Archive | Gardening

Pallet Gardening – A Great and Versatile System

I will be adding my updates to the beginning of this post so those returning for a quick look at the weekly update pictures do not have to scroll to the bottom!  For those of you visiting for the first time, scroll down for the original post.

July 8th, 2013


It has been Monsoon Season in Vermont!  Inches of rain this week!  Need to trim the grass between the pallets!  Everything growing. Black Seeded Simpson lettuce needs to be used up and replaced. It is leggy and knocked down by heavy rains. I haven’t planted BSS lettuce for years and did so this year (along w/ other varieties) as the plants were available and we were behind after a cold & wet season. Two dark rows, bottom right pallet, didn’t germinate (old lettuce seed). Replanted this week with radishes in one and a mesclun mix in the other.  Dill, beans, Swiss chard coming along nicely.  Basil needs to be topped so it bushes out.


Tomatoes growing out of their cages!  repurposed old tent pieces to extend the cage and will tie w/ twine as needed.  Both tomato plants in the pallet garden are “Great Whites” a beautiful, large white beefsteak tomato with sweet flavor and lots of juice

July 1st, 2013


Up date pictures from Monday, July 1st. Lettuces and chard going great guns. Beans and dill up. Tomatoes growing well, though hard to see as foliage greenery melds. Two rows (front bottom right in 1st pic and top back left in 2nd pic) of salad greens did not germinate. Old seed so will replant when this rain stops.  Who would have thought Vermont would have a monsoon season!

June 19, 2013


Blessed are the geese who are protecting the poultry pens from raccoons at night!  NOT so blessed are the geese when they discovered the pallet garden!!! Fortunately they just pulled up a couple plants and dropped them. Replanted easily and then grabbed some stainless steal shelves to repurpose as a fence!

Pallet Garden Capture-1

Home Farmer magazine  picked up our blog and will be publishing a page in their next issue.  The Home Farmer Magazine (Facebook link)is the UKs fastest growing publication for the smallholder and garden farmer. It offers the widest choice of subjects written by key experts in their chosen fields. Edited and published by practicing garden farmers it is a polished and well designed magazine. The often specially commissioned contents are written with passion and integrity whilst retaining the intimate ‘over the garden fence’ feel which doesn’t preach – in fact we often take the mickey and dare to be different giving us a readership that is both loyal and passionate and a magazine that is lively, human and much loved.

The Original Post


Back in April I wrote an entry that included a segment on plans for  creating a pallet garden.  I am a strong believer in growing food NOT lawns.  Having seen the concept some where, I wanted to give it a try. I decided to install it in our front yard which is not that large. Large enough for a four pallet garden with some containers,  Public!  Visible!  Educational!  We have had three people stop, discuss and head off planning to try. We will never know how many just see it driving by and discuss else where and/or implement.

We are using it mainly for salad greens (close to the kitchen) but have also added some wax bush beans,  Swiss chard and dill.  Easy to do and so versatile!  One by the kitchen door or dozens in any artistic formation you chose.


We had the pallets already. They are readily available if you do not already have them.  With the space we had, we decided on a four pallet square.  The iron planter was intended for nasturtiums, edible flowers that are great on salads. I was so anxious for color that it was planted with pansies which are also edible!

You can see in this picture that we also dry our laundry in the front yard! Again, convenient and educational!  People need to see these activities if the wheels are to start turning.


Filling takes more dirt than you would think!  First we placed some sods we had removed from a front daylily garden upside down in the pallets.  Top soil was then added and this takes multiple applications. In between top soil additions we hosed it with a “jet” spray. This compacts the soil and distributes it. Remember you are also filling the space under the slats. We used top soil to fill the pallet up to the bottom of the slats.


Final filling was done with two applications of  a mixture of Quoddy Blend Lobster Compost & Penobscot Blend Compost & Peat from “Coast of Maine”. In between applications we used the “jet” spray to work the first application in and then just a regular “spray” for the final application.  Pallets are ready to plant!


Our cold and wet spring has delayed planting here in Vermont. We had plants started in the hoop house and purchased  some others from a small, local nursery that starts all their own plants!  NO big box, disease ridden plants for us.


