It happens every year in the spring time. HAILSTORMS!
This is why we always cover our plants with caterpillar or low tunnels. Not only do we get an occasional snow storm, we also get multiple hail storms.
Sometimes we ask ourselves why we even try to grow in this short season, high plains dessert where the conditions are so extreme. I guess we may like the challenge but more then likely it’s because it’s home.
In preparation, we always have extra row cover, extra seeds and seedling mix. Many times I also have extra transplants waiting for just such an occasion. Worst case scenario, we can replace single plants by purchasing from a nursery.
Luckily because our growing season is so short, the plants are not very big yet resulting in little to no damage at this time. We have only had one devastating hailstorm that really took out a couple years ago in August which was prime selling season. You should see the pictures. You can search hail on the blog page and see the horrific pictures. It’s why we have tunnels today.
See the most recent hailstorm on our YouTube Channel:
It gets expensive purchasing vegetable transplants from your local store. Especially when you are farming on a larger scale. In addition, there really isn’t a great assortment of vegetables when purchased in that form.
We grow Organic, mostly Heirloom vegetable varieties that you can only purchase by seed. Organic for the health value and Heirloom for the amazing flavor! So we grow our plants from seed indoors.
At first we bought plastic trays and plastic pots and found it to be too much plastic for our environmental view. It was also bulky and took a lot space. We had 4 shelves full of trays with heat pads, and lights overhead on each shelf.
We quickly found just reusing a few trays with small soil blocks and no plastic pots was a way to save money, time, electricity and it uses less seedling starting mix. It also results in less plastic in the landfill. We saved the pots we already purchased in case we have a streak of bad weather and have no choice but to repot the soil blocks into the bigger pots.
You can buy soil block makers in a variety of sizes. We bought the smallest one. The larger ones allow the smaller blocks to fit inside the new, larger block the next size up. So you could theoretically start with the smallest blocks then transplant them twice into larger blocks until you have quart size plant.
We only grow our starts for 3 weeks which seems to be exactly when the roots of the seedling fills the small block. We plant outside at that time. If the weather is bad, we transplant the seedlings to small pots, which we had to do this year with our basil.
Best of all we are able to plant almost twice as many seedlings in a tray. We get close to 80 plants out of one tray now.
See how we make our soil blocks on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
We are completely amazed! This is the spinach from last year growing. We originally had it under a tunnel along with lettuce which lasted almost into February due to a mild winter. After the lettuce finally gave in to a freeze we took the cover off and let the spinach do whatever it was going to do.
Surviving multiple snow storms this spinach is sweet with tender thick leaves. Unbelievable that we can possibly have a perennial spinach growing here! We are tempted to see if the same spinach will last another winter!
This year will be our 4th year to trying to keep bees. We had great success with our first hive, but after we pulled some honey the second year, those bees swarmed and moved to another location somewhere. We were never able to find them.
The next purchase of bees arrived the day before a surprise snow storm resulting in the bees dying from the cold. When new bees are received there are not enough of them to keep the hive warm. Heat comes from a high number of bees huddling together. The timing of the storm could not have been worse.
The most recent purchase of bees seemed to go well. They seemed happy and healthy with a quickly increased population and a lot of good honey comb. We supplemented their honey with sugar water over the winter along with bee keeper pollen patties that you can buy retail.
Just as spring was breaking we found the bees had died. We have no idea what happened. For all we know it was cold weather again, or it’s possible a neighbor in the vicinity could have sprayed a chemical? We are heart broken!
I can’t preach enough about the use of chemicals in yards. Insecticides and fertilizers can kill bees. Even ones touted as organic. Some of the mild organic mite and lice control powders that are used on chickens are deadly to honey bees. If you can do without, please do not use anything to control pests. Mother Nature usually fixes itself in the long run.
I’ll step off my soap box now.
We are getting new bees in June and are preparing. This time they will be at home INSIDE the garden in the corner. Since we have lost our fear of handling bees, we are not afraid to have them there. If anything it will be better for pollination. We will also be putting wind block around the corner the hives will be sitting in to hopefully make the space more hospitable.
Today we will be spreading seed recommended for pollinators, hopefully resulting in a nice bed of native and wild flowers. It will also be good for butterflies and hummingbird.
