Although this is our first post for 2018, we have been busy for months preparing for the season. We finished preparing our land so that we are now growing on over 3 acres of mostly permanent raised beds. We got tons of compost that we spread on top of the beds. Our planting calendar is all set and we have all of our seeds ready for their appropriate planting time. Here are a few highlights of what's currently going on around the farm.
We are using half of our garage/barn for our nursery. It is divided with plastic and heated by the natural gas heater in the garage. We use HPS lights for the plants, which also help to heat the space up. We have beautiful plants growing in there, and some already transplanted to the outdoors. It's been a nice taste of summer to spend days together in the humid warm environment planting trays of plants over the last couple months! Our baby duck also loves this environment and keeps us company when we are working in there :)
Some New Tools
Flame weeder -- Paul's new favorite toy. We have been using it to prep beds before planting to make sure that as many of the weeds are killed off as possible. We solarize beds with black plastic, which promotes weed germination and death, and then we run the flame weeder over the bed prior to planting to kill off any small weeds. The flame weeder will also be used to kill off weeds coming up right before the crop emerges from the ground. This should save time hand-weeding.
Greens harvester -- the greens harvester will be a key tool in harvesting all of our baby mesclun mixes. It runs off a power tool battery to cut and feed the baby greens into a container. This should save tons of time compared to hand cutting with scissors all of the baby greens! The baby greens will then go into a whirlpool wash and then spun dry.
Tractor implements -- we purchased a few new tractor implements this year, but one of the most exciting ones is the one that Paul designed and built - the bed-shaper (pictured). In the past, we have used discs to make new beds but then had to come behind with shovels and rakes to level it off and perfect it. When you have acres of new beds to make, that would take way too long. So Paul made a bed-shaper that he uses to make new beds and then will also be used to re-shape beds in the future as needed. We use mostly permanent raised beds (the only crops we don't do this way are corn, potatoes). Benefits of this method include promoting soil and plant health by not tilling, defined walkways so the growing area is never stepped or driven on, better irrigation management, and more efficient spreading of soil amendments such as compost and manure.
4-row seeder -- this year we purchased a 4-row seeder for planting small crops such as mesclun mixes, beets, carrots with better precision than our 1-row seeder. This will allow for more uniform planting to make weed management easier.
Crates -- two weeks agowe built about 90 wooden crates that we will be using for our CSAs, storage, and display at farmers markets. They are all sturdily hand-crafted and ready to serve up lots of delicious produce! Our CSA is now full and we are looking forward to providing families with their weekly produce.
Plants & Row Covers
We took the risk and planted outside our first succession of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale and lettuce plants in March under floating row cover fabric. The fabric protects the plants 4 degrees. Obviously, with the record lows we've had recently, we had to put additional black plastic over the plants during some days and nights to protect them. These cold hardy plants seem to have mostly all survived the chilly weather and are growing nicely.
Since then, more successions of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and lettuce plants have been planted; onions are also planted out. Also in the ground are carrots, various baby greens, early potatoes, herbs, snap peas, green beans, radish. The tomato and cucumber plants are being hardened off to be planted out soon. We will put them under heavier floating row cover in case of cold weather.
We are excited to now know our official schedule for farmers markets for this season. We will also have our local farm stand open a couple days a week.
Tuesdays, 8am-1pm, June-October - Kalamazoo (1204 Bank St Kalamazoo, MI)
Thursdays, 3pm-7pm, June-October - Kalamazoo (1204 Bank St Kalamazoo, MI)
5pm-10pm, 3rd Thursday of the month, June-September - Kalamazoo (1204 Bank St Kalamazoo, MI)
Sundays, 9am-2pm, June-October (except Aug 19) - Glenwood Sunday Market
(Southbound Glenwood Avenue between Morse & Lunt on the west side of the CTA's Red Line Chicago, IL)