Potato and tomato yields, VABF Conference, weather extremes.

Potato harvest 2014 croppedPotato harvest October 2014. Credit Nina Gentle.

We got our June-planted potato harvest finished last week, and I counted the crates – 122. That makes 3660 pounds, a pretty good amount for the space we used. The Red Pontiac seem to have done a whole lot better than the Kennebec – the same result we got from our March-planted crop. One thought is that maybe the Kennebec seed pieces were cut too small, although I’d be surprised if the whole crew managed to do the same thing twice.

Potatoes into crates croppedWe use discarded plastic crates for our potatoes. They are lightweight, stack easily and don’t grow mold. We store our crop in our root cellar, which is built into the ground, a kind of constructed cave. Nice, fossil-fuel free and low-tech. And, like natural caves, it is prone to damp. It’s prone to mice too, but we have our organic solution to that problem: a black snake lives in there. We have been known to commandeer a snake, if none has chosen to move in. It’s a good winter home for snakes

Our organic pest mouse  remover. Credit Nina Gentle
Our organic pest mouse control expert.
Credit Nina Gentle

We also tallied our Roma paste tomato harvests for the year. We gathered 313 5-gallon buckets. If we’d had more workers we could have harvested more. Our plan was to harvest the whole patch of 530 plants twice a week, but during the peak of the season we were lucky if we could get one half harvested each time.The plants stayed in good health throughout the season, and the fruit stayed a good size. This is thanks to the selection work I have been doing when we save our seed (Roma Virginia Select). Also thanks to drip irrigation we have reduced water splashing on the leaves, which can spread fungal spores.

Geek Special: See our harvest data here:Roma Harvests

Roma is a determinate variety, meaning the number of trusses (branches) of fruit is genetically predetermined, but as with many crops, the more you pick, the more you get. Leaving mature fruit delays development of immature fruit. I have not found anyone to tell me how many trusses of fruit Roma has, and despite growing 530 plants each year for over 20 years, I have never taken the time to count them. Maybe next year. . .

If you read descriptions of determinate tomato varieties, you would think they are all tiny plants with a three-week harvest window. Roma is a large determinate, at least 4ft tall, and our harvest period lasts from mid-July until frost (usually late October here). Our peak period is about a month (early August to early September). Here’s a general description from www.seedaholic.com: “Determinate varieties are generally smaller and more compact than indeterminate tomatoes. . .”


 

The Twin Oaks Garden Crew is getting ready to have our annual Crop Review meeting. We work our way down an alphabetical list of crops, noting what worked and what didn’t. And at the same time, we pop our garlic bulbs into separate cloves for planting.


My next speaking engagement is at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference January 30 and 31 2015, with pre-conference sessions on Thursday January 29. Online registration is now open. I’ll be presenting my workshops  on Asian Greens and Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests. Lots of other great workshops too, including from Jean-Martin Fortier. Follow the link to get to my book review of The Market Gardener.


If you looking for a chatty online group of homesteaders, try Earthineer or, of course, the Mother Earth News blogs (I write for the Organic Gardening Blog)


Guess which was our hottest day this year: September 2? July 2? June 18? May 26? I recorded 97F, 98F, 98F and 90F. August didn’t get a look in! June 18 tied with July 2. And our wettest day was April 29, with 3″. Hurricane season didn’t bring us anything to blog about. I’m not complaining!

 

Home from Mother Earth News Fair; Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables Slideshow; potato harvest

Lynn, Pam, Jean-Martin MEN Oct 14Here’s a photo from the Mother Earth News Fair at Topeka, Kansas. I’m at the Friday barbecue dinner at Bryan Welch’s farm, Rancho Cappuccino. Bryan is the publisher of Mother Earth News. I’m sitting with Lynn Byczynski, editor of Growing for Market magazine, and Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener.  I reviewed his wonderful book here. Despite writing for Growing for Market magazine for many years, this was the first time Lynn Byczynski and I had met. We had a couple of near-misses at conferences that one of us was at, but not the other. It felt like we were old friends – which, thanks to email, in some sense we are.

