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 News & Updates from HJO Director, MaryJane Butters
 Milk Cow Kitchen Book Updates and Revisions
 Page 268, Cow-trough Gardening

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
maryjane Posted - Aug 13 2018 : 10:44:38 AM
On page 268 in my book, Milk Cow Kitchen, I gave my plans for gardening in cow troughs, involving a water reservoir in the bottom on each trough along with a feeder tube for watering. Since I created my trough gardens close to a dozen years ago, I thought an update was in order so I shot some photos of the troughs in my hoop house yesterday.

After filling my troughs the first time using a soil mix I made myself (recipe in my book), I continued (for many years) to add nutrients using either kitchen compost or composted manure from my cows. That worked for the most part (eggs shells seemed to show up more and more), but this past spring after harvesting the six troughs I over-wintered garlic in, I grabbed some of the organic fertilizer I bought for areas in my garden I can't rototill and did some quick math and mixed 6 quarts in each trough (I used a 3-quart scoop). When I re-new a trough (every time after I harvest a crop), I stand right on top with a shovel and turn the soil, lifting out any root masses I come across. This time I also mixed in two scoops (6 quarts) granular fertilizer.

Let me just say, WOW! It can't be the numbers boasted on the front, 3-1-5; it has to be all the other great stuff they add (like worm castings) because this summer my produce is growing like a time-lapse photo. Last week, I planted more collard greens ...

... but I harvest and eat some every day that I planted this spring ...

... and I swear, after picking all the biggest leaves, I'm able to pick exactly that size and that amount again the next day.

After adding the fertilizer and working the soil, I added more soil to bring it back up to the top of the trough again.

For instance, these are single-plant marigolds (planted for aphid control), and they've exploded! They're the healthiest marigolds I've ever grown.

Sometimes, I get more aphids than I can keep up with so I order a package of these and they take care of them in short order:

My bell peppers were the only plants with aphids this year. In this photo you can see some of the ladybugs that are giving me a hand. (And a trough next to it I planted with more carrots that aren't up yet.)

My first crop of green beans is coming on (there'll be plenty for a couple batches of dilly beans).

And my second crop (just for eating) is well on its way.

Lots of basil going into our meals right now (today Stella is making her first batch of pesto).

And rosemary.

I harvested a trough of beets two weeks ago--excellent in salads with an herb soft cheese-- and here's another batch coming on.

For heat control, I have six screened side windows that stay open all summer.

In the end opposite the door, I have two window fans that are turned around (they suck the warm air out).

When I'm working in there during the day I turn on a fan by the front to blow air on me.

I keep a thermometer in one of the beds and on those super hot days with the door fan blowing on me to keep me cool, the temp was only 86 degrees.

When it's really hot (this past week, we had two days that were 104 degrees), I top-water generously because not all of my plants have their roots down into the zone that wicks water. I also keep the bottom water-reservoir in each trough full of water (fill them every day).
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maryjane Posted - Sep 08 2018 : 7:54:44 PM
Almost one month later, here's an update.

New spinach sprouting.

Chard is perfectly delectable.

Second wave of green beans coming on. (The first batch came and went and now the trough is growing the new spinach above.)

Basil. When Mia goes to the greenhouse, she plucks entire leaves of basil and pops them into her mouth.

This is one tomato plant sprawling everywhere. Not only that, but it's a volunteer I let grow in one of my collard greens troughs. It's a full-time job keeping it pruned back (not really, but you get the idea). It sure has given us plenty of heirloom black cherry 'maters so far with many more to come.

I have plantings of buttercrunch lettuce here and there (by far my favorite to grow).

And so far about a dozen good-sized bell peppers with another dozen coming on.

And from our outside garden, we've been harvesting a basket full of cucumbers like this one every seven days. Prolific!!!! I grow lemon cucumbers and diamant (neither of them ever bitter).

farmlife Posted - Aug 15 2018 : 06:37:45 AM
For sure, Janet. What a lovely way to garden without the hassle of weeds!
NellieBelle Posted - Aug 15 2018 : 04:37:56 AM
Love, love the greenhouse updates and information. Brings great joy to see such lovely produce and healthy plants. Just beautiful! I don't know what we would do without our cow trough greenhouse garden. It's constant work but well worth the results. And produce all winter through is a plus. All thanks to your plans and instructions on growing in cow troughs. It brings health and happiness from eating and working.
CloversMum Posted - Aug 14 2018 : 7:09:08 PM
Your troughs look amazing MaryJane! These are still on my dream/to do list. Although I’ve thought about putting half dozen outside and not in a greenhouse ... part of some landscape plans but still have the watering system in place. Thoughts?

Your greenhouse looks amazing! How many hours total is spent each day or week to maintain it? It looks so pristine. No weed anywhere. Just beautiful. I think I would move a comfortable chair in there and never leave.
txbikergirl Posted - Aug 14 2018 : 4:57:31 PM
it is looking mighty purdy maryjane! all around loveliness. we haven't had much gardening time this year, but we got in a few things including tomatoes so the girls at least have something to pick to add to dinner.