Heritage Harvest Festival presentations, Eggplant variety trials, Growing for Market

I enjoyed the weekend at the Heritage Harvest Festival. On Friday I gave my Fall Vegetable Production slideshow, which you can watch an updated version of above (again or for the first time). If you want to see it larger click here and then on the diagonal arrow icon. On Saturday I gave my Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops presentation, which you can watch below (again or for the first time). Just click on the forward pointing arrow.

To see this one larger, click here.


Epic Eggplant Photo by Nina Gentle

Epic Eggplant
Photo by Nina Gentle

We are gathering good information on our Heat-tolerant Eggplant Trials. We have been seeking a classic dark purple/black pear or tear-drop shaped eggplant that yields well in hot weather. Click the link to read last year’s report and summary of the trials in 2013 and 2104. Our plants (Nadia, Epic and Traviata this year) are all doing well. I wrote an interim report as a blog post for the Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog. This year (unlike 2013, 2014 and 2015), we’ve actually had some very hot days.

At the end of the season I will give a full report and correlate the yields with the temperatures typical at the time. Meanwhile, I can confidently say that of the three, Epic is winning! From the first harvest on 7/18, up to the end of August, Epic had produced a staggering 287 eggplants, averaging 0.9 pounds each; Nadia  125 eggplants, averaging 0.76 pounds each; Traviata 124 averaging 0.72 pounds. The cull rate for Nadia was best (least) at 21%; Epic was close at 22%, while Traviata produced a surprisingly high proportion of culls at 29%.


September 2016 cover300

The September issue of Growing for Market magazine is out. The cover article is by Jed Beach, on matching farm production with sales demand. growing produce that nobody wants is so frustrating. Probably not quite as bad as a crop failure, but discouraging in another way. The consequence is the same though: time spent working hard for no useful result. As Jed puts it:

“will our hard work and money decompose before our eyes as sales come in lower than we’d hoped?”

If the percentage of produce that is converted into sales is 80% or more, you’re doing OK. If it’s less, then try to either increase sales or decrease production. Growers who are not selling their vegetables can think about this in terms of what gets used and what gets wasted. Jed tells how to better match production with demand.

Brad Halm writes about how to manage urban and other difficult soils.He covers soil contamination, soil amelioration, container growing (building beds on top of the existing soil), in-soil growing and growing on top of impermeable surfaces like roofs.

Louise Swartzwalder describes The Crossroads Farmers Market in Tacoma, MD, which was designed intentionally to be accessible to a low-income population. A very heart-warming and inspiring story.

Michael Kilpatrick reports on the 2016 Frozen Ground Conference, held in Vermont during August. I found the material from the last Frozen Ground Conference in 2014 which focused on Winter Growing very valuable. It seems to have involved a small group of 22 very experienced participants all sharing something in the spirit of mutual aid. The 2016 conference was a large round-table discussion (not a speaker-and-audience conference). Topics included long-term soil fertility, soil salt buildup in high tunnels (hoophouses), and new and improved gardening tools, new products like Solarwrap greenhouse film. Participants brought slideshows of their hoophouse (high tunnel) heating and insulation systems. Michael has released an ebook on his blog “10 Winter growing secrets we wish we knew when we started,” which you can find at michael-kilpatrick.com.

FarmersOfficeCoverjpg-250x300Andrew Mefferd, the editor of Growing for Market, has reviewed the book  The Farmer’s Office by Julia Shanks. The subtitle is “Tools, tips and templates to successfully manage a growing farm business”. She explains how to understand the farm records you have kept, and how to keep better (more useful) records.  It includes real-life examples of straightforward and difficult situations, along with templates of forms you might use. Andrew Mefferd says: “Curl up with The Farmer’s Office in your office this winter.”

The final article in the magazine is traditionally the one on cut flowers, maybe because the color photos on the back cover can be enjoyed more often than if they were hidden inside. This time it’s an article by the previous editor, Lynn Byczynski about the U-pick cut flower operation at Omena Cut Flowers, run by Carolyn Faught in northern Michigan. The farm looks beautiful!

 

Fall Vegetable Production slideshow, Growing for Market, Mother Earth News Fair

For the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC this past weekend, I updated and presented my Fall Vegetable Production slideshow. Here it is from Slideshare.net, including some bonus material I didn’t have time to present at the weekend.

