Storage Vegetables slide show, Diversify your vegetable crops slideshow again

Well, we are getting back on the horse/bicycle after being hacked, and hoping to return to normal. Here is my other presentation from the SSAWG conference: Storage Vegetables for Off-Season Sales.

And in case you missed last week’s post before it got attacked, here’s Diversify Your Vegetable Crops again:

The three presentations I gave this past weekend at the PASA Conference can be found at SlideShare. Click the link to get directly to the first of the pages with my presentations on it, or go to the SlideShare site and put my name or that of the presentation you want in the search box. I presented Growing Sweet Potatoes from Start to Finish, Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops and Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests


Dealing with the hack has taken a lot of time and energy, so this post will be short. Today has been unseasonably warm, and atypically windy. We have been pruning blueberries, preparing raised beds and harvesting spinach, leeks and garlic scallions, our first “new” crop of 2017. Usually I reckon on starting to harvest these March 1st, but they have grown a lot recently. They are about 6″ tall. A very flavorful fresh taste for this time of year (the Hungry Gap) when we mostly get leafy greens and stored roots.

Simply set aside all the tiny garlic cloves when you do your main planting, prepare a series of furrows close together. Tumble in the cloves, shoulder to shoulder, any way up. Cover the furrows, mulch over the soil and wait for early spring. When the garlic scallions are at least 6″ tall, start digging them up. Use them raw if you are inclined, or chop and cook them in omelets, stir-fries, soups, anywhere you’d like the taste of garlic. Pow!

Garlic scallions in April.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

This post was hacked–we’re trying to restore it.

This post was hacked–we’re trying to restore it.

Cover crops slideshow, Hoophouse style and design article

Last week I went to the annual conference of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming, held at Hot Springs Resort, Virginia. There were about 430 attendees, a big increase from last year. I gave two presentations, Spring and Summer Hoophouses, and Cover Crops. Here’s the Cover Crops slideshow.

In case you were there and missed the handouts, here they are:

Spring and Summer Hoophouses Handout

Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers 4pg Handout 2016

Crimson clover is a beautiful and useful cover crop.
Photo Kathryn Simmons


My next two events are

Jan 25-28, 2017 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel and Convention Center, 401 West High St, Lexington, KY 40507. 888 421 1442, 800 233 1234. Registration: http://www.ssawg.org/registration

I’m presenting two brand new 90 minute workshops: Diversify your Vegetable Crops (Friday 2-3.30pm) and Storage Vegetables for Off-Season Sales (Saturday 8.15-9.45 am). Workshops will be recorded. Book signing (Thursday 5pm) and sales.

Feb 1-4 2017 PASA Farming for the Future Conference 2000 people Location: Penn Stater Convention Center, State College, PA Registration: http://conference.pasafarming.org/

I’m presenting three 80 minute Workshops: Sweet Potatoes, (Friday Feb 2 12.50pm), Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops,  (Saturday 8.30am), and Succession Planting, (Sat 3.40pm). Workshops will be recorded. Book-signings and sales.

Sweet potato harvest 2014
Photo Nina Gentle


The January 2017 issue of Growing for Market is out. It includes my article on Hoophouse style and design. As well as the Gothic/Quonset
decision and that on whether to choose  roll-up, drop-down or no sidewalls, this article discusses roads, utilities, irrigation, in-ground insulation, end-wall design, inflation, airflow fans, and bed layout to match your chosen method of cultivation.

Other articles include Barbara Damrosch on flower production on a small vegetable farm (beautiful photos!), Emily Oakley on planning to  grow only what you can sell (words of wisdom), Eric and Joanna Reuter with part two of their series online weather tools for farmers, Jed Beach on how to avoid and fix common financial mistakes we farmers make, and Jane Tanner on local food hubs. Plenty of good reading!

