I want to thank Arija, for her tips on dealing with the pumpkin patch, it sounds a lot like how I build my garden beds. I would love to have been able to construct the pumpkin patch like that, unfortunately it would cost $1,700.00 in alfalfa (lucerne) alone. The patch probably doesn't look all that big in the pictures but there are nine four foot wide strips of just the beds with three foot (or wider) grass walks in between. It is over 15o feet long.
Not to mention it would be a calling card for every deer in the county, I struggle with the four lurking around already. Which by the way if I feed them all year why can't I put one in my freezer any ol' time, like the sheep I raise? I feel it is a fair mother nature trade since the coyotes and bald eagle take out a couple of my lambs and poultry each year. But I digress.
The $1,700 just for mulch is not really cost effective right now, so I'll just keep hauling the free stuff that I can spare out to the patch and we'll see how that goes. I have in the past used any of our local grass hay (weed seeds and not greatly nutritious) Dirt has left over from the winter before he puts in the new.
But we are scrapping the bottom of the hay barn this year due to the unusually long snow season and chill so I'll be looking else where for my mulch this year. Dirt is rather cranky about buying so much hay right now, that to ask him to buy it for the garden, I'm thinking he'd... I don't know how he'd react, I just know I wouldn't want to experience it. I'm surprised that I wrestled this patch of pasture out of his livestocky hands.
The water in the pumpkin patch, Pumpkin Pond, complete with a pair of mallards, goes away in time to plant, so the level of the ground doesn't matter as long as Dirt tills it with the orange tractor before the rains set in in the fall. And we don't really have to haul that much water because the water is right there under the surface, just at first if we happen to hit a freakish dry spell. I have a tendency to freak out and probably water more than I need to but I probably need the prayer time anyway, God has a way of evening the score with me. If water was at a premium I would probably not water as much.
The left over grass hay that I put on, put at least three inches of mulch down around all the plants, and it sure did do a good job of holding water in. But three years in a row, that's a total of at least nine inches, where'd it all go? Not to mention the trailer loads of manure that have been hauled out there. Chips are such a nitrogen hog and cucurbits need all the nitrogen they can get their little roots on that I hate to use them to build the soil in this instance, the amount of chicken waste that I would need to put on, and those folks across the street would soon forget what the dead possums smelled like!
We have enjoyed the experiments we have run so far (that's what I like to call garden failures) and the sheep have appreciated all the pumpkins we have managed to grow that we couldn't eat. The second year I think we all turned orange.
Last year was our worst of the three years I've "experimented" even the late start first year was better than last year. But the girls and I took a once in a life time road trip (for us) at the worst possible time for a pumpkin grower, and I was horrifyingly sick just before going. The Romantic Influenza was one of my first posts last year. This year couldn't possibly be that bad!
I wish I could find the picture of Dirt's tractor's trailer heaped up with all kinds of pumpkins from our second year, it would be very inspiring to me this spring. I think I might toss around the idea of a green manure crop next winter but I'm thinking it might not work, because of the lateness of the pumpkin and squash crop.
Thanks to Arija though, her timing couldn't have been better, she reinforced much of what I said about building garden beds. Six inches of mulch material and alfalfa, lucerne, is the best mulch nutritionally. I use it as a fertilizer and soil amendment when I can slip it past the livestock man. In fact I was going to be sharing my slurry recipe in a couple of days. It uses alfalfa pellets, fish meal and Epsom salts. Alfalfa pellets are a little cheaper but still have great nutritional benefits for the garden.
Arija, and any Dear Readers from Australia, have a great day down under, hope your harvest season is going very well and sorry about your drought conditions, that has to be tough to deal with. Hey, is Bill Mollison's permaculture movement still going strong down there? Back in 1986.... Oh heck, that is another post for sure.
Good night everyone and God bless and keep you. Thanks for the present, you know who, and congratulations on the new job Miss Linda! And thank you, all you commenters and readers, I get so pleasantly embarrassed when I think someone bothers to read my silly stuff.