Crop Planning Slideshow and Book Review

I gave my presentation on Crop Planning to a small group at For the Love of the Local, in my home town of Louisa, Virginia last Thursday (3/10). This weekend I have been in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Organic Growers School. My presentation on Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale is available to view on SlideShare.net.

My next task this week is to upload my presentation Growing Great Garlic to SlideShare, and make it available here on my blog. Currently there is an older version of the presentation, from 2013, up there. By next week I should have the new version posted.


Book Review: Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, by Frederic Theriault and Daniel Brisebois

Crop_planning_cove_compressed_largeThis compact and practical workbook is for small-scale vegetable or flower growers wanting to increase the success of their enterprise by better planning, or for new farmers wanting reliable help to get started. Clearly written, it follows a fictional couple (Hanna and Bruce) working through the eleven step planning process. This is a concise focused workbook with lots of charts, not a chatty bedtime read. But for small-scale farmers, this won’t be a dry book. As well as the excitement and relief of “Aha!” moments, readers can enjoy the chance to cement the practical tips of each chapter with a real-life example – a description of a farm tackling that chapter’s planning stage.

The approach of this book is very similar to the one I spell out in my book Sustainable Market Farming and in my slideshow posted above, although I have not yet met the authors , and we constructed our plans independently. This book leads the reader with every necessary detail and worksheet. The planning sheets are available to download as Excel spreadsheets from the Canadian Organic Growers website. You can then customize them for your own use. Or you can print them out and use as worksheets as they are, if you are not at ease with spreadsheets and would rather just have a ring binder of worksheets. One very important aspect of planning is to choose a method that works for you. If you find your record-keeping or planning method easy and comfortable to use, you are much more likely to use it and hence it will give you more useful results.

The eleven steps are:

  1. Decide your financial goals
  2. Decide on your markets
  3. Make a preliminary planting schedule
  4. Map your fields
  5. Choose varieties and finalize your planting schedule
  6. Make a greenhouse schedule for seedlings
  7. Compile your seed order
  8. Make a field operations calendar
  9. Carry out your plan
  10. Analyze your success
  11. Plan next year

Crop Planning is written by two farmers from Quebec, so growers in other climate zones will need to keep this in mind. Hanna and Bruce’s harvest season starts at the beginning of July and runs to late October. Planting season runs from May 1 to mid-October. You will need to extrapolate at both ends if your winter hardiness zone is higher than theirs. You will also need to look at summer plantings – perhaps you won’t be planting lettuce, kohlrabi or arugula in July. You’ll need to apply your experience to the methods and decide on planting dates to fit your own harvest date goals.

Also, you won’t find info on growing Southern staples like okra, sweet potatoes and lima beans in this book. But you can feed information from elsewhere (including your own experience as a grower) into the format provided.

The fictional Hanna and Bruce in this book run a CSA as well as a farmers market booth, so that planning for both are conveniently included. Measurements are included in both the metric system and the feet and pounds of the old imperial system (more common in the US). Appendices provide reference charts; tips on designing a modular field layout to facilitate crop rotations and ease the transfer of standardized lengths of row cover and drip tape; a detailed money budget; some recommendations for further reading. Sadly, no index, but the contents list is clear and straightforward.

Crop Planning will quickly repay the $25 cover price. It’s all too easy to make a mistake costing $25 or more if you are under-informed, or under-prepared in some other way. Pay now and save!

Growing for Market issue for March, upcoming events, return of the ticks

GFM_March2016_cover-300pxThe March issue of Growing for Market is out. It includes my article on planning and siting a hoophouse. This is a good time of year to scope out good sites for a hoophouse (high tunnel) if you don’t already have one. Or if you want another!

I address NRCS funding; what to look for in a good site (sunshine, drainage, good soil, fairly level land, wind protection, road access, electricity and water supplies);  size and shape; and DIY versus professionally made frames (my advice – don’t skimp!). I go into the debate on single layer versus double layer plastic and special types of plastic.

I will be writing a follow-up article soon, talking about hoophouse end wall design, windows and doors, fixed walls, roll-up and roll-down walls, interior design (bed layout) and questions of in-ground insulation or even heating, as well as rainwater run-off and perhaps collection.

Our hoophouse site before construction. Photo Twin Oaks Community

Our hoophouse when brand new. Photo Kathryn Simmons

Our hoophouse when brand new.
Photo Twin Oaks Community

Other articles in this issue of Growing for Market include one on Integrated Pest and Disease Management by Karin Tifft; one on how to plan to make more money, by Jed Beach; Edible landscaping by Brad Halm; and Gretel Adams on how to best look after flowers at harvest, to cope with their particular and sometimes peculiar needs. An issue very packed with information!


My talk at the Culpeper County Library last weekend was very well received. Most of the audience were small-scale growers themselves, some were CSA farmers.

12036905_991970554182625_8873229727110436068_nNow I’m gearing up for a Crop Planning class at For the Love of the Local in my home town on Thursday 3/10 6-7pm. 402 West Main Street. Louisa, Virginia. (540) 603-2068.

