August and September Progress on Our Urban Farm- K&M Blossom Farm
Since our last blog, so much has happened on our urban farm in Thailand. The time and energy required to transform lawn in garden beds and walkways, bamboo into fencing and edging was huge. We found ourselves up at sunrise and only stopping when the heat became unbearable. Here is a rundown of what happened in the past 2 months at K&M Blossom Farm.
Front and Side Garden Beds
We had to redesign the beds so that there was a single continuous bed form 23 meters running along the side of the drain. This part of the garden was very susceptible to weeds and long grass. This in turn attracted snakes from outside the property. The tilling of the soil all happened by hand and was heavy clay. We had to add a lot of organic material to loosen up the clay and river sand.
The result was a large mound running from one end to the other along the drain. At this time the wet season began. We had a few large downpours that hindered work but it eventually stopped. We finished the rest of the weeding for the entire area. We tilled each row and reshaped it. The pumpkin patch that was there was a complete failure.
We removed all the old agriplastic and mixed in the mulched rice stray into the rows. The beds were raked and reshaped. We tested the drip irrigation system to see if it was still functioning. Worked like a charm!
Next we built the bamboo trellis. Vertical poles went in 50cm deep with horizontal half pieces tied in to help keep it stable. We thatched the individual quarter pieces in for the full 20m length. This took at least 4 days to finish. A very tedious job.
Well the topsoil was half clay and half decent soil. About 2 cubic meters went to side garden and the rest went to the right courtyard gardens. In total it took us 8 hours to move it all out to the right spots. We added about 10 bags of manure and countless wheelbarrows of compost to soil and then tilled it by hand and mixed it all together. What remained was a fair bit of organic matter and broken up clay mixed into the top soil.
The drip irrigation lines were installed next allowing me to attach everything once the plastic went on. I tied each end to some bamboo pegs. The plastic went down and I cut out the holes.
I discovered once I did this, my mulberries had a huge growth spurt. They really took off. The problem was the weeds hogging the topsoil and smothering the plant roots. I decided to add some eggplants and tomatoes, 2 foot apart along the side. Once we cut off the weeds, the larger plants recovered.
We had two separate sides to a courtyard with a pond in the middle. The left had beehives and red and white mulberry trees. The right had a side garden and just grass. I was fed up with dead grass or grass that look uneven and messy. We both agreed to get rid of it. We plotted out three beds. Two square and a long rectangle one.
We chipped away at the grass for 3 days. Some came up like carpet, other parts was like smashing into cement. We got there eventually. Under the grass was a layer of sand and clay. The top soil we created contained no organic material at all. It explained the poor growth rate.
3 cubic meters of soil was added on top of the clay to create a raised bed. Sand, manure and compost was mixed into the soil to loosen it. It was mixed to consistency we both though was ok to grow carrots and beetroot.
The Courtyard Irrigation System
The aim of the system is to water the plants through automation while we are away from the urban farm. A mixture of 1/2 inch pipes and 2 inch pipes were cut, laid and connected together. This needed to be done before the gravel and the rain came. I used an angle grinder with a cement bit to cut the 2 inch pieces. Lucky for us it was down as there was mud everywhere. All the piping was installed and tested. I discovered a few cracks and will be addressed before mid October.
Once the beds were completed, the piping in we laid plastic down on the footpath and wheelbarrowed in 3 cubic meters of gravel. What a workout! Best way to get in shape and lose weight! There was still water sumping in some areas but since we don’t get that much rain, we didn’t worry about it. The agri-plastic went on and holes were made to fit in beetroot. Strips were cut out for the carrots. The strips were walk guides and stopped weeds from growing back.
We went and ordered 50 12m pieces of bamboo from a local supplier just outside of town. We had to get it cut into 3m pieces so we could fit it onto our ute. It worked out to be 200 pieces of bamboo for the property.
We installed the bamboo hedge fencing. Roughly 50cm high, we created it to stop our dog, Rocky, from walking all over the beds, going to the toilet or laying on our veggies. This involved using a 4mm drill bit and threading wire through both pieces of bamboo. I later used a 3/8 drill bit which was just as effective.
The courtyard gardens started to reach along the side of the house and under the arbor. The arbor was covered in bottle gourd and some aged long beans. Two beds were made on both sides of the footpath and a small fence to stop our dog from walking all over or sitting on the beds. We planted tomatoes along the side.
While building the beds we also had to fill 15 trays of seedlings. Some were very successful and others we lost whole trays. Wet season was tough on the seedlings and we lost a lot to rain and high humidity. Lessons learnt! We had rows of seedling trays (104 pot trays) lined up for garden beds. This needed to be done before the beds were finished so there was no delay in planting. Some plants like beetroot didn’t grow so well in seed trays but from seed in the ground.
The Rear of Our Property
The rear of our property was not as enjoyable to work on because we knew we needed to make more trellises. The aim was to get as much vertical growth as possible. This meant building a large frame and thatching it with rope for our butternut pumpkin.
Firstly, the bed (10m long) needed to be raised first and organic material added. Next the foundation holes for the bamboo poles needed to be dug out and placed in. A basic structure was built with horizontal pieces of bamboo to keep it in shape.
Using the 3/8 drill bit, we drilled holes into each pole 30cm apart (1 foot). Up the pole. Rope was threaded through and a rope trellis was made. I require roughly 120-130m of rope to finish that project. A second trellis was built nearby that also used roughly 60-70 meters of rope. It’s attached to the greenhouse with the aim of growing along the top and collecting the beans when they hang down.
A third trellis was made at the very back of the property against the fence. This was made from bamboo thatched together. The idea is to have the long beans grow up and hang down from the top making it easier to harvest. We planted eggplants beside the beans as they are good companion plants. The bean would give shade to the next garden bed containing capsicums. Well that’s the plan. Not sure how it will turn out.
That took over a week to complete, drilling thatching, splitting bamboo all takes time to prepare. The rope was 90 baht for 100m and worked out to be slightly more expensive than just using split bamboo.
Each bed had to be tilled, organic material added and recovered. Finally the straw needed to be placed on top of the dirt to prevent weeds and the soil drying up. All the seedlings went into the refilled bed and the drip was tested a second time.