Tag Archives: plants

Hugelkultur Boxes?

Alright, so before we begin, this is all new to me. Actually, pretty much all gardening is new to me, but I’ve always been a bit adventurous and experimental, so here I am.

When I was a kid, my mom and my nana were gardeners. They had big gardens in the ground that got rototilled up at the start and end of every gardening season. I thought that was all there was to it.

Then my stepdad built some 4’x8′ raised beds instead of the traditional bed. They grew lots of food in them, and it seemed easier to look after. That seemed a lot better than packing down the soil in between the rows.

And now, since I have been looking into permaculture, I find out about hugelkultur. If you haven’t heard about it, click on the link. It’s pretty neato.

So, yesterday, we were at the dump tearing our trailer apart, when we found some pretty big crates. Once the deck was clear, we loaded them up and took them home. Gerri seemed a bit hesitant, but she is pretty good at letting me have my head.

When we got the boxes home, I set to figuring out what to do. I knew I was going to plant in them, but they were two feet deep, and I didn’t want to use that much soil or fill them up with rocks. Then it hit me.

Hugelkultur in a box!

I had just felled a couple of dirty poplar the day before, so I measured out the inside of the box and started sawing logs for the bottom. I also had a couple of dead birch limbs that went into the mix.

I didn’t say they were fancy.

I filled in the cracks with a mix of wet fruitwood chips and half finished compost. I figured it would help with the decomposition of the green wood.

Then I put in a layer of twigs and leaves.

I’m guessing that this is a decent nitrogen layer.

I don’t know if it was a good idea, but it seemed good in my mind, so why not? Experiments are for experimenting, right?

After that, some more soaked chips.

Should I keep going? Okay, I will.

I then put a few more inches of the composting mix, because why not? That’s what I’m making all of this beautiful, rich stuff for.

Mmmmmm, soily.

Now a friend, who shall remain nameless, grows in pots every year and then throws the soil mix out, because they think that they have used all of the nutrients in it.

Believe me, they haven’t. Last year I watched as they mixed their soil and there was peat moss, Pro-Mix® HP, some other organic fertilizer, perlite, bloodmeal, bonemeal and bales of compost.

It was absolutely beautiful. Then, in the fall, I was asked to help with a dump run and there were fourteen heavy black garbage bags in the pile. I asked what they were and was told they were full of the used soil.

So here they are now.

I’ve been mixing it into everything!

Other than it was full of roots and stems from the flowers, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. A few hours of picking through and composting the browns gave me a lot of excellent soil for this year. I only hope that they grow the same amount again. I have already called dibs on it, and helped for free to sweeten the pot.

I soaked it all pretty good today, and I was going to mix up tomatoes and green peppers in here tomorrow. It gets about 7-9 hours of sunlight in a few different increments of 2-3 hours each where it is and from what I read, that is probably enough.

What do you folks think? Will this setup work? Should I be planting something else in it? I also have a few cabbage seedlings. I’m open to any feedback I can get.

Getting Ready For Winter

Well, I know it’s only the first part of October, but we have already had a couple of good snowfalls so far and it’s getting pretty frosty overnight, so I figured I had better get moving on this.

The Chickens

I have decided, after extensive reading and chatting with other hen fanciers, not to heat the coop for the winter. I will instead, winterize the waterer with a handy little water heater that I built from a design on The Chicken Chick’s website and throw an electric heater in for when it gets below -20C.

I bought a lamp kit from Amazonand a cookie tin from the thrift store, but then I found a working lamp with no switch for $1, so I grabbed it. I grabbed a second tin and might build another one for our friend Carol.

You just need to drill a hole in the side and insert the lamp cord through to the inside. Don’t forget to keep one of the screw on washers on the outside though. It is a pain to have to undo everything and fix it after.

Probably.

Not that I did that or anything.

heater2
I’m sure that somebody’s nana thoroughly enjoyed these imported cookies.

The lamp came with a 100W bulb in it,but after a couple of minutes of being plugged in, the paint started to smell a bit burny. I switched to a 60W and might even go to the 40W that she recommended. I just figured that being thousands of kilometres north of where she lives, we might need to ampwatt things up a bit. I guess that isn’t the case.

With the reflective inside, it also makes a powerful spotlight with the 100W bulb in it.
With the reflective inside, it also makes a powerful spotlight with the 100W bulb in it.

I also ordered the TC-3 Thermocube to help out with the system, because it will come on at 1.7C(35F) and shut off at 7.2C(45F). This will prevent overheating the plastic waterer, save on bulb life, and save on hydro by not running the light when it isn’t necessary.

I will probably get one of the TC-1 Thermocubes for the block heaters on the vehicles as well, because they probably suck back a lot of power running twelve hours or so every day. I guess the heat tracing on the pipes could use it as well.