OGS Spring16_EmailSig (2)Immediately after that I’m headed to Asheville, NC for the Organic Growers School. On Saturday 3/12, 2-3.30pm I’ll be presenting (a shorter version of) Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale, which was a big hit at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference at the end of January. On Sunday 3/13 , 4-5.30pm, I’ll be presenting my Growing Great Garlic slideshow.

fair-logoTwo weeks after that, I’ll be back in Asheville for the Mother Earth News Fair. Click the link to see the draft schedule. I’ll be giving presentations on Crop Planning and on Fall Vegetable Production. We decided that although the Asheville Fair is always in April, people there also may be just as interested in fall vegetable growing as much as in spring vegetables!

For the stay-at-homes I’ll put these presentations up on SlideShare after the event and share them on my blog.


Margaret Roach A Way to Garden

Margaret Roach A Way to Garden

Spring has reached Virginia and it’s time to be on the lookout for ticks. I found a really good interview with Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute on A Way to Garden.  This blog is by Margaret Roach, a long time garden writer, who interviews many interesting people. You can listen to her podcast or read the interview. Learn why the black-legged tick (which can transmit Lyme disease) is called the deer tick and why that isn’t the best name; why mice, chipmunks and shrews (but not voles) contribute to the spread of Lyme disease, and why foxes, opossums, raccoons and bobcats can reduce Lyme disease incidence (by catching the small mammals). Possums also “hoover up” and eat the ticks directly.


We’ve finally started planting! We transplanted some spinach and sowed carrots on Saturday. The new spinach is covered with hoops and rowcovers, just as our overwintered spinach is. This has been a tough winter. The cold-damaged spinach had bleached frozen spots on the leaves, but we have been able to harvest it about once a week.

Weeding overwintered spinach in March Wren

Weeding overwintered spinach in March. Photo by Wren Vile

The Market Gardener’s Toolkit, Organic Growers’ School, and bad weather

Jean-Martin Fortier and Maude-Hélène Desroches, the farmers at Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally renowned micro-farm in Quebec, Canada

Jean-Martin Fortier and Maude-Hélène Desroches, the farmers at Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally renowned micro-farm in Quebec, Canada

The Market Gardener’s Toolkit is an upcoming 90 minute film by Jean-Martin Fortier of The Market Gardener fame. Read my review of his book. He is making this film (actually two films, one in English, one in French) using crowd-sourced funds through Ulule. Here’s the website for the project:The Market Gardener’s Toolkit. It was launched Monday 15 February, so you still have a chance to be one of the Early Bird donors and win a discount on the digital download or the DVD of the film. This project will provide us with an educational film about tools and techniques for a profitable, human-scale agriculture. As Jean-Martin says 34920215316f6552f299ae05386d7cYou can see a short trailer (preview) of the film and read how your money will be used, on the Ulule page. If you have only just heard about Jean-Martin Fortier for the first time, here’s a photo of their beautiful 1.5 acre mini-farm. Clearly, he knows what he’s talking about!

Les Jardins de la Grelinete (Broadfork Farm)

Les Jardins de la Grelinete (Broadfork Farm)

Jean-Martin leaning on his broadfork

Jean-Martin Fortier


OGS SpringConf_FBPromoI will be presenting two workshops (of the 140 offered) at the Organic Growers School on March 12 and 13 in Asheville, North Carolina. On Saturday, 2-3.30pm I’ll be presenting Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale, which was a big hit at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference at the end of January. On Sunday , 4-5.30pm, I’ll be presenting a fully revised and updated version of my Growing Great Garlic slideshow. I’ve been busy working on that (while the weather is so awful).

Organic Growers School farmer

Organic Growers School farmer


November 2013 beds BlogMeanwhile, the weather here is atrocious, and not much vegetable production is happening outdoors. Our hoophouse is still providing salads, cooking greens, turnips, radishes and scallions. Outdoors, we have managed to prune some of the blueberry bushes, and spread compost on some of the beds we hope to grow spring crops in. I say hope, because we’ll be getting a very late start, and the soil is saturated from the past two days of snow and freezing rain, on top of previously saturated soil. We were luckier than some places. We didn’t get a large quantity of snow or ice, we didn’t lose electricity, and we didn’t suffer by having to stay off the (very icy) roads. We had what we earnestly hope will be the coldest night of the year, clocking 2F (-17C).

I’m planning to spend a bit of time “perking up” my website a bit, after realizing that people couldn’t find out how to subscribe or follow my blog. Currently what you need to do is go to the bottom of the “Posted in” Tags and Categories listed at the end of the post, click  “Leave A Reply”; fill out your contact info, go to the bottom of the Leave A Reply space and click “Notify me of new posts by email” Surely I can make it easier than that? I thought I had installed a button, but it isn’t visible. I plan a survey too, when I’ve figured out how to do that.

