Crop Report: First of 2019!

Officially it is spring but Mother Nature is thinking otherwise. Just the other morning we had a little frost on the puddles and scattered snow showers on and off. But all in all the ground is starting to firm up and the mud is going away (thank goodness). With any kind of luck we can start to get out in the fields next week and get a few early crops planted.

This week we officially wrapped up the greenhouse expansion project. Hard to believe when I first started vegetable farming my greenhouse was a whopping 10 x 16 feet. Then in 2004 we added on another 12 feet. That little greenhouse raised plants, dried onions, cured sweet potatoes, and stored odds and ends in the off season. The last few years we have raised plants in the high tunnel by the barn but it wasn’t ideal.

So this spring we tore down our little greenhouse to make way for a 20 x 36 foot greenhouse. It was a fun project and a nice change of pace. Last Friday we moved in onion plants and now its almost full (maybe it should have been bigger?) Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant are off to a great start. Pretty soon we will be starting zucchini, cucumbers, melons, and a few flowers for our girls.

We started a little bit of machinery maintenance on the mulch layer. Plastic mulch is a very helpful tool for us for many reasons. It helps to warm the soil in the spring, keeps the weeds away, and makes it possible for drip irrigation. The plow points on the front were pretty worn out. I was able to get a new set at the farm supply store in Penn Yan (another story someday). I cut the old ones off and got the shiny new on, greased her up and now she’s ready to roll. On the rainy days I can chip away at the rest of the fleet.

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Machine Maintenance Required

Garlic is well on its way already. They look like little soldiers standing in a row. Garlic is a great crop to make you feel good. Always the first out of the ground. It can get snowed on, froze, and rained on but it doesn’t care, just keeps growing.

The meat chicken business is in full swing. We are butchering the first batch of spring next week and then starting the beginning of May we will have fresh every week until fall. We get chicks every other week and right now we have three groups going. It’s amazing how they grow so fast!

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Chickens Growing Up Quick

But did you know that post office ships the baby chicks? They come from a hatchery in Pennsylvania that ships them Tuesday and we usually get them the next day. But you should see the looks on peoples faces when you have these noisy boxes of chicks!

We are hoping to get some of our direct seed crops in the field next week. Peas, radishes, and carrots are the first guys to be seeded outside. They don’t mind the cooler soil temperature. We also have a whole bunch of transplants to squeeze into the high tunnel and caterpillar tunnel.

Bok choi, kale, chard, beets, broccoli rabe, and scallions will be the first transplants of the season. I’m sure they won’t all fit inside and the rest will be transplanted outside. We use the tunnels to get a jump on the season and have more variety on the tables at the market. Next to follow are potatoes and onions but they will have to wait until the following week.

Still have time to sign up for the Summer CSA and we are very excited about the new Victor pickup location. Check us out at the markets Rochester Public, Saturday and Brighton, Sunday.

-Phillip

 

St. Valentine’s Day was Not Just for Lovers

Have you noticed that the hours of daylight have been increasing?

December 21st is the shortest day with less than 9 hours of daylight. On January 21st this jumped to 9 hours 32 minutes and February 14th increased again to 10 hours 30 minutes. Doing the math, since December 21st we have gained 1 hour 30 minutes and these gains seem more noticeable each day.

The sun even feels much warmer when it decides to make an appearance. The combined longer daylight and warmer sun means it’s time to start planting again in the High Tunnel. Out with the old and in with the new.

This week we finished harvesting one of the beds of Asian Greens and began the process of replanting a new crop for early spring harvest.

We stagger the plantings so we can have a steady supply of greens throughout the spring. After we finished harvesting we used the broad fork to loosen the soil and then clear out the old plants and debris by hand. Just a simple tool that uses muscle to loosen and aerate the soil for the new crop. The goal is to loosen the soil but not disturb it too much and keep all the topsoil on the top layer.

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Now we are almost ready to plant, but there is one more important step.

We need to till the top 2-3 inches to smooth it out and make the perfect seed bed. Keep in mind we are planting very tiny seeds and they need the best conditions as possible. The tool for this is called the tilther and uses a cordless electric drill to power it. A very cool tool that is specifically designed for this purpose.

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Finally we can plant into that perfect seed bed.

I didn’t have to amend the soil for this planting because lettuce and radishes are not big feeders. Also, last fall we added compost to all the beds. For this job I use a little six row push seeder that does a pretty good job. It doesn’t singulate the seeds perfectly but for this job is serves the purpose.

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Half the bed is lettuce mix.

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Other half is red radishes.

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Here are the finished beds and all that is left is to cover them with row cover to keep them warm on the cooler nights.

They are not going to germinate very fast but once they get going they should be ready in early April. Also we are trying an experiment this year and we wrapped the outside walls of the tunnel in a reflective insulated wrap. The goal is the keep it warmer and reflect more of that stippled sunlight to the ground.

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Now I hope you have a new appreciation for St Valentine’s Day and we can’t wait to start harvesting the first new crops of 2019. Also new this week are micro greens and pea shoots. Be sure to stop by the market and give them a try.

Phillip