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!
If you are following our blog, yes we did survive the snowstorm. Everything we covered actually made it through fine. Unfortunately it is the end of the Luffa Wall. The good news is we have been told that Luffa squash that have gone through a cold snap are easier to harvest and peel. The leaves of the plant vines rapidly died off but our Luffa squash are fine.
Since the plants died off and the squash is still green the Luffa are still not ready. We left the squash hanging on the vine until they turned brown and dried completely. It took roughly one month before we were comfortable they were completely dry. Shaking the Luffa you can feel that the inside moisture is gone. If the Luffa was completely ripe, you can also hear the seeds shaking loosely inside. At that time we cut every Luffa off the vine wall with pruners and found the actual yield was one good sized luffa per plant. There were many smaller ones but they were not big enough to be usable as a Luffa sponge.
Simply, if the Luffa was perfectly ripe we were able to easily peel off the outer dried brown skin. If we had difficulty peeling the skin off, we soaked it in a bucket of water which loosened the skin enough to finish the job. Then we shook the dried Luffa to get all the black seeds out. We can use those seed for our next planting.
Some farms bleach their Luffa. It gets rid of any dark spots and also makes the Luffa softer. Since we use no chemicals our Luffa will look more organic. It was nice to see the interest in a chemical free Luffa sponge that can be used not only in the shower, but also as a scrubbing sponge in your kitchen. It’s been reported they can easily last a year!
Watch us peeling a Luffa on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
We had an exceptionally hot year this year resulting in far more peppers than we have ever grown before. In preparation for the snow storm we had to harvest all the peppers early since we knew the plants would not survive. The good news is most peppers continue to ripen after they are pulled. This bushel of peppers are called Lipstick peppers. They are a brilliant red when fully ripened and are much sweeter then the standard bell peppers.
These peppers are still edible when they are green. They taste just like a green bell pepper. As the green peppers ripen they can change multiple shades of yellow, orange and red. The longer you wait the more red they become, and the sweeter they are. Keeping them in a cool environment that is warmer than a refrigerator but cooler than standard room temperature will keep their texture longer.
We also grew our personal favorite, sweet banana peppers. They do not ripen off the plant as well as the Lipstick peppers but we successfully managed to save a number of these peppers as well.
The best part of this story is we successfully ate fresh peppers into late October even after a September snow!
It’s September 7th and it’s going to be 90 degrees today. Tonight temperatures are going to drop into the 20s. We are supposed to get 8 inches of snow with 30 mile an hour winds. Such is living on a farm 5280 miles high. Well, closer to 6000.
In preparation we are pulling over all the tunnel covers that are set up. For those that are not set up, like the fall squash patch, including pumpkins, we laid down loose cover fabric over the fruits held down with sand bags. For melons we added an additional layer of actual weed block which should be thick enough for protection.
Sensitive items like peppers and tomatoes will not make it through the storm. We pulled all the peppers, including the ones that aren’t ripe yet. Sweet peppers will continue to ripen indoors. Our special heirloom tomatoes are grown in garden boxes so we brought them inside to our processing room to weather the storm. We covered the short Roma tomatoes with protected fabric, but the large, indeterminant Juliet tomatoes would blow around too much in the wind so we cut them off at the base and hung them upside down from the rafters in our hay loft. Tomatoes also continue to ripen after pulled. Leaving the tomatoes on the plants lengthens their ability to ripen even more.
The last preparation involved pulling as much of the basil as possible to not only dry the leaves, but to also collect seed. Many of the plants had gone to seed so we did not want to lose any to the moisture.
There is no way to cover the Luffa wall so all we can do is wait and see what happens. We’ve read that a slight freeze on Luffa Squash loosens the skin so makes the Luffa easier to harvest.
Now we hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
See our garden prep work on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
Due to our dry environment, we never thought we would be able to grow melons at our farm. While I was at my favorite garden store and found some local seed for watermelon and something called a Crenshaw Melon. It’s a cantaloupe variation that is supposed to grow well in our area. We were surprised and excited to test grow.
Since our rows are on a slight slope, the bottom of our rows always have extra moisture. At the end of every row we placed a few melon seeds.
It took awhile but we managed to get 4 watermelons and over a dozen crenshaw melons. The crenshaws were more prolific but took longer to ripen. We also had issues with pests taking over the crenshaw melons. We started to realize why. They have a fantastically sweet yet complex flavor that is very addictive! I highly recommend trying to grow them. We plan to grow more next year but will look for better placings for the fruit to sit to avoid insect infestation. Stay tuned for that!
This year has been extremely hot which is great for our luffa, peppers and tomatoes but many of our squash plants are suffering. We have gone 55 days in a row with temperatures in the 90s. Very little clouds to give the plants a break. The tender flowers of the Butternut squash are wilting and drying out before they get pollinated. The soil is also drying out faster than usual. It doesn’t help that our crop rows are on a slope which causes water to move away from some of the plants.
The black fabric weed block we use is very helpful for warming up the soil early which is necessary in our short growing season climate. It extends growth early on and also late in the season. Unfortunately with the high temperatures I believe the squash production is down due to heat stress.
We finally came up with the idea to take some of our old, torn hoop fabric cover, which is thin and white, and cover the black wee block around the Butternut squash. This helped reflect back some of the powerful sun rays so there was less heat.
It worked! The plants quickly produced 6 new Butternut squash.
The vines of our Luffa Squash plants have completely taken over the hog panel wall and now we are seeing our first growing Luffas. The Luffa grows as a squash with firm stringiness inside of it. I’m counting an average of 3 per plant. We are still concerned with ripening time. It’s late in the season and it seems like we have a lot of babies rather than full sized squash.
The vines are still growing and there is no space left on the wall. We had to just let them fall over and grow on the ground. It’s amazing how much these few plants took over! If you plan to try this be prepared for an overwhelming amount of greenery.
Our area is famous for early snow storms so we can only hope these Luffa quickly ripen before the season ends due to weather. If they aren’t ripe the Luffa sponge will be difficult to peel and will not be firm enough for use. Keeping our fingers crossed!
Check out our Luffa Wall video on the farm’s YouTube Channel: