Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Monthly Archives: June 2012

Late June Harvest from Iowa Street

Our gardens have been productive, but this is our first official harvest post of the year!

Our first ripe tomato! From one of our Black Giant plants, it weighs almost a pound! So beautiful we had to take another photo…

We’ve been really enjoying these lemon cucumbers, they’re sweeter than the pickling variety we planted, and the skin is thinner. I almost just want to eat one like an apple.

Our garlic was ready to harvest, so we pulled all that was left.

More to come!

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Bloggin’ bout Mushroom Loggin’

It might be an understatement to say that we were inspired by the mushroom log workshop at Maya Creek. Since then, we’ve inoculated logs with over 2,500 mushroom spore plugs (from Fungi Perfecti)!

At the workshop we learned that white oak is the best wood for shiitake mushrooms. We weren’t necessarily planning on growing so many mushrooms,  but after Eric’s grandfather passed, we were told that a white oak tree in his yard needed to come down before they could sell the house. We think Eric’s grandfather- a very resourceful craftsman- would be happy to know that the tree is being used in his honor even after it was cut down.

Eric worked with the tree company that removed the white oak, and picked out the best wood for us to work with. Tree limbs have a greater ratio of sapwood to heartwood than the trunk, and mushrooms feed on sapwood, so we used mostly limbs with a diameter of 6 to 10 inches.

These are about half of the logs we inoculated last week, with shiitake plugs. They’ve since been leaned vertically around the side yard in areas with 90% shade.

The other half we inoculated with oyster mushroom spores, and stacked log-cabin-style in the shade.

Here are the logs we already had inoculated, including two logs we took home from Maya Creek and a dozen logs we helped inoculate with Backdoor Harvest about a month ago. Eric got the white oak limbs for free from a local tree trimmer.

If we’re lucky we’ll see some mushrooms before winter, or at least signs of mycellium, the vegetative part of the fungus, colonizing the logs. Once colonized, the logs should regularly “fruit” every 8 weeks for 5 + years!

Meanwhile, In Sunset Hills

We’ve been busy at our Iowa Street Garden lately, but we haven’t neglected our new plot out in Sunset Hills. The deer fence is still standing guard, and our 50 tomato plants and 10 pepper plants are catching up, since they were planted a little later than we would’ve liked.

We wanted to set up soaker hoses, but we found that the water seeped out more toward the beginning of the hose and never made it to the back of the garden. Instead, we’ve been watering by hand with a regular hose.

When watering, we try to water the ground around each tomato plant and avoid watering the foliage. Watering from above is not only wasteful, as much of the water evaporates, it can also spread disease and limit pollination by locking down the pollen. Deep watering directly to the roots promotes root growth. and mulching around each plant helps retain moisture.

With any luck, this will be our Year of the Tomato!

Iowa Street Garden Update

We’ve got a lot growing and thriving in our Iowa Street Garden, which makes all the grass-pulling and digging worth it. So much to fight for!

We’ve filled the potato tower up with topsoil, compost, and straw as the plants have grown. It’s about halfway full now!

The keyhole garden, re-planted with zucchini, acorn squash, canteloupe, and watermelon, along with sunchokes

For a while, we picked the tomato flowers off our young plants to encourage more growth before fruiting. Now that we’re letting the flowers develop and fruit, the tomatoes are exploding!

More tomatoes!

Red romaine we’d transplanted is filling in nicely

Jalapeno peppers

The chickpeas flowered and are sending out pods, with one bean in each. Unlike the black beans and bolita beans meant for drying that are edible as immature pods, the chickpea pods are just too tough to be eaten

Our onions are beginning to bulb. We’ve been clearing away some soil around the base of each onion to allow for bigger bulb growth

Borage flowers, beautiful and tasty!

Leek flower about to seed

Carrot flower about to seed

Iowa Street: An Epic Battle

We built our Iowa Street garden in a formerly-vacant lot in the city. To prevent erosion, the city seeds its vacant lots with some crazy, evil, invasive grass, which we’ve been battling since the beginning.

We’ve mulched around our raised beds to keep the grass down. Not only does the grass try to grow up in the beds, it also sends runners horizontally from the outside.

As you can see, the horizontal roots look like zosia on steroids. We’ve pulled out roots easily over a foot long.

The grass invaded our sweet potato bed before we had a chance to plant our sweet potato slips

Grass dug out, sweet potatoes planted!

We built our keyhole garden in the beginning of March and had planted some melon and squash seeds, but they couldn’t compete with the invading grass- despite the double layer of cardboard we had underneath.

With some help, we dug out all the grass so we could start over. The only remaining plants were Jerusalem artichokes. Today Eric transplanted squash and melon plants, which will hopefully be well established before the grass tries to return.

This grassy area was getting out of control, so we laid down a plastic tarp and burlap sacks, added a container garden with tomato and basil plants, and finished with wood chips.