Wednesday, October 30, 2013

update on the fall cleanup

I decided--just as it was getting dark--to run out to the cornfield to get quick picture or two to show the progress on the fall cleanup in the cornfield.  The pictures are a little dark partly due to the late hour but also it is a dreary, drizzly, foggy day.  I have been working to finish harvesting the crops, remove the dead plant material, build raised rows where they didn't get built last spring and plant a cover crop.  It is likely too late to get consistent germination of the oats yet this fall but hopefully having them in place now when the weather warms up in the spring they will start to grow and the garden will still benefit.

In the top picture you can see most of the garden.  Where you can barely make out the small black fencepost along the left edge of the picture is where the last two rows of potatoes are waiting to be dug.  That is all that is left to be harvested from this garden. 

You can see the posts that I have been putting in the ground down the center of the garden.  These will serve multiple purposes.  I have placed them every five rows.  I will put house numbers on them so that I can have a little easier time telling which row is which.  I also will mount sprinklers on top of them with a hose that reaches to the edge of the garden.  I can then hook up my long hose without dragging it through the plants.  I also plant to string wire between some of the posts to make some support for raspberry plantings.

The couple orange areas near the bottom right of the photo is leaves that are placed between the rows in the permanent walkways.  Other places I have used grass clippings but at this point i am using what is available.  We have lots of leaves.   
In the bottom picture you can see two green rows and these are the oats that were planted a while back. They are about four inches tall and so far there are only four or five rows that got planted early enough to germinate.  these rows have the grass clippings between them.  At this point there are 25 rows that are completed.  That is counting the the potato rows as done and I am estimating that there is room for another eight or ten rows on the far west end that i hope to get finished before the snow flies.  Getting them done this fall will sure save time in the spring.  They should just require a quick turn over of the cover crop, a little compost mixed in and ready for plants. 

In the back of both pictures you can see the stalks from the sweet corn still standing.  I am still hopeful that those will be dug out yet this fall. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

some pictures to share

We have harvested most of the garden.  We still have a few potatoes to dig and the kale is still doing well but everything else is pretty much done and in the house.  This year we are going to try some long term storage in an unheated room in the basement that we have always called the fruit room.  Before moving the garden produce to the fruit room I gathered some of it together to take a few pictures.  I wanted a picture to add to the new food blog.

I piled the produce on the table and Caitlin 'styled' it to look artsy and took a few pictures.  This is the one that I put on the sidebar of the food blog:

And here are the rest:
Some of the jars that I canned

a closeup of some of the ornamental gourds

acorn and butternut squash red and white potatoes, kohlrabi

pie pumpkins, gourds, kale and sweet potatoes

apples held by chef and paste tomatoes on white pedistal

And finally Manny in the piles of vegetables:

Isn't he handsome?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

the farmstand cookbook

I have just started a new blog called the farmstand cookbook.  Rather than having food recipe posts on this blog I decided to give them their own space.  I plan to post recipes that use the produce that comes from our gardens and winter greenhouse and that was for sale in the farmstand that sits at the end of the driveway.  I am just getting started with it but hope to soon have a nice collection of recipes started.  There is a link called "my other blog" off to the right, just below the picture of my cute farm truck.  I would love to share recipes created or found by others so if you have something to share let me know.  I can set you up as an author or can share your photos and story.  It should be fun.  Thanks for checking it out.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

fall cleanup

It has been cool and wet lately making it challenging to get what I want to get done in the gardens.  Today I worked on removing the frost damaged tomato plants.  The heirlooms were the hardest hit so I am pulling out the plants and sowing a cover crop in the rows.  I am not sure if it is too cold and wet for the oats to germinate but I am thinking if they don't come this fall perhaps they will grow in the early spring.  The ten day forecast looks like 40's or near 40's most days for highs but some nights dropping into the high 20s.

I have been happy with the paste tomatoes and the Brandywines.  The plants are huge and the root systems are great.  There were enough red and reddish tomatoes still on the plants to fill a good sized laundry basket half full.  I guess I am not done canning yet.  Just about put away all the big pots and canning equipment.

The cherry tomatoes are still in pretty good shape and we are trying to rescue as many as possible while they are still producing.  They are another variety that I have been pleased with this year.  I am planning to save seed from these varieties and see if I can grow some in the spring again for next summer's garden.  What I will do differently is a better job of staking or caging them and to not plant them in adjacent rows.  I am planning to do a lot of research and planning this fall to incorporate changes and see if we can find a way to make it a little easier to harvest the tomatoes.

The big beef tomatoes were great.  The fruit was great tasting, did not have a lot of trouble with bugs and was nice sized except for the last of the season which were smaller.  They were tied to a fence and did really well.  The fence seemed to be tall enough and plants on both sides worked out pretty well.    I would do that again.  The indeterminate tomatoes tipped over the cages so I think that i will look at doing a taller fence for them.  Even the larger diameter cages did not support enough of the plant. 

Once the tomatoes are done I still have the potatoes and sweet potatoes to dig and then those rows need to raised.  Hopefully the weather will hang on long enough to get that done.  Other projects include digging up the sweet corn stalks and stacking them and pulling up the rest of the vines and the fallen fruit.  And then there is the potager...

Friday, October 11, 2013

red sky at morning...

...sailors take warning.

