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 Prototype for a Small, Low Cost, Quick Start, Home Food Garden

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dragonfly
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PostSubject: Prototype for a Small, Low Cost, Quick Start, Home Food Garden   Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:34 pm

Prototype for a Small, Low Cost, Quick Start, Home Food Garden
Summer planting, Manna House, Houston, TX

Installation date:
July 9, 2010

Size:
4 x 12 ft

Time and manpower required to install:
2 hours, 2 people: a 14 year old male, and a 52 year old female

Materials and cost:

Leaves------------------------one yard bag full ------------------- free
Newspaper------------------one paper grocery bag full----- - free
Mushroom compost-------------------------------- 3 bags------- 11.91
Manure compost------------------------------------ 2 bags--------- 2.70
Texas native hardwood mulch (shredded)---- 4 bags------- 11.92
______
TOTAL COST = $ 26 .53

The amounts and composition of the materials can vary a lot and could include other dead organic materials such as compost, grass clippings, other dead plant material etc. It is good to have composted manure (any animal) as part of the mix. It is also important to keep the percentage of dead plant material and manure very high (~80%), i.e. not too much sandy material. As the dead plant material breaks down over time it feeds the plants and the beneficial soil organisms that also feed and protect the plants. No external source of fertilizer is needed.

Installation Methods:

The starting ground was covered in grass and was mostly clay. Most of the area was broken open to ~half a shovel depth and most of the grass removed. The grass was saved in one of the emptied mulch bags and saved for later use as compost. Parts that were too difficult to dig were just covered over with the materials. The leaves and sandier materials were spread on top of the broken (or unbroken) ground. Newspapers (~3 pages thick) were spread over this. When planting plants or seeds make sure to break through this newspaper under the place you are planting. Then the mushroom compost was spread over the newspaper, leaving the edges of the newspaper on the perimeter of the bed uncovered. A very thick edging of newspaper was placed over the previous layer of newspaper around the perimeter to act as a grass barrier between the bed and the surrounding grass. A thick layer of Texas native hardwood mulch was placed on top of the mushroom compost and over most of the edging newspaper.

Irrigation method:

Hand watering with water transported in gallon jugs from the adjacent building. After a week of getting the plants established (~5 gallons per day), the amount of water will be reduced to 5 gallons per week for the summer when it hasn’t rained recently. The water is delivered to the base of each plant or over the seeds. A heavy layer of mulch, and the high percentage of organic material in the bed, helps to hold the water and reduce evaporation losses.

Maintenance:

Weeding, watering, harvesting. Additional organic materials will need to be added as they become available. This will continue the process of feeding the plants and keeping them healthy. No external source of fertilizer is needed. Manure or compost can be mixed in the soil as new plants and seeds are added to the garden. Dead leaves, dead plants, grass clippings, mulch, shredded newspaper etc., are just piled on top of the bed between the plants. They can be pushed around to make room for new plants or seeds.

Summer Plants:

Plants were obtained from cuttings, or extra sprouting, or leftover seeds from another garden for free.
Greens and herbs are the best plants to grow in gardens with limited space. They are extremely nutritious, delicious, and can be continually harvested throughout the growing season.

Herbs:
Mexican mint marigold (tarragon flavor, perennial) 5 plants
Basil (save seeds for next year) 3 plants, one from a cutting

Greens:
Lamb’s quarters (reseeds easily, save seeds for next year ) 1 plant
Sweet potato vine (perennial) 4 plants from cuttings
Egyptian spinach (save seeds for next year) ~7 plants
Cholesterol spinach (perennial) 1 plant from a cutting
Bottle gourd, Lau (save seeds for next year) 6 seeds

Other:
Cherry tomato (can reseed, or save seeds) 2 plants
Cucumber 8 seeds

Other great summer plants: okra, Thai eggplant, long beans, mint, oregano, ….



How to take care of your Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida).
Loves the Houston summer heat! This plant is a herb that tastes like tarragon (anise flavor). The leaves (and flowers) are edible. The leaves are the part that is used as a herb. Delicious fresh, they also keep their flavor well when dried. The plant is a perennial; it may die to the ground in the winter, but comes back in the spring. It will get bigger every year, eventually about 2x2x3feet. It gets yellow flowers in late summer. Cut branches half way down to harvest when needed and to help promote new growth. Great fresh or cooked with meat, vegetables, eggs, and for tea!

