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Garden Tractor Gardening - Part II

(Wheel Horse)

by New England Gardener

My fenced garden area is divided into two 60X100 foot areas, with a narrow access strip of grass between them. Across the back you can see the first of three rows of small fruits; Grapes, raspberries, black berries, elderberries and currants. Starting at the left, are rows of corn, hills of squash, pumpkin and cucumbers, two rows of potatoes, a variety of flower seed production [our only commercial crop now], and finally rows of carrots, beets, and onions, with two rows of various kinds of beans with a narrow crop between them.

At the right you can see the grass strip, and some of the early spring broccoli and cabbage plants. The other section also has strawberries, two more rows of potatoes, 33 tomato plants, a dozen pepper plants and three wide rows of peas. The fall broccoli and winter cabbage will be planted near the spring or early types. We have a four year rotation on these to prevent club root. This plant disease can live in the soil without Cole [cabbage family] crops grown there for a couple years, but can thrive in your garden for twenty years if it gets established. The permanent grass divider helps us keep track of where they were. These two garden beds can easily be cultivated in less than twenty minutes with my riding 5 hp tractors. I used to rotate all my corn, potatoes, and small grains like rye, oats and wheat in a acre square plot behind the fenced garden area, but deer have started to decimate those crops. Together we produced about twice as much as a growing family of five could eat, and sold or gave away our surplus. When I say gave away, in a rural area, it is very wise to give your surplus to others, who may, if they are able, share some of there labor, or surplus with you.

Here is the tractor cultivating both sides of the plants in one pass. This can be done at 2 mph, while cultivating with a rototiller must be done on each side, and is usually at speeds less that mph. The 5 hp riding tractor is up to eight times faster, and the engine is just at half throttle, sipping fuel. Rototillers are run near full throttle, easily using twice as much fuel per hour, to do a tiny fraction of the work.          (Click on photos to enlarge.)
 

Here is another view of the beans and a row of onion sets which have just been cultivated. The undisturbed soil between the cultivated rows has been planted with narrow crops which are not yet visible. As soon as they are up, they will be cultivated too. I use the white fiberglass posts to mark all rows and hills until they can be clearly seen.
  
 

This young corn has also just been cultivated by the tractor. There is very little left to be done by hand, only the larger weeds between the corn plants need to be pulled. On the right hand side of this photograph, you can see young hills of squash, pumpkins and cucumbers. With a narrow furrower, I made two rows just over 30 inches apart, and staggered hills along them. Each hill was marked with a fiberglass post. With a full width cultivator on the tractor, I was able to drive along the outer sides of the two rows, and make a gentle "S" shaped path between them. Later they will be mulched to keep in the moisture, and choke out any weeds.

 

 

Here are two rows of young beans which have been cultivated by driving over, or straddling them with one of my small modified riding tractors. Because beans need more space when full grown, and we need room to pick them, I have planted the adjacent rows with narrow crops like onions, carrots and beets. They are not up well enough to see them clearly, so those rows are marked by the white 3/8 inch diameter fiberglass posts sold for temporary electric fences. It is about 24 inches from the center of one row to the center of the next. With the 30 inch wide riding tractor, I simply overlap the tire tracks in the paths.  

 

Cabbage is a very important crop, with high yields of food. It can be eaten raw as Cole Slaw, boiled alone or with carrots, potatoes and ham, stir fried for a nutty flavor, or fermented into sour kraut. It also keeps for months in a root cellar, or it may be canned or dried for indefinite storage. The Fall or Winter varieties are the best keepers.

In the South, or coastal areas, you maybe able to grow cabbage over the Winter. Here where I live, we have to start Spring cabbage and broccoli inside, and set out the plants. The Winter keeping varieties are the important ones, and here is how we start ours in the early Summer. We add manure or fertilizer and deeply work the soil with a single tine, only under the row itself. Then we wet the row thoroughly, and plant the seed shallowly. 

We try to space the seeds out, but it is easy to move the plants later, just before a rain.   Then we cover the row with strips of cloth, as from old bed sheets, and weigh that down with rocks. The cabbage will be up as strong plants in only three days, and you remove the cloth. Once the plants are a few inches tall, it's time to move any that are too close together. If you don't have a thorough rain right after you transplant, water them very well daily for three days.

 

Continued at Garden Tractor Gardening, Part III   

GARDENING ARTICLES by New England Gardener -

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