Monday, July 8, 2013

Planning a Garden

Patrice's garden over at
My primary responsibility at this point is still establishing a homestead large enough for all eight of us. While in constant pursuit of solving that problem, I can't help but think about starting our first garden.

There is so much land on the farm being unused that there is ample space for a nice sized garden. Where to put it is step one. Should it be next to the farm house where it would enjoy a four-wire barbed fence around it's perimeter? Or near the barn where there is much more open space to utilize but no fence.

I'll be adding a water catchment system by placing gutters along the barn and farm house. These will dump rainwater into barrels just like I did at my house. I have plans to run drip lines from the barrels to the garden so proximity of garden to structure (barn/house) is not too important.

I've talked about water use before and showed a video of my automatically filling water barrels.  I have somewhere around ten 55 gallon water drums filled at my old house. That will be a good start out here at the farm but since there was a devastating drought for the last two years, I'll definitely need more storage.

The soil at our family farm is very sandy. Because of this, I've been pondering using Patrice Lewis' gardening method. Having had several years of unsuccessful gardening due to critters munching (deer, voles) and weeds, she has begun laying down old used billboard signs on the ground to choke out the weeds and act as a barrier to voles (moles). These vinyl signs are then covered with rock for weight and added stability in windy conditions. She then uses her saws-all to cut a tractor tire in half and place the tire-half in her garden. Into the tire goes her manure and soil mixture.

Luckily for her, the vinyl signs, tires (and manure) are free. A local sign company donates their old vinyl signs and a local tire company gladly delivers oodles of old used tires to her homestead. Her cows gladly donate the manure ;-) Too bad they don't deliver near the garden.

She is reporting much greater success in the last two years with this method than any prior method. I'm thinking that the HUGE mole problem I have might be solved with this method of ground cover. Weeds are a pretty big issue here too. Just ask the poor Brush Hog. I have plenty of cow dung around the property too. Patrice added a few more feet to her short six foot fence to finally dissuade the jumping deer.

Uncle R shared with me that past gardens here at the farm were successful in growing: corn, potatoes, onions, green beans, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. That's quite a plateful right there! Mix those yummies with some homegrown beef or local venison and I'm set.  I've already practiced dehydrating most of those items and Wifey can put the canner to good use.

So first, the specifics: where would YOU put the garden? Since the north and south side of the barn has large barn doors for driving in and out, I can't put it there. The west side of the barn has built in stables so it's a no go on that side. This leaves me with the east side of the barn.

Being that this is a large sheet-metal-covered barn, I learned some previous lessons that might play out here. In Arizona, I had a raised bed garden right next to a little sheet metal shed. The heat given off by the sheet metal fried my first crop (for lack of a better word). I draped a blue tarp down the side of the shed and anchored it on top with several heavy decorative stepping stones that I had laying around the back yard. Problem solved.

Would I have this same problem with the barn? Note: the raised bed garden was on the south side of the shed. The farm garden would be on the east side of the barn. Perhaps that effects the level of heat? How many feet AWAY from the barn would be enough to minimize this effect? I like this spot because it offers easy access to rainwater gathered from the rooftop but there is zero fence coverage.

Another option would be to simply moved the garden location a few hundred feet to the southeast where it would be bordered on the east side by a four strand barbed wire fence. I could pretty easily run the drip line out to this spot without much difficulty. There would be no danger of radiant heat from sheet metal barn walls. With one side being bordered by fence, I could add fence to the other three sides AND would probably have to raise it up to eight feet tall, as Patrice showed was necessary for deer stoppage.

I decided to make a rough aerial map of all the additional possible locations. The fence marked by red lines is four line barbed wire, normal height.  Some places inside the farm house "pen" would be shaded by trees. There is one large open area next to the farm house. There is also a large open area on the west side of the barn. Note, the cows free range feed. They do visit the old horse corral but only for a drink. The rest of the day, they could be anywhere except near the farm house.

So, what do you think?


PS. Here's the whole farm:

All the red boxes are where my cousin farms wheat, rye, etc. The little blue box is where the barn is to give reference to the image used for garden location. This is 160 acres.


Rich said...

You should be able to grow squash and zucchini, okra (gotta make gumbo), and sweet potatoes.

Use the radiant heat "problem" to help grow something like cabbage in early spring and fall/winter. Just establish a separate garden for the early spring crops like cabbage and spinach, instead of moving the main garden to that area.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Great advice. Thanks Rich.

Anonymous said...

Hey Orange Jeep Dad,

Hubby and I were just reading your post and had a few Ideas for you. Hubby says that with the proximity of the cow pen and the burn barrels that your best garden spot is the area west of the barn to avoid possible use of less than ideal soil or crop contamination. We also live in a very dry state and I have found that trench gardening works really well in combination with use of straw as ground cover. What you do is dig patchwork squares 1-3 inches deep and can be as big as 2ft x 2ft where you want the plants. Take the excess soil and use as a reverse retaining wall to keep in as much water as possible when it rains or the plants are watered. You can then spread the straw over the patches and it will help keep the water from completely evaporating. I find that Zucchini will grow just about anywhere and go gang busters and Tomatos are great in pots on the porch. Hope that you can use some of this and you are having a good monday.
-EMT Tina

David Carden said...

