Farm update

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!

Gratuitous sunset photo

Gratuitous sunset photo

Greens – a thought about them and a recipe for slaw

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

Spring lettuce mesclun with gorgonzola, walnuts, craisins, oil and balsamic

To crisp cole slaws:

Kale and Cabbage Coleslaw with Marcona Almonds

(Many thanks, Patsy, for the recipe…we cannot wait to try it this weekend.)

Give greens a try, won’t you? Once summer rolls around, the delicate and the refreshing will be missed.



Tomatoes…may be this year?

This past weekend was a garden blitz. One of the things that was planted included this season’s tomatoes…

tomato prep

tomato prep – first time I got stakes in first!

Here is what we are trying out this year…a couple are return varieties…

  • celebrity
  • beef steak
  • taxi (yellow)
  • juliet (roma/sauce)
  • sungold (orange cherry)
  • eva purple ball (heirloom)
  • tropic vfn (blight resistant)
  • glacier (smaller red)
  • sweetie pie (red cherry)
  • volunteer yellow cherry

Fingers crossed!

Wildlife exclusion – a request for details

With gardening efforts reaching full swing – seeds germinating and transplants reaching for the sky, folks often approach our stand, chit chat about what’s in their gardens, their favorite varieties, then ask a pretty common question….”do you have trouble with deer?”

Being in a rural area, we are fortunate (and challenged) to have abundant wildlife around us. Birds are numbers and of varied species. We’ve enjoyed seeing red fox bound across our neighbor’s pasture. The dogs have disappeared so deeply into groundhog holes that only their wagging nubs were visible. Bunnies abound and nosh readily on patches of clover (and probably my lettuces). Neighbors have seen coyote and black bear in the back pasture. And of course, our number one wildlife species around is whitetail deer.

When establishing the first planting area on our farm, one of our first investments was in fencing. The setup and materials, themselves, are pretty basic…10 ft tall steel t-posts and 8′ tall plastic deer fencing. Cable ties are used to secure the fencing material to the t-posts. With a tall ladder (or standing on a truck side bed), and some upper body strength, in a few hours, deer fencing can be installed. The cost is worth it if one resides in an area highly populated by deer and production losses are a concern.

The plastic fencing material we used is heavy duty with a “tensile strength 750 lb per sq ft breaking load” according to the blurb on Seven Springs Farm (supplier) website. Originally, we purchased our t-posts from Seven Springs, too. Recently, we found the 10′ posts at HomeDepot for a reduced cost.

A few weeks ago, it was all hands on deck for installation of a new section of deer fencing around our the newly planted orchard and lower garden areas (now two new plots).

Deer fencing material

Deer fencing material

It was a multi-weekend project with Jordan and Dad putting up all the extra t-posts we had on hand. Then Team Cooper came to town and helped finish the rest.


team work


t posts

t posts in

Fencing unrolled and loosely attached

Fencing unrolled and loosely attached so can be adjusted

The plastic deer fencing has worked well for us…for excluding deer. It is made of plastic, after all, and small rodents have been able to chew access holes or go under (despite leaving a bit folded along the ground). It is also impossible to weed whack – you can damage it with mower, too. Crop damage from rabbits has been unnoticeable. Last year, a ground hog got into the main garden and ate all of our bean plants. For that situation, we turned to our neighbor (retired from Sheriff’s department) who had great aim and got rid of the bean-eater for us. There is galvanized metal deer fencing that would solve some of our rodent and aesthetic issues, but that option was out of our budget…perhaps down the road.

So, if you have a deer invading your garden, consider some sort of fencing – plastic with a high tensile strength and breaking load or multi-stranded electric (folks have used electric with success…key is to bait the hot wires so deer touch and learn to avoid). Here are a few final thoughts on wildlife exclusion:

  • eventually, adding a woven wire type metal base fence, about a foot high off the ground, might be our easiest option for weed control (the other being installing a weed barrier and mulch directly under the fence) so that we can weed whack the fence line without fear of damaging the plastic fencing
  • the lower metal fencing will also help with rodent prevention (which the weed barrier and mulch would NOT help with); others have put a single strand of electric wire at the bottom foot of the deer fencing that extends out at about 45 degrees
  • if the 8′ high fencing doesn’t keep deer out (not a problem for us but have heard stories from others), a wire or two can be placed above it on the t-post to extend the fence / barrier height
  • we will go through and add brightly colored surveyors tape and old CDs tied to the fencing at random intervals and heights as an added deterrent to deer as well as a warning to birds (movement, sound and reflected light)
  • GAP (good agricultural practices) poo-poos the presence of domestic animals (in our case, read this to mean dogs) in the garden, however, we have found that our weekend crew (the beagle-terrier crosses) offers effective rodent and rabbit control (Franklin) as well as identifies holes in the fence (FloJo)
  • seriously, having dogs on the premises can help reduce wildlife intrusion onto the property
  • we have NOT tried balloons, noise makers (dogs work fine), chemicals or other products like deer-be-gone type of things, so cannot speak as to their effectiveness


Do you have wildlife problems? OR do you have wildlife exclusion solutions? Many folks out there would like to know. Feel free to share ideas, stories, or questions.