 

 

 

SSAWG Conference, Mother Earth News and Eat-All Greens, Growing for Market

I’m home from a very successful Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference in Lexington Kentucky. It was the biggest so far, with 1400-1500 participants. My workshop Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale ran out even of standing room, so I was asked to repeat it in the afternoon. I did that and the new room was half full. I gave out over 230 handouts. The impossibly broad topic was a challenge for a 75 minute workshop, but I did my best. Last week I blogged the info on Bio-intensive Integrated Pest Management that I had to drop from the slideshow.

I love the SSAWG conference. I learned so many useful tips that will improve my farming this year and in the future. Such as another way to tell a ripe watermelon: stroke it and feel the texture of the skin. If it’s slick the melon isn’t ready. When it becomes a little rough, it is. Such as, yes a 60cfm inflation blower really should be adequate for a 30′ x 96′ hoophouse, so we almost certainly have holes in the plastic. Such as ways to deal with tomato diseases in the Southeast (thanks Joe Kemble of Auburn University).

If you are now wishing you’d been there, go to SlideShare.net and search for SSAWG. There are so many valuable presentations from conferences over the years. Also the audio of this year’s presentations (and last) are available from Rhino Technologies. Wait a few days for them to get home and load everything on their website.


Eat-All Greens on October 19 Photo Bridget Aleshire

Eat-All Greens on October 19
Photo Bridget Aleshire

And while the soil outside is waterlogged and you can’t do much gardening or farming, what better than more veggie-reading? Mother Earth News Feb/March issue has an article by Carol Deppe,  on How to Easily Grow High-Yielding Greens. Carol is the inventor/discoverer of Eat-All Greens, which I have been writing about on this blog. Her 20 years of trialing this method of growing cooking greens quickly with very little work has led her to now recommend seven greens as particularly suitable. Green Wave mustard, Shunkyo and Sensai radishes (I was interested to read that Carol also harvested the radish roots as we did with ours in December), Groninger Blue collard-kale (must get that this year), Burgundy amaranth, Tokyo bekana (check!), and Red Aztec huazontle. No mention this time of peas. Peas provided our earliest harvests this fall. Keeping them tender was a challenge though. The article includes information on where to buy the varieties she recommends. Carol also has her own seed company Fertile Valley Seeds, selling varieties and strains that she has developed.


Potato harvest in November Photo by Lori Katz

Potato harvest in November with our Checchi and Magli harvester
Photo by Lori Katz

In the same issue of Mother Earth News is some of what I have written about dealing safely with green potatoes.


GFM_February2016_cover_300pxLastly for this week, the February Growing for Market is out. This is the first issue from the new editor, Andrew Mefferd. He tackles the thorny topic of hydroponics and whether it can ever be considered Organic. (Many organic and biological growers believe it is important to Keep the Soil in Organic)  As well as the Organic status of hydroponics, he describes the various types of hydroponic production for those that want to grow food that way, and for the rest of us to understand what we are talking about.

There is an article by Nick Burton about his hydroponic system and developing a trust-based sales system in a gym for people on a “paleo diet”, who eat lots of vegetables. Then a salad mix kit. He had moved from running a plant nursery to selling produce to selling convenience for people short of time and enthusiasm for shopping and preparing food. I admit to being skeptical about the paleo diet. Didn’t those paleo people spend all day scavenging for food?

Gretel Adams writes about running a bouquet business efficiently. (I’d be no good, I would dither for too long!)

My own article this issue is very down-to-earth: growing oats as a cover crop. They are easy-care and in climates in zone 7 or colder, they reliably die in the winter, making for easy early spring cultivation. We like to undersow oats and soy in our last sweet corn patch. This saves us from having to disk up the patch to establish a winter cover crop (it’s already there!), and means we can follow the late sweet corn with an early spring crop the next year. In our case it is the March potatoes.

Late season sweet corn undersown with oats and soy Photo Kathryn Simmons

Late season sweet corn undersown with oats and soy
Photo Kathryn Simmons

 

Sustainable pest, disease and weed management

I’m off to the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference in a couple of days. I’m presenting Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale. At the link you can view a version of the slide show with lots of bonus material! (It was hard to cut the show down to 75 minutes!) I also had a lot of material on sustainable management of pests, diseases and weeds which I couldn’t even fit in the handout, so I’m posting that here.

A ladybug on a potato leaf, looking for pests to eat Photo Kathryn Simmons

A ladybug on a potato leaf, looking for pests to eat
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Biointensive Integrated Pest Management

The goal of IPM is to deal with problems in a systematic and least toxic way. Biointensive IPM goes further in emphasizing non-toxic methods.

There are four steps of IPM: prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression.

