Friday, January 13, 2012

Huge Earthworm

I forgot to post this picture the other day.

It is, as the title suggests, a huge earthworm. Now, I've done some digging in my day, and seen a lot of earthworms, but the worms in my garden the past two years are really something else. I have regular little ones, but sometimes, when it rains, the big worms come up to the surface. Have you ever seen one like this? Do you know what it is? I am serious, I have no idea what kind of worm gets this big. I have heard of night-crawlers, sure, but they aren't supposed to live this far south...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

leaves and compost

So I wanted to give some pictures to go with my last posting. Here is the wonderful broccoli that I mentioned harvesting. It weighed in at over 1.25 lbs! Sorry for it being rotated sideways...

And here are some of the cabbages that I mentioned. I'm eating one for dinner tonight, it isn't pictured. Unfortunately I don't remember the variety, I bought them as transplants and threw away the little tag.

This picture shows some interplanting of garlic and arugula. About half the garlic is a Czech heirloom that a local farmer grows, the other half is from another local farmer but I don't know the variety (I bought the cloves in the summer and stored them till fall). They are already doing better than last year's garlic, which was chocked out by way too much lettuce. I've been more careful with my interplantings this season. But, I think the soil is also more fertile.

It's leaf season, which means I've been collecting collecting collecting to put them in the animal pen. They stay in the pen for a year, slowly breaking down and absorbing the urine and manure. The two or more feet of leaves rapidly break into little pieces and compact into about 10-12 inches of organic matter, which acts as a sponge for all the animal waste as well as habitat for bugs and microbes. The chickens eat the larger bugs and larvae, keeping flies down, and continually aerate the litter, mitigating odor. By next fall, the leaves have been converted into a great deal of wonderfully rich stuff, ready for a final composting in a pile. The pile I made of 2011's leaves has been curing for about 3 months now, and is ready for application this spring. I have, however, been using it already for the winter plantings. Here's a closeup of the compost.

Finally, here is a snapshot of the 'shogoin' turnips. They are described as a sort of dual purpose turnip, meaning they are good for both greens and roots, but I think they are mostly good for greens. I pulled these to make roasted roots, along with some beets and carrots, but the roots lacked the sweetness I was hoping for from turnips, and weren't as good as the beets or carrots. I'm growing chantenay carrots and detroit red beets, both widely available varieties, and while they are good, I think I will be switching back to a danvers type carrot next planting, as the chantenays are just too short for my taste. I like a long carrot, and with all the organic matter I've been adding, I think I can pull it off. (Chantenay carrots are short and fat, recommended for heavy clay soils, while the danvers are a bit longer)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Freezes and Rain

Well, it's winter now, which in Austin means it's sunny and 60 degrees most of the time, but over the last couple of months we've had both rain and freezing temperatures. I bet we've had around 7 inches in the last two months or so, a real contrast to the rest of the year. This has shifted the drought status from Exceptional to Extreme! Yay! Freezing temps in November wiped out the last of the nightshades, so it's cool weather veg from here on out till, oh...March maybe.

I harvested a broccoli a while back (var. Marathon), and will be harvesting another this evening. It's beautiful. Unfortunately, my camera card adapter is broken right now so I can't upload for the time being. Sorry.

I threshed the Tepary beans and got about 2.5 lbs of beans from roughly 45 sq ft of bed space, though they were in the ground from about May - November, so it's a big investment of time and space for not much beans. Let's see.... I've estimated the garden has 600 sq ft of bed space, so 2.5/45*600= 33.33 lbs of beans, if I dedicated the entire garden to tepary beans. That's about how much beans I could eat in a year, if I were careful. Maybe with the drought I'll do that, or not. I haven't tried eating them yet so I don't know how they taste.

Varieties to avoid in the garden:
Marathon Broccoli
Shogoin Turnip
White icicle radish
Danvers half long carrot

Varieties to seek out:
Oriental Giant Spinach