Farm Trials - Permaculture Garden - part 2
By Chris O’Neill
Corks Restaurant & Russian River Vineyards
Continuing the quest for a sustainable and healthy garden I have been busy planting. Completing the raised bed described last month and orienting it so that one side gets full sun and the other partial shade. The shade side is now seeded with various greens as, according to igrowsonoma.org, this is the time to plant. Potatoes are also in and with straw mulch this could not be easier, merely set the seed potatoes in a shallow trench and cover with straw. As I learned last year, harvesting is a snap with little or no digging.
My thoughts are turning to tomatoes. This is one of the vegetables (or fruits) that generally require indoor starts in order to have a good yield. By the way, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in 1893 that the tomato is a vegetable. As I do not have a greenhouse, having to buy plants started by others is something I am trying to avoid. So off to the internet I went.
After reading what some of the permaculture related sites had to say about tomatoes, I have decided not going to stake or cage my tomatoes but rather let them grow naturally along the ground. I understand the vines will root where they come in contact with soil and this may help the plant be more productive. The straw should help against rot as the tomatoes will not be sitting on the soil.
Also, in an attempt to direct seed some tomatoes, I have built a cold frame using straw bale walls and a top consisting of 2 old sliding glass doors. I am hoping that the bales will retain heat from the day and keep the plants warm through the night. I have planted seeds of some early varieties, Glacier and Kosovo along with Yellow Pear and Brandywine. I will continue to try direct seeding throughout the spring, saving seeds from the most productive plants to use next year.
I have now found a new use for my old wine barrels besides planters. I’ve drilled some holes in them and now fill them with kitchen scraps and roll them around occasionally. I now have “aged-in-oak” compost. The March vintage is aging in French oak and progressing nicely, full bodied with a nose that has hints of garbage (go figure).
So far, no tilling, no pesticides, no herbicides and no commercial fertilizers.