Originally Posted on November 23, 2013
Greetings Farmers and Gardeners,
Welcome to the Valley Oak Tool Company gardening tips newsletter for late November.
The softneck garlic that we planted in the trial garden at Valley Oak HQ has finally sent up leaves. The hardneck came up much more quickly, so we were glad to see the beautiful green softneck garlic shoots coming through the thin layer of mulch. We've also planted our onion transplants, and you can read more about that process below.
In anticipation of our first real autumn rains, we determined it was time to plant our bare-root onion plants. The bed was prepared with the Broadfork to loosen the soil, and wheel hoe, with the cultivator attachment, to make a nice, open bed. Once it was raked smooth we used the Furrower attachment to make the furrows into which we placed the bare-root onion transplants, about 4 inches apart.
Once they were all lined up, we thought to try using the Hiller attachment to cover the onions. David used a light hand when maneuvering the hiller, so as not to cover them too deeply. He took two light passes on each row, and the onions were done! The hiller left a nice channel on each side of the rows of onions that we'll be able to use as irrigation channels.
We had a bit of room left in one row, so we planted a few more garlic cloves to finish off the row. Using the wheel hoe to make rows for planting saves so much time when compared to using other hand tools. Even in our small trial garden we can just zip through the soil and be done with our planting in just a short time. On a larger scale, this time savings makes such an important difference in ease of production and savings on labor costs.
Other Wheel Hoe Uses
In one of our other gardens the wheel hoe is being used quite frequently to move fallen leaves and small tree prunings. We use the three-tine cultivator attachment, and do not dig into the soil but simply push it along the surface, allowing the tines to collect leaves and sticks. We can move a surprising large amount of material in this way, and for some of our gardeners who have to be careful due to tender back issues, this tool makes such a job possible.
Now that the leaves are falling off of deciduous fruit trees, it is a good time to take a look at the structure of the trees and do a light pruning. At any time of the year we follow the three D's rule: Dead, Damaged, Diseased. Parts of the plant falling into any of those three categories can be removed. This time of year we might remove smaller branches off of our trees, and lightly thin them before their major pruning in January.
It is also a good time to check the base of citrus and pull off any suckers coming from the rootstock. If left to grow, these shoots will take energy away from the grafted part of the tree. When the shoots are small they easily break off with a twist of the hand. Sometimes these shoots are thorny, so gloves are recommended in that case.
Stocking Stuffers for Gardeners
We have a selection of smaller items that will appeal to many gardeners on your gift list.
The Sprinkler Spike is a sturdy tool that does not tip over or wiggle in wet soil. The steel spikes are designed for easy installation, and are designed to not bend or break with repeated use (as so many of the sprinkler spikes we've had in our gardens have done).
Speedy Sharp is a handy little tool that "peels the steel" with a carbide insert. It's perfect for sharpening Wheel Hoe blades as well as kitchen and pocket knives.
What We're Reading
The One Straw Revolution - An Introduction to Natural Farming by Masanobu Fukuoka
We first read The One Straw Revolution several years ago and recently re-read the book in anticipation of reading his later work: Sowing the Seeds in the Desert. The day Fukuoka noticed rice plants growing in ditches he questioned the labor intensive methods of farming he had been using. Thus was born a "do nothing" farming method that involved working with nature, rather than against it.
He used ducks for weeding and fertilizing his rice fields. Wheat was grown after the rice, and the straw was left to act as mulch and protection for the next sowing of rice. He shares his process and thoughtful observations. It is an inspiring book for those who are interested in being part of a more sustainable food production method, or those who just like to read about it.