Sucesses in home gardening/preservation

Magpie's picture

It's high summer in the southern hemisphere, and I have had plenty of time to get the garden going (despite needing to transplant it when I had to move flats). As I start stashing things away for this coming winter, I just thought I'd reflect on my successes this past year. I finally stored enough diced tomato, tomato sauce, and pickles to last all year. This is the first year I bought zero cans of tomato sauce--partly by canning enough, and partly by using less. I used up my last can the day after I preserved my first batch of sauce for this year.

I successfully root cellared apples for four months and a garden pumpkin for six.

I also have successfully kept my garlic going from harvest to harvest--with local garlic retailing for $2/head, this has been both a worthwhile and delicious project.

I have grown/dried all the basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, and tomatoes I used last year, as well as many medicinal herbs including elderberries, yarrow, willow bark and nettles.

In all, I think I grew or harvested about 5% of my food last year. There were nearly six months where I didn't buy any fruit at all because I found local disused fruit trees/bushes.

Even with moving all the time (just as I get the soil in good enough condition to stick my arm in down to my elbow!) I feel like I'm going in the right direction.

What about you guys? Want to share any successes of the past year?

At the end of 2015 I installed gutters around my house so as to actually direct rainwater off the roof.

Then, in 2016, I got some used IBC totes (food grade) for about $100 apiece (reduced to $25 apiece after a city rebate) and installed them as rainwater catchment. Almost 1,000 liters apiece (250 gallons), the first has filled already (our rainy season starts in October) and we just had a decent rain last night so I'll go make sure my daisy-chaining has worked and the second is filling.

The roof isn't drinking-water friendly, so this'll just be irrigation water.

I continued to work on growing vegetables - summer was a bust (it's very hot and dry here and I wasn't available to baby anything). Fall/winter/spring are easier though - I've gotten a small amount of several varieties - from beets and chard (silverbeet) to arugula, mustard, turnips, celtuce (a Chinese veg) and the weedy wild lettuce (prickly lettuce) that has good tender early leaves.

Right now I have fava and snap peas coming up, as well as lettuce, turnips, carrots, onions, shallots & garlic (planted late, we'll see how they go) and I have several other things waiting to go in as seed. I'll be planting some things in pots in the coming weeks to transplant out later.

I have mixed garden success - really summer is my downfall.

Meanwhile, I removed the front lawn (Bermuda!!), and have contoured rainwater basins near downspouts and put woodchip mulch out. Now I'm planting. Nearly everything will be edible/medicinal or just make tasty tea or smell good and be bee forage. Lots of CA natives and mediterranean things. I'm taking advantage of the CA lawn-removal rebate program - it'll pay for all my plants and there'll be a surplus that I'll turn toward other projects.

I'm planting two olives (multi-purpose fruit/oil olives), two guavas (edible flowers, plus fruit), and will also put in two jujubes (everything will be kept frontyard-orchard size) and maybe a prune plum but I'm also eyeing an heirloom variety called Reine Claude Doree (a greengage that has rave reviews).

I made dandelion tincture (from homegrown dandelions) this last year, for my husband who has a sometimes sluggish digestive system.

Also, I came down with Shingles and treated myself with (storebought) herbal tinctures. Worked really well - though admittedly I had a mild case. Treatment protocol came from Buhner's book "Herbal Antivirals."

And I knitted two pairs of socks (#1 was a tube sock, #2 fitted).

I tend to feel like I'm not accomplishing much because everything moves really slowly and I'm busy with my part-time freelancing plus cooking/cleaning & elder-dad care plus taxi-ing the teenager and dad around while dh works overseas... but I guess I should give myself a bit more credit than I do

oh yeah, and I started using the Wonderbag and have made and canned applesauce and apple butter in addition to just cooking with it

oh. silly me, I did a whole year, everything recap instead of just garden... that's what I get for having multiple tabs open and having the 2017 "resilience plan" thread on my mind... sorry!

ClareBroommaker's picture

It just dawned on me that my little urban orchard (peach, plum, cherry, aronia, apricot, hazelnut, autumnberry) made it through the year without any water other than that which fell from the sky. I started planting it seedlings in 2012, which was an extreme drought year. I had to haul in water every day in jugs that year. In 2013-15 the next door neighbors kindly let me water from their home with hundreds of feet of hose. Water is on a flat rate here, so it was no expense to them.

Of course, the weather gets the largest credit, but I think mulching with straw, paper, twigs, cardboard, wood chips, weeds, grass clippings, leaves, shrub prunings --anything I could get my hands on-- helped to loosen and improve the soil so the roots could penetrate and water soak in rather than run off and flow downhill. This was used and abused, very compacted soil with lots of building debris in it.

There were some weeks when I could see the trees were a wilty but I just winced and waited. Hopefully they got enough rain to come back strong in spring of 2017.

We preserved more peaches this year than the previous year, so I think things are generally going well. But, yeah, no watering is a big success.