The Kansas Mother Earth News Fair was smaller than the reputed 20,000 person event at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania in September. There were, I think, about 12,000 people this weekend. This was the second year in Kansas, the first in Topeka.  The next MEN Fair is April 11 & 12 in Asheville, NC. Hope to see you there!

This past weekend I gave my Fall Vegetable Production presentation, my Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops presentation, and my Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables slideshow. All are on SlideShare.net. You can see Cold-hardy Winter vegetables here:

http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/coldhardy-winter-vegetables-pam-dawling-2013?qid=d647b9bb-97b3-4055-ad18-dc494dea2e20&v=qf1&b=&from_search=1

Meanwhile at home, the crew have been harvesting potatoes, ahead of the brutal weather switch coming this weekend.

October potato harvest. Credit Twin Oaks.
October potato harvest. Credit Twin Oaks.
Potatoes waiting to be picked up.  Credit Twin Oaks
Potatoes waiting to be picked up.
Credit Twin Oaks

 

 

Getting ready for Kansas Mother Earth News Fair

One of our garden carts, tastefully decorated by guests Susie Anne and Jessie. Credit McCune Porter
One of our garden carts, tastefully decorated by guests Susie Anne and Jessie.
Credit McCune Porter

This week’s blog post is a cartful of odds and ends. Talking of garden carts, we like the larger kind, with the loop-shaped legs in line with the length of the cart. This makes it easier to straddle rows of crops, and also means we don’t bash our ankles while pulling them. The smaller models often have a single loop “leg” right across the cart. We used to have some of these. We called them the “Ankle-Snappers”. I recommend making sure any cart you buy is made from exterior-grade plywood, not particle-board, or other kind of pressed together scraps of wood. They have a hard life!

 

Garden carts loaded with Romas tomatoes. Photo Wren Vile
Garden carts loaded with Roma tomatoes.
Photo Wren Vile
The crew working on the sweet potato harvest. Photo McCune Porter
We did tally our sweet potato harvest – about 6600 pounds! Here’s the crew at work.
Photo McCune Porter

 

West Indian gherkin. Photo Nina Gentle
West Indian gherkin. Photo Nina Gentle


Recently I wrote on the Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog about West Indian Gherkins. I wrote about them on this blog. Here’s a new photo, which gives the impression of acres of the little things.

On Thursday I leave for Kansas for the Mother Earth News Fair there. The Program Guide is now out. I’m doing three workshops, a book signing and an interview. My workshops are Fall Vegetable Production, Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables and Crop Rotations. Hope to meet some of you there – do introduce yourself to me!

I was looking up a recent reference in the work of the Organic farming Research Foundation about organic farming storing more carbon in the soil than other types of farming. I couldn’t find the exact link but I did find that as far back as 2012, OFRF was already pointing out that cover cropping  “Enhances soil quality, reduces erosion, sequesters carbon and provides nitrogen, prevents dust (protects air quality), improves soil nutrients, contributes to productivity”

My other piece of organic vegetable growing news is that Biodegradable Biobased Mulch Now Allowed for Organic Production
“The USDA National Organic Program has amended the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances to allow the use of biodegradable biobased mulch film with restrictive annotations. This action also adds to the organic standards a new definition for biodegradable biobased mulch film that includes criteria and third-party standards for compostability, biodegradability, and biobased content. The rule is effective October 30, 2014.” It’s a lot of technical reading, but for certified organic growers it will be worthwhile. Biodegradable plastic mulch is such a saver of time, temperature and weed germination! “Bio-based” means the product is made from biological materials. See my blog post and the one after that for details on the difference.

Photo Yale Press
Photo Yale Press

I’m reading a few good books at the moment. More about them in the future. John Reader’s Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent.

Photo Barnes and Noble
Photo Barnes and Noble

and Craig LeHoullier’s Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of all Time, to be published December 2014

 

Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, PA, and the Heritage Harvest Festival

Photo: 12-year-old FAIR Presenter Eleanor Wilkinson receives a signed copy of SUSTAINABLE MARKET FARMING by Pam Dawling, her favorite author and inspiration to start her own market farming business! They're both very special people. #MENFair

“12-year-old FAIR Presenter Eleanor Wilkinson receives a signed copy of SUSTAINABLE MARKET FARMING by Pam Dawling, her favorite author and inspiration to start her own market farming business! They’re both very special people. #MENFair”

I just got home from the Mother Earth News fair in Seven Springs, PA and found this already up on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR Facebook page. 