Lettuces, basil, parsley and Swiss Chard

The rest of the spaces have been planted with seeds.  Bush wax beans, more lettuce and dill.  We will take pictures to record this garden’s development. Pictures will be added to this post weekly.


The five containers have been planted with pole beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. We are pleased with this system so far and look forward to our first season with a pallet garden.


Busy Spring At Fayrehale Farm !


The Forsythia Has Started to Open – 4/24/13

I just realized that nothing has been posted since 3/31/13 !  Over three weeks ago!  I was looking at site traffic.  2/3s of the visitors are new and they come to the site for some specific initial purpose. That leaves the other 1/3 of you who are return visitors!  Unless you have noticed some of the small updates on various pages you haven’t seen any activity since 3/13/13.

Nothing philosophical or earth shattering !  Just a little pictorial catch-up on our busy spring here at Fayrehale Farm.


Chantecler chicks are hatching weekly and heading to new homes around the country!


Geese are setting. American Buff on the left and an American Buff/Sepastopol cross on the right.  Not sure goslings will hatch as there was a hard freeze just before they settled on their nests.


Our self-service egg selling refrigerator is back up.  We have been very busy w/ egg sales. Interestingly enough many are just traveling through.  They often stop to chat.  Even had visitors from Germany pick up a couple dozen.

DSCN1013front yard pallet garden2front pallet garden

Making preparations for a 4 pallet garden in the front yard!  Food and Laundry Drying out front to set an example for all.  Diminish lawn and grow food!


Last  weekend we took an existing platform that had been intended for another small coop and turned it into a hoop pen. It is designed so that it can be one 4’x12′ pen OR a divider can be placed between the two closely spaced hoops in the center and it becomes 2, 4’x6′ pens.  The young Icelandic Chickens will grow here once it becomes warmer and they have grown and feathered out


Busy with seedlings.  Nature has not cooperated.  Cold and cloudy.  Some have had to be restarted. Soon we will start using a hoop house for the seedlings


So, as the Magnolia buds swell and start to show color, we are busy with Spring endeavors and hoping we are beyond the point of hard frosts!


EUREKA !!! It was a Success and Not a Failure !


Winter Harvest 2011

In 2011 we decided to attempt a winter greenhouse here in Vermont based on Eliot Coleman‘s book Winter Harvest and grow winter greens. We knew we were late getting the seeds planted and the hoop house finished but moved forward with our plans.

100_0148 (2)

Winter Hoop House before Greenhouse Plastic Installed

The two raised beds in this house were hooped w/ 10′ PVC pipe and then we planned a row cover inside this smaller hoop which we never got around to using.


Mustard Greens Started & Small Spinach Plants

As I said, we were late planting for this winter project. Mustard greens had the best start. Spinach really small and the other side, the other 4’x8′ bed, had two varieties of Kale that were at the stage of the mustard.  So we didn’t harvest the greens we had hoped for. The plants lived through our Vermont winter (remember no auxiliary heat source) and really took off in the Spring.  We knew we had planted late but still considered it a first try failure.

2012 was a complicated year and we were far enough behind that we decided not to do our second try.  We figured we’d give it a go this year, 2013.

WELL!  Today we attended the Spring Open House at High Mowing Organic Seeds  and Tom and I selected the:

  • Winter Greenhouse Tour with Katie Traub & Gwenael Engelskirchen –
    Learn about overwintering brassicas and other biennials for seed production. We’ll focus on timing of fall plantings, winter chores, special care for seed crops, pollination, when and how to harvest.


High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Tunnel House 3/16/13

Great information that showed us we had not failed!  Our winter house had acted properly. We do need to plant earlier (we knew that) if we want the luxury of harvesting some fresh greens during the winter months.

The information we harvested today also will have us start holding some plants over for seed.  Thinking we will start with Red Onions and Beets as we start learning to save seeds.


Onion ready to send up new growth and go to seed.


Beets already showing new growth and progressing towards going to seed.

