Long-time readers of the LTI blog will remember that I used to track my gardening hours under the rubric of doing an hour a day through the growing season. My last post under this title was in late 2019, and I shelved this idea while we ran the Foodmageddon simulation in 2020–21 and then did not have the bandwidth in 2021 with the arrival of our second child. This idea sprang out of the constant question I would get when someone would see our growing operation: “Wow, how much time do you spend out here every day?” This was usually said before the weeds took over. By the late season, the question would become more skeptical. This may be slight exaggeration for comedic effect, but the question is a constant one.
My goal is to show how much food one can grow spending just an hour a day (on average) in the garden. Each Monday — I hope — I’ll share what happened in our garden the week before with a running total of hours worked. If I can, I’ll update this most days on our Instagram page, which you can find here (or search for @lowtechinstitute).
Volunteers and Support
We’re always looking for volunteers. If you want to spend a few hours in a garden (and take home something yummy for your trouble), reach out to us at email@example.com. It can be regular or sporadic as you have time.
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My space in the greenhouse next door needed to be cleaned out. I cleared out the dead tomato, okra, sweet potato, and pepper plants. They’ll be composted. I dug out the old tomato soil and added it to the next bed. Then I carted in composted horse manure — wheelbarrowful after wheelbarrowful. About two yards filled the trench.
I moved the starts to the walipini. Although this is outside, the in-ground greenhouse keeps its heat better than a hoop house. Nevertheless, I was forced to fire up the masonry mass heater on a few nights where the temps dropped to the twenties. I watered them a bit, but with the cool, decidedly unsunny conditions, the starts didn’t need much watering.
Disassembling Compost Hoop House
We’re rebuilding our compost study boxes. My original “hot box” idea was great: a yard of compost with fresh oxygen pumped in, while the carbon dioxide, nitrogen, moisture, and heat move into the grow bed on top of the bed. The only problem is the grow box gets very heavy. In order to exchange the compost each month, I have to struggle to lift up the bed and prop it open. So I redesigned the concept with four piles on the ground, with the oxygen pumped up from below, a tarp over the piles, and a pipe to route the exhaust into grow beds on the ground nearby.
The boxes, then, become superfluous. I need to disassemble them to open up the hoop house, which I’ll be relocating and filling with sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Here’s the breakdown day by day. This will be updated as we go and will provide real-time data. This week, with the rain, snow, and temps, I only worked 2:30, bringing my total to just 21 minutes a day.