The first issue of Growing for Market that I ever picked up (years ago) had an article about flame-weeding carrots. I realized that that one article was going to save us more than the price of a subscription. Just one good idea, clearly explained, can save so much wasted time!

We won’t starve or get scurvy! Plenty of food in the winter hoophouse!
Photo Twin Oaks Community

Heritage Harvest Festival soon! meanwhile in the garden . . .

A demonstration at Monticello. Photo by Monticello

A demonstration at Monticello.
Photo by Monticello

The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, is coming right up. Friday September 9 and the main day Saturday September 10. I’ll be presenting two workshops, Fall Vegetable Production and Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops. This is my first speaking engagement of the fall/winter/spring season. I have plans to make an Events Page, but our internet speed is still glacial, due to our tower having been struck by lightning, so I’ll wait on that.

Better Times: Lettuce Seedbed with Concept, De Morges Braun, New Red Fire and Loma lettuces. Photo Bridget Aleshire,

Better Times: Lettuce Seedbed with Concept, De Morges Braun, New Red Fire and Loma lettuces.
Photo Bridget Aleshire,

Meanwhile in the garden, we have been having a challenging time. Cutworms mowed down our lettuce seedbed. We lost several weeks’ worth of lettuce at once, (all our October and first week of November lettuce). To prevent further depredations, I started sowing lettuce in flats, up off the ground on a metal frame I had handy. That should provide lettuce for late November and December. What to do in the meantime? I decided to direct sow some custom baby lettuce mix in the bed where we would have transplanted the missing lettuce. We’ll eat this at a young stage, so perhaps it will help us catch up.

baby lettuce mix in our winter hoophouse. Photo Twin Oaks Community

Baby lettuce mix in our winter hoophouse.
Photo Twin Oaks Community

We don’t usually grow baby lettuce mix outdoors, only in the winter hoophouse. We have to work hard to get lettuce to germinate in hot weather. But cooler weather is due here in a couple of days and I’ve already seen baby henbit seedlings coming up, a sign the soil is cooling down. I always watch for henbit, chickweed and dead nettle germinating as fall approaches, as they tell me when I can start thinking about sowing spinach.

Henbit is a spring and winter annual weed here. Sometimes people confuse henbit, ground ivy and dead nettle. Here’s a really useful blogpost from Identify that Plant on distinguishing these three easily mixed up early spring plants. This site has really helpful photos, although of course, we are not looking at full sized flowering plants now, but tiny two-leaved seedlings. Here are photos of chickweed, henbit and dead nettle seedlings. These are the three I look for when deciding if the conditions have become suitable for sowing spinach.

Chickweed seedling. Photo from UC IPM Weed Gallery

Chickweed seedling.
Photo from UC IPM Weed Gallery

Henbit seedling. Photo from UC IPM Weed Gallery

Henbit seedling.
Photo from UC IPM Weed Gallery

This last photo comes from a Danish website, but have no worries – they have thoughtfully written in English. See how closely the dead nettle seedling resembles the henbit? And see the differences, the way the seed leaves come off the petioles, and the overall shape of the true leaves?

Purple Dead Nettle seedling. Photo by Plantevaern Online

Purple Dead Nettle seedling. Photo by Plantevaern Online

I see I’ve written a lot about lettuce again. And weeds again. And some doom and gloom. So here’s some good news. Our okra is doing really well, and so is our sweet corn! Our internet is too slow to let me include photos of those.

 

Events I’ll be speaking at, error found in SMF, book update

Cucumbers and squash in our hoophouse. Photo Nina Gentle

Cucumbers and squash in our hoophouse.
Photo Nina Gentle

First of all, I’ll get my confession off my chest. A savvy reader spotted an error in my book Sustainable Market Farming: Take a red pen and correct your copy!