I think Eleanor is 13 now. You might remember I mentioned her last year after I met her at the MEN Fair. She succeeded in clearing $6000 in her first year, when she was 11. She now sells at two farmers’ markets. Her talk, Lemonade to Lettuce,  with help from her dad Matt Wilkinson, was clear, informative and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed making the surprise presentation of my book at the end of her talk. Despite the shock, Eleanor was quickly professional in dealing with all the photographers and the public. A “growing farmer” to watch!


Myself, I gave two presentations twice each. Here’s Crop Rotations, in case you missed it, from SlideShare.net

<iframe src=”//www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/16456412″ width=”427″ height=”356″ frameborder=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;” allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/crop-rotations” title=”VBF 2013 – Crop rotations – Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>VBF 2013 – Crop rotations – Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I gave out 300 handouts for this one, and some couples shared a copy.

For Fall Vegetable Production, I revised my presentation from last year’s (which can still be found on SlideShare). I’ll be putting the new one up in a few days. I gave out 360 handouts on that one.

I had a very busy day Saturday, two workshops, one booksigning, one interview, one book presentation, one MEN Bloggers’ lunch, one promoter’s dinner with many speeches. Lots of walking from A to B. And it was raining in the morning, so I was schlepping handouts and posters in several shifts through the rain to the tent where my morning presentation was. I’ll say this for MEN readers – they don’t let bad weather put them off! Sunday I had a lighter day and managed to get to workshops by others. Doug Stevenson lives at the Farm Community in Tennessee. Here’s the blurb from the MEN Fair website:

Creating a Permaculture Ecovillage: My 40 Years at The Farm Community
Douglas Stevenson – The Farm Community
Douglas Stevenson has two books out this year: In one, he describes The Farm’s colorful story and its evolution from world’s largest hippie commune to modern ecovillage. In the second work, he digs deeper and examines the building blocks of community and sustainability. In this workshop, he’ll cover both in a fascinating and inspiring presentation.Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-and-speakers-pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz3DULQBK3R

and I shared a dinner table with Ros Creasy and later traveled home with her (and Ira Wallace and Gordon Sproule). Long ago, when I was looking for a publisher for my book, Ros advised me that writing a book was going to be a lot of hard work. Her advice was good: she was right, and she didn’t dissuade me!

Edible Landscaping: The why and how
Rosalind Creasy – Freelance writer/ landscape designer
Join Rosalind Creasy, a pioneer in the field of edible landscaping, as she gives a PowerPoint presentation on the whys and hows of designing a beautiful landscape with edible plants. Among the topics she covers is an A to Z of her recommended beautiful edible plants for home gardens, the positive effects of edibles on the environment, an overview of the wide variety of individual edible landscapes, and styles as well as principles of landscape design particular to edibles.Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-and-speakers-pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz3DUKpuV8Y


And on Friday I was at the Heritage Harvest Festival, closer to home, in Virginia. I gave my Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables presentation. And I signed books in their bookstore Gift Shop. Sadly, this year HHF and MEN Fair PA were on the same weekend, and I had to leave not long after my workshop, to drive to Pennsylvania. Next year they won’t be on the same dates. In case you too, are planning a year ahead, here are the dates:

Heritage Harvest Festival September 11-12 2015

Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, PA September 18-20 2015


 

And meanwhile in the garden, the spinach seedlings are battling with faster-growing buckwheat seedlings, because we didn’t till the preceding cover crop of buckwheat in time. The weather is cooling down, and remaining dry. An advantage as far as hoeing goes. I just have to remember to keep switching irrigation on and off.

My next speaking event is the Mother Earth News Fair at Topeka, Kansas, Oct 25-26.