So we returned home invigorated!  Knowing that we had not failed in 2o11 and looking forward to this coming winter when we will again have hardy greens and small numbers of beets and onions as we prepare to master some biennial seed saving!

High Mowing Organic Seeds has a large resource section on their website with valuable information.


VANDANA SHIVA: Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity and Sustainable Living

Vandana Shiva

“If you are doing the right thing for the earth, she’s giving you great company.”
Vandana Shiva

Normally this site is for me to show and share our own efforts and journey towards maximizing our self sustainability level.  Knowing we will not reach 100%, we strive to maximize!

Often it is beneficial to step outside our own society/country for honest assessments of the situation we find ourselves in as citizens of the Earth!

I am posting two videos here for your contemplation.  The first is 16:40 minutes and the second is 38:47 minutes.  WORTH every second!

VANDANA SHIVA: Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity and Sustainable Living


Dr. Vandana Shiva on Just Food

I invite you to watch these, contemplate their unsettling message and share!

I leave you with this quote :

“[How do I do it?] Well, it’s always a mystery, because you don’t know why you get depleted or recharged. But this much I know. I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential. And I’ve learned from the Bhagavad-Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world, and you shape your actions and take full responsibility for them, but then you have detachment. And that combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me to take on the next challenge, because I don’t cripple myself, I don’t tie myself in knots. I function like a free being. I think getting that freedom is a social duty because I think we owe it to each not to burden each other with prescription and demands. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.”  Vandana Shiva

added link  May 25, 2013:

Fighting the Corporate Hijacking of Seeds


Raised Garden Beds – Their evolution……

In late 2010 after I left Borders and moved to our home in Vermont full time, we decided to create raised beds.  We had an open and sunny space in the side yard.  I figured with my back, life would be easier if I did not have to bend and reach to the ground.  My back has been helped and I have been kept moving and living life with Bowen Therapy provided for nearly a decade now by my Bowen Therapist William Kelley

raised beds 1

Ironically it was less expensive to buy the 2″ planks at a big box lumber yard that from the local sawyer we checked with for green hemlock!  Much less expensive!  DO NOT use any pressure treated products!  We went looking for 12″ wide and settled for 10″ wide as that was what was available and we needed to get the project underway.

We constructed the “boxes” in the driveway. 4’x12’x 10″.  Nailed first and then screwed. Then we carried them out and positioned them.  This shows 7 of the 4’x12’s (the 8th is off to the right)  and  two 4’x4′. The aisles are 4′ wide.  Notice the Apple Arbor in the background.


Landscape fabric was laid in the aisles and tucked under the edge of the boxes.  You my want to skip this step.  We wanted the bottoms of the boxes uncovered so grass and roots would compost and worms could migrate up.

RaisedBed 3

We had top soil delivered and dumped in the driveway.  Tom, bless his heart, used a wheel barrow to fill the boxes.  I picked up composted cow manure from a local source and added that on top of the top soil  Boxes were covered with black plastic for the winter so they could “cook” and “work”.  Took the plastic off in the spring and found that a large rat snake had decided that curling up in the corner under the plastic was a nice way to warm itself:)


After we removed the black plastic winter covers we had a fresh snow. Poor Man’s Fertilizer ! Late snows are so called as they deliver nitrogen to the soil.


Snow has melted, rat snake has found a new home, apple arbor is budded, aisles have been covered with bark mulch and the beds have been turned by hand with a spade fork.


Planted and looking good.  It is amazing the difference the 10″ elevation makes!  Easy to bend, reach and work both sides.  We figure as I “mature” we can add 10″ levels and make 20″ tall and then when I am 90! 30″ tall.  When the sides decompose (7, 10?? year we will box around the outside with fresh planks and then the interior original frame continue to compost.


THEN!  we had the idea to make three “sets” into greenhouse hoop houses! We used PVC pipe and the same system on the side of the raised beds that we used when we constructed our much smaller Poultry Breeding Pens

Two 4’x12′ raised beds with a 4′ aisle means the hoops are 12’x12′


In the picture above you can see how we did the top of the arch. The Hoops are 18″ apart. Two 10′ pieces of 1″ PVC join at the PVC “T” connector. Pieces of PVC join the hoops and maintain the spacing along the top.


