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!

Building a Luffa Wall

Last year the hubby was trying to come up with unique items to grow that had a long shelf life. We already have winter squash which has been lasting 3 months after pulled in October, and garlic which can last up to 2 years. We decided to try luffa. A luffa is actually a squash that’s closely related to the cucumber, but when it dries out it leaves a fibrous scrubbing sponge. They last years if not used. And if they are used, they are one of the most biodegradable scrubbing sponges out there so customers will eventually wear it out and have to buy a new.

When we tried to grow luffa last year we did it on the ground and plants in the rows next to it shaded the them so they did not grow well. Also, we found that our growing season is shorter than the required growing timeline for ripening luffa. This year we started growing the luffa seedlings inside weeks before planting time. We also decided to grow the transplants up an arbor so they can spread freely to the sun.

Using hog panels you can find at your local farm store, we created a trellis wall with full arches on either end. This is really the first time we are trellising any of our produce besides the peas we’ve done in the past. We are looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

See our trellis on our You Tube Channel.

Spring Snow Storm

Thank goodness we have growing tunnels! We knew it was coming. We had planted spinach, lettuce, broccoli, beans and all the root vegetables under protective covers and we had our spring snow. The lowest point of the storm the temperature reached 10 degrees! Everything survived!

It’s amazing how a little agricultural fabric can increase the temperature in the tunnel up to 20 degrees higher than the outside. Especially if it was very warm when the tunnel was closed down. In this case it was.

Last year and this year the green beans were damaged even with the fabric so we’ve decided they are not good for early planting. Nursing them along last year to hopefully get some bean production was a mistake. The flavor of the beans were not good, and the plants fell to disease. They germinate so fast there is no reason to try and plant them early.

The meteorologists are not projecting any more spring snow so we can finally start planting summer season vegetables!

Indoor Transplants

This year we got an earlier start on our transplants so had to double transplant some of them. Luffa requires almost 300 days of sunlight to get fully ripened Luffa so we started them very early and moved them into 4 inch posts before we transplanted into quart sized pots and then again into their final home.

Since last year’s broccoli was phenomenal having started them early under covered tunnels, we tried it again this year. The broccoli transplants went through 3 winter storms last spring we are expecting at least one this year. It’s been said the chill from a light frost improves the flavor of cabbage family plants. Broccoli is one of them.

Of course we grew basil, tomatoes and pepper transplants. They always take a long time to get to size but once they do, they rapidly produce. At least that has been our experience to date.

We have been hardening off the plants but will not drop them into the ground until we are sure the snow is past us.

Onions in the Trenches

Last year we tried this method of growing onions. We dug trenches where we planted the onions and as the plant grew taller and taller, we filled in the trenches. This caused the plant to continue growing which created a larger bulb. For us that meant a Normal sized onion.

It’s a little challenging if they start to grow outside their space which is what is currently happening. We should be covering them with more soil but small aisle ways between the rows won’t allow enough space. This is also causing the onions to flower. They stop growing when they flower. We will continue cutting off flowers and treating them as though they will continue to grow. Worst case scenario is we are just storing small onions in the ground until we can use them.

I burnt a lot of last year’s onions in the sun after harvest and previous years they didn’t grow to size. Crossing fingers we grow good onions for sale rather a loss for the 4th year in a row.

First Row Planted 2020 Early

It’s March 2020 on the high plains dessert and we finally planted our first row of the season! We expect to have another snow or two but are well prepared with our covered tunnel that will keep the plants up to 20 degrees higher than the outside. Planting has started early!

We are working from home due to the Covid 19 Pandemic so we have an extra 1-2 hours during the day to work on the garden. In addition, being home, we are able to monitor the weather. While working away from home we would take less risk in exposure to extreme heat, cold or hail by adjusting the tunnel covers prudently. Working from home we can leave tunnels wide open, closing it at the perfect time during a weather episode. The plants get more sun and light rain than they would if we had over protected them.

