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Thread: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

  1. Back To Top    #1

    Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    Garden details:
    Location: South Central Vermont.

    Dimensions (octagonal): Side length: 20 ft. Perimeter: 160 ft. Area: 1,931.4 ft^2. Why an octagon? Simplicity, efficiency, beauty, and as a sensible alternative to/rejection of row-gardening.

    2016:
    May – Got free 3-4yds of wood chips from local tree-trimming crew.

    June – Planted some blackberry, raspberry and blueberry plants, mulched with wood chips.

    2017:
    April – Five large unhealthy pine trees cut down and chipped into giant pile of wood chips.

    2018:
    April – Began planning for garden

    May - Put in fence posts (centered around berry plants, the sunniest location); moved remainder of first pile of wood chips to garden area.
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    05/31 – Began moving second pile of wood chips to garden area.
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    06/08 – Nearly finished moving second pile of wood chips. Entire garden area would soon be covered with up to 12 inches of wood chips.
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    06/21 – Giant pile of wood chips long gone. Just to see what would happen, bought six tomato starts and two zucchini starts, and planted them amongst the mulch surrounding the berry plants. Simply move wood chips aside, dig 4” to 6” hole, depending on size of seedling container, add organic mycorrhizae fertilizer and composted cow manure, plant seedling in hole with amended soil (no additional fertilizer, compost or soil amendment would be added at any time).
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    07/18 – Tomato and zucchini starts are doing well. Volunteer cantaloupe plants have begun sprouting from recently moved pile of unfinished compost. 111 dead and dying pine trees cut down and chipped into dozens of piles of wood chips (for ongoing garden support and conversion of lawn into low-maintenance greenscape – i.e. wildflowers, herbs, edible shrubs, fruit trees, etc.).
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    (to be continued)

  2. Back To Top    #2

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    09/02 - Tomato and zucchini plants doing far better than expected. Volunteer cantaloupe plants growing like crazy.
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    Turned out to be a halfway decent tomato harvest (especially considering their late start and lack of support structure), and an amazing zucchini harvest (particularly from one of the two plants).

    Wood chips have served to retain moisture, stabilize soil temperature and greatly reduce soil evaporation, while widespread mycelium activity has accelerated the process of breaking down wood chips into organic components of soil.




    2019:
    April – Began planting seeds in enclosed patio. Dug up and relocated berry plants to make room for more vegetables.

    05/16 – Seedlings well on the way. Several larger zucchini, butternut and pumpkin plants have already been transplanted to garden. Similar to 1018, move wood chips aside, dig a 4” to 8” hole, add organic mycorrhizae fertilizer and composted cow manure, plant seedling in hole with amended soil (and once again, no additional fertilizer, compost or soil amendment would be added at any time). Note: While transplanting seedlings would have been vastly quicker and easier in straight rows of freshly tilled soil without up to 12” of wood chips on top, all such short-term advantages are vastly outweighed by the long-term disadvantages of rototilling.
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    06/15 – By this time, all seedlings have been transplanted to garden.
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    06/28 – Most plants are doing well. However, grubs are eating roots of most squash, pumpkin, cucumber and melon plants – killing a number of them, and seriously weakening others. Fortunately, we grew some extra seedlings and bought a few starts, so we eventually ended up with a surviving plant in all but a couple spots we planted, though several weakened plants would end up producing little or nothing.
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    07/05 – 07/25 – Zucchini (onions and garlic are store-bought).
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    07/16 – Everything is well on the way and doing far better than expected. Harvested nine zucchini already.
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    (to be continued)

  3. Back To Top    #3

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    07/21 – Things are really taking off. Monster zucchini plant seems to produce more than half as much as the other four combined.
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    07/27 – 08/06 – Zucchini, first cherry tomatoes (07/30).
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    07/29 – First cherry tomatoes will be harvested soon. Tomato plants (especially the cherries) have outgrown their makeshift cages. Need to do a better job keeping up with routing new tomato growth upward through cages. Need to plant indeterminate/cherry plants further apart, and/or not in adjoining rows to avoid creating any hard to pick thickets.
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    08/07 – 08/18 – Zucchini, cherry tomatoes, first heirloom tomatoes (08/13).
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    08/10 – Diseased/dying zucchini plant has been removed, others are doing well. Most other quash and melons are doing okay, while the rest have been quite stunted. Tomatoes and peppers are the real stars of the show. Most everything else is doing quite well.
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    08/17 – 09/05 – Heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, zucchini.
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    08/19 – Squash and melons seem to be finishing up early. First heirloom tomatoes almost ready for harvest.
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    (to be continued)

  4. Back To Top    #4

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    08/19 (continued):
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    (to be continued)

  5. Back To Top    #5

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    08/19 (continued):
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    08/20 – 09/17 – Heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cantaloupe, zucchini, pumpkins, immature watermelon.
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    08/22 – Heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, final zucchini harvest.
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    08/25 – Heirloom tomatoes, last zucchini (from monster plant, grown full-term for harvesting seeds).
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    08/26 – First major pepper harvest, spaghetti squash, buttercup squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes.
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    08/28 – Buried in tomatoes.
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    08/29 – Buried in tomatoes.
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    09/06 – 09/14 – Tomatoes, peppers, buttercup squash.
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    (to be continued)

  6. Back To Top    #6

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    09/18 – 09/28 – Peppers (09/18), pumpkins and cantaloupe and butternut squash (09/21), final tomato harvest (09/28).
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    09/21 – Buried in peppers and tomatoes, due to overnight frost.
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    List of 2019 garden vegetable and herb plants / Harvest:
    4 Cucumber plants (Straight Eight) / 5 (disappointing harvest).

