row covers

Fall crops

It’s been a long time with no actual posts on the farm website. Time to change that!

After a hectic spring and summer season, we had a late start to our fall crop plantings, and despite some hard frosts and bits of rough weather, everything seems to be hanging in there and slowly progressing.

What’s in the field now includes: arugula, yellow radishes, salad turnips, carrots, lettuces, kales (Redbor, Winterbor, Siberian), collards, kohlrabi, bok choi, mustard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts (green and red ones), herbs (oregano, thyme, parsley, sage) and potatoes.

Head of storage cabbage nearing harvest stage

We still have not installed our hoop house or even any caterpillar tunnels for this season. All field crops are grown in black fabric mulch and covered by Covertan row cover or a test fabric we’re experimenting via a collaboration with Luna Innovations.

Covertan Row Cover on the left; Luna test fabric on the right

The list of winter “to-do” projects includes the installation and completion of much needed infra-structure (high tunnel, caterpillar tunnels, completion of processing area) in addition to our usual crop planning for next season.  There is always something to do.

What were your favorite crops during the main season?  Do you have any favorite fall crops?  What chores are y’all up to?

Main crop carrots! Carrots are one of my favorite crops overall.

 

Winter Gardening

We would love to extend our growing season into the winter months.  With more infrastructure coming soon, we’ll ramp up for that.  But for now, we have a few rows under production and some that are overwintering produce.

Our society is so spoiled by having every want and whim at our beck and call in the grocery store that we have forgotten all about seasonality.  There are some vegetables that grow better in the cooler season or taste better after the first nip of frost.  These cooler season crops are such delicious treats to enjoy during the winter doldrums.

Though the winter garden is easier in the weeding department – as in really little weeding necessary – it still does demand some time an attention.

Like today.  Our first snow.  Not crazy but enough to cause some action:

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Sweeping snow off row covers

Weather was forecasted to be in the teens…brrrr.  Certainly cold enough to freeze plant cells and cause some serious damage.  To prepare for the cold, we placed multiple row covers over the beds with the last cover raised higher to create an air space between it and the other row cover.

The downside of the outer cover is that it is held up with our taller, fiberglass poles.  Not metal poles.  Metal poles are great.  They may collapse under the weight of snow, but once the snow is gone they spring right back to shape.  Fiberglass?  Nope.  They collapse under the weight and SNAP!

So, although the snow is pretty, gives some much needed moisture to the soil and even helps to insulate (and protect) plants beneath it, if it keeps snowing today, I’ll have to keep sweeping it off to keep the fiberglass poles from snapping.  You can see in the photo that some row covers have already torn under the strain.  They will have to be replaced after the snow melts.

Why go to all the trouble?  Because these delicious beauties lie underneath and are totally worth it!

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Pre-cold snap harvest – stocking up!

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

Fresh Eats For Dinner – Winter Veggies

Home from a short break at the beach, we are happy to be back on the farm. Things seem to be ok despite some warm temps, heavy rain, strong winds all followed up with chilly temps. You, know…the weird up-and-down weather we’ve been having as of late.

Here’s what my peek under the row cover revealed:

Kale

Kale

Yummy!

Yummy!

Yes!!! Harvest size achieved and will be taken advantage of tonight…along with

Chard, Perpetual Spinach, Collards

Chard, Perpetual Spinach, Collards

and…

Spinach

Spinach

Nothing like a pot of fresh greens to make ya feel warm and cozy on a chilly day.

For other action, here are some lettuce heads coming along as well as the patch of mesclun:

Lettuce heads

Lettuce heads

Mesclun

Mesclun

Here’s to a farm fresh supper!