This is the state of my suburban homestead as of Spring 2019. I plan to write an update on the homestead once or twice a year, as it makes sense. See the Fall 2018 edition for my first update.
Food Forest and Side Gardens
The food forest is doing well, incrementally getting better every year. Some items of note:
For the first time in three years, the fig tree did not die back to the roots: the leaves started growing from last year's branches/trunks. Hopefully that means we get delicious figs earlier than usual!
On the other hand, the persimmon tree is not doing so hot. Two of the three main branches lost their leaves. The third branch is hanging on. There are no pests or fungus on it that I could see. I am continuing to monitor it to see what happens next.
The tomato cages did not work for berries: their branches got tangled up with each other. I am changing my approach: I will continue to prune them as needed to have strong, thick, self-supporting branches. Instead, I am using the tomato cages for tomatoes and cucumbers (more on them below).
The pineberries I planted last year are growing well and producing fruit. It's a bit hard to tell if they are ripe; I found that waiting until they are pink in color, and the seeds all red, produces the best flavor. I can't really taste the pineapple hint, but my wife assures me she can.
I also found quite a surprise last month. Remember the mushrooms mentioned in the last update? They grew! Specifically, the wine cap mushrooms. After correctly identifying them and confirming their identification, I fried them up, and ate them. They smelled heavenly, but tasted only marginally better: a bit meatier than the button mushrooms we usually buy. When adding them to our omelette, the overall taste did not really change.
We also added a few herbs to the food forest: basil, stevia, and a bay leaf tree. I did not check the mature size of the bay leaf tree... turns it it will get up to ten feet tall and about as big in diameter! But I was able to squeeze it in between the pomegranite and one of the apple trees. We replaced the apricot tree that died last year with a plumcot (a plum-apricot hybrid), which is supposed to do really well. So far, it has been doing well. We still plan to add sweet potatoes to the food forest, next to the strawberries.
For the side gardens, we planted two tomatoes and three watermelons on the annual side (between the sandbox and the compost box). We plan to add two hardy kiwi plants on the perennial side.
Raised Beds (New this year)
We planted out the raised beds this year with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pineapple, zucchini, marigolds, dill, marjoram, basil, and red-veined sorrel. I used a modified spreadsheet to plan them out. I will incorporate it into the garden planning spreadsheet available on the home page.
We used the tomato cages mentioned above for the tomatoes and cucumbers. We are still planning to add sorrel, broccoli rabe, and cucumelons to the raised beds this month.
Aquaponics Garden and Fish Pond
Unfortunately, the aquaponics system languished througout the winter. The contractor did work on the plumbing system a bit, but another approach was needed. We finally have a working approach, but it needs to be completed for all three aquaponics veggie beds. We will be planting the beds this weekend, or hopefully next week.
The Lawn Meadow, Flowers, and Composting
The lawn quickly filled out once the weather got warmer. The secret was adding some topsoil over the bare areas, and seeding with grass seed. We have a variety of white, yellow, and crimson clover making our lawn into a beatiful meadow. Our younger children enjoy picking them to put into small vases on the kitchen window sill.
The compost continues to do well, decomposing even faster now. It stays at about one-third of the capacity (it was half-full last year). I continue to turn it with a pitch fork every few days, observing a plethora of worms doing the decomposition work. You can read more about the motivation, theory, and practice of composting and compost tea here.
Coming Up Next
It's been hard to plan for the next improvements. We are trying to sell our house, and as such we are not sure how much improvement we want to do. We usually plan only for the month ahead, which is easier than making big, yearly plans. The Homestead Mastermind has been really helpful in making the monthly plans, and having the accountability to carry them out.
With that said, here are the remaining tasks for May (that may spill over into June):
- Finish buying the plants mentioned above, and plant them.
- Get a cubic yard of the cheapest (un-dyed) mulch available and mulch the raised beds and other places in the back yard.
- Take the indoor plants outside.
- Make compost tea and spray all the plants.
- Finish the aquaponics system and start running it.
I want to continue experimenting with growing mushrooms, and my indoor aquaponics system should be ready soon. More on that in the coming blog posts!
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