Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Asaptive Gardening Dos and Don'ts

**I'm away this week for a family reunion so this blog is brought to you via the scheduler. Blogger is being stupid today so I've resorted to using a different format.
 It finally rained copious amounts yesterday and last night. Everything in my mini garden, at least for this year, is green and perky. So I brought my camera out to the garden while I made my rounds this morning.

As many of you know, I'm starting over this year on a new homestead in the north Georgia foothills. I've had a number of brain farts and issues with starting over as you read some of last week. So today, I thought I'd bring you along for a tour. I'll also be focusing on what to do and not do when adaptive gardening as well as a building cost break down. As I've always said when starting something new take small steps, learning as you go, and rejoice in your efforts because nothing is impossible.

Even though my stroke left me without a functioning right side, I have raised my own food for over thirty years. I wasn't going to let a little thing like paralysis stop me. I just had to think outside the box, or in this case inside the box to continue doing what I loved and needed.

We bought a fence panel ($37) from our local building supply store. It measured 6x8x8 and it would build three raised beds. I could have bought lumber to build three low raised beds for triple the cost. HELLO!!?? WHY??!! Also, why am I talking about low raised beds for adaptive gardening? Well, you have some rather tall plants like cucumbers and beans (trellised), corn, okra, and a few other vegetables that need a place to be. Imagine you have an elevated raised bed (about 3' up) with 7' corn or 8' tomatoes in it. I'm might grow vegetables, but I'm not the Jolly Green Giant. Ho ho ho!

 This fence panel made my beds 3'x6'. It's smaller than the standard 4'x8' bed on purpose. I will have to reach less to get to the middle of the bed. Thus, the chances of throwing myself off balance is reduced. Building them was easy and cheap. Filling them with an organic planting mix not so easy and cheap. There's nothing but red, compacted clay and bedrock a foot or so down around here.

Today after the rain, my mini garden, only for this season of trials and errors, the first bed we built looks like this. I've got onions, carrots, grey zucchini, pumpkin squash, tomatoes (4 varieties of heirlooms), and okra. Can you guess what shouldn't have been planted in this low raised bed? It was a brain fart moment like a machine gun for me while planting. Looks can be deceiving. These tomato plants are 4' tall already. The pumpkin squash plant has runners 6' long. It stretches from the bed to a 6' tall trellis.

The second bed is Mel's original 4x8 hardy board siding bed. I planted assorted beans (green beans and 15 bean soup mix beans), sweet potato slips, soybeans (non GMO), and a couple of Roma tomatoes for sauces. Brain fart- most of the beans are bush type plants rather than pole. Sweet potatoes are a no brainer, they grow underground. DOH! In the back, you can see one of our compost bins. Leftover fencing. A cheapy, cheap project. Off to the far right is the old chicken coop that the chickens no longer use. They only use it to lay eggs in if they don't lay them in one of Mel's toolboxes in the barn/workshop.

Although next year, I will be growing sweet, red, Yukon Gold, and russet potatoes in twenty gallon containers in spite of all the arguments I'll have from my roommate. I'll reuse the old tires around my brambles (raspberries and blackberries) to control their spreading tendencies. The used soil will go into the new elevated raised. Meanwhile I'll keep on making new soil via the Back to Eden / permaculture method. This year purchasing compost and peat was faster and I was all about getting some kind of garden in.

The second 3x6 bed is newly planted yet again with corn, bush beans, carrots and cucumbers. And look what I found this morning! The first tiny cucumber plant peeping out through the mulch. This makes the fourth time I've tried to plant this. Not bad for only being planted a few days ago. Hopefully the chickens will stay out. Behind this bed is three 2-year old peach trees that Mel planted a year ago with the intention of transplanting them in the orchard. Well, they are still there waiting. I figure the cucumber vines will use them for supports.

*The third 3x6 bed is waiting to be built. Probably in the Fall or Winter with another three low raised beds for the garden expansion.

Speaking of supports. For our trellises, although we had one purchased
tepee support and one redwood trellis, we use what nature provides. It might not be the prettiest, but you can't beat the price. Old, beat up fencing makes this a snap too. On some others we've used the fencing around the garden, and on others bits and pieced of leftover clothesline or wiring.

Another adaptive gardening technique is making elevated raised bed planters. We made ours from a discarded pallet (4x6) for each one. This is a freebie except for the nails. Oh wait, we reused the nails from the pallets. A true freebie! Except for the electricity used for the saw. These are 1x4 for herbs. They are 33" inches high which is waist high to me. I guess we could paint them to look attractive, but I'm more about functionality than beauty... maybe that's why I don't bother with makeup (war paint), or even brushing my hair with a Pixie haircut, why bother?

Another adaptive gardening technique we've used this year is a gutter system with a soaker hose. Per square foot this was the most expensive at about $2 per square foot. The vinyl gutters themselves are inexpensive ($6), but the hangers and end caps ($20) will triple the price. Pictured is part of one six-foot run of strawberries. We've got one more of strawberries and 2 six-foot runs of gutters for lettuce, spinach, and radishes. Plenty to feed us and the rabbits. We've attached them to the outside of our enclosed porch to keep the chickens out of them. Yeah, I need to prune these back. But we got ten pounds of strawberries from 20 plants this year. Next year will be three times as much at least if I replant the runners.

You aren't lucky enough to have a enclosed porch or railings to hang gutters from? Remember that 6x8x8 wooden fence panel? Get that and a couple of 4x4s and make yourself a growing wall. Or wire free pallets together. Gutters will screw into about anything even the side of your house. If you can't grow out because of space limitations, grow vertically.

Adaptive gardening doesn't have to be expensive to accomplish. Use what you have on hand.

The whole gist of this blog today, besides showing off, is that you don't have to give up the things you loved to do after your stroke. You can do almost everything you once did with some modification and a little imagination. Sure there are some things you might never do again like using hedge clippers with ease (but who really likes doing that?) I may not ever run the NY marathon again, but if I really wanted to I could walk it. There are always concessions/adaptions that have to be made as with living in general. Living post stroke is the same thing.

Nothing is impossible.


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