Gardening Diary 2015

2015 Season is here!  Yes!!! 

It is time!  I am so excited.  I am late ordering my strawberry plants, but they are on their way.  I ordered from StarkBros this year.  They had a nice strawberry collection. I am looking for a variety of strawberries throughout the season.  PLUS I want to put some in the greenhouse for year round production. 

The challenges this year are:

  1. Streamlining the care of the garden (always a theme with me).
  2. Maximize the amount of production I get with a minimal amount of water. 
  3. Explore more of the modified rain gutter gardening system.

Streamlining the care of the garden

The last two years I have worked with the Ruth Stout method of gardening.  I was intrigued by the quality of the soil she said she was getting.  A good friend of mine, Sunni Bradshaw, warned me of the seeds in the hay.  She had tried and the weeds were to prolific for her. 

So I tried.  (Imagine that)

I LOVE the way the soil looks and feels.  I missed plowing the garden and working the soil.  So this year I did work the soil and get the quack grass runners out.  My plants that were in rows worked like a dream.  The soil was moist in the middle of July and August.  Hot dry months in Montana!  But in my beet bed life was not so good.  I had placed the hay on the bed thinly to allow the seeds to come through, but they did not.


We are incredibly low in nitrogen in this part of the world.  All of the fields around us add nitrogen.  I will be adding more nitrogen to the garden this year.  Yes, I plant nitrogen fixers, but it does not seem to be enough. I will rotate my crops more and do some research.  Life - an ever learning experience!


We did not receive much snow this year.  And every year we get less and less.  Plus we are at the end of the irrigation ditch.  So if there is any conflict upstream, or a blockages in a gate, or someone changes a header gate, or.... we do not have water. 

We do have our well, but I would rather not pay for the water twice.  We already pay for irrigation.  So... what can I do to make sure the plants have water all the time.  This also helps if we want to go on a vacation or just be away for a week.  The goal here is to plan for success!


Bark - Mission Valley Power shares the trimming they chip from under the power lines.  This is not always the best mulch, but it is free. 

Hay - We have a huge round bale that is about 5 years old now.  Our son has taken part of the bale this year for his worms.  So we will need to set a bale aside this year when we hay.  I should have enough for 2 years, so our new bale will have time to render. 

These are the materials I use to help keep water around the base of all my trees and shrubs.  I put bark down on the paths in the garden.  I use bark around the trees, and hay on the garden beds themselves.


In addition to the mulch I am working on creating a modified rain gutter gardening system.  The goal here is to have the greenhouse setup so we can go for months without having to go in the greenhouse in the winter and weeks in the summer.  I loathe opening up the greenhouse when it is so cold outside.  And it would be nice to go camping in the summer.  Being tied to the land is not my idea of freedom.  Enjoying the land, growing plants and enjoying traveling is a much better idea. 

No Water 

No rain for months and months.  The irrigation was shut off several times throughout the summer, and finally totally stopped because there was no water.  It has been a rough year for our garden. I finally gave up with the regular garden. The greenhouse was a different story.  I do not believe it has ever produced so well!  

The joy of the rain gutter gardening system was the ability to offer the plants the water they needed without waste.  We did not have much water and it was important to make it last as long as possible.  We added the 3" Rain Gutter Gardening   

This was the first year to explore growing the greenhouse garden wall.  My husband suggested the sheving on the back wall.  I started with great excitemet and was thrilled to watch the plants grow.  Then once by one they would just drooped and died.  I was so sad!  

As the summer went on I learned so much!  
What started like this:

The shelving went up easily.  I love starting plants in rain gutters.  The plants needed to be watered every other day and in the spring I am so hungry for green it is a joy to water.  Watching plants grow, the smell of the soil.  

June 2015 it looked like this:

We added the 3" rain gutter to help the plants but we had not automated the watering yet.  I would fill the rain gutters by hand while I explored different ways to automate watering. The plants were growing and looking great!  Then one by one the peppers wilted and died.  My dream of a garden wall full of plants was disapating before my eyes.  It took awhile to figure out, but the plants were getting to much water!  Plus the roots were having problems because the roots were exposed to the sun.  It became aparent that I needed to paint the juice bottles.  The thought of adding color was exciting!  

The peppers I transplanted to 2 gallon rain gutter gardening buckets.  

October 2015 it looked like this: