So if we ever started a YouTube channel, our video and discussion themes would be Market Gardening…What NOT to do.
When we bought this farm, it was predominantly pasture. A blank slate of opportunity.
We have a passion for great food, cooking, as well as for all things outdoors. The thought crossed our minds about how cool it might be if the farm could generate extra income while feeding us and others. So we broke ground with only a cursory knowledge of backyard gardening (no marketing research, no sales experience, no on-hands market gardening experience and a load of debt to boot).
Six years later, we are on our 6th iteration of what we want our gardens to be like. We’ve discovered another farm doing truly amazing things (Neversink Farm) and have bought in to the Neversink philosophy of simplification and standardization (not that we never wanted this, but we are taking the time to devote all our energy to these things for the first time ever).
After several years of “seat of the pants” and “do what we can when we can with what we have” farming, we are redoing EVERYTHING to create a standardized system, focusing on ease of management and maximized production. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? We are excited. After all, we are getting older, and we want to farm as long as we are able to remain upright.
Here’s what’s in there works:
All of our planting beds are being remade. For years, we worked off of raised beds that were just made. By that I mean we eyeballed everything and just made the beds. The result? Beds of different widths and lengths despite our best intentions. Now we are flattening everything and making standard beds of 30 inches wide and 50 feet long. The planting beds will be in 30 feet blocks.
The benefits – the standardization of planting beds will make amendment application simple and less wasteful.
We’ll get a better idea (read that as an idea period) of what our production yields are per bed.
Easier to instruct others what to do, where to do it, and how to do it if everything is standardized.
Additionally, things like row covers will all be the same length and can be used interchangeably between the beds making storage of such items worlds easier.
We are still utilizing black fabric especially since the entire garden is being tilled to flatten it out for the planting bed reconstruction.
Black fabric may be in our garden plants for a couple or more years due to the fact the garden was previously pasture, is surrounded by pasture, and has a history of weeds. Tilling will disturb the soil and bring weed seeds to the surface. The black fabric will be essential for weed control at least initially. Sure, it is less efficient and will limit yields, but the fabric can be used for many years and will be huge for managing/limiting weeds. The other benefits of the black fabric are that erosion is virtually eliminated, the soil is warmed, and moisture is retained well beneath the fabric.
Having 30 feet by 50 feet blocks of planting beds also will help simplify rotations of our crops.
Why go through all of this change? Well, because we really want to do things right and do them exceptionally well. Farming does not equal perfection, but it does challenge us to constantly learn and improve. We are excited about the changes although it has been and still will be a lot of work to get all the planting areas redone.
Yesterday, we transplanted about 1500 plants into our first block of beds.
What a busy weekend. We’ve taken on a Saturday market in Pearisburg, VA which reduces our time to devote to garden chores to mainly Sunday. Hours of weed whacking and mowing later, I’ve some crop updates to provide…
The weed pressure this season is nearly overwhelming. For certain, it is frustrating to me to fail to stay on top of things. Likewise, the major rains in June and early July prohibited many of our succession plantings. What does it all mean?
Well, here is the so-so news:
Our crop of red onions is pretty much a loss due to extreme competition with weeds. I will start bringing some to markets, but the bulbs will be small.
Our offerings of carrots may be compromised as well. I have yet to plant my last row. Our main crop accidentally got tilled under. Our only growing row of carrots is very weedy. I hope we have some for you (and some fall ones for us to overwinter) come September.
I missed my planting window for fall potatoes. Will put some in the ground this week and hope they have time to develop.
I did not plant successions of squashes or cucumbers. That means we have few plants in the ground. These offerings will be less than in years past. If I can, I will plant some seeds this week and see if we can squeeze in some late offerings.
I will have a gap in my lettuce production again this year. I hope to have loose leaf lettuce this week, possibly into next week.
Cabbage worms and harlequin bugs abound. The kales are going strong, but you will start to notice some imperfections. That is except for the “Redbor” variety…my new favorite. Not only a stunningly beautiful plant and leaf (dark green/purple frilly leaves with purple veins), this kale seems to thumb its nose at bugs.
The good news:
It has been fairly sunny, hot and dry these couple of weeks. We hope that our tomato plants that are loaded with green tomatoes decides it is a good time to have them turn red! our cherry tomatoes are going strong as are our yellow “Taxi” tomatoes. Still waiting for some red slicers, though.
Our beans are producing great. There is a little bean beetle presence, but the plants, overall, are healthy and productive. I need to get some canning done!
Our corn is tasseling now. May be some sweet corn is in our future, too!
Golden and red beets are coming along. I hope to get those rows weeded ASAP so the plants will get some sun and fill out more.
We are working as hard as we can to keep things going. Each season is different, which keeps it all challenging AND interesting.
Still, you got to be able to catch your breath and enjoy what’s around you…like a lovely sunset after a hard day’s work!
For some, this time of year is boring. Lack luster. Dull. Uninteresting. Insert adjective of choice.
I mean, who could possibly love greens?
What is the use of cool season crops? Why bother? Just bring on the main show. The summer crops. The fun stuff.
To those folks, I ask…are you sure? Why are you not excited for greens? How can this disdain exist? Greens are the harbinger of spring. They mark the end of winter doldrums…the first of freshness. They are the epitome of freshness.
Personally, greens are some of my favorite crops which encompass anything from the delicate and luscious spring mescluns to the heartier cabbages, collards, chard and kales (oh my, kales! YUM!).
So, I implore you not to discount the greens. Give them a try. There are too many great things that can be done with them…from a simple, refreshing salad
Spring lettuce mesclun with gorgonzola, walnuts, craisins, oil and balsamic