This shows how we framed the doors…  The uprights are connected to the outside hoops w/ electrical conduit clamps like were used at the bottom. Angled supports on either side and one back support on the side where the door hinges are.  We found screen doors on sale for $19  and picked up one for each of the three hoop houses. We could not build doors for that when you consider time and materials.  Doors were covered with 1″ chicken wire.  The back was framed similarly without the internal door support.


Because we planned to winter chickens in two of them we put 4′ tall  1″ chicken wire around the inside of the hoops and attached w/ plastic zip ties.


Composed cow manure placed over the beds.


A very generous layer of leaves on top of the cow manure.  Leaves are good for the garden as they are full of minerals and elements from deeper in the earth.  You can see here that we placed nest boxes in the back.


Greenhouse plastic applied.  Corners had not been finished when picture taken


The third hoop has two smaller hoops over the raised beds. Greenhouse plastic was then applied like the other two.  This is the hoop where we plan to master Four Season Gardening. We aren’t there yet but we will get there.  Spinach, kale, mustard and other hardy greens for fresh winter harvest.


Winter arrives,  The front hoop is where we are working to master winter greens. The back two house chickens seasonally.  We had one upright support in the center to start.  Then added two more so there there are three supports for winter to deal with wet snow loads with out me having to get up during a storm and clear the snow off!  Two come out in the spring. Only the center support stays and it is connected to the hoop w/ an electrical conduit clamp before the plastic cover was applied.

Chantecler Hoop

Our Chanteclers are using this hoop for the winter. You can see the three center supports. Middle one is permanent and the two on the ends are seasonal. All joined and stabilized by a 2×4 to serve as a roost in the two houses with chickens.

There you have it. They work well for us. You can modify, if you feel it necessary, and make work for you.


What is *Your* Favorite Winter Squash ?


We grow the traditional winter squashes —  acorn, butternut and buttercup, all of which we get from High Mowing Organic Seeds

This year we will add:


Galeux D’ Eysines

A beautiful heirloom squash. This flattened, round 10-15 lb fruit has a gorgeous salmon-peach colored skin that is covered with large warts! The sweet orange flesh is used in France for soups and also can be baked. A nice French heirloom.

Squash3Turks Cap or Turban

A beautiful squash striped in red, orange, green and white. A very old variety from France (pre-1820). Fine thick orange flesh; good sized fruit. Unique.

squash4jpgLong Island Cheese

A longtime favorite on Long Island very popular for pies. Flat, lightly ribbed fruit look like a wheel of cheese with buff colored skin. A very good keeper of excellent quality; 6-10 lbs. each; a beautiful heirloom variety.


Blue Hubbard

Huge, teardrop-shaped fruit weigh 15-40 lbs and have sweet, fine-grained, golden flesh. Great for baking, pies, and soup. The hard, blue-gray shell helps these keep for long periods in storage. Gregory Seed Company introduced this fine New England variety in 1909, and Mr. Gregory considered this his best introduction.

These four less traditional winter squashes will be in our 2013 garden and the seeds came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

SO!  What is *Your* Favorite Winter Squash?  Let us all know what you grow and how well it stores.  Our goal here is to reach the point where we grow all the squash we will need for a year…… and we like and use a lot of squash!


Thinking About Tomatoes!


Tomatoes rank at the very top of the list of what I enjoy most from the garden!  I can eat them like apples but la piece de resistance is tomato sandwiches so thick and juicy that I have to eat them over the kitchen sink or outdoors!  I could live on tomato sandwiches morning, noon and night for the entire tomato season!

Thus, I am thinking about tomatoes.  I spent last night perusing the Tomato Growers catalog AFTER checking out their GMO statement!  Inside cover: ” While we never sold very many treated seeds, we now only sell untreated seeds. In addition, all of our seeds are not genetically modified”

So here are the tomatoes I have marked to try!  One can never plant too many tomatoes!

