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beech logs for growing shiitake mushrooms _ that yurt

Each year we put a little more work into the garden effort, getting excited when the signs of spring hit southern Vermont. Our first season was a bit rushed because we put up the yurt in May and then most of our free time was spent building necessary things like a bed frame, a kitchen, an outhouse (for example). The garden that year was basically just some upturned sod with a few bags of compost thrown in for good measure.

We didn’t have success with much other than tomatoes, some herbs, and tomatillos. We haven’t planted tomatillos since, but they keep coming back. Consider yourself warned.

The second year we built two raised beds and filled the truck bed (oh, I miss that rusty Tundra) with compost to mix into those and the existing in-ground beds. Again the tomatoes were prolific and we had some better success in the raised beds with carrots (if you like them a little nubby) and leafy greens (kale and spinach). Some luck too with beans.

Still no luck with hot peppers, though, which I desperately want. No luck either with any squash varieties, which I kind of want but won’t lose sleep over.

tomato starts inside that yurt

THIS YEAR, though. Each year I say we’ve got big plans, and they only sort of work out, but if the proportion of working out to the size of the original plans is fixed, then it does one well to dream as big as possible. So within reason I am harboring big dreams and nurturing big plans, some of which I presume will actually be realized.

To wit:

  • Many of our seeds are started. For the from-seed approach we’re sticking with what has worked the past two years, so we planted a bunch of basil (should get 18 plants to survive), cherry tomatoes (18 also), and sauce tomatoes (should get around 12). We like High Mowing Organic Seeds, which are based here in Vermont. They also sell on Amazon.
  • We’ve built five more raised beds. They’re not enormous but they’ll get the job done. Each bed is 5×3, built with 1x10s, which means each bed needs around 11 ¼ cubic feet of dirt, or roughly 40% of a cubic yard.
  • I ordered four yards of topsoil-compost mix to be delivered in a couple of weeks, once the ground is hopefully dry enough to be able to drive up the hill and to the garden(s). If you do the math, which I assume you won’t, four yards is more than double what we actually need to fill the five new raised beds. So either we’ll build a few more, or use the excess dirt to supplement existing in-ground beds with more fill.
  • I cut down a small beech tree (9-inch diameter) and bucked up four logs to use to grow shiitake mushrooms. I ordered the spawn plugs from North Spore Mushroom Co. over in Maine. They have indoor grow kits, too. Pretty cool. They also sell on Amazon.

beech logs for growing shiitake mushrooms _ that yurt

Once we have dirt, we’ll get other starts from the farm down the road a few miles (Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT) and also order some other plants we want to try. In addition to greens and lettuce and peppers, I’d like to try some other staples like garlic, and would like to do better with carrots. I also want to try some perennials like asparagus and jerusalem artichokes. Maybe give another go at blueberries, and maybe start a strawberry patch. I even just learned that you can grow ostrich ferns (with the edible fiddleheads). The sky is the limit, in addition to the pocketbook.

But while my approach to life is largely trial and error, for better or worse, I’m done being frustrated with things not growing. So this year—THIS YEAR—I got a soil test kit, to test pH and levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. We got this kit with 40 tests included (why not?), and I’ll do a post soon on what it’s like to use it.

Anyway, stay tuned for more spring updates to see which plans come true and which plans fall through.

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