Well what i see you could do is put the main garden behind the house. That way its close and already has the fence is already there and (from your pic) is a nice size area that can be made bigger if needed. you can always put say a patch of field corn out some where else would lose some ears to the deer but it makes them fatter. also should help keep them away from your other garden. also lets your chickens come and clean up any bugs that might come around

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Great suggestions Tina. I am not quite sure exactly how I want to do the garden. I will definitely speak to more neighbors and see what works best in this area. This sandy soil is completely different than what I had in Arizona.

Your method sounds similar to the Back to Eden method, which I like a lot too.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Nice ideas David. Especially about fattening up the deer. There's so many freaking grasshoppers out here, the chickens will NEVER go hungry. LoL.

David Carden said...

the chickens will help out a lot about your grasshopper problem. if you get the time you should build a coop soon and get 6 or so to start with. then when you have time to build a bigger coop get more. they dont cost that much to get and a coop can be just about anything

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I'm enjoying your blog, so I'll chime in here: Closer to the house is always better in my book. If you have to walk a long way just to get to the garden, you'll end up making excuses not to go.

BTW: Even with the great fencing you already have in place, you'll need at least one or two more layers of protection for the garden. When animal marauders are hungry, all bets are off. Think bird netting and auxiliary chicken wire.

In the spring, add a FOURTH layer: Vented hotcaps on young individual plants like cabbages or peppers. Plastic gallon milk jugs, with the tops and bottoms cut off, work well for this. Start saving.

You may find that trees actually offer afternoon protection from ferocious heat during high summer. Sun is great. Too much is brutal.

I don't know if frost dates are important in your area - low lying areas can cut your growing season by several weeks. Even just a slight depression in the land will catch frost later in the spring and sooner in the fall than the rest of the acreage.

I'm sure with your water catchment plans, everything will come together just fine. If you can't give your garden water, it doesn't really matter what else you can give it. It's priority one.

The long version of my two cents.

Just Me

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

I have a chicken coop in Arizona. I'm debating whether or not it is worth it to bring it 1000n miles. I did pay $150 for it but it's so bulky fo for travel and the dogs have chewed it up pretty good already. Now you got me wanting chickens again. Doh!

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

ALWAYS good to hear from you! Thanks for the valuable information. I'm sure I'll learn A Lot from first garden here. I suppose I should only hope to
end up with 50% of what I plant (if I'm lucky)?

Granny Miller said...

Sandy soil can be a very good thing and I'd forget about tires.
Put the garden in area #6 running the rows north to south. Plow & disk & drag the garden now and maybe you'll be ready for cabbage or peas by the end of August.
In area #7 I'd plant fruit trees ASAP & a set a grape arbor if it is not low and the frost doesn't run down a hill. Good luck :-)

Mybronco said...

First choice would be in the old chicken patch. The soil should be well fertilized from the previous manure, yet not too "hot" for vegetables. Like others previously stated, the trees will help as much as direct sunlight for your location. BTW, most soil in your area is a sandy loam, which is great for gardens when utilizing natural compost, never had any issues at all. I would also incorporate some chicken wire or hogwire around the perimeter, simply attach it to the existing barbed wire fence, but dig down 6-8 inches and place it in the ground some to help prevent digging under.
If not here, then I would go with #1 area just make sure you fence it off properly. Either one of these areas will work with your rain runoff system.
Definitely get your chickens out there, they will take care of your grasshopper, ladybug, and tick problems, provide GREAT fertilizer, and help till up some of the soil. Simply let the chickens into the garden area for a couple hours or so every couple of days.
Also check out craigslist and watch OKC for large food grade containers, which have metal cages around them, 275 gallon and easy to move with your tractor now that you have it running. These are great for water storage and general use around the farm. Wranglerstar set a system similar and posted some videos a while back.

Anonymous said...

Just one word....Guineas! They will eat tons of bugs and not scratch out your garden plants in the process like chickens will. Plus, they make great farm watchdogs that do not care if you are gone for long shifts at work. Gotta have chickens for eggs and meat and Guineas for bug patrol and farm watch. They will go off on strangers and they are quite discerning. The first bunch we had when I was a kid would not say a word when my Dad came home for lunch if he remembered to take his coveralls and welders cap off. If he so much as forgot to take that cap off they would kick up such a ruckus. They'll do the same for predators. If you buy adults to start with they can be hard on chickens,but keets grown with chickens have no such issues. Security layers, that's the ticket!

Anonymous said...

Just my 2 cents....I don't care much for chicken wire. I prefer 2x4 wire, couldn't tell you how much chicken wire I replaced with 2x4 wire. Holds up a lot better against animals trying to get in and it stretches better. I would take this time and study the prevailing winds at your site. Go through a couple storms and check the natural path of things. Then build around that. My first homestead I tried to "force" the land to suit me. Big mistake. Study the natural way of things and "blend" your projects into natural way of things.'s easier to move fence posts on paper.
Good luck and have fun. Idaho Bill

Anonymous said...

