Tag: micro farm

One Big Hole

Some weeks the work around the Micro Farm revolve completely around plants and plant care.  Other weeks, like this past week, work revolves around preparing a place for plants.  When work is not directly plant and plant-care related often it is focused on soil improvement.

Project one was moving the herb bed.  I wanted to get control over the herb bed which has been assaulted by a very aggressive mint.  My plan is to relocate the herbs that I want to keep, and then figure out what to do about the mint bed.

Creating the new herb bed posed one problem.  There was a large metal pole in the area I wanted to plant in.  I had tried to find a way to use the pole so I would not have to dig it out.   However, none of my ideas were visually appealing to my taste.  So dig it out was the best answer.

Top left - The pole and cement that I dug out; bottom left - The hole; Right - the new herb garden cardboard down
Top left – The pole and cement that I dug out; bottom left – The hole;
Right – the new herb garden cardboard down

I will get some more cardboard, then lay a mulching layer of pine needles down, finally transplant the herbs into their new home.

My local furniture company gave me a king-bed box, which was awesome.  I was able to cover last year’s luffa bed, which is now extended.  My goal is to plant this bed with plants that I will use to barter with my neighbor who currently sells us eggs.

The extended bed looks nice.  It should earn a few eggs.
The extended bed looks nice. It should earn a few eggs.

I was also able to mulch another large area.  This area I covered with composting black plastic and pine needles.  It covers quickly.  I have used this plastic the past three years and it works well.  The only down-side is that it is more expensive than the free cardboard I have been getting.

This is a main area mulched.
This is a main area mulched.

A few plant notes.  I was excited to see the Niagara grapes start to bud break.

The buds are swelling and a some have broken open
The buds are swelling and a some have broken open

I am always nervous when working with a new plant.  There is so much to learn, and I do not have a “feeling” for the timing of how things work.  I am pleased to see them doing well.

Next to the grapes are the red raspberries.  Unfortunately, I do not think the over-winter canes did very well.

No growth higher up, but lots of growth around the bottom
No growth higher up, but lots of growth around the bottom

I am going wait and see what happens with last year’s canes.  If they do not leaf I will cut them.  These raspberries fruit on the previous year’s canes so it appears there will be no spring raspberries on the Micro Farm this year.  It is possible I will get a fall crop, if they follow their history.

Plants sales are going on almost every day in our area.  I have a couple that I like to support.  One is at a local vocational high school.

There are 96 marigold plants.
There are 96 marigold plants.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the marigolds.  I use many of them to border my gardens.  They help keep the insects I do not want away.  But 96?

We have been getting adequate rain, and expect more this week.  The rain barrels are full and I have been using them regularly.  I enough water so far that I have not hooked up the hose at the house.  It is great to not have to spend energy to pump up water from the ground to put it right back in when I water my plants.  Now that they are hooked up, I have focused on making them a bit more attractive than giant, blue barrels that I am sure my neighbors love looking at.  I found a couple of spray paint products that cover plastic.  The one I picked up appears to work very well.

The rain barrel before and painted
The rain barrel before and painted “Nutmeg”

I think it looks less conspicuous and is more appealing.

Well, things are progressing on the Micro Farm.  Planting transplants is coming soon.  It has been tempting to put them in the ground, but late last week we had a frost warning.  I can not risk it, I do not want to lose my plants now.  To much work and time has gone in to them.  They are doing well where they are.  But, the time is coming.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


Wood Chip Madness

Lots of manual labor around the Micro Farm this weekend.  It all started with a truck load of wood chips.  Several municipalities in our area offer free wood chips, you just have to load them.  I filled the bed of my Ford Ranger and drove them home to unload.

I have been reading and learning about “permaculture” this past winter.  One permaculture technique is “sheet-mulching”.  You put a layer of cardboard, or something similar, and then put mulch on top.  Wood chips are free so I used wood chips.  When everything breaks down, I will just put down another layer of cardboard and wood chips.  Hopefully, building my soil upwards.