How to take care of your Egyptian spinach (Corchorus olitorius ) and lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album, C. gigantium, C. berlandieri).

Both love the Houston summer heat! Both are annuals.

For lamb’s quarters plant seeds in the spring. Source: Wild or ‘Seeds of Change’. This plant grows into a bush ~3x5 feet tall. Lamb’s quarters makes very small seeds from tiny nondescript flowers and can be saved. If you watch the ground around the plant throughout the year, you will likely see new plants from seeds that have fallen and reseeded on their own! More nutritious than spinach and contains all essential amino acids!

For Egyptian spinach plant the seeds in the spring and early summer. Source : Kitazawa Seed Co. The plant will grow 3x5 feet tall. Two plants are more than enough for one family. In the fall the Egyptian spinach will make seed pods that look a little like tiny okra. When they are mostly dry you can harvest them and save the seeds for next year. High in beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and vitamins C and E.

For both, you harvest the greens by pinching of ~2inches of the growing tips (where they break off easily). The more you harvest, the more the plants will bush and the more food you will get. You can use the stem and leaves of the tips you harvest for stir frying or in soups.

How to take care of your sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ).
Loves the Houston summer heat! Perennial. Grows best in some shade. Take some cutting and root in water inside if it looks like a freeze in the winter. This plant grows into a bush ~3x5 feet tall. You harvest the greens by pinching of ~2inches of the growing tips (where they break off easily) or longer vines and just use the leaves. The more you harvest, the more the plant will bush and the more food you will get. You can use the stem and leaves of the tip, and all the leaves from the vines you harvest for stir frying or in soups. High in vitamins A, C, and calcium.

How to take care of your cholesterol spinach (Gynura nepalensis).
Loves the Houston summer heat! Perennial. Grows best in some shade. Take some cutting and root in water inside if it looks like a freeze in the winter. This plant grows into a bush ~3x3 feet wide. You harvest the greens by pinching of ~2- 4 inches of the growing tips (where they break off easily). The more you harvest, the more the plant will bush and the more food you will get. You can use the stem and leaves that you break off for stir frying or in salads. Studies in rats indicate it can help reduce cholesterol levels.

How to take care of your Lau, Bottle Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria ).
Loves the Houston summer heat! Sun, afternoon shade ok. Annual. It is grown for its edible young gourds, eaten as a vegetable, and for its tender green leaves and stems that can be sautéed. For greens harvest ~2-3 feet of the growing vine ends. Use ~the first 4-6 inches of stem, leaves and tendrils and the remaining leaves to sauté/stir fry. For some of the older, larger leaves you may want to turn the leaf over and pull off any tough vein fibers. Starting where the stem meets the leaf, pinch the outer surface of the stem between your thumb nail and a finger nail and pull outward toward the tip of the leaf. This is one of the most delicious summer greens! If you let one of the gourds ripen and dry completely you will have seed for next year!
Source : Kitazawa Seed Co. ‘Early green-skinned’, ‘Long opo’

Some Recipes.

Basic sautéed greens: Mince ginger or garlic. Sautee briefly in olive oil, medium high heat. Add greens and salt. Stir fry until done to taste. Sprinkle with a little water if needed to keep from drying out while cooking. These greens are delicious on their own or mixed with any other greens.
Serve with brown rice and raw nuts (or an egg) for a nutritious and delicious quick meal.

Sautéed lambs quarters greens : Sautee onions (and a little paprika) till soft. Add rinsed growing tips (they may still feel ‘dusty’). Stir and cook till tender, sprinkling w/ water to keep tender.

Lau and Shrimp curry: Peel and cube ~5-6 cups of young gourd. Sautee ~ 1cup chopped onion in olive oil and one or two small hot green chilies. When onion starts to soften add 1-2 tsp of curry powder and a pinch of turmeric. Stir and cook a few minutes. Add ~1lb of peeled shrimp each cut in several pieces, cook and stir a few minutes. Add gourd and a little water. Cover and cook until gourd is cooked (~20 min). When done there should be some liquid for sauce. Adjust salt and curry powder to taste. Turn off heat and add chopped cilantro. Stir and let sit covered a few minutes. Serve with brown rice.