    4 Butternut Squash plants (Waltham) / 18 (decent harvest?).

    5 Zucchini plants (Black Beauty) / 76 (very good harvest).

    4 Spaghetti Squash plants (unknown variety) / 14 (most less than half fully ripened).

    4 Buttercup Squash plants (unknown variety) / 13 (kinda puny).

    5 Pumpkin plants (Jack-O-Lantern) / 9 (only three plants produced – majority from one ridiculously huge plant).

    3 Watermelon plants (Sugar Baby) / 3 very small (never ripened enough to eat).

    3 Cantaloupe plants (Hearts of Gold) / 7 (four were very tasty - not bad harvest, considering grub-stunted growth).

    3 to 6 ea. Sweet Pepper plants (California Wonder, Hungarian, Red Marconi, Purple Beauty, Golden Calwonder, Cubanelle) / 300-400? (very impressive pepper harvest, especially given their late start and subpar soil conditions).

    8 Cherry Tomato plants (Matt’s Wild) / 1,000s (Continuous overabundance of superb cherry tomatoes).

    23 Heirloom Tomato plants (from saved seeds of unknown variety) Massive harvest of largely cracked and/or diseased tomatoes (unusually labor-intensive processing required to cut out extensive bad spots, while up to 20% of entire crop went straight to compost – not counting the many too-green tomatoes still on plants at first frost. Though frost was early, I should have started tomato seeds earlier for an earlier finish). While very tasty for raw eating, not so tasty for sauce/cooking. Looking forward to growing a much less problematic sauce variety next year.

    1 Roma-hybrid/mix Tomato plant (from saved seeds of unknown Roma variety) Massive harvest of somewhat less disease-prone tomatoes.

    8 Sunflower (Mammoth Russian) / 3 gallons of giant sunflower seeds.

    4 Fennel (Wild Italian) / N/A (still learning to harvest fennel seed).

    5 Thyme (Common) / N/A (will let plants get well established before attempting to harvest).

    6 Basil (Lime Aromatic) / should have harvested a lot more, but managed to use it in several large batches of soups and spaghetti sauce.

    5 Rosemary N/A (will let plants get well established before attempting to harvest).

    4 Sage (Broad Leaf) / could have harvested a lot more, but did manage to use a fair amount.

    3 Chamomile (German) / could have harvested a lot more, but did manage to pick and dry quite a bit.

    3 Catnip / cut lots of catnip for the cat.

    1 Chocolate Mint (grown from cutting) could have harvested a lot more, but did make quite a bit of fresh mint tea this summer.

    0 Oregano (Italian) – did not manage to get even one plant beyond early sprout stage.

    ??? Why no carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, onions, garlic, leafy greens and the like? While wood chips at or near soil level were well on their way to breaking down, the rest simply needed more time. As such, the underlying soil was still very much like that of the former lawn. Rather than jump the gun and disturb larger areas of wood chips (along with the mycelium network breaking them down) any more than strictly necessary to transplant individual starts, I opted to hold off on growing anything that might not be reasonably well suited to thick mulch and uncultivated soil. Hoping soil will be ready to add some or all of these in 2020.

    Probably won’t grow spaghetti squash again, unless I can figure out some tastier way to prepare it.

    Will grow pie/sugar pumpkins instead of Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins from now on (would rather cook hone-grown and carve store-bought).

    To make room for more veggie plants (and because they need no protection from deer, etc.), perennial herb plants (fennel, thyme, rosemary, sage, catnip, chocolate mint) will be transplanted from garden to other areas around the yard (as edible ornamentals, along with other annual and perennial herbs).

    Widespread mycelium activity continues to greatly accelerate the process of breaking down wood chips into soil.

    Questions? Comments? Discussion?

    (to be continued in Spring 2020)

  7. Back To Top    #7
    Senior Member Smitty's Avatar
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    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    Did the blackberries produce? I have tons of wild blackberries around me but they usually don't produce til the second year here.
    Meh, it'll play.

  8. Back To Top    #8

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty View Post
    Did the blackberries produce? I have tons of wild blackberries around me but they usually don't produce til the second year here.
    They did ...in 2018. Deer ate new growth down to almost nothing at some point.

    Yeah, that's normal. They produce vegetative growth first (new branches, called "canes"), and then those "new" branches can then produce berries following year.

  9. Back To Top    #9
    Senior Member Smitty's Avatar
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    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    Cool, I never knew why that was. I'm usually mowing them down but I do keep a small section for harvesting.
    Meh, it'll play.

  10. Back To Top    #10

    Re: Grinder's no-till vegetable garden

    whoa... so many on the table and counter... you can open a grocery store!!!

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