Should I give up on the garden?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by stanb999, Nov 12, 2006.

  1. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    We live in nepa on a high ridge. The ground only gets warm in July. The night time temps rarely get out of the 50's. Then when it finally does get a little warmer it's the dry august. when thats done the frost and lower light of fall is almost here.

    Now to replace this I was thinking I could raise more livestock. Sell some to then purchase veggies. The climate here is good to the livestock because we don't the high or low temps like in the valley areas. It can be as much as 15 degrees warmer here in the winter. But it's also 10 degrees coller in the summer.

    What do you all think?

    Edited to add .....
    The ground is very rocky/sandy.
     
  2. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I don't know much about livestock, though I do keep chickens.

    My FIRST thought would be that a cold frame on the south side of a building would be most excellent. Also, broccoli and cauliflower and spinach all tolerate frost.

    My SECOND thought would be to wonder if anybody out there raises winter wheat. Winter wheat is planted in the fall, grows in the moist spring, and by the time the summer drought sets in it is almost time to harvest.

    Or, at least that is how winter wheat works in Kansas! And, while people do not eat much plain wheat, chickens enjoy it. Though, too MUCH of it will drop the amount of protien in their diet and the eggs will be fewer. I didn't even thresh it out for mine: I cut it and bundled it and every now and then I gave them some.

    For that matter, oats like a cooler, shorter climate. I planted some in my garden one fall as a cover crop, and it was a foot tall before frost killed it. It would have made lovely forage if I had grazing animals.
     

  3. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    I have thought about grain crops. But the land isn't really tillable. I have an area about 30'X70' thats pretty good tho.
     
  4. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I LOVE your farm pictures! Did those blueberries yield this year? :p (YUM!)
     
  5. EasyDay

    EasyDay Gimme a YAAAAY!

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    Terri hit on some of what I was going to say.
    Cool weather veggies should do fine. All of the brasilica family, as well as spinach and some lettuce varieties. Don't forget onions and garlic. For tomatoes and such, do you have space for a greenhouse?
     
  6. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    They did but not well. Next year will be better. But we did "put up" enough to have them with every breakfast till they come next summer.
     
  7. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    Yes cold weather stuff does ok untill the droughts of august.
    We did ok with carrots and turnips. But beets/potatoes don't grow at all. Onion sets only go to about 1 inch. I grew zuccini last year and it did great but this year it just failed.

    Yes we have plenty of room for a greenhouse but is it really worth the time and money? Maybe I could do a hoop house?
     
  8. SquashNut

    SquashNut Well-Known Member

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    Thats gardening for you. I would stick it out. Gardens get better every year.
     
  9. kenuchelover

    kenuchelover Well-Known Member

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    Better yet, just use row covers to speed up growth during your cold early part of the year.

    MUCH cheaper than a hoophouse, and the plants will be well developed (nice, deep roots....) BEFORE the "droughts of August" arrive. Some crops you'll even have harvested by then, if you pick the varieties properly (get extra early cultivars, bred for cold weather climates.... you can get 60 day tomatoes & sweetcorn & so on, if you look for the right types).

    (But if you DO want a hoophouse or greenhouse, you might want to try www.ledgewoodfarm.com over in NH. They've got the cheapest prices I've seen online, with very solid construction. And you're close enough that shipping wouldn't be too bad).

    Oh....AND work on water storage..... either via the pond your photos show, via altered soil composition/cover to retain water, via channeling structures to divert rainfall or moisture towards the garden area, etc.
     
  10. kenuchelover

    kenuchelover Well-Known Member

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    1) You've lots of wood. Turn some of it into charcoal, crush it & scatter it on top of your garden soil RIGHT after you plant. This will allow the soil to absorb & retain more solar heat, warming it up more. (Old Indian trick, originally came out of burning ground to clear fields.... it was noticed that charcoal covered ground & soil with charcoal in it warmed faster & gave better germination/growth).

    2a) Work on adding LOTS of organic material to your garden soil, which will increase moisture retention & give you faster earlier growth AS WELL AS help you survive August.... Collect leaves from your trees, compost everything compostable, add manure, etc. See if you can find a cheap or free source of sawdust or wood shavings or grass/tree clippings.... maybe someone nearby has a private sawmill operation? A landscaping or yard maintenance business? A town with special days for bagged yard clippings pickup? Someone nearby with stables who needs to get rid of stall litter (fouled bedstraw)..? Between the rock & the sand, your soil doesn't hold much moisture very long.... more organic content will help hold it more water longer. (If you've a source of clay to mix in.... even if just old catlitter, do it as well).