Magpie's picture

Thanks for sharing your mulching tips! How tall of a mulch pile did you have around the base of the trees? How wide was it?

In New Zealand, it has been really easy to get away with not watering mature fruit trees, as the summer rains tend to take care of things. Where I grew up, in Oregon, the summer is essentially a three-month drought, which is fine for most fruit trees, as they tend to originate in arid places, but the commercial orchards plant the trees so close together that they have to irrigate them in order for the plants to survive the summer--very shortsighted!

My grandpa was a dairyman and a farmer (also in Oregon), and he somehow grew corn with no irrigation. Sadly, I only found out after he died, and none of my aunts and uncles know how he did it.

Magpie, that your grandfather was able to grow corn in Oregon strikes me as unusual, too.

My trees are 15 feet apart. In places with less rainfall, I thought they planted further apart, like maybe 20 feet.

I mulch to where I expect the drip line to re-establish after pruning ---if I have enough mulch material. So for smaller trees, less mulch. I like about four or five inches of loosely piled mulch. I want it loose so that rain and air can penetrate. It is not quite enough to shut out bermuda grass from taking hold. If you have been in the US in recent years and seen the heavy, heavy layers of wood chip or shreds that the professional landscapers use in commercial plantings at, say, a shopping center or medical center, then that is not how I mulch! Paper and cardboard gets torn into strips as I put it down, then covered with something more "planty".

I'm going to send you a PM through this site. It will have a google link for an overhead view in which you can see the mulch.

Blueberry's picture

This has been a great year for cold hardy citrus in my part of the world. No white flies I have know idea what happen but only saw a few, the past few years a real problem and I do not spray poision on my trees maybe a little dawn and water and rinse in a couple of hours. Did not even have to wash the trees this year!!! We have given oranges and lemons away starting the first of October. I asked folks if they made juice to let me know how much over 20 gallons OJ, 5 gallons of lemon juice. The Spring garden was great gave about half away. Time to plan the next garden we buy pepper plants, egg pants, tomatoe plants from the same folks(local) every year. Lots of folks eat out of our garden and are willing to help with planting and harvest. I do use a tractor for the hard work . David

Magpie's picture

I was feeling pretty good about getting a quart of lemon juice off of my tree, but you seem to have an awesome operation going at your place. Who's helping you out at your place with the planting/harvest? Just folks from the neighborhood? I'm very interested in how you got them involved!

Blueberry's picture

Wife and I have lived here for almost 40 years we kind of know everybody. In the South as the old joke goes you can"t fart without everybody knowing !!! Living next to a small town (village) the walk to the post office is 2 miles round trip if you need info about someone you just ask, people try to help each other out. We have Blacks and Whites living side by side and people of different incomes living next to one another. If you want info about my part of the world search Wellborn Community association. Sorry no pictures of me.

Here in what is supposed to be winter (for Florida) it's still getting too warm to plant to cold weather crops. We're forecast to hit 80F today and tomorrow, again. I still haven't gotten my new planting bed dug due to my back flaring up, and without a greenhouse of any type since the hurricane in early October I've been hesitant to start too many seeds (like peppers and tomatoes, which ought to be started in November here) because of sudden cold snaps, like yesterday morning's light frost.

My Greek oregano plant still dreams of world domination - I need to cut and dry a whole lot of it this week. I'll try taking some up to the market day at Tractor Supply in Palatka Saturday if I can get it done in time. The Italian oregano is expanding, and at some point - I'm guessing next autumn - those two will collide in the middle of 8x4 ft garden bed.

I have a lemon balm plant doing wonderfully in the front herb bed, and I am thinking I should move the lavender plant due to the lemon balm's expansion. Both common sage and pineapple sage are alive and looking decent, and I now have a second rosemary plant from a cutting from a friend to go with my purchased start. I still have common chives and garlic chives from the spring, along with a cilantro/coriander that survived the summer (under the shade of a lemongrass plant) without bolting. I do still have two curled leaf parsley plants alive - one doing well, the other in danger of being choked out by the Greek oregano.

Veggie-wise, I do still have three Old German tomato plants, volunteer seedlings from last year's plants and the survivors of the hurricane. I have broccoli starts and cabbage starts in the ground, but three skinny deer have found one of the cabbage patches.

Magpie's picture

Frosty nights with 80F highs? That sounds pretty nuts. I've been in weather like that (Low 100s highs, 34F at night), but that was in the high desert!

Have you tried starting plants indoors? If the weather isn't cooperating, I usually keep my precious seedlings in a sunny window and rotate them regularly so that they don't fall over from leaning toward the window too much.

Regarding your bountiful oregano, I have the same experience! It does amazingly well with even malign neglect! When I moved from my old place, I put up an ad on Freecycle and gave sections of the massive plant away to at least half a dozen people, and still had enough to take a big chunk to my new place without making the remaining clumps even look untidy!

Good luck guarding your garden from the weather and the deer!