The Windy Plains

I’m sure you have heard us complain about the wind on the farm so I thought I would share some videos so you can see it first hand. The reason we have bamboo screens on our garden fence is to reduce the wind blowing up from the valley. Then there is plant support. As the wind continues to blow seedlings, the plant begins to grow sideways. Sometimes the wind is so bad the leaves rip off the stem. Sometimes the ground cover or tunnel fabric gets loose and smashes into the plants and kills them. You’ll notice our squash plants usually lean in one direction.

This year our pumpkin patch took the brunt of the wind and required a second planting after the ground cover popped up from the wind.

Don’t get me started with the tomato plants. It is absolutely necessary to stake them up or place them in hard wire cages. Every year the tomatoes start to blow over and we are forced to tie in more stakes and even tie them against each other!

All we can do during these storms is protect the best we can and hope for the best.

Here are a few vids from the farm’s YouTube channel to enjoy.

Root Vegetable Succesion Planting

We planted the root vegetables early, covered, and they are growing quickly. One of our challenges in previous years is growing enough carrots for the entire season’s demand. If we planted more than we did last year, by late season the carrots that were not pulled yet would be too big for our customers. Plus, we would run out of space in the root vegetable bed to grow the variety that people like.

Our new solution is succession planting. We tried this technique a little last year and it seemed to work. In succession planting we don’t plant everything at once. That way we have vegetables growing in different stages of maturity. We have enough of a growing season to have 3 phases of planting. By the end of the season the last carrots planted should come out the correct size.

There are actually 4 rows in our bed pictured. The first row to the left are radishes. They grow and sell quickly and don’t grow well in the heat so we usually don’t sell them later in the summer. The second row to the left are carrots. You will notice in the forefront there is nothing growing. I’m saving that space to plant carrots a little later in the year so they don’t grow too big. The third row is beets which grow almost perfectly against demand so I leave them as is. The far right row is turnips and parsnips. I split this row as these are not as popular as the others. If the turnips are selling out, which can happen, I re-seed a small section again to have more turnips later in the season for those customers.

As the radishes sell I’m replacing them with more carrot seeds. You can see that the radish tops are being replaced by carrot tops at the far left. My hope is to have enough carrots to sell and even possibly winter over under cover for just the family.

Wish us luck.

Save the Lettuce!

As is the theme of the year, we planted the lettuce and spinach early by using row tunnels covered in agricultural fabric. What we learned is the native plants around the garden do not grow as fast as the lettuce which is making the lettuce more desirable to the pests right now. If I had to guess I’d say what was doing the most damage is slugs, caterpillars and grubs.

Something I learned after living in the Northwest is that soft bodied pests do not like sharp objects. I used to crumble egg shells around my hostas which were prone to be devoured by slugs. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try them in the vegetable garden. Unfortunately it’s not as easy to surround individual plants in a 50 foot row of lettuce! We ended up taking the time to do it right by setting up the egg shell pieces vertically resulting in a sharp edged fence around the row of plants.

While there were already some pests within the perimeter, there was a reduction in activity long enough to give the lettuce and spinach a fighting chance. And in the end the shells decay and add nutrients to soil. I’ll be planting tomatoes in that bed next year. They Love calcium.

More lessons learned!

Recycle Reuse

Being organic, we are also very respectful of the environment. That being said we spend a lot of time thinking up ways to make less waste. To start with, in our home, we recycle more than we throw away. We usually only have one kitchen garbage bag a week, but a full recycle bin. We compost our organic food scraps and garden cuttings, and when we get a lot of plastic grocery bags we bring them to a recycle center at the store we bought it from. Due to Covid, we weren’t allowed to bring in our reusable grocery bags.

In the garden we reuse our ground covers that we plant in, our tunnel fabric covers and our pots that we grow and transplant in. We also reuse the drip tapes every year unless they have sprung a leak. And of course, we use our compost!

When I have a need for something in garden I look around to see what we already have that we could repurpose. For instance, our peppers don’t usually grow every tall because of the short season, but last year they grew so tall they were falling over. Tomato garden stakes are expensive and they contain plastic. I bought some small wooden dowels which worked well and in the end, slowly decay back into the ground.

This year I’m trying to reduce weeds. That is what takes most of our time in the garden. We use bamboo screens on the garden fences to reduce wind since it’s very bad in this area. After 4 years the screens start to fall apart so they end up in a pile next to the bush and tree branches and excess bricks and blocks, all which get somewhat used here and there. For instance, we periodically put the wood through a chipper and use as a top dressing for our perennial beds. But today I got the idea to line up the bamboo screens on the ground to act as a ground cover and reduce weed growth. It worked like a charm. Saved probably 6 hours of weed pulling over the season!

Even if you are not gardening, we should all look for ways to reduce, recycle and reuse what we have.

Broccoli Planted Early

This time last year we were just finished growing our broccoli transplants inside. With just two to three leaves the delicate plants were planted in the ground. No sooner had we planted, a snow storm came through so we were forced to cover it in hopes it would survive. Amazingly, not only did they survive, the thrived! I knew it was a cold weather plant but didn’t know the resilience it had.

This year we planted the broccoli inside earlier, transplanted outside earlier and now it’s got a great start for the year. Due to our heat, and broccoli being a cold weather crop, we usually get our main harvest later in the season when it’s cooler. This year we started getting broccoli heads much earlier and overall the plants were more productive. They had grown so large by summer they shaded the ground which kept the roots cooler and there was broccoli every time we wanted it!

Lessons learned! Not only do we get more broccoli in a year, but we now are trying to extend the growing season on other crops by using our

Early Transplants

Because of our short growing season, there are some plants that will not mature fast enough to produce anything within before the snow comes. Those are the plants we grow inside and transplant outside. Those include herbs, celery, tomatoes, peppers and our newest try, Luffa.

We started the luffa almost 8 weeks in advance because they need well over 200 days of growing season. They grew so big we had to transplant them twice into larger pots. Now they are in quart size containers and in order to acclimate them to outside they get a wagon ride outside and back inside every day.

The tomatoes and peppers are still tiny but after 3-4 weeks they will be ready to go into the ground. Covered in a tunnel of course. Continuing with the plan to extend the season!

There are a lot of seeds in the ground already too. They are starting to pop through the surface! Get a look at the seedlings on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Building Rows for Onions

The onion sets we planted in March have grown a lot! If you remember, we dug trenches for the sets so they were below ground level. The reason we did this is to give the sets a lot of space to grow larger onions than we have in the past.

The rain moved some of the side dirt into the trench, but in the picture you can see how the white portion of the onion top is starting to show. This is the time to start building up the dirt on top of the onions. You should never see the onion top.

We mixed some soil with compost and piled it up about an inch or so above the the top of the onion itself. The compost will help the onion bulb grow significantly larger. You need to leave the majority of the leaves above the surface for photosynthesis.

In the end our onions met our size satisfaction. Much better than in previous years. Since we found out the hard way last year that the onion sets I was purchasing were considered Fresh, not Storing onions, we will just pull up onions as we need them, or as a customer orders one. We will leave them in the ground and pull as needed until the weather projection calls for more than 3 days in a row in the teens. Onions can handle freezing weather as long as there are some intermittent warm ups. It’s when the ground freezes solid that you have a problem. That usually doesn’t happen unless you are in the teens for at least 3 days. We also put row covers over our plants during inclement weather which keeps the ground from freezing.

I think we finally learned how to grow onions the best way for our climate!