    2b) Use lots of mulch on top of the ground (see cheap/free sources of stuff from above), this will allow you to retain soil moisture during August. Again, use charcoal to keep everything dark & heat absorbing.

    3) Work on water storage.... see if you can improve your pond (dig deeper, to allow more water storage with less evaporation, create shallow trenches or dikes to funnel more rainwater into it from other parts of the property, etc) to free it up for August irrigation. Do similar structures to guide more water onto your garden from adjacent parts of the property (will increase soil moisture & speed up pre-August growth, PLUS increase residual soil moisture DURING August).

    4) Change the cultivars you're growing. Local tribes farmed in your area for thousands of years (stuff like summer squash started being cultivatedthere shortly after the end of the ice age, corn was introduced several thousand years ago & grown at a low level till it finally took off a bit over a thousand years ago, etc).... MAKE USE OF THIS INHERITED adaptation to local climactic conditions. Grow "northern flint" corn (GREAT for corn on the cob, for hominy & grits, for cornbread, etc).... it germinates GREAT in cool damp soils (far better than any other type of corn does) & it's adapted to cool climates. 90 day varieties exist (to dry ears, corn on the cob can be eaten 2-3 weeks earlier), you could plant to avoid the drought season.

    Locate HEIRLOOM & specifically bred "extra early cold climate tolerant" (from Canada, Alaska, New England, etc) varieties of tomatoes (some are 40-60 days to ripe fruit!), beans, squash, & so on. There are seed companies that specialize in extra early or northern region cultivars, just as others specialize in Native American heirlooms (any Iroquois variety should do well for you, btw).

    5) Use rowcovers for at least some crops..... they're cheap, will allow you to plant considerably earlier in the spring, will help prevent drying out during August (roll up sides a bit if gets too hot then), and will extend your growing season in the fall.

    6) Grow seedlings indoors (or in a SMALL greenhouse or hoophouse, or large coldframe), and use them to plant earlier in the spring. (Iroquois even started certain corns & such indoors, in the longhouses, & put them out in the dirt as soon as frost ended, to get an early jump on the season.... northern flint corns were already exceptional at cold germination, but this technique allowed them to get bread several weeks ahead of normal).

    (nOTE--Between soil amending & techniques to plant earlier & get better growth in early spring, you can harvest some stuff BEFORE August)

    7)...... if you don't mind using synthetic soil amendments, get polyacrylamide crystals. They are a plastic-like material that looks somewhat like salt (but weighs far less) and that absorbs several hundred times it's weight in water. The granules swell up & end up looking like ice cubes.... or clear jello. Mix dry granules into the soil, and THEY will absorb & hold water when it rains.... plant roots easily penetrate the crystals & get water from them. I've seen gardens using this (works best in combination with a woven plastic mulch cloth, but is a major improvement even by itself) that required NO additional water & still thrived..... while adjacent test plots without the polyacrylamide FAILED entirely or produced far less despite regular watering. (There are companies selling it in bulk... purchase from them rather than in high priced tiny packages from gardening departments, where it's sold for use in potted plants. One of the better companies is http://www.hydrosource.com/ )
     
  11. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    When I lived on pure granite upthrusts at 5600' in SD with a 90 day growing season and no soil raised beds worked VERY well for me. The can be filled with the very best dirt/compost, they warm up much quicker than the ground, drain better, and are EASY to put "hoops" over with row covers to extend the growing season. You can even cover the PVC hoops with plastic to really get an early start with each bed being a mini greenhouse.
     