The other slideshows which I have embedded in blogposts previously can be found by clicking the Slide Shows category in the list of categories to the left side of the page. This includes Crop Planning.

The Fair was a big success, despite challenging windy cold weather on Saturday. it takes more than that to deter the Mother Earth audience of gardeners, farmers, ranchers and homesteaders. The big tents all stood up to the weather. My 4 pm workshop was in one of the tents, and I wore many layers of clothes, including my jacket and woolly hat!

Image-front-cover_coverbookpageI went to some great workshops, including ones by Eliot Coleman, Jean-Martin Fortier, Curtis Stone from the west coast of Canada (I’ll be reviewing his book The Urban Farmer, in the next week or few), and Matt Coffay from Second Spring Market Garden in Asheville, North Carolina. The theme common to all these growers is producing wholesome fresh sustainably grown vegetables using manual tools and efficient techniques. My quest also!


GFM_April2016_cover_300pxThe April issue of Growing for Market magazine is out. The new editor is having the high-level problem of an over-abundance of good articles, and I didn’t manage to get one in this issue. You can read about ensuring food safety with your produce, in an article by Linda Naeve and Catherine Strohbehn; and one on refurbishing an abandoned edge-of-town garden center and converting it into a collaborative venture of several farmers growing microgreens and vegetable seedlings, by Lynn Byczynski ( the “retired” editor), who also plans to move her family’s seed business there. Paula Lee writes about having and maintaining an orderly farm office; Abbie Sewall discusses growing elderberries and aronia berries (and using bird netting very like our newer blueberry netting which I wrote about in May 2013); and lastly Gretel Adams on pest control in greenhouse flowers. Five great articles in 24 pages!

Our blueberry netting on PVC electrical conduit hoops. Credit Bridget Aleshire

Our blueberry netting on PVC electrical conduit hoops.
Credit Bridget Aleshire


Next week I’ll tell you more about recent work in our gardens. It’s been a bit depressing this week, with broccoli transplants dying on that very cold night last Saturday. But carrots have germinated, rhubarb is almost ready to harvest and the hoophouse tomatoes are looking particularly good!

Eat-All Greens part 3, more garden planning

Eat-all greens: frosty Red Giant Mustard in December. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Eat-all greens: frosty Red Giant Mustard in December.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

I wrote about our Eat-All Greens in November and December. Here’s the last installment for this season. We had a low temperature of 6F on January 5th. Not much is left alive. Always enthusiastic to keep updating my list of cold-hardy winter vegetable crops, I took my notebook and walked the rows a few days later. Here’s a (short) list of the survivors:

Morris Heading Collards - our favorite Photo credit Kathryn Simmons

Morris Heading Collards – our favorite
Photo credit Kathryn Simmons

Best was (were?) the Morris Heading collards. We grow these overwinter in our garden too, and we are enjoying eating those. This photo shows young plants before they reached full size.

Also still showing some life were Purple Top White Globe turnips, Ortolani Market Grower arugula and some (not all) of the Hanover kale (which is after all, a Siberian spring kale, not recommended for over-winter growing).

It will be interesting to see if any of these survive until mid-February, when we will need to disk the plot (El Nino willing) to plant some new grape vines along one side. This plot is also my back-up area in case the plot where we want to plant our spring cabbage and broccoli is too wet when the time comes. The rotation puts these in the wettest part of our gardens.

I have written up our Eat-All Greens for Growing for Market magazine and you can read it in the January issue.

In this issue you can also read an article by the new editor Andrew Mefferd about growing microgreens. I’ve never grown these, so I valued getting professional tips from someone who has. How not to grow them (sowing too thickly, using expensive potting soil when you don’t need to, over-watering, under-ventilating.

GfM January 2016

GfM January 2016

He also includes tips on which seeds are best for microgreens, and how to tidily harvest. If you want to add microgreens to your market crops, a sub to Growing for Market will repay you pretty quickly with just this one article. And if you are growing them at home, it will save you lots of frustration.

The long-time editor, Lynn Byczynski, who is retiring, has an article about growing turmeric, which has similar growing requirements to ginger (but a bit easier). Eric and Joanna Reuter have written about raising shiitakes for market. Gretel Adams has written about selling cut flowers to supermarkets, which has served her as a good way to increase sales volume. All good inspirational reading while the weather doesn’t encourage working outdoors!

Eat-All Greens rows with frost in December. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Eat-All Greens rows with frost in December.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

Green potatoes, The Lean Farm, GMO issues

Mulched June-planted potatoes. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Mulched June-planted potatoes.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

I’ve just done a blog post for Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog, called Green Potato Myths and 10 Steps to Safe Potato Eating. You can read it here. it’s an updated version of a post on this site back in December.


 

GFM_September2015_cover_300pxMeanwhile an issue of Growing for Market passed without me writing an article. There’s a thought-provoking article by Ben Hartman on how their farm implemented the Lean system to remove inefficiencies, slim down what they do, focus on the important stuff and make much more money. This has also been fun. One aspect is using pictures rather than lots of words to show what to do (eg how the workspace should look after clean-up). Also visual cues such as colored magnets, rather than printed checklists. Ben has written a book, The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and

The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman, Chelsea Green Publishers

The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman, Chelsea Green Publishers

Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work. It is reviewed by Lynn Byczynski in the September issue. Here’s what the publishers (Chelsea Green) have to say: “Using examples from his own family’s one-acre community-supported farm in Indiana, Hartman clearly instructs other small farmers in how to incorporate lean practices in each step of their production chain, from starting a farm and harvesting crops to training employees and selling goods”. – See more here. It’s about how to work smarter not harder, and avoid burnout. This is a good time of year to look forward to reading a book like this, no? We’ve all been pretty exhausted here, slogging through the heat of August with not enough workers. We did take notes on how to have the fall brassica transplanting go more smoothly and efficiently in future. We finally tilled between the rows for the second time yesterday and broadcast a clover mix. Hopefully with overhead irrigation, the clover will grow fast enough to be big enough to take the foot traffic when we  start harvesting, which will be very soon!

Other articles in Growing for Market include Fences for all types of wildlife by Joanna and Eric Reuter of Chert Hollow Farm. They discuss physical barriers, electric fences, long-term and short-term fences and all possible combinations of these, including hybrids. Oh, OK not the combination of short-term and long-term, but everything else.

There are also articles on farmer networking groups, the expanding USDA loan program, and encouragement to start now for good spring cut flower sales.


 

Anthony Flaccavento

Anthony Flaccavento

Farmer and sustainable development consultant Anthony Flaccavento has published a series of four 5-minute You-tube videos to clarify GMO issues, debunk the false arguments of labeling opponents, and support efforts to persuade Senators and the President to reject the House bill to block states rights to mandate GMO food labeling.  The DARK Act outlawed all State GMO labeling laws, including those already on the books in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. This bill is a disaster for farmers, consumers, the environment and food sovereignty.

GMOs vs. World Hunger – Take 5 with Tony

This is the first segment, focused on the fallacy of increased yields from GMOs

Genetic Engineering – Take 5 with Tony

This is the segment taking on the myth of ‘equivalence’ in GMO breeding vs conventional

GMO Studies – Take 5 with Tony

3rd segment:  Debunks myth of GMO safety, that there is “no evidence” of health problems

Take Action – Take 5 with Tony

Final segment:  Recaps first three, uses this to undermine arguments against labeling laws;  call to action

 

Planting leeks, Growing for Market melon article, different weather

Planting leeks has been one of our main jobs this week. Two beds finished, three to go. When I wrote about this last year, I said we were trying leek seedlings in flats (rather than bare-root from an outdoor seedbed) for the second year, and doing the transplanting 2-3 weeks earlier than with our outdoor seedbed method, from the same sowing dates.

Leek planting diagram. Pam Dawling

Leek planting diagram.
Pam Dawling

This year we again used flats, and I think this will be the way of the future for us. It is easier to keep weeds at bay in flats than outdoors. We’ve cut back from 20 flats to 15, for the same number of beds, and still have plenty of plants. Next year, perhaps a further cut.

But I’m a bit unhappy with the root damage that occurs in getting the close-planted seedlings out of the flats. I know some growers trim leek roots before planting, but we never have. Extricating them from flats does produce a root-pruning of a sort. Last year’s leeks grew well, so I think I can ease back on worrying! Some growers use plug flats, but I can’t imagine having enough coldframe space for 5 beds x 4 rows x 90ft x 2 (6″ spacing) seedlings. 3600 plugs. Plus up to 10% spare to allow for non-germinating seeds, and for selecting the strongest.