Tomato Gregoris Altai

Gregori’s Altai

A Siberian variety that originated in the Altai Mountains on the Chinese border. Tall plants are heavy producers of 8 to 12 oz. pink-red beefsteak tomatoes. The flavor is sweet yet acid and just delicious, with harvests continuing over an incredibly long season. Indeterminate. 67 days.

Tomato Stupice


From Czechoslovakia, this is an extremely early cold-tolerant tomato that bears an abundance of 2 ounce flavorful and sweet tomatoes. This variety has become a garden favorite for its earliness, productivity, and truly wonderful taste. Indeterminate. 52 days.

Tomato Costoluto Genovese

Constoluto Genovese

Italian heirloom tomatoes. Large, deep-red, juicy tomatoes are deeply ribbed but fully flavored and absolutely delicious. This variety is hearty and does well in hot weather, but continues to produce even when the weather turns cool. Indeterminate. 78 days.

Tomato Russian Rose

Russian Rose

This Russian heirloom variety is aptly named as it bears fruit as pretty as a rose. The tomatoes are large rose-pink globes with excellent, sweet, full tomato flavor. The average size is usually about 12 ozs. with meaty flesh. Expect a good sized crop of these top-quality tomatoes. Indeterminate. 78 days.

Tomato Amish Paste

Amish Paste

Amish heirloom variety produces paste-type fruit with an oblong oxheart shape. 8 ounce tomatoes are solid with an outstandingly good, sweet flavor. Indeterminate. 85 days.

Tomato Anna Russian

Anna Russian

Heirloom seed handed down to an Oregon woman from several generations of her family, along with the story that it came from a Russian immigrant. Large, juicy pinkish-red heart-shaped tomatoes consistently weigh 1 lb. or just under. Flavor is superb. Small foliage and wispy vines are typical of oxheart-type tomatoes, but this one is distinctive for its size, earliness, and juicy outstanding taste. Indeterminate. 70 days.

Tomato Chapman


Beautiful, deep red fruit is quite large, weighing from 1 to 2 lbs. with dense, meaty flesh and extraordinary flavor. Instead of being a shy bearer like some large beefsteaks, the plants of Chapman are prolific, yielding plenty of these huge tomatoes. This wonderful heirloom variety will soon become a favorite among tomato gardeners. Indeterminate. 80 days.

Tomato Grandma Marys Paste

Grandma Mary’s Paste

This familiar heirloom variety has large, pointed red paste tomatoes that are meaty and flavorful, just right for cooking into sauce or chopping up for fresh use. Expect abundant harvests, as these plants are prolific. Indeterminate. 70 days.

Tomato Rosalita


This is the only pink grape tomato we know of that is really the size and shape of a red grape tomato. Long clusters of small, oval fruit are deep rosy pink and abundantly produced on tall, vigorous plants. These tomatoes are as sweet as rosé wine, and a delightful new choice for anyone who likes grape tomatoes. Indeterminate. 60 days.


Big Zebra

A tomato that is red and green-striped is so unusual that it’s safe to say that you’ve probably never seen anything like it before. Although deep red and green outside, its interior is green with pink extending up into the middle. The appearance is striking and different. Fruit is medium to large with a mild, sweet flavor. Indeterminate. 85 days.

Tomato Copia


These very beautiful tomatoes are a stunning combination of fine-lined golden yellow and red stripes. While visually exciting, the real treat comes when you cut them open. Their gold flesh is streaked with red and is very juicy, flavorful, and sweet. A stabilized cross between Green Zebra and Marvel Stripe, these tomatoes weigh about one pound each, They were named in honor of Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts, in Napa California. Indeterminate. 85 days.

Tomato Marvel Stripe

Marvel Stripe

This heirloom variety has become one of gardeners’ favorite bicolored tomatoes because of its beauty, size, and taste. Large yellow-orange fruits are streaked with ruby red and have a sweet, fruity taste that is absolutely delicious. Tomatoes weigh about 1 lb., although they often become 2 lbs. or even more. Large harvests on vigorous vines. Indeterminate. 85 days.

