Growing food in a mortar bucket filled with sheep wool and soil

Experiment developed due to the heat and drought of last summer

The fact that I constantly had to water the garden last summer gave me an idea for an experiment. Although it was already mid summer and for most things to late in the season to sow, I just wanted to try to see what it does.

I prepared 2 mortar buckets, starting with a layer of wool, soil and wool and soil and wool. I finished with just a bit of soil spread over the last layer of wool, so the wind won’t blow the wool and seed away. This was watered thoroughly. In this I sowed some green mustard, carrots, beets and some flowers.

The idea is that this does not need watering, because the wool can store a lot of water and gives it to the plants as they need it. There fore I will not water these buckets at all, but they only get some water when it rains. Of course I did not make a science of this experiment and I forgot to keep track of how long it went without rain, but some seed sprouted and some plants grew.

The first few weeks there was no rain, but we had damp nights which obviously brings moisture to the plants as well. By the time the plants became bigger the rainy time started, so I am not sure how much the wool brings over a longer dry period, but I am sure I will find that out next summer. What I did find is that the bit of soil I spread on top of the last layer of wool became a very hardy crust which is not ideal if you want to grow anything in there. I will loosen that up and maybe put a thicker layer of wool on top when the new season starts in spring.

I am also planning to experiment some more with wool and maybe mulch an entire raised bed with it. The birds will probably also love that.

Potatoes from the neglected hill beds

It is the second year of potato plants coming up without me planting them. Everything else I tried to grow here did not last.

In the spring I gave these hill beds a new layer of hay to keep the weed pressure down and hopefully the moisture in. Potato plants where sprouting everywhere again and I planted some squash as soon as it was warm enough. I also sowed some carrots and red beets. The squash was immediately eaten by snails and what I had sown never sprouted. I concentrated on my raised beds, so the hill beds where neglected mostly.

In the heat of summer we mainly watered the raised beds, only now and then the hill beds got a bit of water. We just did not have enough time to also water the hill beds. Then fall came and I asked my husband to mow around the hill beds, so harvesting would be easier.

I started with the hill bed that had the least plants, since I would be able to go trough that quick. Time is always short with 3 kids, garden and household. That will prove to be a mistake, but more to that later.

I scraped of the mulch material to the side and laid most of the potatoes free this way, so we collected what we found. After that we dough to find even more potatoes and destroy the mice holes. For the fact that there where so little potato plants here we found quite some potatoes. I got about 13 kg of potatoes out of this bed. There where some nice big once, but also lots of potatoes where also eaten a bit.

Many potatoes had also started to sprout again, some so early that they had already grown to plants again with very small new potatoes, others sprouted only shortly and where still usable.

A lot of potatoes have these small holes, as if worms have eaten trough them.

Also a snail laid eggs in a hollowed potato. I found a lot of eggs and a lot of small life in the hill bed.

I also found a lot of potatoes with these spots on them.

The second hill bed gave about 15 kg of potatoes, but I had sorted out the small potatoes right away. I pick up all of the potatoes, even the smallest once, since I do not want to have potatoes in these beds next year.

What I have noticed is that the soil in the hill beds is very dry, despite the fact that we had a lot of rain after the heat of summer. The soil does not take the moisture very well and because it is a hill the moisture just runs down. Also it looks like the straw becomes a little roof over the bed, so instead of keeping the moisture in the water is kept out. Therefore I am making these hill beds to no dig beds by using the mulch material as boarding material. I, or rather my son, eased out the soil to make a flat bed in stead of a hill. A thin layer of hay and the bed is prepared for next year.

The third bed had the most potato plants. Unfortunately I did not start with this bed and it had a good amount of frost before we came to harvesting. We ended up throwing a lot of potatoes away, because they had frozen and where no good anymore. This would have been the best bed and had the best and also bigger potatoes. After digging deeper we actually found a big bucket of usable potatoes. We generally do have enough potatoes this year, so it is not a problem. I just find it a shame to see so much food go to waste. Although it is not really waste, because these potatoes get composted of course. So these potatoes get recycled.

This last bed is also flattened out and got a layer of straw, since this is what I had to hand. These beds are ready for use in the spring.

Saving the last of my vegetables out of my garden and putting them to good use

In addition to harvesting and getting the harvest pressure canned, I also urgently needed to plant the garlic for next year

When we came back from our holiday we had snow and it was cold. I was worried that my red beets (which I did not manage to harvest all before we left) would freeze and I could not use them any more. Therefore the first thing I did was harvest all of the red beets and processed them with the pressure canner to shelf stable soup.

Next thing was to pull out all of the carrots, root celery, root parsley and leeks. Harvesting is fun, so I had 3 little helpers.

Besides using some of the vegetables fresh I also pressure canned vegetable soup (all vegetables from my owm garden). I filled up the glasses with beef broth, which I am cooking almost daily to use up the bones in my freezer.

I am going back and forth between cooking broth and using it to pressure can soup or goulash and pressure canning meat on its own.

Also the broth on its own gets canned for later usage in lasagne or some thing else. I hope to reduce what is in the freezer to what will fit into one freezer and I can turn one freezer of. My shelf is getting filled nicely by now.

Some where in between I managed to plant the garlic for next year’s harvest. Just on time before the big frost came and froze the soil. Only my flower bulbs are still in storage. Hopefully we will have a mild period before we leave, so I can also plant these and enjoy the flowers next spring when we get back from our journey.

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