A bed of overwintered leeks Photo credit Twin Oaks Community

A bed of overwintered leeks
Photo credit Twin Oaks Community

In 2013, I wrote about calculating the seed-row length for outdoor seed beds, and about using flats for the first time. We sowed 20 flats 12″ x 24″ with 6 rows in each. We found we had more plants than we needed, and we didn’t need the back-up sowing in April at all. We were still transplanting on June 20 that year.

In 2012, I introduced our furrow and dibbled holes system for leeks. I notice I said we were growing five varieties: fast-growing Lincoln and King Richard for eating in October and November, King Sieg for December, and the hardy Tadorna for December to February. I count that as four, not five, so I wonder about the fifth. We were still transplanting leeks on June 28, because the March 21 sowing got over-run by weeds, and we used our back-up April 20 sowing.


 

GFM_JuneJuly2015_cover_300px

The June/July issue of Growing for Market is out, including my article about growing muskmelons aka cantaloupes. I was surprised to find I had never written about growing melons for Growing for market previously. There’s a chapter in my book, of course. Melons are one of my favorite fruits, and I enjoy even looking forward to them! I wrote about the different types of melons and why the ones we call cantaloupes are actually muskmelons; how to start the seeds; transplanting and direct sowing; keeping the bugs off and harvesting. There are also lists of pests diseases you hope not to get, and some handy resources.

I wrote a complementary post for Mother Earth News Organic Gardening Blog about personal size melons, something we are trying again this year.

Kansas Melon. Photo by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Kansas Melon.
Photo by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

In this issue, you can also read the cover story by Emily Oakley and Mike Appel of Three Springs Farm in eastern Oklahoma, about having small children while farming. Worth learning from others’ experience before launching into that project! Periodical cicadas are the subject of Lynn Byczynski‘s editorial. They were here on our farm in 2013.

Regina Dlugokencky of Seedsower Farm in Centerport, New York writes about a new organic farming opportunity: the supply of organic mulching materials from the current proliferation of microbreweries. She has had success using Spent Brewers Grains (SBG) on Long Island. One micro-brewer can produce 220 pounds of SBG per working day. Read the complete report at www.sare.org – search for Project Number FNE12-743.

There’s also an article about two electronic record-keeping systems you can use on your smart phone, if you have one. COG Pro (use the word Guest as username and password) and FARMDATA. Next up is an article about a small flower farm in County Cork, Ireland. Gretel Adams closes with an article about flower photography to increase sales.


Chitting seed potatoes ready for planting. Credit Kati Folger

Chitting seed potatoes ready for planting.
Credit Kati Folger

And lastly, the weather. After days without rain, with forecasts including “chance of thunderstorms” that went everywhere but here, we finally are getting some rain. Hoeing is out, transplanting is in, as is setting seed potatoes to sprout for our second planting, in a couple of weeks.

For weather-entertainment from the safety of your own desk, check out LightningMaps.org. Real time lightning. Of course, if the lightning is close, you might  close down your computer and not get zapped.

 

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Laura Lengnick, Carol Deppe, Growing for Market April issue

51qEC5xzBVLImage-contributor-s_avatarHere’s a new book I’m really looking forward to reading: Laura Lengnick’s Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate. $19.95 from New Society Publishers.

Like many farmers, I’ve been struggling not to get despondent about erratic and extreme weather, especially in the past few years. I worry about how and if we are going to be able to adapt to continue producing good food despite extreme heat, cold, drought and deluge. I don’t want to slide into catastrophic thinking about plagues of new pests and diseases. Obviously we’ll need to make changes to how and when we plant and harvest – old-timey calendars don’t work any more.

I’m already there with the need for good record-keeping (to figure out what works best); eating and supplying local food (to reduce transportation fuel use and to get the freshest food); and doing my personal best not to make climate change worse. And I need help in understanding how to be more resilient and use the options I have. And it’s definitely time to start this!