Tomato Cherokee Chocolate

A free package of Cherokee Chocolate comes with the order

A stabilized version of Cherokee Purple, this 10 to 16 oz. mahogany-colored variety has excellent flavor and beautiful large fruit. Very productive plants are vigorous and yield a large harvest of these chocolate-colored tomatoes with the ample size and wonderful flavor associated with Cherokee Purple. Indeterminate. 75 days

This should get me in enough tomato trouble for 2013.  Some interesting varieties that will be new to our garden.

I encourage, NO I BEG, you all to order seeds from a safe source!

If you do not start your own seeds, please find a small local source that does! Please stay away from big box stores!  They are responsible for bringing in the blight that has hounded us here in New England.

Are you thinking about Tomatoes?


Started the first of the tomatoes today, 3/13/13.  It will take them 7-10 days to germinate and then they can spend 3-4 weeks here in the house in a southern window before they move out to a hoop house.


Decided to use peat pellets this year for the tomatoes.  Easier to plant and water and means the next “transplant” is just moving to a larger pot w/o disturbing the root system. When they are potted up I will bury some of the stem.


Peat pellets have swollen to full size and “swallowed” the seeds. Interesting the different seed sizes and colors between varieties.


Two trays planted today. Potential of ten plants each of ten varieties.  We are trying new varieties this year as mentioned and described above.  They will live here in this chair where it is warm (wood stove heat) until they germinate.


Once the tomatoes have germinated they will be moved to this unit in a South window at the top of the front stairs.  The unit will hold 8 trays of seedlings.  There is another window at the bottom of the stairs and a unit to go there as well.  The only two Southern windows in the house!  Hopefully, someday, a greenhouse of the South side of the attached barn.  Until then we use what we have:)


Planning a Melon House this Season – Growing Melons in Vermont..

Time to tackle a new gardening endeavor. Planning to take one of the hoop houses and devote it to growing melons. Have never grown melons before and know that here in Vermont they will need extra heat and protection from Vermont weather.

Has anyone reading this entry successfully grown melons in a northern climate? I would appreciate hearing about your success or lack of success!

This year we are ordering from three organic seed companies.  The melon seeds are coming from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. We selected four varieties for our first attempt at melon production, all from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Charentais Melon

1) Charentais Melon: A famous French heirloom with a light grey-green skin. The bright orange flesh is super sweet and very fragrant, with melons weighing 2-3 lbs. 

Noir des Carmes

2) Noir de Carmes Melon: A beautiful and rare heirloom from France. The “Black Rock” melon preserved by the Carmelite monks. It was mentioned by Mawe & Abercrombie in 1787. Nearly black in color, the fruit turns orange as it ripens. They are deeply ribbed and have smooth skin. The flesh is orange in color, thick, flavorful and perfumed, with melons weighing 3-6lbs.

Petit Gris De Rennes Melon2

3) Petit Gris De Rennes Melon: A dense 2 lb. melon with orange flesh that is superbly sweet, flavorful and perfumed. This variety is early and well adapted to cool climates. This melon weighs around 2 lbs. and has a grey-green rind. This fine French variety is of the best quality and is the favorite melon of the French melon expert and author Bruno Defay. Rare in the USA.

Thai Golden Round Melon

4) Thai Golden Round Melon: This is a new offering in the States. The plants are extremely productive, The big 6-lb melons look like glowing orange pumpkins. The green flesh is sweet and melting, and has a very unique tropical taste, somewhat un-melonlike in flavor.

There are hundreds of melon offerings! It was hard to pick just four! I went with visual appeal, then description. If successful and we like them we will stick with this combination. Otherwise we will try others as we are determined to grow melons here in Vermont.

At the beginning I mentioned that we used three organic seed sources this year. The other two are High Mowing Seeds, not too far from us in Hardwick, Vermont, and Valentine & Sons Seed Company, LLC in neighboring New Hampshire.

Finding good organic seed sources is getting more and more difficult with Monsanto trying to take over the world with their GMOs. Later I will do an entry with a longer list of safe seed sources. For now, know you are good with these three.

2013 will see melons growing at Fayrehale, fertilized with composted Chantecler manure.

My mouth is watering already!!


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