 


 

Heritage Harvest Festival, Mother Earth News Fair and plenty of watermelons

HHF_20141I’m gearing up for my Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables presentation on Friday September 12 at 9 am at Monticello (near Charlottesville, VA) as one of the Premium Workshops of the Heritage Harvest Festival. After my presentation  I will be signing copies of my book Sustainable Market Farming (see the tab About Pam’s Book) at 10.15 am at the Monticello bookstore. Come by for a chat, even if you’re not buying a book that day. Image-front-cover_coverbookpage

Jeanine Davis, author of  Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Woodland Medicinals will be signing copies of her book at the same time.

Last time I looked there were still some tickets available for each of the premium workshops except Peter Hatch’s tour of the vegetable garden.

The Heritage Harvest Festival is a lovely event, promoting and celebrating gardening, sustainability, local food, crafts and the preservation of heritage plant varieties. This is the 8th Annual HHF, hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in partnership with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. There are food booths, music, a beer garden, events for children (last year they were splitting fence-posts and making split rail fences). There is also a seed swap, so bring what you have to offer and take home something different.

This year there is also a Special Thursday event on Edible Landscaping with Rosalind Creasy and our own Ira Wallace. 1-4 pm, $45. On Friday there is also a special Harvest to Hearth event where you can watch a demonstration of cooking on a fire in the Monticello kitchen. 9-11 am, $55. If you are making a special occasion of the weekend there is the Chefs’ Harvest Dinner  6:30 – 9 p.m Friday. It’s $125 and it’s bound to be good. Outside my price range, by quite a bit.

If you can only come for one day, come for the main event on Saturday, with booths where you can watch crafters, buy seeds, plants, tools; taste more varieties of tomatoes than you knew existed; attend various free workshops and tours of the Monticello vegetable garden and woodland walks. Adult general admission for Saturday is $10 until September 11, $15 At the Gate. Child tickets and family tickets are also available. It’s a fun day at a fair price. Lots to see and do, and a beautiful setting.

Ken Bezilla of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is offering his workshop Fall & Winter Veggies: Zero Degree Gardening for free at noon on Saturday at the Vegetable Gardening Tent. So if all the $10 tickets for my workshops are sold out, or you can’t make it on Friday, go to his workshop on Saturday! Or just to hear a second opinion!


MENFairLogoOn Friday, after my book signing and hers, I’m zooming off with Cindy Conner of Grow a Sustainable Diet fame, up to Pennsylvania for the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs. No, it wasn’t our idea to have both events on the same weekend, but we’ll make it work!

A weekend pass is only $25 (and you’ll need to find accommodation). It’s only $15 if you hurry up and pre-order! Food is available at the Fair, but bring something in case the lines are long. The Fair website has links to hotels and campsites, and there are some rooms at the Seven Springs resort itself. It’s a huge event, with row upon row of vendor and exhibit booths, and 12 workshop locations offering a series of 4 workshops on Friday afternoon, 6 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. That’s 180 workshops for grown-ups. And there’s a kids’ program too.

The complete list of speakers is here. And the schedule is here. Keep reading. (ignore the funny gap which I can’t seem to get rid of)

I’m presenting Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops. I’m doing this one twice, 10 – 11 am on Saturday at the Seed Stage and 11.30 am -12.30 pm on Sunday at the New Society Publishers stage. The blurb says: “We will provide ideas to help you design a sequence of vegetable crops that maximizes the chance to grow good cover crops as well as reduce pest and disease likelihood. We will discuss formal rotations as well as ad hoc systems for shoehorning minor crops into available spaces. The workshop will discuss cover crops suitable at various times of year, particularly winter cover crops between vegetable crops in successive years. We will include examples of undersowing of cover crops in vegetable crops and of no-till options”

I’m presenting Fall Vegetable Production on  Saturday 1-2 pm at the New Society Publishers stage and again on Sunday 4-5 pm at the Storey stage. “Learn how to optimize production by choosing a suitable combination of warm weather crops, cool weather crops and cold-hardy crops. Hear seasonal tips on dealing with hot weather, followed by information on dealing with cold weather, as well as advice on scheduling late summer and fall plantings, thoughts about season extension and an introduction to winter hoophouse growing.”

