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:
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: