Saturday, September 16, 2023

No-till Corn? Absolutely!

Golden Bantam Corn @Equimage® Media
Yes, you can grow corn in a new or well-established no-till garden bed.  We decided to try corn late in this growing season (planted July 5) and so far so good.  We decided on the quick maturing heirloom variety called Golden Bantam and purchased  from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, although it is available through many seed brokers.  Fresh seed germinates in 5-7 days, grows to 5-6 feet in height and each stalk generally produces two nice ears in about 75 days. So far we’re right on target.  

This 4x4 bed was hastily created on a whim from some additional scrap lumber between two established 4x4 beds.  Asparagus is on one side and (this year) indeterminate tomatoes on the other.

So far we have 25 nice ears of corn from roughly 50 plants planted in the 4 seeds per square foot configuration in a 4x4 bed. You may think that this is a bit overcrowded but one thing we’ve learned about our no-till method of gardening is that crowded planting is not much of a problem — especially in a brand new bed.
©Equimage® Media, 2023

We have been feeding regularly with Espoma Organic Chicken Manure and Espoma Garden Tone because corn is a real nitrogen hog.  Legume-based no-till lends itself so well to nitrogen-loving plants because that lower layer of alfalfa is loaded with nitrogen.  The corn plant hits that layer and never looks back.

We did water more often than one might think is necessary (a good soaking 2x a week) and placed a six-inch by six-inch net trellis over the bed horizontally and let the corn grow through 
to help keep the corn plants upright during high wind and blowing rain. This tactic, using 4ft T-post in each corner with the net fastened to the posts with zip ties and a couple of 4ft bamboo poles which help connect the posts on each out side, worked beautifully. As the corn grew, the net was raised. We did thread the newly emerged corn plants through the holes in the netting a st the corn grew.

We also lined the bottom of our experimental bed with 1/2 x 1/2 galvanized hardware cloth to thwart the voles and moles. The wire cloth keeps the hordes  from tunneling into the bed to seek out the golden goodness of sprouting corn kernels and new growth plants that they adore.  We take this step with any bed we create because we had  a serious vole and mole infestation in the past. Learn from our mistakes and prepare for subterranean interlopers. Give them enough time and they will find your precious, emerging corn.

We’ll update as we begin picking (and hopefully eating)  — likely early next week.  Now... get out there and get your hands dirty!

All Content ©2011-2023 by The No Till Gardener and Equimage® Ltd. Media All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

It’s Cracked!

It’s Cracked — or Cracking

Tete Noir (Dark Head) Cabbage from Baker Creek Seeds.

Summer is moving along. The birds are quieter, the crickets cicadas are noisier, and the Garden is producing in waves.  It’s a busy time; harvesting, cleaning, preserving, eating (we like the last one best).  

One crop that has started giving is the brassicas — aka cabbage cauliflower, and broccoli.  I started my cabbage and broccoli a little late this season so they are coming on a tad late as well. Not the biggest crop I’ve had but definitely the nicest, thanks to sound advice from Susan Mulvihill from Susan’s In the Garden, who advised using fine mesh insect netting to foil the cabbage moths and more evil loopers.  She was right but now I need to preserve the bounty Susan’s advice help create. 

This stunning cabbage called Tete Noir (it’s truly beautiful) was started from Baker Creek Seeds   The cracking is not typical — totally the fault of the gardener for waiting too long to harvest this particular head — as well as an erratic watering schedule - natural and otherwise.  

I always make sauerkraut, something that I will go into in a later post. The process of making Kraut always makes me think of my mother. We stood together at the sink, peeling, and preserving for many years.  I miss her company, although nowadays I’m often accompanied by my daughter and husband.  

I also make my mother’s cabbage rolls to eat and to freeze. I will also get at this one later as well. But for today’s purposes, and because I have an abundance of red cabbage, I’m going to attempt something new — a canned coleslaw.  

My mother and grandmother often made a deliciously tart and sweet frozen slaw with red cabbage, carrots, and green pepper.  The sugary and vinegary slaw freezes beautifully.  Unfortunately, I currently have very little room in the freezer. A quick search of the web and a solution was found — canning the same recipe in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Problem solved.  I do halve the amount of sugar to try to lighten up the recipe a bit but I think our  frozen slaw recipe lends itself perfectly to water-bath canning. It’s a great way to preserve all that red cabbage I planted.

I shred all the cabbage I use with my food processor shredding blade,  changing blades to spread after first grinding the carrot and pepper with the chopping blade. If you’d rather use a knife, by all means, have at it!