In Chapter 20, Sustainable Disease Management, on page 135 I said “Pathogens can infect the seed via several routes . . . Insects that feed on the plant can transfer the disease (striped cucumber beetles vector bacterial wilt, which is caused by Erwinia tracheiphila)”
It is true that striped cucumber beetles vector bacterial wilt, which is caused by Erwinia tracheiphila. It isn’t true that this disease is seed-borne. I don’t know where I got the wrong information from. I don’t yet know of an example of a disease spread by insects that can become seed-borne (that I feel confident about!).
I’ve asked my publishers, New Society, to correct that mistake next time they reprint. I wrote to the attentive reader, thanked her, and asked her for leads on where to find  information about seed-borne diseases brought in initially by insects.

Meanwhile, I can recommend two books on seed growing (that weren’t out when I wrote my book), that contain good information about which diseases are seed-borne. I reviewed the impressive The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio a while back..

Newer is The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving from Seed Savers Exchange and the Organic Seed Alliance. Including “advice for the home gardener and the more seasoned horticulturist alike”, this is also a book from people who work growing seeds, and know their stuff. I plan to review it one week soon (when the work pace slows a little!)
If you’re a seed grower, you might want to add one of these to your wish list. Both are beautiful books, as well as clearly written ones.
This year I am not doing quite as much seed growing as some years. For sale, we are growing Carolina Crowder cowpeas in our hoophouse. Click the link to see photos.
For ourselves, we are selecting and saving seed from our Roma tomatoes and Crimson Sweet watermelon, as well as West Indian Gherkins. We are also saving garlic and shallots for replanting.

It’s that time of year when I line up events I’ll be speaking at in the fall and winter (and to some extent, into spring). Here’s my plan so far:

2012-festival-slideshow Friday and Saturday September 11-12 2015
Heritage Harvest Festival, Monticello, Charlottesville, VA.
On Friday, 1.30-2.30pm I will be offering one of the Premium Workshops, Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops.
That’s at the Woodland Pavilion, Visitor Center.
Then I will be doing book signing at the tent called The Shop at Monticello (at the Visitor Center), 2.45-3.13pm.
On Saturday I will be offering another premium workshop, Producing Asian Greens. This one is at the Vegetable Garden Tent at the Mountaintop (where most of the Saturday events are). It’s immediately followed by another book-signing, 5.30-6.0pm. The Festival ends at 6pm. All day Saturday is packed with events, and a General Admission ticket will be all you need apart from tickets for premium Workshops.

MENFairLogoThe following weekend, September 18-20, I will be at the Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The schedule is not yet firm, but I will be presenting The Hoophouse in Fall and Winter probably on Friday September 18 4-5pm at the Mother Earth News Stage, and The Hoophouse in Spring and Summer on Saturday September 19 10-11am at the GRIT stage.

I will also be signing books at the Mother Earth News Bookstore at some point and doing some scale demonstrations of string-weaving for tomatoes at the New Society Publishers booth.


Hoophouse greens in November. Credit Ethan Hirsh

Hoophouse greens in November.
Credit Ethan Hirsh

The weekend of October 24-25 I plan to be at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas with the two Hoophouse workshops. In February 2016, Mother Earth News is running their first fair in Belton, TexasToo soon for detailed information yet, but watch the site, if you live in Texas.


CFSA

November 6-8 I will be at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference, in Durham, North Carolina. Click here for the Conference page. I’m doing two workshops, Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables – on Saturday November7, 8.30-10am, and Succession Plantings for Continuous Harvests – on Sunday November 8, 10.45am-12.15pm. I will also do book signing at the BookSignAGanza, Saturday 5-6pm.


SSAWG

January 27-30 I will be at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference in Lexington, Kentucky. On the website you can sign up for the e-newsletter and around October 15, you can do Early Bird Registration. I hope to be a speaker, but it’s too soon to say. . .


logoFebruary 3-6, 2016 I will be at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference  at the Penn Stater Conference Center, State College, PA. Save the date.

