2019 Crop Plan

It’s that time again! Time to finish planning what we are going to plant this year! We are already behind buying seeds.

Overall new strategy for this year is to have less of everything, but more variety! We always have customers asking for things like spaghetti squash, parsnips and okra but we now a row of these will never sell through. This year we are going to combine multiple items in a single row so our customers who want something like spaghetti squash can have it, but it’s not using too much real estate.

I know you can’t read the plan above and you can already see an edit swapping out 2 of the rows so let me elaborate. Of course we will still be growing our best selling items carrots, beans, beets, salad mix, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and tomatoes. We will start to sell a few items we have tested and feel are good to go including garlic, butternut squash, broccoli florets, radishes and sweet peppers. Items that we started growing last year but are still being tested this year and may be available include acorn squash, okra and a skinny heirloom celery.

We are testing new items this year and may have them available. This includes onion, spinach, turnips, parsnips, spaghetti squash and Loofas! Yes….Loofas!

We have already been selling basil which customers love, but want to offer more herbs. We will also plant oregano, dill, cilantro and parsley. We also plan to research drying techniques so we don’t lose any of the delicious herbs at the end of the season.

Finally, we would really like to offer fruit but have not had much luck in this climate as of yet. The apples, pears and Italian plums have only grown in years where the is no May snow storm. And when we’ve had good years the wildlife ate most or like last year the hail took them out. I’ve purchased some agriculture bags to cover some select fruit off the trees this year. We tested raspberries last year but they did not do as well as we hoped. We are moving them to a spot with more shade and will let you know the progress. We also have rhubarb which has not been happy with the 2 different spaces we tried to grow it so will be incorporating it into one of the healthy rows to see if it picks up. New testing this year will be container gardening of strawberries. This will allow us to cover and prevent birds from eating them and be portable to over winter them in a shed. Let’s cross our fingers that we may have fruit for sale this year.

We hope this variety will be more successful for sales. Now off to order seeds!

Garden Tour 2018

It’s July and prime season for the crops. Even the pumpkins have quickly regrown and proving to be a bumper this year! The fabric row covers have been a blessing, especially since it’s been so hot and dry. Limiting the sunshine on plants like the lettuce has encouraged better growth.The carrots are growing so big so fast we actually have to reseed for an additional crop.The broccoli continues to grow a number of small heads even after first harvest. More peppers are growing in previous years and they are much larger. As usual the tomatoes have been a challenge as they always are, but we still had enough to meet demand. Our first try at butternut squash and acorn squash is successful. The beans, in the end managed to perk up and give us a good crop. All in all it’s been a good year.

See the 2018 Garden Tour on the Farm’s YouTube Channel:

The 2018 Garden Plan

It’s always just after Christmas that the planting bug starts to set in. We start analyzing what happened the year before and plan adjustments to increase not only production but also the ease in what we do.

First we agreed that last year’s yield was higher than our demand so we will only be planting 1 row of each item this year rather than 3. It’s a great problem to have! We really didn’t know how much the new plot could grow and we are happy to say it’s a success! We decided not to plant anything in the old plot and solely focus on the new one. That will save a lot of water and time.

Another discussion we started to have is what kind of tools we could use to increase our efficiencies. Time is important when both of us have a full time jobs. We are looking at a walk behind tractor to replace our rototiller. It also has attachments to build row hills and smooth out the tops. It even has a drip tape installer. This would eliminate the the discs that we attached to the large tractor that we built rows with last year. The cost is higher than we’d hoped but with the extra power and flexibility of all the available attachments it would be valuable for general home use too. There is even a snow blower attachment.

We tested some garlic last year and it did alright so we planted garlic in the last 2 rows of the plot in November. We are also adding butternut and acorn squash to the mix. Customers have asked if we had these squash enough times we thought we would give them a try. It also is in line with our efforts to decrease the amount of work we spend on garden maintenance. Squash does not require as much work as tomatoes, lettuce or beans. Plus it grows well here. Another add will be brussell sprouts. I’ve heard they are difficult to grow but thought it would be worth a try. The rest will be the same old favorites.

Next step is buying seed. We have collected a number of seeds this year so should not have to buy a lot. It usually takes a couple weeks to decide on which varieties to buy and make the purchase but it is one the most fun tasks there is!

In the mean time we are going to get a quote on the walk behind tractor and see it’s going to be feasible.

Stay tuned!

 

Garden Tour

The growing plot is in full swing. This is a picture of just the expansion. It’s outperforming in every way. The weed block is everything we hoped. Spending less time on weeding and more time on managing the plants themselves has been more productive. The produce is larger and there is more being harvested than in the old plot. The old plot has it’s advantages. Although it has many more weeds, it is a cooler more protected area that lends itself to growing celery, peas, garlic and lettuce.

There are some challenges. Using the biointensive method of growing vegetables we find ourselves wading through a sea of cucumber plants, very scratchy by the way, to pull so many cucumbers that we know we are going to have to donate because the distribution plan for this year did not pan out and demand is currently lower than the yield. We are having a hard time keeping up with harvesting with working a regular full time job. We’ve spent early mornings and evenings with a head lamp strapped on so we could see in the dark.

It’s hard work and time consuming but very rewarding when we see how much our customers like our vegetables. I guess you could call this a labor of love.

Many people want to see where the vegetables are grown so I took some time to create a quick video tour that you can see on the farm YouTube channel:

 

Building Expansion Rows

Can you see it in the background? That is the expanded bed which is twice the size of the original plot in the front of the picture. It’s finally almost done.