So many handy things nowadays for making our lives easier.

The Worms/Plants

Because I decided against heating the coop, the worms had to be brought back into the house and put into what is now our soap/grow room.

I set up the Plant Tower and went to buy a 24″ sunblaster, but realised that I would need one for every shelf, so I bought the 48″ Sunblaster and put it on the ceiling to give the whole room some really nice, white light. What’s cool is that I can link up to eight of these on the one power source.

I bought these and the setup for sprouting grain from Dunvegan Gardens in Fort St. John, but if you aren’t near there, the prices are the same on amazon.ca.

Oh yeah, the grain sprouting is for the chickens to have lots of fresh grass to eat all winter. I bought an Aquascape 91026 320 GPHpump and a bunch of 1/2″ line to run up the Plant Tower with some 1/4″ line feeding down to the trays. It was probably overkill for the amount we will need, but we plan on doing more in the future, so we got all of the connectors and tools now, so we could learn more as we go.

For connecting the 1/4″ into the 1/2″ I had to buy a punch and some connectors

I have a bin of water on the bottom shelf  and I pump the water up every four hours into the top tray and it filters down through holes I drilled into the tray into the bottom tray and then through it back into the bin.

I am trying half a tray of oats followed a day later by half a tray of wheat.
I am trying half a tray of oats followed a day later by half a tray of wheat.

Well, it used to go every four hours, when I had the awesome timer hooked up, but I stole it for the lights and have to get a new one now. I just plug it in when I am thinking of it a few times a day, and it seems okay for now.

This video by The Straw Hat Farmer is what got me interested in this in the first place, and then got me interested in aquaponics. Check out his YouTube channel for lots of informative videos.

We also have a mango tree growing in the grow room, with garlic planted there as well. The mango was growing in the worm bin, so I transplanted it and it seems to be doing well.

I don't know what causes the crook in the bottom, but we'll see how it turns out.
I don’t know what causes the crook in the bottom, but we’ll see how it turns out.

It started sprouting new growth since we moved it into fifteen hours of light.

Hopefully in eight years we will be munching on our own mangoes.

Chris

Good Relations

I remember when we got here, we bought eggs from the grocery store. I knew that there were folks around that had eggs for sale, but wasn’t sure who they were.

One day, a PSA came out from a lady who had some wool to give away, and farm fresh eggs for sale. Gerri went out to see what the wool looked like and bought three dozen eggs while she was there. When we were getting low again, we both went out, and I got to meet Jane as well. She was pretty cool, and we all chatted about how great their little farm was, and we bought some more eggs. (She was the one who told us about rendering down fat for soap making.)

This went on into the winter, and this spring, I was out there getting some eggs, when she asked if I wanted some potatoes. There was a bunch of shriveled up purple and red potatoes in a pail on the floor, so I said that we didn’t really eat potatoes, but thanked her anyway. I assumed that she meant for eating, and I didn’t think the leathery little guys would be that tasty. I mentioned that I was going to be looking for seed potatoes as I wanted to try my hand at gardening, when she explained that they were for planting.

I felt a bit foolish, but got over it quickly and went home to plant the little spuds. They are now about two inches high.

This isn't one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.
This isn’t one of them. I found this growing in the composter and replanted it in this bag.

Since then, we have brought extra veggie scraps for her chickens, and gave her an in on our fat supply. We can’t use everything, but we don’t like seeing things go to waste, so we thought she would appreciate a little  bit of free stuff.

We were right.

Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.
Rhubarb, multiplier onions and horseradish that she had extra of.

She asked us if we wanted anything from her garden that was spreading around, so we said we would take anything she wanted to get rid of.

This was in there as well.

A few different types of strawberries. We'll let them get spreading this year.
A few different types of strawberries. We’ll let them get spreading this year.

This next one was a great addition to our perennial herb garden.

The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.
The chives from the side yard are in the bottom left and the white onions are from seeds. They are just filler.

We got more rhubarb, so I planted it around to see where it did the best.

I guess we will see how it turns out. I'll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.
I guess we will see how it turns out. I’ll be eating stewed rhubarb to keep regular over the winter.

I guess the point of this post is that sharing freely of resources for no other purpose than to help someone out, can really pay you back great dividends in the long run.

Not only did we feel great by helping out someone that we have come to know as a friend, but we got some free plants, and the lend of a great book. We’re going to start making things now. Really cool things.

Plus, we got great, fresh eggs, a tour of the farm, and got to watch Duffy and Lily fight over the tennis ball a bit. (It gets put away when we visit now.)

So if you get a chance to go to someone’s place and buy something that they have produced themselves, talk to them. Ask questions, and tell them about your dreams and plans. You just never know where you might find a new friend, or at the very least, a trading partner.

Chris