 

Fall Vegetable Production slideshow, Kansas Mother Earth News Fair, hoophouse end walls

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Well, it took me longer than I expected to get my Fall Vegetable Production slideshow up on SlideShare.net after the Pennsylvania Mother Earth News Fair, but here it is.

Now I am starting to plan for the October 25-26 Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas. I’ll be doing three workshops: Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables on Saturday 10 am on the Seed Stage, Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops on Saturday at 5.30 pm on the Seed Stage, and Fall Vegetable Production on Sunday at 11.30 am on the Grit Stage. As of today, they are not yet listed on the website, but soon they will be. A chance for me to meet some non-East Coast people!

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At home, we have been plugging away at replacing the end wall plastic on our hoophouse. No action pictures yet, but lots of progress. I always over-estimate how much we can get done in the time available. I forget we have a lot of new people, who work part-time. I’m busy compiling a list of tips for replacing hoophouse end wall plastic next time. We bought a roll of plastic 24′ x 100′, and our gothic-style hoophouse is 12′ at the apex. What was I thinking? There’s no spare between 24′ and 2 sides at 12′ each! We learned by accident that the plastic was not evenly folded, so our “midline” cut wasn’t and we got one “half” bigger than the other. This turned out to be a stroke of luck! We used the bigger half outside and the shorter half inside. We solved the shortage by having the top triangle indoors be covered by a separate piece of plastic, letting the big piece of plastic start just above the end wall window, (which is above the double doors).

We learned to mark the center-point of each piece of plastic, to help with lining up from side-to-side. We learned to put the edge with the big printing up high, where most of it gets cut off anyway, so we don’t have to stare at it for the next 7 years or so. We learned to keep the surfaces that had touched the ground facing outward, so we don’t trap dirt between the two layers of new plastic. We learned that it’s best to get both layers of plastic up on the same day, or else the inside of a single layer is coated with condensation next morning, and you have to mop it dry to avoid trapping water in the space. We learned that it really doesn’t take many 100′ lengths of old drip tape to batten two hoophouse ends. We learned that all staple guns are temperamental. We learned that having only one roll of duct tape on the job is a false economy, as it creates a bottleneck when only one person can be covering all the protruding metal bits the plastic will touch. And, once again, I appreciated how nice it is to have someone else cooking lunch for us, so we can work on the project up till the last minute. Hooray for community!

The 30' x 96' gothic-style hoophouse at Twin Oaks Community

The 30′ x 96′ gothic-style hoophouse at Twin Oaks Community

 

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

 

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

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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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Home from Asheville, potatoes planted, more rain and cold weather.

Last night I got home from a very successful Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, North Carolina. This location was new one for Mother Earth News, and attendance was higher than expected. On Sunday evening one of the staff told me there had been 7000-8000 people. That’s not official. The weather was perfect, and the setting beautifully backed by the mountains. I gave two presentations: Cold-hardy winter vegetables, and Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops, which I revised for the occasion to be clearer, I hope! Tomorrow I’ll upload it to Slideshare.net, so attendees can watch again, and people who didn’t go can see it for the first time. I did a book-signing, and had a marketing talk with my publishers.

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I got home to find our garden crew had managed to seize the moment with dry enough soil and get the potatoes planted. It did involve an evening shift covering them. The beds had been prepared for planting broccoli and cabbage, but time ran out. Just as well, maybe. We now have the possibility of a night-time low temperature of 25F tonight and 26F tomorrow. The transplants are better off in the coldframe under several layers of covers.

I spent a lot of the day setting rooted sweet potato slips into flats.The link takes you to last spring’s blog post telling more about how we do it.  Ten days ago I was behind on my goal for the number of slips in flats. Today I am two weeks ahead, suddenly!

Cut sweet potato slips put in water to grow roots. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Cut sweet potato slips put in water to grow roots.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Growing sweet potato slips in a germinating cabinet. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Growing sweet potato slips in a germinating cabinet. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Another piece of good news is that the glitch that sometimes made my website repeatedly unavailable has been solved!