I’m also doing a book signing on Saturday 2-2.30 pm at the MEN bookstore.

and
Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-and-speakers-pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz3C5xXb3Rz

and for those nearer Kansas than Pennsylvania, I’ll be at

Topeka, Kan. | Kansas Expocentre | Oct. 25-26, 2014


Meanwhile we are getting a sudden spell of hot weather and have started catching up on tilling raised beds for fall crops, and in some cases, oats as a winter cover crop. We have decided to stop harvesting watermelons for eating at 531. I wrote about our decisions about how many watermelon to plant and to harvest in 2012. We’ve had a banner year! We had the biggest melons ever – some were hard to lift! And the flavor has been delicious! And the foliage is still in good shape, not diseased. A big success. We harvested about 40 so far for seed, and will do one big bulk seed harvest round on Wednesday. Next year you can grow our Virginia Select Crimson Sweet watermelon! Buy the seed from Southern Exposure.

Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon.
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

 

Sweet Corn all Summer, Curing Onions, Sowing Fall Brassicas

Buckets of tomatoes and corn I posted on Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog about Growing Sweet Corn for the Whole Summer. You can read it here:

www.motherearthnews.com/…/growingsweetcorn-zbcz1407.aspx

If you search for the title of my post on the MEN Organic Gardening blog you’ll also find other posts on MEN about sweet corn.

If you are planning more careful succession planting of warm weather crops, see what Babara Damrosch has to say at http://www.organicgardening.com/tags/succession-planting/succession-planting-keep-it-coming


Another seasonal task here is harvesting, drying and curing onions. In the humid southeast we need to dry onions indoors with fans. Cool-climate methods of laying the pulled onions on the bed in the sun and leaving them there for days are absolutely not right for our climate! Onions bake if left in 90F sunshine. They don’t dry if the humidity is up there in the “sweat rolling off” level. They rot if they don’t dry. So we use fans and drying racks. At Twin Oaks this year we have grown only a few onions, so we are trimming ours and taking them directly to the kitchen.

If you are thinking of making onion racks, take a look at the handsome onions and natty racks in this photo from the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville, Virginia

img_1555

I asked Todd how to make onion racks and he replied:

“The racks are super simple to make. They are basically just 4′x8′ sheets of 1/2″ plywood cut into quarters with 6″ blocks cut from 2×4′s for legs. The neat thing about using 6″ blocks for legs is that you can use up all those scrap ends of 2×4′s that always seem to accumulate after projects.

The shelves are modular, so you can make them as short or as tall as you like. Each shelf consists of one plywood piece with four legs attached at each corner. They link together kind of like Ikea furniture. The bottom center of each leg has a shallow hole drilled into it that is the diameter of a screw head. I then partially drive screws into the top of the plywood shelf at each of the four corners, so that the head of the screw sticks up half an inch or so. The screws nest inside the hole in the bottom of each support leg, locking each piece together. They’re surprisingly sturdy. I set up a template to mark the legs and the spot where the screws go, so that each of them is the same. Therefore any of the shelves will lock together. Hope the description makes sense.”

UACC operates three gardens in Charlottesville, near people who have limited incomes and may rely on federal assistance to get food. UACC’s Food Production and Distribution program provides organically-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables for these residents, helping them get good food and providing them the chance to help grow that food.


Our other big task has been to sow our fall brassica seedlings: cabbage, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Yukina savoy, collards. Kale comes later. I wrote about sowing fall brassicas last year, so I won’t repeat that here. Just remember that timely sowing is very important at this time of year, so don’t put it off!

Harvesting carrots and beets, weeding, mulching.

Nadia eggplant. Photo credit Kathryn Simmons
Nadia eggplant.
Photo credit Kathryn Simmons

Now that we’ve got the garlic harvest behind us, as well as the June potato planting, we are turning our attention to weeding and mulching. We have hoed our leeks, our recent corn plantings, and the newest beans, squash and cucumbers. We have sowed some more beans, and some more cabbage and broccoli for fall. We weeded and mulched the eggplant, okra and slicing tomatoes.Eggplants are almost ready! Tomatoes are getting ripe! We walked through the watermelon patch and pulled out the weeds poking through the biodegradable plastic mulch, where it has started to crumble. Last week we did the same with the sweet potato patch.