I went to a workshop given by Laura Lengnick at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Conference in 2012: Managing a Changing Climate:A Farm Vulnerability Assessment and I was encouraged by her grasp of both the science and of farming. Her book is one of three being launched by New Society at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC

Resilient Gardener_SmallResilience is a concept familiar to another author, Carol Deppe, whose new book The Tao of Vegetable Gardening will, sooner or later, get a review by me on this site. I enjoyed her earlier book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. That book focuses on staple crops for survival: potatoes, corn, dry beans, squash and eggs. Her new book includes other crops which make our lives richer and worth gardening for: tomatoes, peas, green beans, summer squash. I just read an interesting interview with Carol Deppe from Margaret Roach who blogs as A Way to Garden, and makes radio podcasts such as this interview.
GFM-April2015-cover-300pxAnd yet more reading! The April issue of Growing for Market is out. I’ve written the first of a pair of articles on hot weather greens. This one is about greens mostly cooked and eaten. next month my article will be about greens mostly eaten as salads. I know there is a lot of overlap, but I had to draw a line somewhere! This month’s article includes chard, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, beet greens, Egyptian spinach, leaf amaranths, Aztec Spinach, Water Spinach, sweet potato leaves, squash leaves and shoots, crowder pea shoots and leaves and edible celosia. No need to go short of leafy greens, no matter how hot it gets!
Another article in this issue is about pesticide drift contamination, written by Joanna and Eric Reuter, whose fascinating blog I love to follow on their website Chert Hollow Farm. Their blog has a 3-part series of posts about their own experience of being contaminated by a neighbor. Their article tells their own story more briefly and also that of Terra Bella farm, an hour from them.
Jean-Martin Fortier has a great article on Six strategies to prevent weeds. We need them all! (Of course, we are already using some of them.) Raymond Cloyd from Kansas State University has written a timely article about the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a newly emerging pest of fruit, especially brambles. Gretel Adams, in her regular column on flower-growing, advises planting bulbs quickly and often. And Lynn Byczynski reports on what the ag census says about local food. Having the report read carefully and summarized for us is a great service.

Summer hoophouse slideshow, starting sweet potato slips, Growing for Market March issue

I’m back from the West Virginia Small Farms Conference, where I gave three presentations, including this new one, The Hoophouse in Spring and Summer:

I ran out of handouts, and I know some people want to view the slideshow again, to catch the bits they missed. Before next Tuesday, I’ll upload The Hoophouse in Fall and Winter as well. Maybe even later today, if I get my more urgent tasks done first.


Yesterday I brought our seed sweet potatoes, which we’d selected and set aside at harvest-time, up out of the basement and into the greenhouse, to start growing them.  I wrote about growing sweet potato slips previously. The first step was to see if they float or sink. We save extra seed roots so that we can discard the less promising and still have plenty to grow. Sweet potatoes that float will grow better and yield higher. We had saved 100 roots for a goal of 320 slips. After removing a few rotten roots and discarding the sinkers, next I tested for white streaks, called sweet potato chimeras. I cut a small piece off the distal end (the string root end), not the stem end. The idea is to throw out roots with white streaks bigger than a pencil lead. I only found a few. It’s a genetic mutation that can occur at any time. Because sweet potato slips are clones of the mother root, if you propagate from chimeras you get more chimeras. I succeeded in my goal of having 80 good roots from each batch of 100. I set the cut roots in shallow bins in our germinating chamber to heal the cut surfaces and warm the roots ready for sprouting. In two weeks I’ll “plant” them in flats of compost and return them to the germinating chamber to start growing the slips. They’ll look like this:

Sweet potato slips growing in our germination chamber. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Sweet potato slips growing in our germination chamber.
Credit Kathryn Simmons


Meanwhile the March issue of Growing for Market magazine arrived, and I found a fascinating article about a new method of growing sweet potato slips, from Anthony Boutard and Caroline Boutard Hunt. They write first about “discovering” sweet potatoes and then deciding to grow them, ordering 20 varieties from the Sand Hill Preservation CenterTheir propagation method involves cutting each slip into one-node pieces and growing a plant from each short length. This reduces the number of roots to set, which saves propagation space. The single-node cuttings are set in 50-cell plug flats, trimmed of their leaves and grown in the greenhouse for only two weeks before planting out in the field. This reduces the time caring for the young plants by a lot, which once again saves greenhouse space. They say “The resulting crop is better quality because all of the resulting tubers grow from a single node instead of several, concentrating the production. Better yet, there is absolutely no drawback to the technique, at least in our experience to date.” And then, this lovely sentence “Certainly no reason to keep it within the family.” I love the way small farmers share information and tips!

