The Cistern Garden

Remember the old grain bin we upcycled as an underground cistern? We haven’t done much with it yet but we do have plans to make it an attractive water feature in addition to storing 6000 gallons of barn roof runoff to use for the surrounding gardens. We made a little progress on it a couple of weekends ago – a welcome respite from our septic and electric woes of late.

January 2014

Cistern installation Jan 2014

Just before leveling and bed shaping work began

After leveling and beginning to build the beds up

We transplanted a few pear, plum, apple trees and raspberries in this area earlier this year (you can just make out the tree cages in the background) and have plans to add more. This is the same garden where we were going to plant the “asparagus guild”.  Originally I planned on planting it out between the fruit trees, but upon further consideration I realized the fruit trees would eventually shade the asparagus and artichokes too much so I decided to move it to another section of the garden. I think a lovely hedge of artichokes and asparagus underplanted with herbs, clover and strawberries will make a spectacular entrance into the Cistern Garden as the main entrance gate will be right where I stood to take this picture in front of the cistern.

As we have clay soils and have been running over them a bit with all of the construction, I want to build these beds up pretty high for the asparagus to ensure good drainage. I laid cardboard down first, then large flakes of straw – and a little dog.

Magpie is sporting a dayglow orange vest as it is hunting season and she can look very deer-like when she “sproings” around in the tall grasses or runs through the woods

Woodstove ash, ag lime and trace minerals (azomite and calphos) were then sprinkled on and M fired up the tractor to dump several inches of cow manure/doug fir compost on top of that.

I’m heading down to the farm this morning while we have two forecasted dry days to do a fall foliar spray on the fruit and nut trees and will also try to finish layering these beds while I’m there. I plan to add several inches of the chicken manure/bedding I’ve been dragging down to the farm every weekend, then top off the whole she-bang with several inches of topsoil we’ve stockpiled from the barn site leveling. This should breakdown rather nicely over the fall/winter and be ready for an early spring planting of the artichokes and asparagus I’ve been growing at home in pots.

In the meantime we hired a local fencing guy to enclose this roughly 20,000 sf area. This will allow us to get some things growing without worrying about the deer and I can also use part of this area for my plant nursery. Trying to grow hundreds and hundreds of trees, shrubs, vines, etc… for the farm on my deck at home is less than ideal.

M designed the [fingers-crossed] deer proof fence and we worked together on a gate design for the main entrance. (note – although M says “welded wire” – it will be woven wire which is much more durable). There will be another 5′ walk gate down on the northwestern corner near where the fruit trees are planted and an 8′ tractor gate on the eastern side.

We had to special order untreated cedar posts. It doesn’t seem fair to have to pay a whole lot more money to NOT have them chemically treated, but that seems to be the “organic way”.  We treated them ourselves with a natural preservative we made using boiled linseed oil, orange oil, beeswax, pure gum turpentine and borax. We slowly melted the wax into this mixture over our portable propane heater and then heavily coated each post.

In case you are thinking “hey – boiled linseed oil has toxic yick in it” – our research showed that the Crown brand doesn’t add the drying agent chemicals that all of the other companies add. It is just boiled linseed oil.


Recently treated cedar fence posts for the Cistern Garden drying on top of our “home milled” cedar posts destined for the Chicken Food Forest, which are lying on top of the Doug fir logs we will be using in the construction of our home

It’s nice to be working on something that doesn’t involve shovels and muddy trenches.


About La Femme Farmer

Starting up a small farm is the goal for the second half of my life. It's a late start I know, but better late than NEVER! Growing food, cooking and eating are my passions and now I get to do it full-time (and then some). and yes, that's a tomato from my garden!
This entry was posted in Compost, Crops, Gardening, Preparing the land. Bookmark the permalink.

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