This was the sky this morning at 7am.  It was  beautiful predictor of a less than wonderful day.  I was hoping to have the morning to get a couple rows in the garden raised and seeded with cover crops but ended up finishing in the sprinkles and walking back to the house in the downpour.  We have had wind all day but only got about a half inch of rain.  I was able to get back out and snap a couple pictures of the cornfield.

This picture is what I was working on this morning.  In this picture the tan colored rows are the dry grass clippings that are mulching the permanent walking/picking rows.  The two rows on the right have been seeded with the oats and have sprouted and are about two inches tall.  The next two rows were planted a couple days ago but they have not sprouted yet.  The two black rows farthest left in the picture are the rows that were finished today.  There was a trench dug.  The trench has a layer of straw, then a layer of compost.  Then the soil is filled back in creating a raised area for growing.  Then the raised area was seeded with oats for a cover crop.  A quick guesstimate is that there is probably room for another ten raised rows in the area that held the vine crops and my hope is to get that area cleared of this year's vines and weeds and get those raised rows created and seeded while there is still time for the cover crop to get established.

Where the tomatoes are growing the raised rows were created in the spring and they just need to have the plants removed, a quick layer of compost added and the cover crop seeded.  Where the potatoes and sweet potatoes are still in the ground those root crops need to be dug  which hopefully will leave a trench that can have straw and compost added, soil replaced and cover crops seeded.

This is a picture of Row 7.  This is the center row of potatoes.  They have been dug up and a raised row created and seeded.  On either side are the permanent walking/picking rows which are mulched with the dry grass clippings and then the rows of potatoes still needing to be dug.  The plants have died back leaving only the weeds.  Hopefully soon we will have a striped south half of the garden.

In news of the greenhouse, it was cloudy today so the greenhouse was much cooler than it has been the past few days.  With the fan running we were still having 110+ degrees inside.  Yesterday I unplugged the heat mats.  We had a some of the first planted seeds germinate but the rest have not poked thru yet.  I don't know if the heat from the greenhouse is affecting it but I took off the clear plastic covers so it wouldn't cook any seedlings that did pop up a couple days ago and yesterday I unplugged the heat mat since it has been so warm in there.

My plan for seeding was to seed five trays of cell packs and as they germinated move them off of the mats and onto the tables near the glazing.  Today i decided that if i was not using the heat mats I would not be limited to what would fit on the mats and seeded two more trays.  Tomorrow I will plan to seed another couple of trays.  Hopefully soon the rest will germinate.  the ones that are germinated are getting a little bigger, some are an inch tall.    Having stuff growing in the greenhouse makes the end of the summer garden season not quite so sad.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013-2014 winter growing season is underway

I have been working in the greenhouse getting ready for the winter season.  It is kind of hard to be thinking about winter when it is 100+ degrees in the greenhouse.  I started out working on the tunnel that will be formed under the tables.  In this picture you can see Bob's handiwork--the duct workbox  that houses the fan that takes the hot air from the top of the greenhouse and redistributes it under the tables.  It is just barely visible on the left side of the picture.
Next to the metal box is a two sided wood structure that fills the gap between the metal box and the first of the tables. In the next picture you can see the two tables that go to the corner along the east wall and then turn and start down the south wall.
Along the south wall the tables are set with a small gap between them to allow the warm air to sneak out and circulate around the plant containers.  Under the tables are containers of water.  The system is planned that the warm air will be collected at the peak where it naturally rises and be moved via the fan under the table.  The warm air will circulate around the water containers allowing them to store more heat.  We also plan to put smallish rocks under there in an effort to capture even more heat. We are  hoping that the stored heat will allow us to rely less on supplemental heating during the nights.

Also pictured in the above photo is the corner wall that is standing in place to create the tunnel.  This is an L shape built from two pieces of plywood fastened to a 3x3 post.  It is set in place allowing for easy removal if there is a need to access the heat sink (water containers and rocks) below the tables.  

On top of the table you can see the first seeds that have germinated.  Actually you can see the tray and the cells and the yellow plastic labels.  The seedlings are very tiny yet, maybe only a quarter to half inch tall.  These first seeds were sown on 10/3/2013.  

Here are the rest of the seedlings sitting on the germination mats.  I have a large mat and a small mat so I have room for five trays easily on the mats.
While I am still working on setting up the tables and placing the heat sink under the tables I have the rest of the greenhouse pretty much in disarray.  This is a temporary germination station along the north wall.  

Here you can see the tables starting to make their way along the south wall.  I hope to have the rest of the tables in place within the next day or two.  Mornings have been a great time to work in the greenhouse as it is cool from the overnight but warming up as the sun hits the glazing.  

 This weeks goals are to keep planting seeds like crazy.  I hope to finish placing the tables so that decisions can be made about the rest of the growing space.  Will we keep the blue 55 gallon barrels and if so where will they be placed?  The cat litter and mushroom boxes will need to be returned to the greenhouse and probably stacked along the north wall again.  this year I plan to be more aggressive about getting the seedlings up-potted into bigger containers more timely.  I am considering not direct seeding into the gutter planters but transplanting seedlings into them.  I discovered last year that the plants in the gutters did not get as big as the  same varieties that went into pots.  The same thing happened with the summer seeds that were started in the greenhouse, those that were planted sooner into larger pots grew bigger quicker.  So this year I am going to try to get the seeds off the mats as soon as they have germinated and not wait as long before transplanting them to larger pots.  I am excited to get started.