Rows of Roma paste tomatoes, some on bioplastic, some no-till. Credit Bridget Aleshire

We’re getting ready to pull the weeds in the big Roma paste tomato patch, which also has biodegradable plastic mulch. Usually most of the patch is in a mowed no-till cover crop, but last winter we had colder-than-usual weather, and poorer-than-usual stands of legumes in our cover crops. So we decided to add compost, disk the cover crop in and use bioplastic for the whole Roma plot. As I said in my previous posts about bioplastics, they are especially good for vining crops, and although tomatoes can be grown sprawled on the ground, we don’t do that. We stake ours and use Florida String Weaving.

String-weaving tomatoes. Credit Kathryn Simmons
String-weaving tomatoes. Credit Kathryn Simmons

So when the bioplastic starts to break up, we need to cover the ground with something else. We unroll big round hay bales between the rows. (We planned for this, so the rows are just the right space apart.)

Another big task this week (and next) is clearing our spring sown carrots and beets, for storage in our walk-in cooler. Then we’ll steadily eat our way through them, as well as pickle some beets. Rumor has it that we still have some pickled beets from last year in the basement, although I haven’t checked that out. Carrots and beets get woody if left in the ground too long, especially in hot weather. So it’s better for us to harvest them all and store them under refrigeration.

Actually we had to jump to it and clear one bed of carrots this morning, because the bed is needed next Monday for more sowings of fall brassica seedlings. We’ll add compost, till it, then rake. The crew cleared the five 90′ rows in just half an hour, to my amazement. We got 3.5 big bags. I don’t think anyone weighed them, but they were the standard size 50# carrot bags, but not so full. Maybe 150# total. They were sown 3/15. We have two beds that were sown earlier, but we don’t need those beds quite so urgently!

Danvers Half-long carrots. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Danvers Half-long carrots. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Slideshow on late fall, winter and early spring vegetables; Upcoming events; Know your weeds.

Last week I gave a workshop on late fall, winter and early spring vegetables for some of the growers for the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA. The goal was to help local growers of sustainable produce to grow more vegetables for late fall, during the winter, and again in early spring, so that Local Food Hub can supply this good food to more people locally. Here’s a pdf of the slideshow I presented. We also had worksheets for the five priority focus crops they had chosen: bunched carrots, bunched beets, romaine lettuce, spinach and cooking greens (kale, collards, chard and Asian greens). I enjoyed meeting the other growers and came away with some ideas myself.

<iframe src=”http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/35667593″ width=”427″ height=”356″ frameborder=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px 1px 0; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;” allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/production-of-late-fall-winter-and-early-spring-vegetable-crops” title=”Production of late fall, winter and early spring vegetable crops” target=”_blank”>Production of late fall, winter and early spring vegetable crops</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>


 

I’ve started to take bookings for fall workshops. So far, this is where I’ll be:

2012-festival-slideshowHeritage Harvest Festival, Monticello, near Charlottesville. Friday September 12, 9-10am Growing and Storing Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables

MENFairLogo

Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, PA. Saturday and Sunday September 13-14, times to be decided

Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops

Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production


Garlic hanging in netting to dry
Garlic hanging in netting to dry

Meanwhile, at home in our gardens, we’ve been dodging big rainfalls to get our garlic harvested. Not as much as last year – we lost quite a lot to the cold wet winter weather. But what we have got is now hanging in netting in our barn to dry and cure for a few weeks.

Also on our “very pressing” list of things to do is to cut our seed potatoes and get them planted. I wrote previously about our June potato planting. Most of the garden looks very good. I’m especially noticing that our recent corn planting has few weeds – it was last year’s watermelon patch and had the biodegradable plastic mulch. I had heard other growers say the biodegradable mulch reduced weeds in future years. It’s very gratifying to see that with my own eyes. We are uncovering various cucurbits that are now flowering, so that the pollinators can get o work. (We had them covered to protect the small plants from striped cucumber beetles.) The watermelons look pretty good. the second cucumbers were full of weeds, but we are working our way along the row.