Sustainable Animal Pest Management

  1. Prevention: Focus on restoring and enhancing natural balance and resilience to create healthy plants and soil, better able to withstand attacks. Maintain soil fertility, good drainage and soil structure; plant resistant, pest-tolerant, regionally adapted varieties; grow strong plants; practice good sanitation,
  2. Avoidance: The next stage is taking actions to reduce the chances of a specific pest taking over. These actions are also known as physical controls. All these methods reduce problems without adding any new compounds into the soil. Use good crop rotations, remove pest habitat, deter known pests, use rowcovers, ProtekNet, low tunnels, high tunnels. Provide habitat for bats, insectivorous birds, spiders, birds of prey and rodent-eating ground predators (snakes, bobcats). Physically remove pests by hand-picking, spraying with a strong water spray, flaming, vacuuming, or by using a leaf-blower to blow bugs into a collecting scoop; solarize soil in the summer to kill soil-dwelling pests, as well as diseases.
  3. Monitoring (is action needed?) : regularly inspect your crops, find out when conditions are right for an outbreak of a particular pest, set traps and lures (sticky traps and pheromone traps) so you know when pests arrive or hatch out. Identify the pests you catch, keep records each year. Be prepared.
  4. Suppression: When the established action level for a particular pest has been reached, and prevention and avoidance strategies have been exhausted, bio-logical, microbial, botanical and mineral control measures can be used to reduce pest damage of crops to an economically viable level, while minimizing environmental risks. There are four types of sustainable bio-intensive control measures to choose from, starting with the least toxic solution:
    1. Biological control involves either introducing beneficial predators or parasites of the pest species, or working to boost populations of existing resident predators and parasites.
    2. Microbial controls refer to the use of fungi, bacteria, and viruses to kill pests.
    3. Botanical control uses plant-based products for pest control. An example is neem oil,
    4. Inorganic (mineral) controls, also known as biorational disease controls, make use of oils and soaps.

 

A zipper spider on a tomato plant, catching anything that lands on its web. Photo Wren Vile

A zipper spider on a tomato plant, catching anything that lands on its web. Photo Wren Vile

Sustainable Disease Management

Diseases need a susceptible host and the presence of a pathogen and suitable environmental conditions. Plant pathogens can be soil-borne, foliar-borne, seed-borne, or a combination of seed-borne with one of the others.

A. Soil-borne pathogens can live in the soil for decades, so long crop rotations are needed. Club Root is one. Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium dahliae are two soil-borne fungi. Fusarium survives a long time in soil without a host, and can also be seed-borne.

B. Foliar pathogens need foliage! They die in soil in the absence of host plant debris, so practice good sanitation. Late blight (Phytophthora infestans) is a good example of this type of disease: it does not carry over in the soil, on dead plants, the seeds or the stakes. Cucurbit angular leaf spot (ALS) bacteria (Pseudomonas syringae) overwinter in diseased plant material and on the seed coat

C. Seed-borne pathogens: Lettuce mosaic virus is an example of a disease in which the seed is the main source of the pathogen and if seed infection is controlled, the disease is prevented. Other seed-borne pathogens may start life as a foliar-borne or a soil-borne pathogen. Infected seeds will produce infected plants even in clean soil. Pathogens can infect the seed via several routes: The parent plant can become infected by drawing soil pathogens through its roots up into the seed; Pathogenic spores can float in on the air (Alternaria solani, early blight of tomatoes; Anthracnose fungus that affects nightshades, watermelon and cucumber); Insects that feed on the plant can transfer the disease (striped cucumber beetles vector bacterial wilt, which is caused by Erwinia tracheiphila); Insects that pollinate the plant can bring infected pollen from diseased plants.

Rolling biodegradable plastic mulch to prevent weeds, warm the soil and prevent splash-back which can spread diseases from the soil. Photo by Wren Vile

Rolling biodegradable plastic mulch to prevent weeds, warm the soil and prevent splash-back which can spread diseases from the soil. Photo by Wren Vile

  1. Prevention and Avoidance (cultural controls)

Apply good compost and maintain healthy, biologically active soils; Optimize nutrients and moisture for crop vigor;

Practice good soil management (eg timing of tillage) to preserve maximum diversity of microorganisms; Use rotations to minimize disease and improve the environment for natural enemies of diseases; Time your plantings to avoid peak periods of certain diseases; Practice good sanitation of tools, plants and shoes; Use seed hot water and bleach treatments; Plant locally adapted, resistant varieties; Provide good airflow; Use mulches to reduce splashback from soil to plants; Use drip irrigation to reduce moisture on foliage; Use farmscaping to encourage beneficial insects.

  1. Monitor crops for problems

Make a regular tour of your crops once a week to monitor growth and health. Keep good records. If you see a problem, identify it. Plant Diseases Diagnostic lab can help. The mere presence of a disease does not automatically require spraying. The economic threshold (ET) or action level is the point at which losses from the disease warrant the time and money invested in applying control measures.