Amusingly, they refer to the method I have written about as “traditional sweet potato slip production”! When I was starting out propagating our own, I followed advice to use cold frames, which clearly doesn’t work in Virginia in March and April. I couldn’t figure how those methods could produce enough slips in time unless a huge number of roots were used to start them. I found out that growers were actually using electrically heated beds. I tried a soil heating cable but it was nothing like warm enough. I searched for more advice and found the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group the previous year had an Organic Farmer Network, who were exchanging tips. Someone, I think Ellen Polishuk of Potomac Vegetable Farms, answered others’ questions about growing sweet potato slips with something like  “I just grow them in flats.” That was a lightbulb moment for me – I knew how to grow things in flats! It didn’t seem like it was the traditional method at that time, but it certainly worked, so I adopted it and spread the word.


GFM-March2015-cover-300pxFor this issue of Growing for Market, I wrote about West Indian Gherkins as a trouble-free alternative to regular pickling cucumbers. We’re growing them in our hoophouse this spring, on a trellis net.

Andrew Meffert continues his series on greenhouse nightshade crops for colder climates. This month he provides part two of his detailed work on greenhouse peppers: Pruning and training for maximum production all season.

Lynn Byczynski gives some leads on finding and enjoying farming podcasts, while we are sowing seeds, potting up or otherwise engaged in manual not-mentally-demanding work.

Gretel Adams offers information about weed control in cut flower fields, and of course, it’s equally useful for vegetable fields! Crop planning to rotate crops with different growth habits and timing; neighboring up crops that will have similar cultivation requirements; using the most suitable tractor cultivation equipment; co-ordinating spacing of crops to fit the different equipment (including hands!) to be used for sowing and cultivating. It all adds up to efficient weed control, and maximizing yields from the space.

The lead article is by Lynn Byczynski, and provides a warning about a shortage of hybrid kale seed for the second year running. This has been caused by an increased demand for kale (yay!), a widespread case of black rot disease (boo!) and the fact that the biennial nature of brassica seed production means it takes two years to ramp up seed production.

There are some great new OP kales out there. We have our eyes on Olympic kale, available from High Mowing Seeds.

Olympic kale. Credit High Mowing Seeds

Olympic kale.
Credit High Mowing Seeds

Busy week: Asian Greens slideshow, Growing for Market, packing for PASA Conference

Here’s the updated version of the Producing Asian Greens presentation I gave last weekend at the Virginia Biofarming Conference for those who want to watch again, or those who missed it:

I thoroughly enjoyed the VBF conference. I think about 60 people came to that workshop, and 80 to my other presentation, Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests. I enjoyed catching up with old friends and meeting new fellow vegetable growers.

Now, almost without a break, I am packing for the PASA Conference.

There I will also do two workshops, Growing Great Garlic and Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables, and some book signing. Hope to meet some of you there – do come and introduce yourself as one of my blog readers!


Transplanting bare-root spinach. Drawing by Jessie Doyle

Transplanting bare-root spinach.
Drawing by Jessie Doyle

The February issue of Growing for Market magazine has just come out. It includes my article about bare-root transplants, where I hope to encourage more people to try this technique. Bare-root transplants are plants dug up from a nursery seedbed outdoors or in a hoophouse and transplanted elsewhere. Plants grown this way have a lot of space to grow big sturdy roots, which to some extent drought-proofs them, compared to those in plug flats, which need watering multiple times a day in sunny weather. This can save valuable greenhouse bench space for more delicate plants. Starts grown in outdoor seedbeds are already acclimated to outdoor weather. We grow bare-root transplants in the ground in our hoophouse during the winter, to plant outdoors in spring. In spring and summer we grow transplants in an outdoor seed-bed to plant out with more space elsewhere later. In the fall we sow crops in an outdoor seed-bed to move into our hoophouse later, when the summer crops are over, and the conditions inside have cooled down a bit. Additionally, bare-root transplants have more flexibility about exactly when you move them out to their field space, because the open ground is not going to run out of nutrients if you need to wait an extra week. So – have a go! And let me know how it goes.