 

 

 

Article about mulching; dealing with a trapped skunk

GFM_April2014_cover_300pxThe April Growing for Market magazine is out, with my article about mulches. We use a range of mulching materials to help keep down weeds, retain soil moisture and either cool or warm the soil. We use cardboard topped by woodchips or hay for our blueberry plantings,and  hay for asparagus. In the past, we used newspaper and hay for strawberries, nowadays we use landscape fabric with holes melted into it. We use hay for garlic, summer-planted potatoes, celery, eggplants, chard, spring broccoli and cabbage. We use the biodegradable plastic (Mater-Bi or Eco One) for watermelons, peppers, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, and sometimes cucumbers or squash. it helps warm the soil and so the warm-weather crops grow much better and this alone gives us watermelons a month earlier than previously. We also grow our own mulch, a winter cover crop of winter rye, hairy vetch and Austrian winter peas which we mow down in early May. It’s a no-till cover crop – we transplant our Roma paste tomatoes right into the dead mulch. The vetch and peas provide all the nitrogen the tomatoes need, so we don’t need to add any compost. The rye covers the soil for 6-8 weeks. then we unroll hay bales between the rows to last till the end of the long season. No-till mulches keep the soil cooler than if the soil were disked or tilled, so no-till cover crops are only suitable for crops you don’t want quickly!

Mulching beds with newspaper and straw. Photo Luke J Stovall

Mulching beds with newspaper and straw.
Photo Luke J Stovall

Other articles this month include one by Andrew Mefford about watering and fertilizing hoophouse tomatoes in Maine, and one by Brett Grohsgal about smoothing the process of making urban CSA deliveries, including an amusing taxonomy of drivers (Dawdlers, Darters/Weavers, Reckless Racers, Breakers, the Distracted, the Erratic, and Smooth Operators. If only we were all Smooth Operators! Brett also includes his tips on choosing the best delivery vehicle, where he comes out in favor of an Isuzu box truck. Ariel Pressman writes part two of a series on finding good workers and the flower grower Gretel Adams tackles managing multiple markets as well as weddings.  Everyone is jumping into action for spring!

This week in the garden we have been stymied by excess rain (again). Beasties have been eating our crops. I caught two groundhogs already. they were snacking on our kale. In the process of trapping groundhogs in a live trap, I accidentally caught a skunk. This happened last year. It could even have been the same silly skunk – it had a lot of white and not much black to its fur.

So, how to let the skunk out of the trap without arousing its ire? We brainstormed a bit and I told how I did it last year, using sticks to open the trap and a plastic sack to screen myself. One of the crew came up with a better idea, which I’ll now pass on, in case you ever need to know how to do it. She got a large piece of cloth, draped it over the trap and then delicately opened the trap by hand, through the fabric. It worked like a charm. The skunk ambled out. But then it turned round and went back in, back to sleep. Skunks are nocturnal, so I guess it thought better of setting out to find a new resting place. We left the trap open all night, and in the morning it had gone.

The fabric was so perfect we are now keeping it in the garden shed in case we need it again. It was a large piece of knit polyester – thick, drapeable, washable, and not the sort of thing anyone would have wanted to make clothes out of!

Meanwhile we have a burrowing animal biting off our broccoli seedlings from flats in the coldframe. It isn’t eating them, just felling them, and stashing them in piles. Argh! My current theory is moles. Although carnivores, they apparently use leaves to line their nests. We tried hot pepper on the seedlings, the rain washed it off. We set the flats on landscape fabric. Now they bore through the landscape fabric. The tunnels are too big for voles or mice. Today we are trying to fob them off with dumpstered iceberg lettuce, and spare kale seedlings. If anyone has ideas, please leave a comment.

On Thursday I’m off to Asheville, to the Mother Earth News Fair, where I am giving two presentations, Cold-hardy winter vegetables, and Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops.

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