  1. When control measures are needed
    1. Physical controls: Removing diseased plant parts, protecting vulnerable plants with rowcovers or sprayed kaolin barriers, mulching to isolate plant foliage from the soil, tool and shoe sanitation, soap washes for foliage, hot water or bleach seed treatments, and soil solarization to kill disease spores are all methods that reduce problems without adding any new substance into the mix.
    2. Biological controls: Beneficial animals and insects are more common in insect pest reduction than in disease control, but the use of milk as a fungicide qualifies as a biological control. Plants in danger of developing powdery mildew can be sprayed weekly with a mix of one volume of milk with four volumes of water. When exposed to sunlight, this is effective against development of fungal diseases.
    3. Microbial controls: Homemade microbial remedies employ liquids (simple watery extracts and fermented teas) made from compost. For a simple compost extract, mix one part mature compost with six parts water. Let it soak one week, then strain and dilute to the color of weak black tea. Fermented compost tea can deal with many maladies. If your strawberries are prone to Botrytis, apply fermented compost tea every two weeks, starting when the berries are still green. See ATTRA or the Soil Foodweb site for how to make fermented compost teas.
    4. Botanical controls: Using plant-based products to reduce disease. Neem oil, as well as being a pesticide, forms a barrier on foliage that prevents some fungal diseases from establishing. It degRolling biodegradable plastic mulchdegrades in UV light in four to eight days and must be reapplied if the disease organisms are still around. Like all broad-spectrum insecticides, neem can kill beneficials as well as pests, so caution is needed if it is used. Garlic can be used against fungal diseases: blend two whole bulbs of garlic in one quart (one liter) of water with a few drops of liquid soap. Strain and refrigerate. For prevention, dilute 1:10 with water before spraying; for control, use full strength. Kelp sprays are also used to generally boost the resistance of plants to pest, disease and weather-related problems. Biofumigation by incorporating Ida Gold and Pacific Gold mustards into the soil
    5. Inorganic controls, also known as biorational disease controls: These include Bicarbonates (baking soda) one teaspoon (5 ml) in one quart (one liter) of water, with a few drops of liquid soap as a spreader-sticker against fungal diseases. Oils and soaps copper and sulfur products, as part of a prevention program (not a cure). Several of these need to be used with caution if the plants and the planet are to survive the treatment.

Sustainable Weed Management

Weeds compete with crops for sunlight, water and nutrients, and can encourage fungal diseases by reducing airflow. Too-frequent cultivation to remove weeds can leave the soil more prone to erosion. Each tilling or deep hoeing stirs air into the soil and speeds combustion of organic matter. Most weeds respond well to nutrients, especially nitrogen. If you give corn too much nitrogen, even as compost, its productivity will max out and the weeds will use the remaining nutrients.

Remove weeds at their most vulnerable stage, or at the last minute before the seedpods explode —ignore weeds doing little damage. There are different types: annuals and perennials; stationary perennials (docks) and invasive perennials (Bermuda grass); cool-weather and warm-weather types; quick-maturing and slow-maturing types; “Big Bang” types (pigweed) versus “Dribblers” (galinsoga).

  1. Preventing weeds from germinating
  • grow vigorous crops adapted to the locality,
  • close spacings, leaving less space for weeds,
  • switch between spring and summer crops in rotation,
  • drip irrigation rather than sprinklers,
  • mulch to bury short-lived weed seeds
  • plant promptly after cultivation,
  • transplant rather than direct sowing,
  • Multiple cropping, relay planting
  • Cover crops, including no-till, reduced till
  • Encourage seed-eating birds, insects, worms, mice
  1. Reducing weed seeding
  • Reduce weed seed banks to 5 % of original levels when weeds are not allowed to seed for 5 consecutive years.
  • Timely cultivation, Mowing, Flaming, Grazing by cattle, chickens, ducks, geese
  • Using post-emergence organic weed killers: corn gluten, vinegar, flaming
We use flaming to kill quick germinating weeds in our carrot beds. Photo by Brtitany Lewis

We use flaming to kill quick germinating weeds in our carrot beds. Photo by Brtitany Lewis

  1. Reducing seed viability
  • Most weed emergence happens within two years of the seeds being shed.
  • Seeds lying on or near the soil surface are more likely to deteriorate or become food for seed predators than buried seeds, so delaying tillage generally reduces the number of seeds added to the long-term seed bank
  • If they do not get eaten, dry out or rot, seeds on top of the soil are more likely to germinate than buried seeds.
  • Small, short-lived seeds of weeds with no dormancy period, such as galinsoga, will almost all die within a year or two if they are buried a few inches. Till and mulch to bury short-lived weed seeds
  • Longer-lived seeds (pigweed, lambsquarters, velvetleaf) if buried, may remain viable and dormant for years
  • Avoid deep tillage if you have long-lived-seed weeds
  • stale bed techniques draw down the seed bank in the soil
  • Solarization
  1. Reducing the strength of perennial weed roots and rhizomes
  • Apical dominance: when a rhizome grows a shoot, chemicals from that shoot prevent other nearby nodes from sending up shoots.
  • On long rhizomes, after a certain length, the dominance effect is too weak and another node can grow a shoot.
  • When rhizomes are cut into pieces during tillage, the apical dominance is lost and each piece can grow a shoot
  • But such shoots may be weak – Cultivate again before the new shoots have grown enough to send energy back to the roots, or pull out the pieces to dry on the surface: the depleted pieces of root or rhizome may die.
  • It’s more effective to wait time until the new top growth has drawn down the plant’s reserves (in the roots) before hoeing or pulling, than to go almost daily after every sprig.
  • Removing top growth whenever the weeds reach the three- to four-leaf stage can be most effective

 

Events List 2016

I’ve been busy planning my workshops for the next several months and beyond. Here’s a list of what I have confirmed and some that are just possibilities at this point. Remember, conference registrations can make nice gifts! (as can books – click my Book Reviews category in the side bar.)

