Tips, Ideas, and Dreams

Tips, Ideas, and Dreams

Keyhole Garden

The mulching garden concept is one that is quite old but has risen in popularity in recent years. The simplest idea is that you place a basket in the middle of a round garden. The mulch basket is where you throw your vegetable refuse from your house hold cooking.  Weeds can also be thrown here.  The concept is that these things will decompose and the nutrients will be pulled into the soil surrounding the mulch basket.  The modified version of this has a “keyhole” or notch built into the side so you can easily reach the mulch pit in the middle.  This is the version that we built. 

You can even add a couple bricks to allow you access
the mulch area easier.
There are concepts that go into building one of these such as:  Using full logs in the bottom of the garden – preferably green logs. As they decompose they will provide increasing amounts of nutrients.  Also, adding iron pieces in the bottom will help maintain the correct iron nutrients as needed by some plants. These were used in the building of our garden as well.  We also implemented a covering over the garden using PVC pipes to attach a shade cloth to protect the plants during the highest heat of the summer.

One final note is that when you water the garden, be sure to over-water the mulch pit or keyhole area.  Doing this drives the nutrients out into the surrounding soil and keeps the decomposition process going so the bacteria can do their work.

Olive Tree near the keyhole garden
Strawberry plant in keyhole garden
This garden should last at least 7-10 years before needing to be rebuilt – we only used it lightly for 2 years. This depends on how much you utilize the space.   We had strawberries planted in it (we moved all but one) as well as other things like cucumbers and tomatoes.  However, it will need a screen or fence to keep out the armadillos as it seems they are agile enough to jump up into the garden.

Fenced Garden

We let the Soap berry tree grow for two reasons: It will
eventually shade the garden and it is good for natural
soap berry clothes detergent! Yes, look it up online!
The garden has sat fallow for over 2 years.  The site for the garden is located where the old mobile home used to sit.  It was completely clear of weeds at first and while that seemed a blessing, it ended up not having enough nutrients because nothing had grown there for over 10 years.  So we put a lot of work into it building up the garden with manure and other mulch.  We had several very successful gardens here even in the middle of the drought. Watermelons, cucumbers, and corn did the best with tomatoes and beans seemingly to struggle.

A few things to note about the garden:
- There is an old electrical pipe that sticks up in the garden.  It goes back to the well.  It could be cut off completely to get it out of the way of a roto-tiller. We left it because we had thought of possibility utilizing it to bring electrical to the garden from the power pole.  Maybe to a greenhouse?
- A faucet is located behind the garden. This was the old water line that went to the old house.  We only recently placed a faucet on this to allow it to be used with a garden hose. A stake should probably be put on it to keep from breaking the pipe off.  NOTE that this pipe undoubtedly goes under the garden. Do not recommend digging deep in the garden.
Plum tree along the back fence.
By the time these are ripe,
you could be in the house!
- There used to be peach trees behind the garden.  These trees died in the drought.  We tried to keep them watered but in the last year of the drought we had renters and the trees didn’t get watered enough.  The reason to mention this is that these spots were well fertilized and mulched. They would still be good places to plant fruit trees again – since it appears the drought is over.  There is one plum tree left near the neighbor’s fence all the way in the back that seems to still be doing really well - good enough to put on plums!

Mulch Bins

Behind the garden are two mulch bins.  The concept of an old world mulch bin is to place anything biodegradable into a boxed area where it can be turned once in a while to help it decompose. These bins were started with this in mind. While in recent years they were not used, the material in the bins should be entirely biodegradable.  They do need to be turned a few times and they should start decomposing again. We threw all kinds of biodegradable material into the bins - from cardboard to paper plates, to garden materials, to chicken manure from our chicken coop.  It is likely that much of the material has decomposed and is ready to be used on the garden.  The chicken manure aided in the decomposition process due to the intensity of chicken manure.

Keep in mind that you should not throw anything into these bins that will not decompose. Greasy items, plastics, and other similar items should not be placed into the mulch bins as they will not decompose or will cause the mixture to become unusable.

The horse shed, pond, and keeping animals

The old horse shed had to be torn down. However, this site is an excellent site to build another.  This was in our plan.  We had intended to clean the area completely and build a new horse barn in this spot.  It is a good area because the lower field is very good for horses.  To keep horses you will need to replace the electric fence that used to cross the fields below the rocky banks that start up to the house. 

While the upper rocky areas are not good for horses, they are fantastic for sheep, goats, and donkeys.  This is because of two major reasons:  1. Rocks are needed to trim these animal’s feet.  2. The pond is a significant source of water for much of any normal rain year.  In fact, there have been years when the pond never went dry, though during the drought it went dry every year during the summer.

The fence that crosses the property was placed so that animals can graze right up to the house at the front.  This allows you to interact with your animals without joining them in the field which can sometimes be messy.  We had donkey’s that would come and stand near the rock wall where we could hand feed them.

Water Reclamation

The water tank was put in so it could be used to water the garden instead of using well water (well water has high Ph in this part of Texas).  This of course could be used for all kinds of purposes.  We had the idea of using the overflow port on the tank to run off to a watering tank for animals just over the edge of the rock wall at the front of the house.  Any time the tank was too full the over flow would pour into the animal’s tank giving them fresh water.

One note, there used to be two reclamation tanks on the house.  One of the tanks developed a problem and had to be removed.  We left most of the piping intact so you could add the second tank again.  Or if you prefer, you could move the one tank to the other side.

We plan to add down spouts on the current configuration.
We also had a plan to run a pipe under the house to connect both tanks so they would auto level. We placed both tanks at approximately the same height for this purpose.  The idea was that a faucet would only need to be placed at one end of the house for watering, etc.  If a pump were connected for a pressure tank, the same would apply.  You will find a hole in the brickwork at the end of the house where the one tank was removed where we had started the process.

The deep water well

The well is running well. Haven't had too many issues with it over the years. Had Hamilton Well&Drilling come out to take a look at it at one point and they gave it a clean bill of health. We were told then that its depth is somewhere around 380 to 400 feet. When we moved to the property, someone had built a very poor shelter for the well. It pretty much fell apart so we completely removed it. Since there is a nice cement pad around the well we thought it would be nice to build a well house around it, but it is not necessary in Texas. We still covered all the pipes and have kept a tarp over it.

Big Dreams

As you scope out the property, you will notice that the wet weather creek was rerouted from its original stream bed across the property to the road – this was done long before we got here. This helps keep water in the field which would make it ideal for growing grasses, crops, or even having a very large garden.  However, a garden could be placed at the bottom of the hill below the house (the area you can see when you look out the living room windows).  This area is in the natural flow of the creek.  The current creek could be diverted on demand with irrigation techniques to flow water to the garden spot downstream through a pipe or just a ditch. Even without this, the area described above stays moist for longer than other areas due to the natural lay of the land.

There is a sizeable area for a garden in the spot mentioned above. Most of it is cleared as well.  A high fence would be needed as deer are prolific in this area and jump a 5ft fence easily.  This area would also be the logical choice for an orchard due to water being close to the surface.   In fact, during the spring it is often so wet that you can dig down with a shovel and find surface water.

Hope you enjoy this place as much as we did!


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