  12. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    Stan,
    There are several of us in your area with similar spots. One fellow grows on a north slope which is quite a bit colder than neighboring areas and he specializes in greens.
    We recently went to a NOFA-NY workshop near Deposit, NY, where a farmer grows and sells to NYC restaurants from his farm that is 1400 feet in elevation. He does a lot of greens and brassicas and other things that like cool weather. He irrigates with a pond. They make enough to vacation in the tropics for 2-3 months each year.
    I have a south slope and grow for a small CSA and farmers market, and water directly from my well. With organic matter in the soil, plus good mulching, you can probably get by without much additional watering.
    None of us in the county had good zucchini this year due to the flood followed by constant rains.
    Keep trying.
    PM me if you want more local information.
    Ann
     
  13. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    See this is what I'm getting at their are ways to "make it work". But I can grow grass and hay quite easily. Yes it will take more space. But all I need to do is fence the land in a bit. I can give around 5 acres to the cattle pair. If I fenced in more I could let the goats clear all the brush. Then get some more pasture going. This won't take much time or effort. At selling time I'd easily get a couple hundred bucks profit to go to a farmers market to purchase the veggies in bulk.
    I think this would be using the land as it is. Am I way off on this?

    For a little background on the land.......
    This is located at 2160 elevation. The property actually straddles the peak of the hill. So we have north, south, east, west faceing land. Most of the pasture is to the south side (about 10 acres if cleared).
    The property is the remainder of a larger farm. It seems the crop areas were to our west abit. The area I own is broken up by rock walls that define the old pastures and orchards (apple).

    The soil in the "garden" is about 4-6" deep max. Then you hit hardpan. Then rock ledge at about 12". This was the best spot I could find. As far as soil depth.


    Edited to add.... We want to be as self suffient as possible. So please advise. :)
     
  14. Pouncer

    Pouncer Well-Known Member

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    hmm, with that sort of location, you should get good sun exposure. There are plenty of ways to plant good crops that will perform well in your area-If I can do it here in Alaska, you can! Heck, I have basically clay over hardpan, NO dirt-had to haul it in.

    You already got some good ideas for coping with your conditions, but if you would rather put livestock on your land, it's your call. I wouldn't think you could get enough forage off that acreage to feed up livestock, but I am not sure. Besides, then you have to find someone to cut, ted, rake and bale.

    Green beans that WORK, is Provider (Hazzard Greenhouses, cheapest) and they come ready just before your hot period. I plant the first week of June up here and am harvesting in late July, early August. Tomatoes that do exceptional in short seasons are Polar Star, Early Girl, Glacier...but all of these must be started inside in March, then potted up and eventually transplanted. Hardly anyone grows tomatoes in the soil here as the ground temps are COLD. (Although I am going to check out that Northern Flint Corn, lol!) Packman Broccoli loves cool feet, you'll be harvesting early down there, plan on starting another set to plant in late June. OS cabbage is another one thats tried and true up here, as well as Scarlet Nantes carrots. Again, cabbages must be started inside, otherwise they won't be forming heads by the time your hot weather hits. And surprisingly enough, we get heat and no rain too, sometimes. I use soaker hoses and drainfeild cloth, and use row cover in the spring and fall as needed to harden off or protect.
     
  15. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    It all depnds what your market is like. Here in Kansas, I have heard of lambs that went for $5 each because nobody wanted them: but if there is an Ethnic market a farmer would do well to raise them.

    I have heard it said that goats are more likely to kill the brush if they are crowded a bit. I have heard of people putting them in moveable pens to get a good kill. The goats stay until the brush is dead, and then they are moved on over a bit.
     
  16. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the info on the cold tolerant veggies. I will try again. But I will try to get some varieties that grow quick or quicker.

    I really love the garden. But it just stinks when you get nothing.
     
  17. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    I am keeping the goats for milk and meat for my family. I was thinking of cattle for profit.
     
  18. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    Should the penquins in Anarctica give up on carrying the eggs on their feet for months to keep the eggs from the ice? There must be a way to grow something good there.
     
  19. sewsilly

    sewsilly Well-Known Member

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    Call your local land grant institution, which will have an office in your county and have them connect you to a Master Gardener who can tell you what grows, when it grows and how to do it in YOUR locale. In South Carolina, where I live it's Clemson U,, and the local office is called the county extension service. I am one of the Master Gardeners and often help out when folks move in from somewhere else.

    That is one of the things this service is for!
    dawn
     
  20. sewsilly

    sewsilly Well-Known Member

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    Nevermind, here is a link with the extension offices in Pennsylvania. Penn State is your land grand institution.

    http://www.extension.psu.edu/extmap.html

    Click on your county and it give you phone numbers and emails. I promise they can help!