Mountainside Gardening – 2016
Mountainside gardening has been a blessing, but also a huge challenge for us. When we first purchased the property two years ago we had continual issues in regards to why we couldn’t get a single to grow. The first summer was absolutely horrible and the ground was so rocky that we broke a pickaxe with the first hole we tried to dig, trees surrounded the entire property allowing for no sunlight, the underground springs saturate certain locations causing a muddy mess, our soil was not properly amended, there was no fencing to keep out our free range flock, the slugs…oh goodness, the slugs were everywhere! You name it, we suffered it and I am surprised we didn’t give up. Year two brought us a better year, but we continued to struggle in obtaining a successful garden. I have come to realize that we will continue to struggle, but along with those struggles we will have many successes – that’s what I keep telling myself!
We quickly discovered that with mountain living we are roughly 10 degrees cooler than town. The shade of the Fir, Cedar, Alder, and Pine trees, in addition to the slightly higher elevation, keep us cool. This is great for us and our livestock, but not so much the garden. Let me rephrase that, our spring and fall garden do extremely well, it’s our summer garden that tends to struggle. We dropped over 45 Alder trees the second year of living here allowing in some much needed sunlight, with the plan to drop an additional 25 Alders this year. We have come to learn that planting in containers is always going to happen, it allows us to move them if necessary (following the sunny location on the property). We make the most of what we can, and it’s often a hit or miss in regards to what is going to be successful each year.
Due to the heavy amount of rain we received during the early spring months, our 2016 spring garden was very delayed in being dropped. Oh, but wait! The complications didn’t stop with the weather. Our kale, chard, peas were devoured by our light weight hens who flew the coop looking to have a nice snack. I immediately replanted the bed only to have the goats escape to the garden and eat everything down to a numb….not once, but twice. You’d figure I’d have quite after that, but no. I went and purchased starts (to late for seeds) from our favorite nursery and planted a 4th time! It’s a slow start, but I think they will do great in a week or two.
The garlic bed, consisting of soft and hardneck, which we dropped in the fall and its doing quite well. How do I know? I may have moved some of the soil to take a peek! A large percent of the hardneck will be used to put up pickled garlic and the softneck will be braided and cured for use throughout the year.
Aside from planting a variety of russet and red potatoes in a raised bed,
we sowed fingerling potatoes in our potato towers. Sadly, the towers were planted quite late ~ I dropped the ball ~ but our fingers are crossed and hope that there is still enough time for them to mature.
The fight between the PNW slugs and the gardener is real. The moment you think you have the situation under control you see that they have chomping through many plants overnight. The nasty slugs devoured much of our young broccoli, pole beans, as well as many of our pickling cukes causing me to plant round two. Apparently, the darn things like the type of beer we drink and are partying it up while sampling the salad bar – deterring slugs with beer is out. The slugs need to go! We will be adding zinc tape to the beds, and trying to desperately kill the existing slugs which are currently living in them. There is one good, yes, one good thing, about having slugs around, our ducks love them and I am happy to harvest and provide an excellent source of protein for our little flock.
I’m kinda a fly by your pants gal, so my husband wasn’t surprised that I requested five new beds at the last minute. Three 3′ X 8′ beds were dedicated to yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers while the two 3′ X 3′ beds with trellises were dedicated to beets and peas. We placed the smaller beds on the north side of the property where they receive morning sun and plenty of shade during the afternoon to keep them cool.
The lettuce which is grown in our gutter garden is wrapping up its season, and it is one of the only things the chicken, goats, and slugs didn’t take out in various stages.
We companion planted the strawberries with the asparagus, and the bed itself is doing well. However, our strawberries are about three weeks behind the rest of the state due to our mountainside conditions. As everyone around us is enjoying their harvest, ours is just beginning to come into season!
Herbs and mint are grown throughout the garden and in flower beds around the property. We have already begun harvesting and drying them for use throughout the winter months.
Corn….growing corn could end up being much like growing melon, which by the way do not grow here. Well, this year we thought we’d give it a try (again), and since I ran out of space in our raised beds into 5 gallon buckets they went! With the corn being planted closely together there should not be a problem with self pollinate. We decided to go all out and try a mini version of the three sisters by adding pole beans and a spaghetti squash start to each bucket. Only time will tell how they do!
The blueberry and Raspberry Shortcake plants are doing well, but their fruit will never make it to to the house, the kids will be caught eating the berries directly from the bushes!
A large majority of our tomatoes are grown in buckets allowing us to continually move them with the sun. Normally we would grow tomatoes and peppers in our hoop house, but the cover died on us and we have yet to set up a new one.
With that being said, we took a risk this year and planted a few tomato and peppers in a raised bed. Due to the cost of tomato cages we used reclaimed material (T-posts and reinforcing mesh) to support the tomatoes.
We also partner with my mother-in-law who has a homestead on 1 acre ~ fruit trees, marionberries, grapes, raspberries, and a small garden. We partner together in sharing the bounty of the harvest allowing us to fully maximize the homesteading lifestyle!
This 2016 Summer garden tour makes me drool, and when I grow up I want my garden to be as lucrative as theirs!
Homestead Garden Tour
Joybilee Farm (British Columbia, Zone 3)
Homespun Seasonal Living (Montana, Zone 4b)
Homestead Honey (NE Missouri, Zone 5b)
Family Food Garden (British Columbia, Zone 5b)
Learning and Yearning (Pennsylvania, Zone 5b)
Reformation Acres (Ohio, Zone 5b)
Homestead Lady (SW Missouri, Zone 6)
Timber Creek Farm (Maryland, Zone 7b)
Grow Forage Cook Ferment (Oregon, Zone 8a)
Preparedness Mama (Texas, Zone 8b)
Schneiderpeeps (Texas, Zone 9a)
Some of my favorite gardening tools:
It sounds like it’s been a challenging season for you so far!
It took us sometime to learn how to grow food on a mountainside too. We’ve been here for 7 years and definitely had to build UP as the ground was super rocky but the hardest thing here has been the amazing biodiversity. It’s amazing to live in a place with so much happening but at the same time the amount of weeds and forest growing into our garden is full on warfare!
I hope the rest of 2016 goes amazing for you and you get lots of harvests
We live at the base of a mountain so our growing season is quite short as well and as a zone 2-3 depending on the plant we’ve got some harsh limitations, but we make it work. This year we’re trying peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, peas, onions, and cucumbers. And we’ve also got strawberries, raspberries and a haskap – new this year! Good luck and thanks for the tour!
Do you guys plant anything in late fall so they produce in spring? Were in MN and I’m thinking i need to get somethings going! our summer garden did got this year tho!
We plant a fall garden, but do not early plant for spring.
Awesome, it’s amazing how much you can produce in such a challenging environment, isn’t it?! You must have the magic touch though… Good luck with the garden this year!
I love that bamboo screen in your tater tower – I’m going to try that!
Tessa, it’s so much easier to work with than straw! One bit of advice, I removed some of the bamboo to give room for the sprouts to grow.