As you can see we still have snow after the Bomb Cyclone a couple weeks ago but it’s warmer and the soil moisture level is perfect for bed preparation. First action is to remove any weed block still covering rows and also any watering drip lines still buried. Then we pull out any left over plant material left from last year. Then it’s ready for row building.
The Grillo has been worth it’s weight in gold. What used to take 3 weeks takes less than 3 hours! It was purchased last year and took a little getting used to but this year only required 45 minutes of run time to build beautiful, smooth rows. The soft soil resulted in higher rows than we wanted but they will probably shrink during the resting period. The resting period should be a minimum of 1 week and a max of 3-4 weeks. After that weeds start to take over and make it difficult to maintain.
After the rows were built we used a rolling hoe to create a furrow to re-lay the subsurface drip lines. Before covering the drip lines we tested them to be sure they were still working. A couple of the drip lines in the carrot beds were damaged. Most likely from digging out carrots! Sometimes it’s difficult to know where these hoses are buried until it’s too late! Luckily we had extra line from last year and replaced it.
We ran out of working time so were not able to cover the rows with weed block. Crossing fingers weather improves the next few weeks.
Garlic was planted in October last year and is coming up faster this spring so a good sign that the bulbs will be bigger this year! We also have broccoli transplants that have been growing inside that are now too big for the soil blocks we planted them in. We had to transplant the plants into larger pots, waiting for the weather to get better. We wanted to get an earlier start with the broccoli this year since it matured so late in the season last year, potentially losing us customer sales. Growing these transplants earlier gave us an extra month so we’ll see how it goes.
Now all we can do is wait and hope the infamous weather in our area cooperates so we can start fully planting soon!
Watch the Grillo in action on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
We had a row of Iris by the side of the fence when we moved to the farm. We assume the previous owner wanted as many flowers as possible for the bees he originally had on the property but they were taking up valuable produce space and were being overrun by grass. We decided to pull it all up and try our hand at raspberries and also threw in a couple of rhubarb plants. Using the weed block fabric would also get the grass under control.
The results were mixed due to the hot, dry summer. Raspberries didn’t handle that much heat well and insects took over the rhubarb. I wouldn’t have thought that the poisonous leaves of the Rhubarb would be that deeply invaded! We aren’t willing to give up yet because one of the varieties of Raspberries actually fruited in it’s first year.
The plan for next year is to move the raspberries to a shadier side of the plot, transplant the rhubarb into the vegetable area where insects are more controlled, and plant sunflowers in the dry, sunny spot where they have been successful in the past.
We hope to be able to start adding fruit to our list of offerings in the future as we have not had much luck in the high plains dessert.
Take a look at the raspberry bed as we began to clean it out on our YouTube Channel:
Since we saved money this year on spring start up we decided to make an investment in a new tool to save both time and our aching bodies!
Meet the Grillo. It’s an Italian made walk behind tractor that you can buy multiple attachments for to do just about anything you might need on the farm including snow blowing! We had to order well in advance since it comes from overseas but it is well worth the wait! The bed preparation that took us a back breaking 3 weeks only took a weekend!
Why a small tracker versus bringing in the large tractor?
First, we did last years full size tractor work before we built the deer and rabbit proof fence. Adding a large gate to the fence reduces the integrity of it. The fence being solid and buried eliminates access for rodents. Every exception increases a break in opportunity for hungry wildlife. The Grillo fits through the existing doorway. Also, with our intensive planting method the smaller machine builds better small rows with little effort. Not only does it have row building, it also has a bed SMOOTHING tool that flattens out the top of the bed making it easier to plant in.
So here we start by spreading compost and building our bed rows in a single weekend!
Watch the Grillo at work on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
It’s March 10, 2018 and it’s time to start growing!
Here we are pulling off the black covering that was holding back weeds and warming up the soil for planting. Inside we have tomatoes and peppers growing for transplants. We did a wide variety of vegetable starts last year but found many plants grown by seed from the start did better such as beans, squash and cucumber. We usually have a snow storm around Mothers Day that kills everything so in the past we’ve waited to plant shortening our growing season. In order to get a head start we will be building low tunnels with Agribon to protect seedlings if there is any adverse weather in the spring.
We will be using the same drip irrigation and weed fabric from last year as well as seed we still had from the previous year’s purchase. I also collected a lot of seed from last years crop I will use. This will save us money after having made some large investments the previous 2 years.
Now that we have everything uncovered we will let the ground rest a week. Then the real work starts!