Now we concentrate on replacing the north side of the garden. You can tell how bad the old fence was by how many posts are bracing it up. This length of fence is approximately 100 feet long.
The first thing we had to do was go ahead and lean the fence into the garden. We are needing room to clear and level-out the ground where we are going to put the new fenceline. Incidently, it amounts to about 5 feet further out and is a much straighter line.
Thank goodness for the Kubota tractor, with the disc implement Pete is able to till the soil and then smooth it out even where we want to put the new posts.
This picture was taken from inside the garden looking at the big old apple tree.
Doesn’t the new fenceline look good and straight? Yay! That should keep Bambi out of our garden for quite a few years.
This is the beginning of the new west fence line which is 53 ft in length stretching out from the south side of the garage.
Here is how the old fence and gate looked on the other side (northwestern) of the garage. We walked in here to pick blueberries or apples.
We took down all the wire and pulled the old fenceposts/braces down, then smoothed out the ups and downs in the dirt along the fenceline. So, now we don’t have gaps between the ground and the wire at the bottom of the fence to deal with.
One Kubota tractor with a phenomenal operator can move mountains and valleys. I will never doubt the power of a man and his Tonka toy! Prior to the tractor, we left all the hills and valleys just were they were. Unfortunately, we used to have to put old logs at the base of the fences to keep turkeys out. They would come in every gap where the ground was uneven. Leveling the ground before building the fence, could be thought of as an act of forethought and planning. Wow, that is scary isn’t it? Are we getting smarter in our old age?
This is the west corner going 50 ft. then turning a 45º angle for 40 feet to go around the apple tree. Covering approximately 70 feet before it makes the turn uphill into the northern side of the fence.
Can you identify this mystery fence tool and what it is used for?
I wonder what part this tool plays in the process of fence building?
Rolling-out 150 feet of wire fencing can be hard on your body. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s easy. First, my legs get tired from rolling out the wire. Then, biceps get a good workout from lifting it up so it is vertical with the posts. Honestly, how many times can you walk up and down a fenceline in a day before your legs wear out? I learned how to straighten the wire. It is required that you pull with all you got, then pull again. Following this, my hands, arms, shoulders, abs and legs are talking to me all night long.
Say hello to my little friend!
The Fence Tensioner
I think I am in love. It is an old tool from Pete’s secret stash in the garage. A basic block and tackle assembly with a cogged clamp on one end that grabs the wire, and a dual hook chain on the other side. Pete showed me how to slip the chain around one fencepost, then hook the clamp end to the top wire of the wire and pull the rope. Yahoo! Nail the top in, then repeat for the bottom. This tensioner takes a wobbly crooked fence to a straight line. Sweeeeet!
Now all that is left is to staple the wire three times per post. The south side of the garden is about 150 feet long, with 15 fenceposts.
You can see how the wire is drooping down on the top row of wire before we used the wire tensioner.
A garden’s need for potassium is not so simple to describe. It seems that clay soils “fix” or hold onto potassium, whereas, sandy soils tend to experience severe leaching of their potassium levels. So, the type of soil you have greatly affects the levels you may have. It is important for all kinds of reasons including larger fruit, strong stalks, disease resistance, less wilting and much more.
The potassium soil test is a little more complicated to run. It starts the same with some measured extracting solution in the test tube. Shaken not stirred, then soil settled. Use of an eyedropper to put liquid into a second test tube for the “before” color on the card. Next we count how many drops it takes of the other solution to match the “after” color on the chart. It says to add two drops at a time, then shake and see if it matches but we actually started with eight because our
Out of 10 areas of soil tested all had over 10 drops to even come close to match. For instance, 12 drops equals a “medium-high level” of potassium and we had two of those. 14 drops equals a “medium level” which we had 4 of. A couple 15 drop guys, which are “medium-low” potassium levels and a couple 188 drop results showing “low”.
Phosphorus encourages root development increasing crop yield and resistance to disease. It is important stuff.
This test begins the same as the others with a solution put in the test tube to mix a little of the soil in and shake. Then, after the soil is settled, the liquid is drawn up by eyedropper and put into another clean test tube.
A different chemical tablet is added and then, the test tube is shaken till the tablet dissolves, making a blue color appear.
We compare the resulting blue liquid to a chart to see what the result is. Results can be anywhere from trace to high levels of Phosphorus.
The nitrogen soil test reveals information about a most vital link in the world’s food supply. Nitrogen is an integral part of the photosynthesis process. It’s presence in proper levels promotes healthy green “above-ground” growth in plants. Testing for nitrogen helps to determine how much decomposed organic matter, or fertilizers need to be added.
Nitrogen is an element that needs to be replenished in our gardens as it is depleted when we harvest, or rain leaches levels down and when some of it is simply returned to the atmosphere.
Our test results on all ten soil samples showed trace or zero levels of nitrogen in our soil. Consequently, we had to lookup how much nitrogen is needed to be added to the garden for the different crops we have selected. We are glad that LaMotte test kits have little booklets on how to figure all of this stuff out.
Testing for the pH levels shows if the soil is more acid (sour) or alkaline (sweet). Testing involves measuring an amount of test solution into the test tube, then adding soil and shaking. Allow sediment to settle before comparing color to chart.
The correct pH level is the most essential building block for having good crop production. Where the soil is on the pH scale, greatly affects how the microbiology activity (fertilizers) can function. Therefore, we must initially have the pH level right before any thought of other nutrients is even beneficial.
This is the lowest neutral pH range test we had in this testing series at 6.0
This is one of the highest neutral pH ranges in our test batch. All ten test areas fell into the neutral pH range in our garden. It is probably because over the years, we have composted and put lime down as needed.
A pH test measures the acid and alkaline levels and then assigns a corresponding number somewhere between 3.0 to 11.0 as the results.
Neutral pH or Slightly Acidic pH
There are two basic plant groups. One prefers a “neutral range” of pH levels anywhere between 6.0 to 8.0. The other group prefers a “slightly acid soil” in the range between 5.0-6.0.
If soil test results reveal numbers out of these two acceptable ranges, then application of either limestone or alum will be needed to correct it. Remember, to get the pH range right before adding any fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash).
Testing our garden soil is very important to us. If you have never done this you may find it really interesting and helpful. We purchased a LaMotte Soil Testing Kit discovered on the Burpee.com seed website one afternoon. This is a good soil test set for us. It allows multiple tests and comes with absolutely everything you need to get started. Additionally, it includes “how-to” booklets explaining exactly how to perform soil tests correctly.
Garden Guide Manual
A Study of Soil Science
When our garden got bigger the “single-use” test kits were not very helpful. Because we needed to be able to test more than a single area. Using this kit is similar to doing an experiment in chemistry class. It is a lot of fun but requires careful observance of instructions to be safe. The chemicals in this kit are available for purchase to restock the kit after you use up what’s in the kit. Check out www.forestry-suppliers.com for more information on supplies.
Getting Soil Samples
After reading the instruction booklets, we labelled 10 zip lock baggies to put soil in. Then marked 10 popsicle sticks with the numbers from 1-10. Out to the garden, we collected 10 soil samples from different areas, leaving a popsicle stick marking where we took what samples.
Afterwards, laying out 10 paper towels (1-10) so the damp soil samples could dry out overnight.
Look at how much lighter the soil looked the next morning. Next, we smashed any lumps and clumps in the soil with a large glass, also removing any organic matter we noticed. The soil samples are ready to test, so we re-read all the information about how to do it before we began.
By the way, don’t underestimate the time required to do the test on the soil samples. We had anticipated spending about half a day running tests on the ten soil samples but, it actually took us all day long.
We shift into new fence routine, starting with ground work including tree and stump clearing. Then on to moving any other obstacles, like gargantuan boulders. The tractor easily flattens-out the grade once the obstacles are clear. This grade work was done by-hand using shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows prior to buying our brother and sister’s tractor. Whew! Those were not the good ole days.
Last week we completed the rock retaining wall located along the asparagus patch. This wall holds an entry corridor open on the lower level for secondary tractor access. About 4 feet of bank is there between the upper and lower portion of the garden.
Slowly But Surely
Yesterday, we completed the west side (5 fenceposts) located on the south side of the garage.
Today we started on the longest straight line of fence which is the south side of the garden. You can see the first group of posts in ground starting at the lowest elevation down by the garage. This length of fence is approximately 150 feet with a walk-in gate in the center and a duplex equipment gate up at the top for equipment. You may be able to notice the two tree stumps laying on the right side of the picture. These are from two dead trees that used to stand right where the new fence is going in.
We were picking up one pole at a time and taking them to the appropriate post hole to install. Lining-up the tractor and dropping the post into the hole. Then, adjusting to make sure it is straight, followed up with upside-down-shovel tamping. Then on to the next posthole using the post hole digger on the back of the tractor. Once the hole is ready we drive back over to the fencepost pile for a post, chain it up and come back to put the next posthole in.
This animation brought a smile to my face when I noticed how Pete was loading up fenceposts on the tractor. Pete says, “This way saved a lot of time transporting poles.” I tend to want to use machinery if at all possible, instead of my back. My back hurts just watching him pick up those heavy beasts. What do you think?
Our demo construction experience “kicks-in” for both of us as we prepare to build a new garden fence. With all the new posts painted and stacked to dry, the demolition of the old fence begins with Pete taking down all of the top rails on the existing fence. Demo of old fence hardware and posts, requires determination of what is in good enough for reuse and what is not. We sort and stack supplies, then burn debris in the fire. Then, we do it again. Next, we remove wire staples taking down and rolling-up wire for reuse.
The ground is graded after clearing the old fence away. This allowed easy and accurate measurement for South and Southwest corner posts locations. We stretch bale twine line to use as a guide to help make the fence straight. Consequentially, by the end of the day the first 5 fence posts are set on the southwest side of the garage.
Since this is not a one day affair, we must construct temporary fencing each evening as we work. Why? Because, Bambi is always a threat in our area. If you look at the middle of the dirt expanse in this picture you can see how we placed temporary fencing for this evening.
We have a total of 10 fruit trees in our orchard. It has taken years to get them all healthy and happy and they are beginning to bloom. It is so beautiful and fragrant. If we want any fruit this year we must not leave them out in the open for the deer to eat up. We hope that the weather doesn’t decide to freeze up and snow again before summer gets here. Just another thing that we are crossing our fingers for. Unfortunately, it is all over if those beautiful little flowers get frosted.