New growing bed. The cardboard watered. The next step mulch.

Several beds were mulched with wood chips others will be mulched with pine needles.

The "circle" garden and the primary wood chip bed.
The “circle” garden and the primary wood chip bed.
The cucumber bed, mulched with pine needles.
The cucumber bed, mulched with pine needles.

I was also able to fully connect the second rain barrel.  The gutter is about 18 feet long and catches water from three roofs.  This winter ice accumulated between the buildings make it difficult to navigate.  The gutters and rain barrel will help reduce that problem.  I like solving two problems with one solution.

Rain barrel connected and looking better than last week.

Spring is springing in big ways around the Micro Farm.  The raspberries are starting to leaf.

New growth from the yellow raspberries.
Young leaves on the black raspberries.
Red raspberries are putting up new canes.

I planted over 200 peas this spring.  They were from seeds I saved last fall.  As a new seed saver I am very nervous about not doing it correctly.  I was starting to get nervous that my peas would not come up.  I figured I could not have screwed up 200 seeds. Right?  Well, in the past coupe of days I have seen many pea shoots coming up.  I am very excited.  I really enjoy fresh peas.



Yeah. The peas are sprouting.

After a few more things are cleaned up we should have the Micro Farm presentable.  The past two weeks have been busy, but productive.  We will see what the fruits of this labor will be.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Spencer: Crime Scene Photographer

Two weeks later I got outside and finished trellising the red raspberries.  Everyone looks good for spring.

Red raspberries trellised and trimmed.
Red raspberries trellised and trimmed.
A fairly good “V” shape

After I finished working the red raspberries I checked on the black raspberries to see if they remained attached to the wire.  Again this year I found rabbit pellets and even a urine mark.  But what I found next put me in an Elmer Fudd kind of mood.  Beware the picture below is graphic, well not really, but I was not happy.

The scene of the crime.  If you look in the lower part of the picture you can see the black raspberry victims
The scene of the crime. If you look in the lower part of the picture you can see the black raspberry victims

The rabbit(s?) have chewed off several of the small black raspberry canes.  You can see why I almost went for my big, floppy hat and gun.  I will continue to observe and protect.  More action may be needed.  Fortunately, my neighbors recently brought home a kitten.  Over the past couple of months he has grown considerably, and really enjoys attacking my leg from behind.  He is very aware of the rabbits hiding places and works hard to find them.  So I now have a partner in my mission.

My neighbor's cat ready to pounce...on me.
My neighbor’s cat ready to pounce…on me.

I took some winter pictures around the micro farm, because the snow will all be gone in the next day or so.  Several days of above freezing temperatures will melt the little snow we had away.

The rocks are already showing through the snow.
The rocks are already showing through the snow.

The compost bin that was a month ago above my head has settled down significantly.

A much more reasonable height for a compost bin
A much more reasonable height for a compost bin

The seed catalogs have begun to come in.  It is difficult not to get in over my head in mid-December.  There will be lots of thought, dreaming, and careful planning in the next month.  Then we begin again.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Springing Forward

The Micro-Farm is really starting to take shape after winter.  I have removed 90 per cent of the old plants.  I have enjoyed taking a few minutes to enjoy the hard work that has gone into the micro-farm over the past four years.  While ever farm is a place of constant change there are goals I have hoped to achieve.  This spring I feel good about where the micro-farm is and where the next steps will take it.

I attempted to sift the compost piles a month ago.  After removing the first layers on both piles I ran into two compost ice cubes.  After stabbing both piles with a shovel I quickly realized I needed a few warm days before any sifting was going to take place.  Two weeks later I took the weekend and dedicated it to compost sifting.  I do not enjoy the sifting very much but the end product is great.  I filled almost two lawn tractor trailers.