Many of the raised beds look very weedy, but nothing a big round of rototilling won’t fix! Our nine pea beds need to go. It’s a happy bit of timing that our first green beans are ready as soon as the peas give up! That way we don’t have to pick both at once.

Talking of weeds, I enjoyed a recent post by Margaret Roach on her blog A Way to Garden. In particular she mentions mugwort, which we have as an escapee from a previous deliberate planting. She also has a nice photo of galinsoga, one of our worst summer weeds in the raised beds, and links to various other weedy pages.

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Chert Hollow Farm on Organic certification, More Snow, Feed the Soil presentation.

Chert Hollow Farm's photos of their farm gate before and after.
Chert Hollow Farm’s photos of their farm gate before and after.

For some time I have been following the blog of Eric and Joanna Reuter of Chert Hollow Farm near Columbia, Missouri. I admire their commitment and creativity. Recently they have posted a three-part series on why they have decided to drop their USDA Organic certification. I found it a very thought-filled and coherent piece of writing and want more people to read it and ponder the points they make.

Dropping organic certification, part I talks about some of their concerns with the USDA Organic system as a whole, and how some of the Organic rules are increasingly at odds with their “beliefs and standards for sustainable and ethical food production.” Their work creating a diverse deeply-sustainable farm with minimal bought-in inputs isn’t easily reconciled with the USDA certification process. “Trying to use our own resources in a creatively sustainable way created an unusually-shaped peg that the organic system’s round holes don’t expect. And thus there’s a lot of subtle pressure on organic farms just to buy stuff rather than be more diversified and creative in their farming approach.” According to their Organic inspectors over the years, they have been star poster-child Organic farmers for five years, and their decision to leave Organic certification will be “a major loss to the organic certification community/process in this part of the country”.

In addition to the differing philosophy and practice between Joanna and Eric’s approach and the USDA, the costs are too high and the benefits too few.

Dropping organic certification, part II  goes into some of their specific issues with the certification. Concerns include costs, including the uncertainty of whether the government will continue the cost-share program; bureaucracy (why don’t chemical farmers have to track and report their inputs and applications??); and the degree of usefulness of USDA certification for direct marketing. As a CSA farm, Eric and Joanna are no longer competing for customers with self-proclaimed “organic” farmers at the market.

Dropping organic certification, part III looks at the benefits of dropping certification, while acknowledging what they learned by being part of the certified system, specifically the value of good record-keeping, good compost-making and careful sourcing of inputs. They credit being certified (and needing to check potential herbicide use on hay and straw they brought in for feed and mulch) with helping them avoid the “killer hay” incidents which are, sadly, all too common around the country. They write about what they are looking forward to, freed from the certification restrictions. They are increasing biological diversity on their farm, getting off mailing lists (!), and communicating more with customers and CSA members, know they’ll save time on certification paperwork. Finally, they discuss some of their regrets about no longer being part of “something bigger, a known collection of farms and consumers that stood for something different from the conventional agriculture model” they oppose. They will no longer have the support of USDA if they suffer from spray drift. They will no longer have an easy label to describe their farming practices to customers. Their hope is that more direct, personal communication with CSA members and the rest of the world will take over in addressing that need.

Meanwhile, here at Twin Oaks, we’ve had More Snow. Only about 3″, following rain. But it has brought a halt to our outdoor gardening pursuits for a while. Just before the snow we managed to get some disking done – the first of the year! We had got some raised beds tilled a few days earlier, so we managed to prepare those bed and sow beets, turnips, radishes and scallions, as well as the last of the snap peas. We haven’t transplanted anything except lettuce, scallions and spinach, because it has been so cold. We got beds ready for kale, cabbage, senposai and collards, before I realized the plants were too small to go outside! All our transplants have been growing slowly. We have postponed planting our tomatoes in the hoophouse because the weather is so unsettled (which is a mild way of saying scarily cold).

On Sunday 3/16, I co-taught Feeding Ourselves Sustainably Year Round with Cindy Conner and Ira Wallace. I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago. I spoke about Feeding the Soil. Here’s my slide show from that event:

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/feed-the-soil” title=”Feed the soil. Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Feed the soil. Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>