Our Gardening Experiments 2016

elm oyster mushroom straw brassica bed

We are quickly learning that farming (gardening, raising animals and other homesteading activities) goes hand in hand with experimenting.  In fact, just about every new thing we try is an experiment, big or small.  No matter how much research, reading or talking with others who have tried the same things you do, you can never truly know what the results of your own attempt will be.  Most of your conditions will almost always be different than those you’ve read about (soil makeup, weather, temperatures….the list goes on and on).  For example, Logan did hours of research on growing oyster mushrooms, from many people who had great success.  From reading, it seemed so easy!!  He’s inoculated numerous jars and containers, but thus far, despite the fact that it seems like it was a simple task for many others, we have yielded poor results.  That is the thing about experiments, you never know what the outcome will be!  But we will keep on experimenting with these guys until we get the outcome we want!

We have tried dozens of other experiments already in our first year of homesteading.  Hell, each seed we plant is its own little experiment!  This summer, however, there are two experiments that stand out as big ones: our deep mulching experiment and our elm oyster mushroom experiment.

We were recently made aware of the “No Work Garden Book” by Ruth Stout from the 1970s. While we have not actually read the book, we have done research on and listened to talks about her year-round mulch method, also known as “deep mulching.”  This consists of piling (and I mean PILING…like eight to ten inches deep) organic matter (usually hay or straw) on top of your garden.  This method is supposed to reduce weeding immensely (some with huge gardens have reported weeding only one hour per week!!) and also provide more organic material to rot on top of your garden.  Over time (a few years of fresh mulching) you should have rich dark soil to plant in from all of the rotted organic material.

hay deep mulching in garden 

You may be wondering how we can expect our little seedlings to grow through a foot of hay.  Well clearly this would never work!!  In order to plant, you simply spread apart your hay around each seedling so they can get all of the sunlight they need.  As the seedling grows taller, you can gather the hay back around the base of it.  We have hoed up about six rows in our garden, with lower pathways in between each row, and piled about eight inches of hay on them.  With our heightened rows and deep mulching working together, our garden should do a good job of maintaining and draining the right amounts of water/moisture as well.  In addition to hay or straw, you can also use flattened cardboard boxes (plain brown ones only) for weed protection as well.  We are also trying this method, underneath the hay in some spots.

hay and cardboard box deep mulching in garden

Onto our second experiment.  Logan found an article online that showed that growing elm oyster mushrooms in the same location as vegetables from the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) actually doubled the size of these veggies.  With this method, not only do you benefit from growing extra large vegetables, but you also get a crop of mushrooms!  How could we not try this?!  You can order elm oyster mushroom spawn online.  We ordered ours from here.  The spawn came delivered as bags of sawdust.  We inoculated three raised beds with the spawn.  This consisted of making three layers of hay and the saw dust spawn (aka a layer of hay, then a layer of saw dust, layer of hay, layer of saw dust, then one final layer of hay).

elm oyster mushroom straw beds

We then watered the bed really well to give the spawn lots of moisture.  Then, we spread the hay apart in individual spots just big enough to plant some cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and a few onions.  If all goes as planned, these veggies’ yield should be “doubled” and we should also get a good crop of mushrooms this summer!

Now the only thing left to do…………………is to wait.

elm oyster mushroom straw and brassica vegetable beds

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