Here are photos of my mother’s original recipe card.  The canned slaw recipe calls for a bit more watery brine so I’m not sure what the end result will be.  I offer a link from Cosmopolitan Cornbread  here  if you want to give it a try a long with me. If you do please share in the comments  so we can compare notes. I’d love to hear how it works for you.

We’ll wait six weeks before testing the final result and, while I take the slaw water-bathing plunge,  I highly recommend making and freezing my mother’s frozen  slaw for a more immediate gratification.  It’s delicious bright, flavorful, crunchy (trust me) and a delicious wintertime bite of summer you’ll be glad to pull out of the freezer in January. — if your freezer has room that is.


Frozen Slaw

Mix and let stand for 1/2 to 1 hour:
1 medium head red or white cabbage, shredded
1 grated carrot
1 grated green pepper
1-1/2 tsp salt

Heat until boiling the following:
1 cup white sugar (or 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup monk fruit granular)
1/4-1/2 cup water
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp whole mustard seed (white or black)
Cool to lukewarm

Squeeze water from cabbage mixture. Replace with dressing.  Toss well. Serve or freeze in quart size freezer bags or containers.

When ready to use, thaw slaw for 1-2 hours and serve.  Mayonnaise may be added for a creamier presentation, if desired.

Now,  get out there and get your hands dirty!
All Content ©2013-2023 by The No Till Gardener and Equimage® Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 21, 2023

Why A No-Till Garden?

About the No-Till Gardener...

I've owned this website for a long, long time -- since spring of 2010, in fact.  It began as an offshoot of my other website, Tasting Out Loud. It was while working on that website that  I first discovered the joy of being a No-till Gardener. However, because much can change in 13 years, I’ve decided to update and reissue some useful information about no-till gardening.  Gotta keep things fresh! Therefore, look for some new information and new illustrations mixed in with tried and true information, as well as some new and better.  And, always feel free to comment and reach out with any question you may have, both here and on the No Till Gardener facebook page and YouTube Channel which is also getting a much needed facelift. 

My garden buddy and my garden before...

How can one possibly create a bountiful garden without soil, hoeing, weeding, mulching, and chemicals?   The No-till is just that -- a unique, raised bed technique that defies ordinary gardening culture -- it does so without digging in the dirt,  very little weeding, no chemicals, and moderate watering. And these little botanical gold mines yield enormous amounts of beautiful vegetable from a very small space -- and it just plain old fun! 


And now

So if you have a hankering for a garden, but not much room, or high motivation for grubbing around the garden but are stuck with hard-packed clay soil, the No Till Garden is for you!

Crazy rain forest of a garden!
Last year, my husband Dave and I decided to buy some cheap lumber, paint it, screw it together, and build ourselves some easy, smeezy, raised beds but we hated the idea of all that digging and double digging. So, we opted for layered gardens made of alfalfa hay, straw, compost, newspapers, bone meal and blood meal.  
You can use topsoil mixed with your compost but it's really not necessary. In fact, over the season, the layers work together, feeding plants while composting themselves into the most beautiful, dark, rich organic soil that you could ever hope to have in your garden.

 Often referred to as Lasagna Gardens, because they are built layer upon layer, these gardens are extremely nitrogen (from the Alfalfa hay) and nutrient rich (from the bone and blood meal and compost which attract worms, feed beneficial bacteria and encourage healthy growth) , so they may be planted quite densely, thereby eliminating most weeding -- a fate that most gardeners despise but are resigned to. But no longer! 
So, one thing builds upon the other and you end up with a little jungle of a garden that just gives and gives -- year round if you plan ahead -- even in the cold and blustery climes!

In the next few days, we will be posting a materials list (much of which may be begged from freecycle, bartered from your friends, or purchased pretty inexpensively) and complete step-by-step photo and maybe even video instructions for building your own 8x4 raised no-till bed in two days or less, after you've gathered together your materials (the extra day is for the paint to dry prior to building your bed, if you decide to paint. If you use cedar wood or the new environmentally friendly pressure treated wood, you can skip the extra day).
You'll see -- when you get through with the building, plant your garden,  and start harvesting your no-till bounty -- you will never view gardening in the same way again!  

So, if your a gardener or gardener wanna-be who is short on space or short on water, longing to be more respectful of the earth and conscious of what you're eating and where it comes from -- or just want to enjoy watching your food grow and teaching your children to be more self-sustaining, No-till gardening is for you!

Step-by-step instructions follow this post. I’ve broken it down into four days.  You can shave off time any way you want, depending on how much free time you have to work on your garden.  


Now, get out there and get your hands dirty!