Saturday, April 7, 2012

101 Uses for Poop

The work is really starting to begin now! While still expect one last big freeze to hit, we’ve begun the heavy work for outdoor planting. We’re short on one key factor in growing a nice healthy crop or garden, but we both want and need food this year, so there’s only one thing to do.

We must adapt and overcome.

Our problem right now is that we’re short on manure. Yep, we’re short on poop; Vitamin-P. Specifically, pasteurized and aged herbivore poop. Since it needs to go into the ground now it needs to be something that is partially composted. Some people claim to keep cows or horses for this reason, the free poop. But, it in reality that’s just a happy side effect. It actually costs more to keep a large ranch animal than it does to buy manure. For the same price as a month’s worth of horse feed and care we can get enough manure to do the entire farm for an entire year, or just the crops fields for 3 years.

We do not, however, have the funds to get enough manure for the one field we’ve been working on for one year. We also have trees to save, and if those trees don’t get a good heaping helping of Vitamin P(oop) this year they will die. We can afford to do one or the other... but not both.

So, what’s a family to do?

As it happens, I’m somewhat of an expert (okay maybe not, but I  have experience) in suburban gardening. This is a whole different beast than farming. In suburban gardening containers and raised beds are king. Everything gets doubled up in those containers or sequestered beds as well. Deep root plants get paired with plants that have shallow root systems but similar nutritional requirements and soil Ph. This is most often seen the pairing of trees and flowers. Flowers that have similar nutrition requirements to a certain tree will be planted under or around that kind of tree. In Phoenix we saw a lot of Palo Verde trees surrounded by Lantana flowers. Evergreens were often paired with roses. In my backyard I paired Concord Grapes with shade loving herbs, like Parsley and Coriander.

The same can be done with the trees and deep rooted plants here on the farm. We choose to grow the majority of our herbs in the greenhouse, but things like tomatoes, bell peppers, chili peppers, green beans & peas, and some of the cucumber plants can go out in sequestered beds strategically placed in and around the farm. We’ll still need to put in a small but official garden for growing Vitamin P hogs like squashes, but almost everything else can be paired with existing long-life deep rooted vegetation for the time being.

So, one of our tasks this weeks has been cleaning out from around the trees we to save. The climbing tree, the almond and pear trees, the big cottonwood that shades the Oasis (what Hippylady calls her rose garden), and the grapes along the front fence. We also have a massive pine tree beside the driveway we call Father Christmas.

Now, Hippylady has asked that I make it clear that food plants should only be paired with food trees. The reason for this is the additives you use for food plants and trees is often different than the additives you use for strictly decorative plants and trees. In a food garden, and that includes fruit and nut orchards, you don’t want to use anything that might be considered poisonous. While that seems like a no-brainer there’s more to it than chemicals or pesticides.

What kind of manure you use counts as well. For food plants and trees you need to use herbivore manure. Carnivore and omnivore manure can host parasites and other nasties that don’t fully die out in pasteurization. These yuckies can be transmitted into your plants, which can then wind up on your plate. Also, you typically give food baring plants different, more specialized plant foods. These plant foods are more expensive, or if you’re using kitchen compost, in shorter supply, so it makes sense to group your plants in the most efficient manner possible.

This year I want to plant tomatoes beside the Climbing Tree, which is a really old apple tree. The apples it puts out aren’t very big, but it drops hundreds of them every fall. We have to cut it back for health reasons, so I don’t expect it put out as many. But, hopefully with all the love and attention it’s getting this year the apples is does put out will be bigger and a little bit sweeter. It makes sense to pair the Climbing Tree with something else that needs tons of love... like tomatoes!

Now, I was planning on posting pictures of the plans for the Climbing Tree Garden, which we have decided to rename the Whimsy Garden, but with all the hustle and bustle leading up to the holiday I wasn’t able to finish the sketches.

So, instead, I’d like to introduce you all to a blog called Cultivating The Wonder, which is written by an old friend of mine from high school. This week she has a how-to series up called The Square Foot Garden that’s really interesting and helpful. She’s provides lots of pictures showing how to make raised planters and some really great tips for doing things like mixing soil in large quantities. Enjoy!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the shout out! I've been enjoying reading your blog too! :)