moved in my back yard last weekennd and started 2 more Back to Eden on ground beds in that prime location where I had the hugleculture bed.  I am rebuilding a much bigger bed further away from the house and trying to make sure my regular visit beds are close by the back door, and the less visited spots are further away to prioritize where thing go by the amount of attention they need.  So the manure and chips will be going onto the new BTE bed by the back door and I have another small bed area up in the front yard I want to create to fill some unused space.  So lots of things happening... Just wish I had more time to work on it!  LOL

I will keep you posted!  Remember we are growing with Yahuah(God) and he is our master gardener who teaches us... Keep your ears open, and keep looking for the miracles of creation everywhere!

God Bless,