We finally got a break in the weather to start planting! Besides the wintered over spinach that is starting to grow again with the warmer nights, we finally put together our first tunnel. Lettuce is the first seeding so the tunnel will protect it from frost which we tend to get at this time of year. Our last frost has been known to be as late as Mother’s Day!
Since it worked out so well last year to grow lettuce through succession planting, by only planting only one section at a time, one week apart, we started the first section of our row with 4 internal rows of various lettuces. Every week we will seed another section and by the time we finish seeding the last section, the first section will be full size. This results in lettuces at different stages so customers can always get perfectly ripe lettuce instead of all old lettuce at the end of the season. We just pull out any bolting lettuce (old and going to seed), and replant with new seed. We managed to keep good lettuce into November!
First row in means the rest are not far behind! Wish us luck with the weather!
There is nothing worse then not having water. When you have a well you never know what kind of issues could come up that stops the water flowing to your house or garden.
Over winter the water cut off 3 times. The first time was 18 hours, second was only overnight and the last time we didn’t have it for 8 hours. The well company came out each time and couldn’t find the issue but got it working again. This time they pulled up more well parts to try and resolve the issue permanently. This time they found it. A 45 year old check valve was the culprit.
Luckily this happened before we started planting! There was a lot of digging that disrupted the garden, bringing up clay and sand, and covering some of the good soil we had been building. Disappointing but the area is one we were still working on soil improvement anyway.
The well problem also gave us a chance to add something that will be a game changer for us. A hydrant running directly from the well is now placed inside the garden. No more dragging hoses or watering odd spots by hand. We can also rinse the vegetables in the garden leaving the good soil the vegetables carry behind rather than dragging extra dirt to our processing area.
Bad news but good timing! We are very happy with the end result. Hopefully we won’t be showering when the water goes out again! Getting shampoo out of your hair without water is not fun!
You can see the digging disaster on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
It’s March 22, 2021 and we are still experiencing snow storm after snow storm so we have not started planting outside yet. Even the transplants inside seem to be growing slowly since the entire house is colder than usual. The good news is snow quickly melts in our area so hopefully it won’t take too long to warm up enough to at least get the first seed in the ground, even if we have to put a covered tunnel over the row to keep it warm during this weather volatile spring.
It’s the beginning of March and the garlic is already coming up, before the last frost. We try to cover them with hay to keep the ground from warming up causing the greens to pop up, but with the winds we get here it never stays on for long. Then when a snow storm comes, it freezes the greens.
The good news is garlic is resilient when it comes to re-growing the green tops. We’ve had good consistent garlic growth for 3 years in a row regardless of how many times the tops freeze.
While reviewing the rows I noticed other greens that looked to be onions. Sometimes we come across a surprise veggie that was still growing all the way through the winter! In this case the onions didn’t look like much but after peeling off the outer layers we had a couple decent onions to eat a year after we originally planted them!
It’s the beginning of March which means it’s time to start planting! Whether we are seeding transplants inside or seeding cool weather crops outside it takes a lot of planning and coordination to get it right. Without taking the time to decide what vegetables are popular, how to do the best crop rotation while laying out the garden plan, taking sun and shade requirements in consideration, we might not successfully get the yield we need. So planning it extremely important!
We also need to complete an inventory of seed, tunnel covers, weed block, drip tape and compost to see what we may need to purchase. Last year the tunnel covers took a beating with all the hail, wind and snow storms so that is the essential investment this year. Everything else is in pretty good shape and can be reused!
We have plans to grow all the items we grew last year plus a couple new items. We received a sample of purple kholirabi seed that we will try out. If they don’t sell well that’s okay. It was free and something fun to try.
Since we keep increasing the variety, we are growing fewer of each item and now mixing rows with different vegetables. Companion planting was successful last year so we plan to do even more this year.
You can follow us this year on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
We are happy to say that although it is mid November we still have edible lettuce, spinach cilantro and a large variety of root vegetable. Leaving covers over low growing caterpillar tunnels has greatly extended our growing season this year.
When there is a nice day we just open the tunnels, harvest what we would like for the next couple days and give the row a sprinkle of water so the vegetables do not dry out.
In the end we had lettuce into February, carrots and beets in March and the spinach never died. It continues to grow! Even the cilantro roots are starting to grow again.
It just takes a little persistence to keep vegetables protected and lightly watered to have fresh veggies all winter!