Notes from Windward: #69


Garden Notes for June

June 6:

Encircling the Courtyard

     Since we like to let our sheep and goats graze throughout the property, we have to protect any young trees we plant from nibbling (which can be quite damaging to a baby tree’s health). Also, since we live in open range country, in the early fall, cattle wander through and devour anything green that is in sight, enclosing any growing spaces—gardens, duck-ponics, trees—is critical to allow a harvest.

the newly enclosed courtyard

     Over the past few years, as we add more fruit trees in our core operating region, we found that cutting two cattle panels in half to make a square enclosure for each tree worked reasonably well. However the animals, the cattle especially, are large enough to reach above the paneling to any branches close to the edge, so a larger space is necessary to adequately protect the trees from their destructive pruning. We are also at the point where we have enough trees within a specific region that it is a more efficient use of paneling to enclose an entire area than each tree individually.

a new tree with its 5-gallon drip bucket

     So we spent a recent afternoon dissembling the paneling around each tree and using it to encircle a larger region above the main garden that I have taken to calling the courtyard. It worked out quite nicely, creating a large protected planting space suitable for more trees and bushes, with a log bench and fire place at the center. As Pip and Luna develop a liking for grass and forage, the enclosed courtyard has been a nice lush place for the lambs to frolic as well.

June 7:

From Peppers to Peanuts

     The soil moisture is already beginning to dry up and the lush green grasses that grew so abundantly in April and May are beginning to turn the golden brown of summer. The summer heat is arriving, and with it come new wildflowers daily. The garden is filling up and producing well.

lupins blossoming in the woods

     The potatoes have really taken advantage of the spring moisture and are doing quite well. Between the spring rains and the mulching, the potatoes have required very little watering so far.

the potato patch

     The Oaxacan corn planted in late April has germinated and is growing quickly. When the stalks were about 4 inches high, I planted the pole beans adjacent to the corn. The beans will be able to use the corn stalks for support. I also started some more winter squash in prop-house for transplanting in with the corn and beans to complete the three sisters guild.

Oxacan corn

     The peppers and tomatoes were transplanted in the 3rd week of May. After about a week of getting used to their new home, they have already put out several new sets of leaves and some are even flowering. We are using some of Charles Wilbur’s methods as described in How to grow world record tomatoes, which includes growing indeterminate varieties (which keep growing until the conditions are no longer favorable), pinching off the suckers in the leaf axil to promote leaf growth, and heavy mulching. The suckers need to be pinched every few days as they grow quickly.

squash seedlings

     The mulching is working really well to minimize weeding (I haven’t had to weed yet) and retain soil moisture. I inter-planted onions with the tomatoes as well as carrots to help deter pests. After transplanting the tomatoes and peppers, it was time to transplant the summer and winter squash into the lower garden. And to try to make more efficient use of water, we put some of the cucumbers in containers with most of cucumber going into duck-ponics.

     The pole beans planted in mid-April were slow to germinate, most likely because the soil temperatures were still a little too cool, but they began to germinate in mid May and are continuing to do nicely. I have also started to seed bush beans at intervals so that we can have a continuous harvest of string beans throughout the summer.

quinoa seedlings

     In late May I planted peanuts and they have since germinated. In the U.S., peanuts are mostly grown in the southeast as they require a warm, long growing season. But we heard of a farm growing peanuts in Canada, so we figured we might have a chance with it too. I also seeded okra, a mildly drought tolerant plant, at the end of May, which germinated quickly. I have seeded amaranth and quinoa, two other drought tolerant leafy grains, native to the highlands of central and South America where the grains are considered sacred.


     The herb garden is now full, with thyme, sweet marjoram, sage, cilantro, parsley, dill and basil. The asparagus patch we started in late March is doing well, but the plants need to grow for at least three years before the first harvest.

Siberian kale

     We are enjoying a nice harvest of kale, collard greens, swiss chard, cilantro and parsley along with the salad greens and radishes. It is already time to start preserving some the garden’s abundance for the winter—I have blanched and frozen a few batches of kale, chard and lambs quarters to be enjoyed in a warm winter soup.

beet greens

     We have so many radishes that I have started experimenting with pickling radishes and George and I have prepared a mixture of radish, apple and carrot soaking in brine that we will let naturally ferment to create a sauerkraut of sorts. And the bunnies are the happy recipients of all the extra radish greens. We have also been drying mint regularly to use in teas in the winter, along with parsley and cilantro for cooking.

pickled radishes, apples and carrots

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69