The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Fourth of July garden

Pink zinnia

Sometimes I get so deeply focused on tomato blight or persimmon grafting that I forget to show you the big-picture garden. So I snuck out between rain showers Friday to snap some shots of this and that.

Summer garden

Young cucumbersJune was weeding month, when I did my best to uproot interlopers between young vegetable seedlings and then mulched the growing plants left behind. The task is ongoing, but by the beginning of July I'm officially ahead of the weeds and can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

We're also eating quite a few summer vegetables already, making all that weeding worthwhile. Cucumbers, summer squash, tommy-toe tomatoes, green beans, and Swiss chard are all making regular appearances on our plates now, with more contenders still to come.

Renovated strawberry bed

Young strawberry plantI also took a bit of time this week to start working on our strawberry beds. Midsummer strawberry tasks include renovating keeper beds, ripping out old beds, and clipping blooms off any newly bought plants. These last have been sitting in cold storage since winter, so they think it's spring when they arrive at our farm. But June blooms in 2015 will mean fewer strawberries in 2016, so I pinch off flowers as they form.

The only difference in my strawberry campaign this year is that I opted to fertilize and mulch our renovated beds with fresh goat bedding. I hope I don't see burning and regret this shortcut! I definitely wouldn't apply fresh chicken bedding around growing plants, but goat bedding seems to be lower in nitrogen and might make the cut. We'll see....

Alfalfa flower

Soybean plantsSpeaking of nitrogen, I'm keeping an eye on the two new nitrogen-fixing cover crops we're trying out this year --- alfalfa (above) and soybeans (to the left). I'm not sure if alfalfa puts out enough growth to really count as a cover crop, although the goats adore the leaves. The soybeans are more intriguing from a garden perspective, since they appear to be thriving in very poor soil. That's a cover-crop niche I'd been looking to fill --- what to plant before your earth has been improved enough to keep buckwheat and oats happy. But it's early days yet, so I'm not ready to pass judgment on either cover crop right now.

Sick borage

On a less utilitarian note, borage doesn't look like it's going to make the cut as an Anna-friendly flower. To survive on our farm, flowers have to be able to thrive with absolutely no care, and our borage seems to be failing. I could look up the disease and take steps to fix it...but with happy nasturtiums and zinnias, I see no point in babying a flower.

Hodge podge flower bed

Scarlet runner beans, of course, continue to prove themselves to be Anna-friendly flowers. This area in front of the trailer is entirely subsoil, dug out of a bank nearby and mounded up into a little bed that partially hides our skirting. But despite poor soil, the beans are already growing so fast that I've pulled Mark off other projects to start building them a trellis.

The bed and trellis were really meant to house grapevines, three of which are hidden amid the beans in the photo above. Mark will tell you more about the trellis soon, I'm sure, but suffice it to say that the eventual goal is to shade this west-facing window from the hot summer sun.

Developing hazelnuts

And that's a quick tour of bits of the garden that caught my eye before it started to rain. Happy Fourth of July!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Really enjoyed the overview of what your garden is up to these days. I hope you'll give borage one more chance to prove itself :) The bumblebees adore it and it self sows readily. I'm a big fan!
Comment by Hannah Sat Jul 4 22:37:25 2015
I planted borage in a couple of beds and then forgot what it's supposed to be good for--attracting pollinators, I guess? Mine didn't need any care, except for generous watering--it's taken over about 3X the amount of space allotted to it!
Comment by Jennifer Sun Jul 5 16:45:02 2015

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