Black Plastic Mulch

This season, we are hoping that black plastic mulch will be a better way for us to control weeds.  Although it is a bit of labor at the start, once in place the fabric should suppress weeds and decrease our labor during the season (so we can focus on our plants, harvest and markets).

Bed prep

First, we reshaped the planting beds (goal was 36″ beds and approximately 30″ pathways).  Compost and minerals were raked into the beds, and the bed surfaces were evened out nice and smooth.

Fabric mulch

Next, we laid down the fabric by hand and used soil to keep in place.  We will be getting more fabric to cover the pathways and staples to hold everything in place.

Template

Jordan made a nice template.  The spacing works out to be 12″ between holes.  This spacing will be used for our market cabbages, kales and greens.  Jordan used a hand torch to burn the holes.

Sunset transplanting

Finally, the plants were transplanted into their beds.  On the right is the red cabbage bed all tucked in.  On the left is the green cabbage bed being planted.  Row covers are used to protect seedlings from bugs, strong winds and heavy rains while allowing air and moisture to get through.

Why are we going with fabric?  We are the only “employees” at the farm, and it is very challenging for us to maintain the garden and work full-time on the side.

The fabric mulch should keep weeds at bay while still allowing water and nutrients to pass through to the soil.  It will keep our beds more intact by protecting them from wind and water erosion, and the mulch should help retain moisture.

Plus – the fabric should last us up to 10 or more years.  The ability to reuse was important to us.  It may be labor to remove and lay the mulch elsewhere depending on crop rotations and spacing needs, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Challenges so far – I am not a good hole burner.  Mine are far from perfect.  Jordan is spot on with the template and torch.

I am still learning about the temperature regulation.  The black mulch heats up the soil and the row covers bump up the inner temperature.

Although the fabric should help retain moisture, the inner temperature of the tunnels have stressed the new transplants a little.  Frequent watering has been necessary to prevent drying of the soil and to cool the inner temperature of the mini-tunnels.  I now open the row covers just enough for air exchange but not enough for chicken invasion.

Is it really supposed to be 80degF in April????

The other challenge…chickens.  They have been free range and can get in and out of the garden easily through little holes in the deer fencing.  In the near future, some electric perimeter fencing will be installed to keep deer, dogs and chickens out.

Cabbages, kales and greens

Pizza Quinoa Bites

This post is one I have been meaning to get to for quite some time.

Last year, we were lucky to host a farm concert and gathering of friends.

As with most gatherings, food was a part of the event.  I tell ya what, there are few things better than a potluck meal.  So many beautiful dishes and ingredients!  So many textures and tastes.  Potlucks are a fun way to sample the world of culinary delights.

The recipe I am posting today comes from a big supporter of PTHF, and I can attest to the deliciousness of these wonderful little pizza bites.

So, nearly a year later, I am introducing you to P.G.’s “Mini Pizza Quinoa Bites” as she shared with me.  Enjoy!

Mini Pizza Quinoa Bites – From Iowa Girl Eats  Iowagirleats.com

Makes 24 bites

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled slightly or chilled (about 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa – be sure to rinse well before cooking)

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

2 cups chopped pizza toppings (pepperoni, black olives, pineapple, ham, onions, sausage, peppers, etc.)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Pizza sauce, for dipping

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, then spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin VERY well with nonstick spray and set aside.

2. Add all ingredients except pizza sauce to a large bowl then stir to combine. Fill mini muffin tin cups to the top with the mixture then place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from cups. Serve with warmed pizza sauce.

3. TO FREEZE: Place baked cups on a baking sheet then freeze until solid and transfer to a freezer bag.

Microwave for 20-40 seconds depending on how many you’re reheating.

4. FOR REGULAR-SIZED MUFFIN TINS: Bake for 25-30 minutes (Note: I have not tried this myself, although several readers have left comments saying this works!)

I used Near East Quinoa blend of quinoa and brown rice (boxed) Roasted red pepper and basil flavored.

Chopping takes a long time so use the food processor.

Can be made a bit smaller and get 36 – 48.

 

Crop Rotations and Plans 2017

Crop planning is one of my favorite seasonal preparations.  It is part day-dreaming about the new and exciting things that will be tried during a season and another part problem-solving.

Problem-solving?

Well, yes…

Things to consider – what to plant, crop rotations, soil needs, and overall spacing (will what I WANT to grow even fit in the garden plan?).

Fall planted mesclun

Fall planted mesclun

Deciding what to plant is always the super fun part.  All those STUNNING seed catalogs that stuff the mailbox in January…glossy, perfect pictures of beautiful produce.  Love it.  But…it is easy to look at all those gorgeous photos and get carried away.  I’m a biologist at heart and am driven to experiment, but I also have to remember to go with what I know people enjoy and with what has proven to work in our setting.

With our raised planting beds, we are able to practice bio-intensive plantings.  That basically means we try to utilize all the space offered in the planting bed to maximize production.

Want a good and informative read?  

Check out Jean-Martin Fortier’s Book “The Market Gardener.”

We also concentrate our soil amendments to the planting area.  No more compost lost to the pathways or beyond the raised bed.  Focusing the application is more efficient and cost effective!

Crop rotations become easier with each season when you start with a master plan.  Flexibility in farming is a must, but having a basic idea from the get-go is needed to guide decisions throughout the seasons.

There is a lot of information out there about crop rotations and strategies.  The bottom line is to not plant the same crop or crop family in the same spot year after year.  Crop rotations give the soil a “break” and interrupts some pest cycles.  The crop rotation plan we try to mirror is Eliot Coleman‘s eight year plan:

8 year rotation plan from Eliot Coleman

8 year rotation plan from Eliot Coleman

So…with Spring around the corner, we are ready.

  1. We have our seeds ordered and seed starting is underway!
    Onion seeds

    Onion seeds

    2. Our crop rotation is set letting us finalize our crop plan.

    3. The garden is mapped for 2017!

And so begins our 2017 market season.  We hope you join us for this year’s market journey!

Happy Holidays

I’ve taken a prolonged hiatus from this blog.  Life has a way of diverting one’s focus.  2016 is down to just a few days, and the year’s passing is that of a blur.

Some highlights:

I got a new job.  Jordan got a new job.  The garden took a back-burner.

A few house projects were started.

Enjoying the new fire pit!

Enjoying the new fire pit!

The puppies grew larger!

The chickens got more comfortable with their new home and have found every hole in the fence…they are now free-range.

Pretty Girl!

Pretty Girl!

Most outgoing

Most outgoing

The Bounty!

The Bounty!

Loving their new digs!

Loving their new digs!

Wilbur and Max are doing well and we hope soon those two will be co-habitating.

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Max helping clear out the corn stalks

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Happy pig in the sun

We had a wonderful respite at the beach again, thanks to a year of anticipation and a good friend for watching our farm, allowing us a worry-free break.

Our backyard!

Our backyard!

The place for shell seeking

The place for shell seeking

The two water dogs

The two water dogs

Sunset after glorious sunset

Sunset after glorious sunset

But the seed catalogs are rolling in and we are already plotting and scheming for the next year.

From our farm to you and your family, Happy Holidays and all the best in the New Year!

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Nothing says Merry Christmas like a chicken!

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a chicken or two!