Back in January I started prepping an under utilized corner of our backyard for the eventual planting of a 3 Sister’s Garden. I shared my plans with you here. This is a nice sized area that has been just sitting there, screaming out to me to find a good use for it. I had only just propped some extra pallets up as a make-shift overflow compost bin that I never paid enough attention to, even for a compost pile. I finally decided I could use the area as a secondary garden plot. It could be great spot for a decent planting of corn on our city lot. Moving the corn over to the corner would free up an entire 6’x6′ raised bed for planting of many more veggies. Plus, where there is corn there will be beans and vining squash. I am a big fan of the 3 Sister’s Garden as each plant supports the other and they all cohabitate the same area giving you more bang for your garden space “buck”.
Pallet composter was disassembled, the contents spread around and turned in. I left it open for the following months so the chickens could scratch and fertilize the area. Then we decided to add a few more birds to the flock and needed a better set up than raising them in the house. Enter, the Pallet Pen. This was originally planned to be a temporary structure that would be removed after the Chicklets where integrated into the flock, but the Hubby did such a bang up job crafting it all that the structure is going to remain where it is. For one, there may or may not be a couple more pullets arriving in April. Second, this will make a great spot should a Girl need some alone time, again, much better than being in our little house.
Between January and now, mid-March, I have gradually been adding more organic matter as it came available. Shavings and manure from coop cleanings, grass clipping after mowing the lawns and even some kitchen scraps. I things over again in February and then after the big rains we had several weeks ago I covered the area with a tarp, dark side up, to solarize the soil a bit in hopes of breaking down all that great organic material a bit faster. I got the idea from the great folks at Such and Such Farm. Though I didn’t leave it covered for as long as I probably should have. This is where I found my inspiration.
This past Saturday I uncovered the ground and started the final turning under of the soil. Sunday I completed the task, sectioned it off into 4 manageably sized plots (I’ve learned my lesson that bigger is not always better when building planters. I can’t reach the center of my three raised beds that are 6 feet square, even at my 6 foot height advantage, oops), leveled them out and planted.
For the squash portion of this 3 Sister’s Garden I have chosen to plant 2 varieties of pumpkin, a white and an orange both perfect for Halloween, an heirloom watermelon and some zucchini. I can do this so long as I don’t plan to seed save. If planning to seed save I would likely be creating some unusual hybrids that thought they might be interesting to look at would likely be unappetizing to eat. But the naming of the hybrids could be fun. Pumkimelon? Waterkini? Ok, definitely not going to be seed saving any of those this year.
A couple of weeks ago we watched a cabbage plant, that was starting to actually look like a cabbage, disappear down a hole right before our eyes. Since I would rather we eat our vegetables and not the prolific gophers, I used some scrap pieces of hardware cloth to craft up, what I hope to be protective planting baskets for the melon, pumpkin and zucchini plants.
As much as I would love to protect all the corn plantings as too, I just can’t swing the cost of yet another roll of hardware cloth this year. (I fear I will be singing a different song all too soon)
Back to the baskets, I made the baskets a bit tall, planted the seedlings down in so there is a little fence around each one that juts above ground.
Then I set them in the ground so the dirt inside was level with the ground. I planted the pumpkins in one plot, the watermelon in another and then 2 zucchini in each of the remaining 2 plots. These will all hopefully spread out to create a natural mulch for the beans and corn.
The corn I planted is a white variety. Each plot has 5 or 6 rows planted. The package said to “plant 3 seeds per spot, thinning to 2 when 3 inches tall. Let 2 grow together for support and better pollination.” So that is what I will do. Providing the gophers don’t devour my corn after it sprouts, once it is 10 inches tall I will plant pole beans at the base of the corn. The beans will add nitrogen to the soil which benefits the corn. The corn will be the support for the beans to climb and the melons and squash will be the mulch.
Oh, I also set out my tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and lettuce seedlings. I may or may not have forgotten about all my seedlings from time to time over the course of some rather warm days and may or may not have lost a few due to dehydration (read – I forgot to water a few times and not all were drought tolerant) so where I didn’t have enough seedlings I just direct sowed some more seeds. I’m calling it Succession Planting.