SSAWG+2016+Conf+Brochure+coverSouthern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference, KY.

Dates: January 29-30, 2016 (pre-conference Jan 27-28)

Location: Lexington Convention Center, 430 West Vine Street, Lexington, KY 40507

Registration: $199 including Taste of Kentucky banquet

http://www.ssawg.org/2016-conference-program

Pam’s Workshop: Friday, 9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale — Learn techniques for raising large amounts of food on small acreages. Pam Dawling, who raises vegetables for a 100-person community on 3.5 acres, will discuss direct sowing and growing of transplants, close spacing, raised beds, irrigation, disease and pest management, and season extension techniques. This session will be valuable for small market farmers and urban farmers who want to maximize production with limited space.

Book Signing: Thursday, January 28 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.


culpeper

Culpeper County Library, VA

Date: Sun, Feb 28, 2016 2-4 pm

Location: Culpeper County Library, 271 Southgate Shopping Center, Culpeper, VA  22701

Workshop topic: talk about my book, research, importance, etc. for 30 – 45 minutes, then 15 – 30 minutes Q&A.  CSA Farmers at an info table. (National CSA sign up day)

Signing and selling books.


23Spring_PageBanner1Organic Growers School, Asheville, NC

Dates: March Fri 11-Sun 13 2016.

Location: University of North Carolina Asheville, UNCA

Workshop topics: Growing Great Garlic – Planting, harvest, curing, storing and the selection of planting stock are comprehensively covered in this workshop. As well as both hardneck and softneck bulb garlic, this workshop covers “byproduct crops” such as garlic scallions and scapes, which are ready early in the year when new crops are at a premium.

Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale — Raise large amounts of food on small acreages.  Learn about crop planning and record-keeping, growing and maintaining healthy soils, using crop rotations, cover crops, organic mulches and the basics of compost making (and growing). Compare methods for direct sowing and growing transplants. Learn about plant spacing, raised beds, irrigation, disease, pest and weed management, and season extension techniques.  For both small market farmers and urban farmers who want to maximize production with limited space.

Handouts

Workshops are 1.5 hours each

Signing and selling books.


logoNew Country Organics, Waynesboro, VA

Small class, about 15 people

Date: Saturday March 26, 10am-noon.

Location: New Country Organics 801 2nd Street Waynesboro, VA 22980 To be confirmed

My contact: Jillian Lowery jillian.lowery[email protected]

www.newcountryorganics.com 540-184-1956 844-933-3337

Workshop topic: Succession Planting

Handouts

Selling and signing books


fair-logoMother Earth News Fair, Asheville, NC (to be confirmed)

Anticipated Weekend Attendance: 15,000

Dates: Saturday April 9 – Sunday April 10, 2016 (to be confirmed)

Location: Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road,
Fletcher, NC 28732

Registration: $25 weekend pass.

Workshops: (to be decided)

Book-signing


MGHeaderLouisa Master Gardener class tour of TO gardens

Date: Thursday, April 21

Location: Twin Oaks Community


HHF2016Heritage Harvest Festival

Dates: September 9-10 2016

Location: Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia

Tickets: TBD

Workshops: To be decided

Book-signing


fair-logoMother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. (to be confirmed)

Anticipated Weekend Attendance: 18,000

Dates: Friday-Sunday September 23-25, 2016

Location: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, 777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs, Pa. 15622

Registration: $20 weekend pass

Workshop topics to be decided

Book-signing


logoNew Country Organics, Waynesboro, VA (to be confirmed)

Date: Saturday October??, 10am-noon. About 15 people

Location: To be confirmed: New Country Organics 801 2nd Street Waynesboro, VA 22980

My contact: Jillian Lowery [email protected]

www.newcountryorganics.com 540-184-1956 844-933-3337

Workshop topic: Cold Hardy Winter Vegetables

Handouts

Selling and signing books

 fair-logoMother Earth News Fair, Topeka, KS (to be confirmed)

Anticipated Weekend Attendance: 12,000

Dates: October 22-23, 2016

Location: One Expocentre Dr., Topeka, KS 66612

Registration: $20 weekend pass

Workshop topics to be decided

Book-signing


 

Winter salad crops: Ruby Streaks. Photo McCune Porter

Winter salad crops: Ruby Streaks.
Photo McCune Porter

Meanwhile, here and now, on the ground, a photo of our much-beloved Ruby Streaks, in our Eat-All Greens patch, being used as salad greens.

CFSA report, SSAWG plans, a quiet time in between?

