From Yacon to Pumpkin
The Yacon has been harvested and processed into Yacon Syrup. Now the bed needs to be re-established , but to grow what? Yacon is a root crop so ideally growing something that is not a root vegetable is preferred. Well, the choice is pumpkins because it is also time to start a new patch for them. With our climate pumpkins will just keep growing all year around only slowing down for winter then cranking up again as soon as the days start getting a bit longer and warmer (like now already). What tends to happen then is that several years will go by and you haven’t moved them to a new spot. Now I need the area where the old patch is to plant out some more cassava, so there is more need than motivation getting me started on the new pumpkin patch.
The beds where the Yacon was planted was a new area of the garden that hadn’t grown anything before. The volunteers actually set this up when I was away in Vanuatu last year, and if I remember rightly they sheet mulched as well as putting on compost, but I don’t think that there was any digging done. When I harvested the Yacon I needed to dig around a bit to get the tubers and while doing so I noticed that the topsoil wasn’t very deep before it got quite clayey. Now the topsoil is pretty good and this is something that I have noticed with Yacon is that I feel it is a good soil improver. So the next bed for the Yacon will be a totally new one again (I will start this in the next few weeks as the rhizomes are ready to go in).
So to prepare the bed for the pumpkins I thought I would help it along by getting the soil loosened up and fed. I gave it a real good work over with the garden fork and for my troubles I got a good workout removing close to two wheelbarrows full of stones! Then I formed up to two long beds (7.5m long) with a narrow path down the middle. Now you may be wondering why I am doing narrow beds and not just a large patch as the vines will just go everywhere like they do. Well, I am going to make a trellis for the vines to climb onto and this may give more production and also make them easier to harvest. The pumpkins that grew in the chicken cell system have been the most productive by far and they mostly produced on the fences, hence the idea of making the trellis system.
I then added 6 barrows of compost to the beds. This compost came from our compost pile that is built from the material that comes out of the chicken cages and also the goat pen. The pens and cages had sawdust added to the floor after the last cleanout and the manure then accumulates onto the sawdust. When we think it is getting a good amount of manure to sawdust ratio we shovel it out and put it on the pile to compost down. I then forked this compost through the soil. Then I added on another 4 wheelbarrow loads of the same compost and then 4 wheelbarrow loads of the deep litter compost from the chook yard. This I then leveled on the the top of the bed to give the earthworms something to do by getting them to work it down into the soil. All this process gave a very nice loose soil that is about 250-300 mm deep. I think the pumpkin vine roots will have a great time getting down into that!
Time to add the mulch, and because this staple carbohydrate area can be less needy for our imputs we can go more coarse with the mulch. This is a great opportunity to use the rough grass cuttings that I have stockpiled for such a moment. I added 8 big wheelbarrow loads onto the beds. That will help to keep the weeds from germinating and will also keep the moisture in. I then added sawdust to the paths which will also do the same, looks good too.
Now to find some seeds and get them started and start building the trellis (maybe next week). Tom
©2016 Tom Kendall; permeco.org, incorporating Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast, simplicity, permaculture, self reliance and homesteading, soil building for pumpkin growing.