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jeffnewman's Blog

Eat Your Backyard #1 - Red Door Farm

  • September 15, 2009
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Hey Everyone,  Here's a few pictures and a short description of our first season at Red Door Farm in West End Pittsburgh, PA. 

We started with about 1/3 acre of grass.  There were a couple small spots with Invasive plants, and the soil wasn't in the best shape.  Overall, we're happy with the improvements to this property, and will continue to work on the biodiversity by adding more perennial edibles, medicinals and wildlife attractors.  Besides being a productive farm, we hope to create a nice place to relax for Nick, the owner of Red Door Farm.

Below are some images with descriptions of the project in only one growing season.

Red Door Farm - April 09

Here's the farm in April 09.  This was just after the ground thawed and we started digging the permanent beds.  The soil was about 45-50 degrees at this point.  We dug everything by hand with the help of a PGE potluck work party.  Thanks for everyone who helped, and the delicious lunch by Nick!

We stripped the sod in small chunks (about 6" x 6").  We piled them upside-down on the side of the garden for composting.  We brought in about  7 cu. yds. of soil from AgRecycle.  It was a 3/8" mix of 60% topsoil and 40%organic humus.  The soil has performed pretty well, but has some drainage problems.  Next time I think I'll try a 25% organic mix.  We plan to fix the drainage problem by mixing in some sand, rock dust, and compost tea soaks that will build biological activity.  Prepping the soil fully will take about 2 growing seasons.

We received a full chemical soil test from Timberleaf Soil Testing.  They are one of the few chemical labs that offer organic suggestions for your soil.  We were a little high in heavy metals, and low in organic content.  We plan to work on the soil structure with a combination of no-till mulching, cover-cropping, and compost tea applications.

 

This is a picture of the beds in June 09.  Our summer crops were planted late, but they are popping up pretty fast in this picture.  We planted in a hexagonal pattern with spacing according to Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. 

We had some weed problems with the imported soil.  We noticed purslane popping up in 2 beds.  We pulled it by hand and it was a nice addition to some summer salads.  There is also persistent Japanese knotweed with seems to have been seeding in the back of the yard for a number of years.  The disturbed soil made it easy for new plants to pop up.  We've been pulling the small ones (less than 12" tall) and eating them as a control technique.  The big one in the back (pictures coming soon) has been chopped every 2-3 weeks throughout the season.  We attempted to dig it up and realized that the rhizome (horizontally-growing root) is over 6" in diameter and over 15' long.

 

 

Heres a picture from July 09.  The garden is almost in full bloom.  We built trellises for the tomatoes (in the background) with wooden posts and steel cable.  The beans and cucumbers are trellised with a wooden frame and a twine net. 

The fence is made of wooden posts and plastic netting that's zip-tied to steel cable.  We've since learned that rabbits can chew through the fence, so we're switching to welded wire fence that's bent outwards to prevent animals from getting under it (hopefully post about that soon).  Thanks Gene at Neo Terra for the idea!

In the foreground, we planted a strong-scented annual flower mixture to improve aesthetics, and act as a deer deterrant.  We've noticed that they really love the raspberries in the front by the house.

 

 

created at: 2009-09-15

He'res a picture of the gate leading from the house into the garden.  There are some small rhubarb plants in pots.  You can see the matching back gate in the background ready to be hung on its hinges.

 

created at: 2009-09-15

We added a matching gate to the back for easier entrance to the road for bringing supplies in and out.  You can see our compost pile on the left.  We had a couple squash plants in the compost pile (they love nutrient rich mixtures).

 

We'll end it on a picture from the West End Overlook about 1/2 mile from the farm.

 

Thanks for reading, I'll post more updates soon on winter growing and the new fence design.

 

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Hey Nick, thanks for hosting the "Compost Happens" meetup at your Red Door Farm and for your excellent hospitality.  Keep up your excellent work on creating a sustainable, urban farm!

Nice job! Thanks for sharing your photo's

Hey! Would anyone from Red Door Farm be interested in doing a short interview for PASA's e-newsletter this month? Shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] if so! We'd love to hear from you!

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