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference

I’m home from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference, and I had a great time. There were 1200 attendees and this was their 30th anniversary! I gave two workshops: Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables and Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests, which I updated and you can view here:

I attended three good workshops by Steve Moore (High Tunnels/hoophouses), Ellen Polishuk (Coaxing more profit from your farm) and Laura Lengnick (Resilient Agriculture). It’s nice to have enough time at an event to attend other farmers’ workshops.


 

GFM-NovemberDecember2015-cover_300pxThe November/December Growing for Market magazine is out. This double issue has 28 pages, with my article on succession planting in the winter hoophouse, and other articles on ginger, farm finances, and diseases in the winter flower greenhouse.


 

Right click on image above to download and use on your website or blog.

Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference
Lexington Convention Center ~ Lexington, Kentucky

You can see the full conference program with session descriptions at: http://www.ssawg.org/2016-conference-program

Pre-Conference Courses and Field Trips: January 27-28, 2016

General Conference: January 29-30, 2016
Visit www.ssawg.org for complete details

My workshop:

Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale

Friday, January 29, 9:45 – 11:00

I’ll also be signing books on Thursday evening January 28, 7-8.30pm

Virginian Eat-All Greens on November 8 Photo by Lori Katz

Virginian Eat-All Greens on November 8
Photo by Lori Katz

 

 

Patchy Frost, Sweet Potato Harvest, Upcoming Events,

Jalapeno hot pepper plant with a fruit changing from green to red via black. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Jalapeno hot pepper plant with fruit changing from green to red via black.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

We had a very light touch of frost in the wee hours of Sunday October 11. The thermometer in the weather box recorded a low of 36F, but some of the pepper plants “recorded” something chillier. At this time of year we start our special frost season pepper harvesting technique. Instead of just harvesting fully colored peppers (and removing damaged ones), we harvest all peppers exposed to the sky, regardless of color or size. We’ve noticed that the first few frosts usually just nip the tops of the plants. So by harvesting exposed fruits we give the ones lower on the plant a bit longer to ripen, with the protection of the upper leaves. Next time there is a frost, another layer of leaves will get nipped and we’ll harvest another layer of peppers. This also has the advantage that we don’t have to deal with too many peppers at once. Eventually, of course, we’ll either harvest everything or give up. Often there are nice periods of mild weather in between the first few frosts. looks like next weekend will bring some more definite frosts.

Sweet potatoes and our last corn of the year. Photo from September, by Ezra Freeman

Sweet potatoes and our last corn of the year. Photo from September, by Ezra Freeman

We are on the point of harvesting our sweet potatoes. After all the rain we had recently, we were waiting for the soil to dry enough to walk on. Then we were waiting for several key crew members to come back from helping harvest sorghum for syrup at Sandhill Farm in Missouri. Sandhill, like Twin Oaks, is an egalitarian intentional community. We have a labor exchange program between our communities in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities so that each community can ask for help from the other communities when they most need it and pay it back at another time. Work for a sister community counts as work for the home community. Sandhill asks for help at sorghum harvest. naturally enough this job appeals to members who do agricultural work at home. So we been short-handed in the garden for the past ten days.

I was worried for a couple of days that the weather would stay cold and the sweet potatoes might rot in the cold wet soil. One year when I was fairly new to Virginia I caused us to leave the sweet potatoes in the ground till early November (hoping they would grow a bit more) and then it rained hard and we ended up with a load of sweet potatoes that either rotted directly or else went through a transition to a hard uncookable state. I learned the hard way to harvest sweet potatoes before soil drops to 55F. This week I studied the soil thermometer and the max and min thermometer and was reassured by the warm sunny days. The soil has been drying out nicely. Tomorrow we start digging. It usually takes us three afternoons. Everything looks auspicious. No rain or horribly cold weather, enough people. . .

Sweet potato harvest Photo Nina Gentle

Sweet potato harvest Photo Nina Gentle

Meanwhile we have been working around a Big Ditch, which will soon connect our new grid-linked solar array to the main service panel. Life has been difficult, and the job is lingering because the Big Ditch filled with the heavy rains we had, then we found some unexpected old phone lines (and accidentally cut them). And then the supplies didn’t arrive when they should have. And so on. Everyone is probably familiar with projects which take a lot longer to complete than intended. Soon it will all be done, we’ll be able to disk and prepare the future garlic area take carts along the path again. And we’ll be using more of the sunlight to make electricity!!

Ditch for cables to connect up solar array. Raised beds on the right. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Ditch for cables to connect up solar array. Raised beds on the right.
Photo Bridget Aleshire


 

Upcoming Events I’ll be speaking at

MENFairLogoThe weekend of October 24-25 I will be at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas with my two Hoophouse workshops:

I will be giving Fall and Winter Hoophouses  as a keynote presentation on Saturday 10-11 am on the Mother Earth news stage and Spring and Summer Hoophouses
on Saturday at 1-2pm on the Organic Gardening Stage. I’ll be signing books at 11 am Saturday in the MEN Bookstore. I’ll be demonstrating How to String Weave Tomatoes using my sparkly-pink-tinsel and pencil model at the New Society booth 2055 on Saturday at 4pm, and Sunday at 10 am and 2 pm. If you want the pdfs of the handouts, click these links:

Hoophouse in Fall and Winter Handout

Hoophouse in Spring and Summer Handout


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 will be doing book signing on the Thursday evening Jan 28 from 7 – 8 pm, following the 25 Years in the Field  talks by several people with a long history of contributing to the growth in sustainable and organic agriculture and local foods . I will be giving a 75 minute presentation on Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale on Friday  Jan 29, 9.45 -11 am. There are about 8 conference tracks (simultaneous workshops), and the conference ends on Saturday evening with a fantastic Taste of Kentucky Banquet and live music at the bar.

MENFairLogoI hope to be at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, North Carolina. Too soon to say for sure.

Tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, carrots, conferences

This week I feel we’ve turned a corner as far as being overwhelmed by the workload. We have been able to make progress on several projects, and the complete lack of rain since August 10th means that we are gaining on the weeds.

Days of yore: carts of harvested tomatoes. Photo Wren Vile

Days of yore: carts of harvested tomatoes.
Photo Wren Vile

Our sorry Roma tomatoes have come to an end, but it’s not all bad. We got 270 5-gallon buckets. Last year we harvested 313 buckets, picking until October 16. By this point last year we had harvested only 225 buckets. It took us till September 17 to get beyond today’s 270, and then another month to get the last 40 buckets. Most of those were picked in a single day when we expected frost. The plants survived the light frost and we picked twice more.

Here are the silver linings of an early end to the Roma tomatoes:

  1. Lots of time we won’t have to spend harvesting them any more.
  2. We can get a good cover crop in, because we can clear the plot earlier.
  3. No green tomatoes to deal with. (We usually store them and sort ripening ones out weekly – there is a demand for fried green tomatoes, but only so many. . . )
  4. I was able to do good seed selection for Septoria tolerance or resistance. Some plants were much better at surviving than others.
Crimson Sweet watermelon. Photo Nina Gentle

Crimson Sweet watermelon.
Photo Nina Gentle

We’re also winding down on watermelon harvests. We’ve picked 522, within our goal-range of 500-600. We’ve eaten a lot, given some away, dropped a few by accident and saved plenty of seed for the next couple of years.

Our groundhog tally went up by 4 this week, one of them caught by a dog, the rest by us. We had a raccoon in the corn, but after a groundhog occupied its trap and ate its can of cat food, it hasn’t been back. We’ve had very good sweet corn yields. Bodacious, Kandy Korn and Silver Queen are our big three favorite varieties. We’re trying a few others on a small scale: Early Sunglow, Incredible, Sparkler, and Tuxana. No collated comments on those yet. We gave up on Sugar Pearl (early, white) after trying it last year. We much prefer Bodacious (early, yellow).

Ripening Concord grapes. Photo Kati Falger

Ripening Concord grapes.
Photo Kati Falger

Our grape harvest (mostly Concord) is almost over. Usually we harvest once a week for four weeks in August, sometimes running into September if a late spring frost froze off the flower buds and they had to develop new ones.

We watched in dismay as our June sowing of carrots suffered from Alternaria blight, which blackens the leaves. Now or never, harvest or till under? Today some of the crew, more optimistic than me, dug a third of them, and found plenty of good carrots. Some not so good, it’s true. But worth digging. No, the flavor in the hot weather is never as good as in cooler weather, but these won’t wait for cooler nights. We’re cutting our losses.

Flame weeding carrots. Photo Brittany Lewis

Flame weeding carrots.
Photo Brittany Lewis

Another of our pressing projects is hoeing the big planting of fall carrots, which we sowed in early-mid August and flamed before the seedlings emerged. The flaming was well-timed, thanks to the “Indicator Beets” – a few beet seeds sown at he end of the bed. Beets germinate a bit quicker than carrots, so as soon as the beets emerge, it’s time to flame the carrots. This year, the bit that hasn’t worked so well (apart from the drought), has been the emergence of self-sowed buckwheat, resulting from the summer cover crop we planted there, and didn’t till in in time before it set seed. So the hoeing has become urgent (buckwheat grows so quickly!). We have made a good start.

We’ve finalized our plans the outdoor winter cover crops and next year’s main crops and also the hoophouse winter crops. We have spinach seeds sprouting in a jar in the fridge while we prepare the bed. This morning in the hoophouse I pulled buckwheat and shoveled 7 wheelbarrows of compost. I was motivated by the hope that if I got the compost spreading done, others would do the broadforking and raking before my next day in there on Friday!! The broadfork is a great tool, but energetic. I’d rather barrow compost!

SSAWG Conference

SSAWG Conference

I just got confirmation that I will be a presenter at the Southern SSAWG Conference January 29 and 30. I’m presenting Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale.

Now, time to switch over the drip irrigation and water the blueberries.