GFM-February2015-web-cover-300pxRichard Wiswall (of the Organic Farmers Business Handbook fame) has written an article on how to make your CSA more profitable. Lynn Byczynski has analyzed the current state of farmers’ markets across the US. Andrew Mefford has an a article about high-yielding greenhouse peppers, especially good for those in cold climates. Lynn Byczynski has an article about a newly fashionable crop, celtuce, or stem lettuce. Anyone who has grown Cracoviensis has probably noticed how it can bolt without getting bitter. Stems from varieties such as this are served as a vegetable in their own right. Gretel Adams has a useful article on the top cut flowers for supermarket sales and florists. Something for everyone!

Cracoviensis lettuce, or "red celtuce" Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Cracoviensis lettuce, or “red celtuce”
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

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:

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

 

 

Article about Austrian winter peas, frost, horticultural myths

GFM_October2014_cover_300px

Winter peas in rye.  Credit Cindy Conner

Winter peas in rye.
Credit Cindy Conner

The October issue of Growing for Market magazine is out, with my article about using Austrian winter peas as a cover crop. The lovely photo on the cover is by Cindy Conner, from her blog Homeplace Earth. We like winter peas because they can be sown quite late in the season,  several weeks later than clovers. This gives more chance of growing your own nitrogen after finishing up a food crop in the fall. We sow winter peas until 11/8 or so, here in central Virginia (zone 7). We mix them with either winter rye or wheat for vertical support, and to add biomass when we incorporate the cover crop in spring. To get best value from legumes such as winter peas, wait till they flower before tilling them in. That’s late April here. To make this work, we arrange our crop rotation to have winter peas followed by food crops we want to plant between mid-May and July. Winter squash, watermelon, mid-season sweet corn, late sweet corn, sweet potatoes and June-planted white potatoes all fit the bill. A bonus is that the tender tips and tendrils of the cover crop peas make a gourmet salad ingredient in April, right when we are all crying out for fresh flavors. As always, the go-to information about this cover crop is available in the SARE book Managing Cover Crops Profitably

Other great articles in this issue include Eight tips for winter success by Ben Hartman. He writes about a gathering of experienced vegetable growers with suppliers, researchers and extension workers in Vermont, to compare practices and increase the amount of locally-grown winter produce. Zones 4 and 5. These growers are not timid! The eight tips include the importance of ventilation, using inner row covers close to the crops inside the hoophouse, removing those inner covers on sunny days (or at least twice a week), hardening off plants in the fall so they’d survive winter temperatures, using supplemental heat wisely if at all, using IRT or black plastic mulch for heading crops, paying attention to soil fertility and salt levels, and planning ahead to combat chickweed! The Frozen Ground Gathering participants have posted many of their Powerpoints.

Susan Studer King writes about a “21st century version of a barn-raising”  neighbors helping one another install solar panels – solar co-ops. The GfM editor, Lynn Byczynski, writes about hoophouse upgrades to save energy. Gretel Adams writes about growing stocks in the hoophouse. I love reading her articles even though I don’t grow flowers!


Meanwhile, here at Twin Oaks, we had a first very light, very patchy frost on Saturday night, well, probably Sunday morning 10/5. Very little damage, a few of the sweet potato vines hit, and a few of the Roma tomatoes. We scurried to harvest Romas on Saturday, gaining 4 big buckets of red ones and about 13 buckets of green ones. We’ve now set the green ones out on egg trays to ripen in the basement. Egg trays make great ripening containers for the egg-shaped Roma tomatoes. I mean those grey square pulp trays that hold 30 eggs or tomatoes. They stack well, are lightweight, and free! We didn’t finish harvesting tomatoes, and now have a warmer break before any more frosts, so before we harvest the rest, we can turn our attention to digging up the sweet potatoes.

Not everyone likes jumbo sweet potatoes, but for those cooking for a hundred, they are a bonus. Credit McCune Porter

Not everyone likes jumbo sweet potatoes, but for those cooking for a hundred, they are a bonus. Credit McCune Porter

For those living on the East Coast, here’s a heads up about a full lunar eclipse early tomorrow morning. 6.25 am, before the sun comes up, just before the moon sets.


Hope to see some of you at Kansas for the Mother Earth News Fair. The schedule has been updated to show my workshops.MENFairLogo


And I’ll end with a link to A Way to Garden, a lovely blog from Margaret Roach, writing about her interview with Linda Chalker-Scott, who is busting horticultural myths, such as digging a huge hole and filling it with potting soil when transplanting a young tree. Lots of fun to read, and lots of wasted time and effort saved!