We took off the black plastic, added some organic top soil amended with composted manure and tilled it in. There was so much half dead grass tilled up that we had to rake it out, till again and rake again.

We plan to keep the rows static, using a no till method going forward . Double digging to build the rows by hand last year was too much work so we looked for more automated ways to build the rows. Unfortunately, row builders are costly and if we plan to rarely rebuild the rows, we didn’t want to spend too much money. After measuring the tractor we found the distance between the tires is 30 inches and the tires themselves are 18 inches wide. A perfect match for the 30 inch rows we were planning to build. We bought a pair of 16 inch discs and attached them to the front bar of the box blade and tested it out. For a system that was red neck engineered it worked very well.

Finally, we purchased a high grade permeable weed block and covered the rows to reduce the chance of weed seeds taking root. This is our first year trying a weed block. Since 90% of our time in the garden is spent weeding, this is an important next step to reduce our work.

Now it’s time to take a little break before working on the irrigation.

Watch our expansion progress on our YouTube channel:

 

 

 

 

2017 Crop Plans

We took a bit of a break over the holiday. The focus was on friends and family, and keeping the chickens as warm and healthy as possible through our first winter with them.

Now that the craziness is over it’s time to think about spring. We’ve learned a lot the past 2 years about what kind of vegetables people like to buy and what grows well and what doesn’t in our environment.

One of the biggest challenges we believe we have is a lack of sun. The bushes and trees growing around the beds, more than likely for a wind break, are overgrown and cast a few shadows through the day. I can use this to my advantage with cold weather plants like peas and spinach, but the heat loving plants such as peppers and okra just aren’t growing fast enough.

We’ve decided to expand the planting area and double the number of beds out in the sun. This means we will have to prep the ground by mowing the prairie grass, tilling, and adding more soil to level the ground. Then we have to put up a new fence.

This will also require revamping the irrigation system. We’ve decided if we are going to be making changes we may as well buy the last drip system we’ll ever need to buy. A good drip line can make or break your yield so it’s time to invest in professional irrigation.

Another change we are making is to add weed block fabric on some of the beds to reduce my weed pulling time. About 90% of my time is spent pulling weeds and as you know, we do not use any chemicals. With twice the crops, it’s time to reduce the work.

I’ve mapped out and measured the beds and making a list of materials. That’s how I’ll be spending the next month. Stay tuned.

What’s Being Harvested?

Beans

I know you haven’t heard a lot from us lately. That’s because we’ve been very busy! Most of the work is keeping the weeds at bay. We are also carefully managing the water with the alternating hot and bone dry weather to heavy thunderstorms. Lots of extra hand watering one day and then turning off the irrigation the next day.Beets

So, what’s coming up in the garden? We’ve been tasting items out of our test plot before selling to be sure they are good. Some are good enough we aren’t willing to let go of them! Our favorite is beets. We’ll eat our fill before letting them go.

The biggest seller is the beans. At first we were pulling them so fast we couldn’t sell them fast enough, but now we are begging the plants to grow more.Heirloom Lettuce

The lettuce mix  just keeps growing no matter how much we sell. The collards are finally at a good size, although I don’t think they grow very well outside of the south.

 

Collards (2)The snap peas and cucumbers are on a roll now.

Snap PeasCucumber

 

We are finishing harvesting the corn for ourselves. It takes too much space and resources for what little you get. Corn

The heirloom celery is amazing!  It’s thinner than the grocery store celery but the flavor is strong so you don’t need as much. We’ve also been harvesting broccoli, basil, gold squash and zucchini.

Celery

Brocolli (2) Basil

Zuchinni (2) Yellow Squash

Finally, the tomatoes are starting to turn red, the peppers are taking off and the Okra is just starting to get to a size of harvest.

Tomato Green Chilis Okra

There is still a lot more that is growing and we can’t wait to share it with our customers!

Our First Harvest Sales

Garden 6-19-16

This is a monumental moment! We have made our first sales! The only thing we have to sell is radishes and spinach but it’s still official! Radish bunchesComments so far is how spicy the radishes are. We have Red Cherry Belles that apparently heated up. Luckily we also have some White Hailstone Radishes that are a little milder for those who like radishes but aren’t willing to buy the hot ones. Spinach bagsWe are quickly selling out of spinach because the weather is heating up and spinach does not like the heat. It’s already starting to go to seed.
While there is disappointment that we don’t have a variety yet, the collards, lettuce and summer squash are not too far away from harvesting!

Snakes in the Garden

Bull Snake

Although many people fear snakes, they can be your best friend in the garden. They eat lots bugs and rodents that can take a toll on your vegetables. This 4 foot bull snake found himself at home in the vegetable plot close to the compost pile. We’ve seen many garter snakes around the property. There are a pair living inside the greenhouse. They’ve done a great job at keeping the cricket population down. I assume they are also nesting there but have yet to see babies in the greenhouse. Last year we cleaned up a bunch of garbage under some trees and a number of babies jetted off to find another home. I consider that a healthy environment!

Garter Snake

Final Tilling

Tilled Garden

It was the perfect weather today to till in the winter cover crop. This was done with a hand held rototiller. I have not worked this hard outside all winter and just recovered from the flu! There were a lot of breaks and anti-inflammatories!

This will be the FINAL tilling I plan to do on this vegetable plot. After struggling with weeds, clay soil and dryness I did my research and decided to try the mulch method for holding moisture in the soil and wintering it over. It should also smother the weeds.We’ll see if this helps improve the soils condition.