Lettuce and Spinach is the first planting. We are succession planting so that when the initial planting starts to bolt from the heat, there will still be a younger planting that is still crisp and green. The bolted plants are pulled out and reseeded for another young crop. We currently have 3 sections of lettuce and spinach at different growth sizes.

The goal is to see how long we can grow lettuce before the heat causes seedlings to bolt too early.

The Farmers Tramp Stamp

This happens every year! It’s my first day out in the garden, and even though I have a long tailed shirt on, the wind blows the tail up or I bend over too much. This is what I call the Farmers Tramp Stamp and It’s painful!

You’d think I’d learn year over year, but it’s not something you remember when you are wearing protective gardening clothes. You assume it’s taken care of!

Why does the man of the house not have this issue? He has a better memory! He continuously reminds me to wear my hat, etc. He’s also the first one to catch the sunburn and gets me back in the house. He really looks out for me. 🙂

So I made it through my first day slightly burned. I think I’ll put a reminder in my phone to pop up every year at this time so I don’t forget to add extra sunscreen to my lower back my first day out!

Garden Plan 2020

We finally have the final Garden Plan for the 2020 season!

This picture is our West Plot. We have reduced the number of rows and combined items within the rows to take advantage of companion planting such as Basil between the Tomatoes which is known to deter pests.

We will have a bigger variety of vegetables with a number of herbs and flowers mixed in to assist in pest control and theoretically increase yields. For instance, Radishes among Cucumbers is said to increase Cucumber yields. Dill by Broccoli deters Cabbage Beetle and Cilantro is peppered in the lettuce and other rows and considered a yield increaser.

We’ve also decided to try our hand at going vertical. Hog panels will be lining the Cucumber section so we can hopefully pull the cucumbers hanging from the panel instead of stepping over piles of vines on the ground. This should reduce plant damage and result in cleaner Cucumbers.

We are also going vertical with Luffa. We successfully grew a Luffa last year in our test plot so are undertaking tall arched hog panels that will be high enough to walk under! A little fun having squash hanging overhead.

The East Plot was the Pumpkin patch last year which will be expanded with multiple squash types and 2 rows to test our ability to grow Watermelon and Cantelope. We will also add Sunflowers to this area which are considered a good cover crop.

We can’t wait to start!

Beets Overwintered

It worked! It’s almost Christmas and the beets are still being harvested in great condition! A little hay and a fabric cover hooped over the row of beets have kept them just the right temperature through multiple snow storms.

The cold snaps the root vegetables experienced under the covered hoop tunnels actually made them taste even better! The carrots were so sweet and even the beets had a brighter flavor. Also, the texture of the beets were not as hard as they usually are during the summer.

The extra beets were eventually pulled just before a multi-day near zero temperature spell. We did not want to potentially lose them to the freeze. Are finishing the harvest, the beets lasted in the fridge into February!

Since there were so many beets we tried our hand at pickled beets which is something my mother used to feed me when I was growing up. This too was successful.

2019 was the best year to date for successfully storing and preserving excess vegetables!

Garlic Strings

We still have a lot of garlic left from harvest so decided to come up with a culinary gift our customers couldn’t refuse! The Garlic Braid!

Garlic Braids are usually made during harvest, not after the garlic is cured. Once the garlic is harvested but before it’s hung to dry/cure, the greens on top of the garlic are braided together while they are soft. We can add as many heads of garlic as we want into the braid but fewer is better. No more than 6 from what we understand. Garlic needs lots of air circulation to keep it dry stored successfully. Too many heads on a braid will reduce air circulation and increase chances of rot. Garlic should be stored in a paper bag at room temperature to stay dry.

Since we had already cured the garlic, the greens had already dried and were too brittle to braid. I did some online research and found it is possible to braid hard neck garlic if you save enough of the neck when you cut the dried greens off.

So we tried this method which started with a series of strings in the center and then folding the necks around the string in a stacking manner. The end result is a nice looking ornamental piece for the holiday that you can also use for cooking!