Simple salad: Slice young cucumbers (leave skin on), salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with a little red wine vinegar (or other). Add a few cherry tomatoes. Enjoy! Shredded fresh mint, or other herbs, or an avocado are also good on this salad.

This is a picture one day after planting. One week later all plants are still alive and the cucumber and lau seeds have sprouted!



Last edited by dragonfly on Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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SpaceCityBuzz
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PostSubject: Re: Prototype for a Small, Low Cost, Quick Start, Home Food Garden   Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:28 pm

Those are great directions - very thorough.

I like the picture.

Who would have thought it could be so easy to get started! Shocked

Thank you very much. cheers
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PostSubject: Update on the prototype for a simple home garden project : 3wks out   Mon Aug 09, 2010 5:07 pm

We picked a difficult time to start a vegetable garden in Houston, the middle of the summer! We will eventually transition to fall veggies when the weather gets cooler.

Here are some pictures of the Manna House garden one day after planting and three weeks after planting.

Pictures (at the bottom of the page)

Week one: Very hot and dry, ~4 gallons of water every day
Week two: Rain, no additional water
Week three: Very hot and dry, ~8 gallons of water per week

Cucumber and Lau seeds sprouted the first week and are growing well.
Tomatoes and Lamb's Quarters plants have stalled, but still alive.
Other plants are thriving!
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PostSubject: Manna House garden update. Fall refurbishing!   Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:54 pm

Summer overview:

On the minus side: Plants really don't like being ripped up from one location and transplanted to another location in the middle of a Houston summer! affraid We lost one Mexican mint marigold and one of the tomato plants, and the lambs quarters remained small and stunted. The Lau (bottle gourd) seeds were planted in permanent shade and failed to thrive. The cucumbers made a good attempt but eventually got fried.

On the plus side: Mostly everything stayed alive with several gallons of water applied four times per week, easily and economically doable in a home setting. sunny We have harvested modest amounts of Egyptian spinach several times and will get seeds for next year. The remaining cherry tomato plant is recovering and already has a few ripe tomatoes. We have harvested some basil and Mexican mint marigold and the plants are doing well. The perennial sweet potato vine and cholesterol spinach are established.

An added plus is that the writeup for this garden has already inspired another individual to start a similar herb and vegetable garden, in a different location, for children in an after school program. I love you

Fall refurbishing: Last week we topped of the bed with two bags of mushroom compost, a bag of shredded native hardwood mulch, fixed the edges with more newspaper, and planted some fall vegetables and herbs (plants and seeds).

Plants: sage, thyme, broccoli
Seeds: green beans, cilantro, chard, green mustard, purple mustard, green zen

More varieties of vegetables, greens, and herbs will be added over the next month.

Best of all? I have made many wonderful new acquaintances and caring friends! cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Prototype for a Small, Low Cost, Quick Start, Home Food Garden   Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:37 pm

This garden is in mostly dappled shade for most of the day now in the fall winter season. We scattered seeds for a variety of greens that can be continuously harvested from the same plants all winter and into spring. We made the first harvest last week.

Ready to harvest now (see photo below) are: radish greens, green zen, purple and green mustards, purple kale, several types of leaf lettuce, and arugula.

Just getting started are chard, turnip greens, cilantro, chinese broccoli, chinese celery, and sugar snap peas.

Carried over from the summer:
Toward the back of the garden are the perennial sweet potato vines and cholesterol spinach plant that will be ready to produce all next summer. Other perennials are a hot pepper plant (yielding peppers now) also near the back, Mexican Mint Marigold (yellow flowers in the front), sage, and thyme. Italian and Thai basils are also still producing. Some green been plants can also be seen in the foreground. The dried branches are Egyptian spinach plants that have gone to seed.

Before the first fall harvest:


First fall harvest (my foot for sizing):



Right after the first harvest:
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