It’s the year of Covid-19. The year 2020. The good news is I’m working from home until further notice. This gives me more time to work in the garden. The bad news is we lost a number of customers who don’t want contact so stopped ordering.
In order to limit contact we make deliveries to customer’s homes, drop it by the front door, knocking and then leave. We started billing and receiving payments online via credit card.
We are growing more mixed rows this year, using fewer rows overall. We are trying to right size the garden for the fewer customers we are expecting. This will also reduce the amount of work and result in less stress which everyone can use at times like these.
Check out the 2020 Garden Tour on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
We completed succession planting the lettuce resulting in a very full lettuce row! It was so impressive that grasshoppers and other insects moved in. Can you see that grasshopper on our red lettuce? That is just one of Many! On top of a grasshopper infestation, the lettuce started to bolt from the heat. Even the wild birds couldn’t keep the grasshoppers under control!
This all resulted in a decision to pull the bad lettuce and replant before it got too late in the season. According the Farmers Almanac we can plant new lettuce up to August 1st and it will still have enough time to grow full size before the first frost.
Some of the lettuce had already bolted, or went to flower and to seed. We collected seed from those plants to replant, and left a few other plants to grow so we could collect seed later for next year. This is the ultimate succession planting!
Spoiler alert…..Not only did we get a great second crop, it lasted almost all winter!
This is our second try at growing Luffa. Last year we grew it on the ground and only produced a couple small Luffa squashes that never fully ripened. We could tell early on that having it growing on the ground resulted in too much shade from the neighboring plants. They didn’t get enough sun. After further research we also found that Luffa need well over 200 days to ripen the Luffa. The growing season is too short in our area to meet that.
So this year we grew transplants inside for weeks to be sure they had a good head start. We also built this Luffa wall to give them the sun they needed.
What we weren’t prepared for was how fast the plants grow with the right environment and how much wall real estate they take up! It’s clear the the vines are quickly going to take over the arches. There are plenty of flowers growing and lots of pollinators and other beneficial insects thriving.
There was still room on the ground to grow a few sun loving plants so we added some okra and melons in front of the wall which did well.
Get a closer look at the Luffa wall on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
Last year we harvested in August but it was a hot year this year so the garlic seemed to ripen faster. We had more garlic than we needed last year so we planted half as much this year. It also made hanging it in the hay loft easier. There was so much garlic last year we ran out of room!
We also have the curing process nailed down by hanging the garlic, leaves and all, in the hay loft where it stays warm enough to dry the skins hard enough to preserve the inside juicy garlic.
You can see how we pull the garlic out of the ground on the farm’s You Tube Channel:
When you know it’s going to snow and you have a large row of basil what do you do? You make dried basil so you can have the luxury of home grown basil all year long. After trying a number of different ways to dry my basil we found one way that maximizes both flavor and appearance.
First we hand pick only the best, non-blemished leaves. Bigger is easier in this case but it is not necessary. We wash the leaves in a bucket or bowl of water and lay them out on paper towels until they dry completely.
Leaving the leaves on the paper towels, we tear them into individual squares, placing another paper towel on top, sandwiching the leaves between 2 pieces of paper towel. Placing the leaf sandwich into the microwave we cook for 30 seconds and check to see if the leaves are dry. If they are not dry, we cook for another 30 seconds. We usually cook for 1 minute.
After all the leaves are dry, we put them into one big pile and crush by hand. We usually do this on top of a piece of paper and then use a funnel to pour into a seasoning bottle.
It will take a lot of leaves to fill a bottle but it is so worth the effort. Ours lasts all winter long.
We’ve talked about squash bugs in the past. We talked about finding them at the base of any squash family plants including zucchini, acorn delicata, butternut, cucumbers, pumpkins and spaghetti squash. Even luffa is considered a squash. Crushing them or dropping them into a cup of soapy water is the best method to get rid of them. They are a hard shelled insect so most insecticides don’t work. And we wouldn’t use any chemicals on our plants anyway.
This year I made it my mission to eliminate the squash bugs before they took over the garden. Since I have been working from home due to Covid, I was excited to spend lunch time working on garden pests. Interestingly enough I rarely saw the squash bugs. Instead I was stripping eggs off leaves and crushing them. It was helpful but with the number of plants I have it was taking a long time! Inevitably I’d find eggs on most plants the next day.
One day I was too busy with work to get into the garden at lunch so I decided to put my headlamp on and go hunting in the late evening. I was astounded to find a ton of squash bugs the darker it got. Apparently they spent their days napping under the weed block and then came out at night to breed. This was my aha moment! That same night I came back around to first plant I checked when there was still sunshine. Sure enough, while I had not seen the squash bugs the first time around, they were now out and having a little fun! A lesson that reminded me of “Which came first, the Squash Bug or the Eggs!”
From then on I caught those bugs BEFORE they started laying eggs and eliminated the source. Early mornings and sundown were the magic times. Taking my time looking for not only the bugs, but also looking for eggs on the bottoms of all the leaves. We had a very successful year and hope to get started even earlier next year!
Tomatoes and Basil. They sound like they were meant for each other. In your spaghetti sauce, in your caprese salad and now in your garden!
Tomatoes are so prone to pests and disease. Aphids and a variety of caterpillars and beetles can take out a crop. There is a technique called companion planting in which certain plants that are known to deter certain pests can be used to reduce infestation. For tomatoes, Basil is just one of those companion plants.
This is the first year we tried companion planting by alternating tomato plants with basil plants. It really worked. We had far fewer pests problems. The issue we did have was the basil grew so fast it shaded some of the tomato plants which resulted in fewer tomatoes. Luckily we still grew enough to meet demand.
Next year we will plant the tomatoes farther apart and give them a head start before we plant the basil. We may also plant garlic and/or onion in a few spots as they are also considered great companion plants for tomatoes as well. Stay tuned because we may try companion with a few other sensitive plants.
We’ve always grown cucumbers on the ground since the beginning of the farm. We struggled climbing through vines that overflowed between the rows. When we tried to grow fewer plants, the heat reflecting from the row cover was too much for the plant and as a result had far fewer cucumbers.
This year we are going to try to grow UP. Doing some research online we found that using a trellis for cucumbers saves space, stops us from having to tip toe around the plants and reduces the heat since they will not be sitting directly on the black cover. Another bonus is since the cucumber will be hanging, we shouldn’t see as many arched or bent cucumbers due to the fruit running into an obstacle.
Part of the trellising process is to prune the plant to create a LEAD. How it works is like a tree, you want a firm steady trunk. Cucumbers grow more like a zig zag. Looking at the strongest center vine on each plant, trim off the small branches trying to come out from the sides until you have a wide open base. That will give the cucumber plants a better start.
In the end we didn’t get as many cucumbers as last year since it was a very hot summer, but the quality of the ones we grew were good and we grew enough to keep up with demand. We will try growing this way again next year. We will make use of the large wall we created for the luffa because we know we will have enough luffa from this year to last another year.
See how the actual cucumber plants look after getting their primary pruning on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
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.
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.