Okay, first don't make it harder than it has to be. You may not have problems with animals. Or not the animals that other bloggers have issues with. A better source of info would be your neighbors. And those same neighbors may have some methods that will work for you. Since you're just starting, do a small garden for now. Since it's so late in the garden season, start with items that can hold through to cool weather. Expect fails. It happens. It's how you learn what adaptation your garden will need.

And in general, the closer the garden is to somewhere that you will see it/walk by it on a regular basis, the better it will be. You will notice problems faster and be more likely to fix them quickly when you are walking past the garden on a regular basis. You'll also notice what needs to be harvested more quickly.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Ok Granny. I have to research what a grape arbor is first. If sandy soil is ok, I'll forego the tarp & tires plan. We have always wanted fruit trees too.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Well, I had to research that one! Only guinea I knew of was the guinea pig, lol. Which breed do you like: White African, Pearl Grey, Royal Purple, Lavender? Good layers?

Anonymous said...

Dear OJD,
Regarding the Guineas, forget about egg laying for your consumption,not worth it. Any color you like, we only raised the Pearl Grey. They do lay large clutches, I mean LARGE clutches and will hatch most of them. However, they are notoriously bad at raising very many of them. They are where the term "stupid Guinea" comes from. On the plus side, guinea is like eating Pheasant. It has been sold in better restaurants as Pheasant for a long time. So if you get to a point where you have more Guineas than you have a liking for, teach the girls how to butcher birds and eat like Kings! JF

Anonymous said...

One of the absolute best cures for moles is a barn cat (or 2). --Doc

Anonymous said...

the earlier post cover the garden question well, but! you will have a hard time watering if you are not close to a water bib. I live in NWOK and have sandy loam soil and water does not stay long in the root zone of most plants. You can not count on any amount of rain the rest of the summer if you are west of I-35. Garden spot 6 is my choice. Talk to the local gardeners for your best info. I think were close to each other.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

I'm just not a big fan of cats :-/ Never have been... Guess it's time to reevaluate the situation..

solarman said...

Regarding cats...I am not a "fan" of cats but we are not talking about spoiled house cats. I would have several cats and dogs if I were back on the farm along with at lest 12 chickens.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Ok . Sounds good to me. Might be entertaining to watch the dogs chase the cat around.

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Great info bud. Thanks a bunch.

Anonymous said...

Sandy loam is great for growing vegies and fruit trees as it means that roots won't drown in wet, clay soils. I remember Patrice lamenting the fact that she has so much clay which limits fruit trees especially, thus the tires. You are fortunate with not having this issue.

Adding lots of compost and mulch to the soil will increase the nutrient value, encourage worms and micro-organisms and also help with water retention. Some comments above mentioned seeking advice from neighbours - that would be my priority. Who better would know the area?

I find my garden's close proximity to the house a huge blessing for both maintenance and harvesting purposes. I grow my salad greens and herbs separately -just outside the back door where I can quickly grab a few things regularly. Haven't regretted that decision.

Good luck with your planning and happy gardening. Jenny

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

Thanks Jenny!

Don in NW, MO said...

I would pass on the tires. Ii have read several articles about chemicals leaching from the tires. I read all the time and I understand why she went that direction but for me I would stay away from any possible ecological problems. I agree with Granny.

Rich said...

Do you know where the the septic tank and drainage field is located? It might be a good idea to spend a little time trying to figure that out to make sure that you don't put your garden right on top of the septic tank.

Even if you weren't planning on putting in a garden, it's a good idea to get a rough idea where the septic tank, drainage field, water lines, electric lines, etc. are before you start digging and planning.

And, if your grandparents had a garden in the past, it might make sense to put your garden in the same place.

Anonymous said...

I too would take area 6, plow it thoroughly, then take huge cardboard boxes from furniture stores and lay them down and cover with manure, leaves, pinestraw, old hay, wood chips, whatever I could get my hands on. We had very sandy soil in an abandoned pasture full of horse nettle and blackberries and we have reclaimed it in 3 years. Gone from zero worms in the 75 x 75 area to huge 8" worms. We used 6' deer fencing and if I was doing it over I would have used 6' chain link around the garden. I have to be very careful what I plant next to the fence with the nylon fencing, with chain link stuff can vine right up it without damage and vertical gardening saves horizontal space. I grow strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, okra, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, corn, melons, cukes, peppers, peas early and field, potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, onions, asparagus, artichokes, horseradish, green beans, and raspberries. I am in zone 7B and I invested in drip irrigation from Irrigation Mart in Louisiana last year on my neighbor's advice and it has saved my life in the back to back droughts. That and mulch! If you make a practice of driving thru good neighborhoods on your way home you can easily carry 3 or 4 bags of grass clippings home every day. I keep a tarp in my Explorer for this reason! Start small and keep expanding your space.

Don in NW, MO said...

Thinking of a fall garden? Great post over here.

Just a great site overall for sustainable gardening and canning.

Mary in GA said...

Listen to Granny Miller and you won't go wrong!

The Orange Jeep Dad said...


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