I have also been doing some planting.  It may seem crazy, but there are some really crazy plants that do not mind the cold.  I planted over twenty-five pea plants, beets, a few leafy greens, onion seedlings, and turnips.   Many have sprouted and are, slowly, growing.  The garlic planted last fall has come up and is about six inches tall.  A couple of frosts have slowed the garlic down but it is still going strong.

The garlic a couple of weeks ago.
The garlic (37 plants)  a couple of    weeks ago.

We have a very tall pine tree near the garden beds.  In the fall it sheds a lot of needles.  Without a better plan last fall, I mounded the pine needles around a planter box.  I have been spreading the needles around and using them for mulch in my garden walkways and paths.

The other side of the growing beds
The growing beds when I was beginning to put down needles and before compost
Beds with new compost and needles in paths
Beds with new compost and needles in paths

I like the way they look, feel, and smell.  They also do a good job with keeping the weeds down.  Possibly most important the price: free, all around pretty good.

Last growing season the grass and weeds took over my pea bed.  I fought them for a while, but eventually they won.  I worked hard on last year’s pea bed, this year’s cucumber bed, to clean out the weeds and grass.

Now it is cleaned out and ready for cucumbers
Now it is cleaned out and ready for cucumbers

When I was in middle school NASA gave students tomato seeds that had spent time either on the Space Shuttle or on the space station.  I totally loved it. Seeds from space!  They even came in a Mylar seed packet.  I asked to keep information on how they progressed.  I have no idea what happened to those plants.  Most likely, they dried up or were choked out by weeds.  I have felt a little guilty for those plants.

Now I have a sense of redemption.  I am growing turnip seeds for Seed Savers Exchange’s M-Gen program.  I am asked to keep details and records on how they are doing.  So far I have been keeping everything up-to-date.  I planted twenty seeds a week ago.

The bed on the left has been planted.
The bed on the left has been planted.

This weekend I have seen a few seedling popping up.  Next Saturday I hope to plant another twenty seeds in the bed on the right.  I am really looking forward to this project.  You will see further reports as the season goes along.

You can see a lot has been happening.  I also should report that I lost my second thyme seedlings.  For the third try I moved them to the kitchen where they get southern sun and have a higher, and more consistent, temperature.  I have about five times more seedlings and they are growing well.  The third time is the charm.

I hope you are enjoying your spring clean up and planting.  Please share what you are doing it motivates me.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Not This Thyme

Waking up to snow covering your lawn this time of year is a bummer.  It will melt quickly, but it is tough for those of us who want to be playing in the soil.

The weather this week looks promising.  So I will get outside and do more clean up from last year.  If I am really lucky the ground will thaw enough for me to pull some of last year’s plants from the ground.

Many of the seedlings are doing well.  True leaves are starting to appear on everyone. Even my tiny strawberry plants have started to develop true leaves.

The second crop of peppers
The second crop of peppers
My first rosemary seedling
My first rosemary seedling

It was exciting to see the rosemary seedling this morning.  Rosemary takes a long time to germinate.  So after almost a month one plant is up.  Maybe there will be more, but I am pleased to at least see one.

Last week I show how well my thyme was doing.  You can see and read about it here. Somewhere in the middle of the week the thyme dried up and almost all died.  I was really surprised because the soil looked damp, but I did not look close enough.  A few are still surviving so that will be ok.

The surviving thyme.
The surviving thyme.

I also planted a few Pruden’s Purple tomatoes.  Pruden’s Purple is an heirloom tomato.  It is similar to a beef-steak style tomato but bigger and meatier.  It has become one of my favorite varieties.

The Pruden's Purple seed trays.  They should be up this weekend.
The Pruden’s Purple seed trays. They should be up next weekend.

Until everything thaws most of my work is watering seedling and making sure they are doing well.  Quickly re-planting if I make a mistake.

What are you doing?  How are your seedlings?

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Taking Care of Thyme

Friday was in the low 50’s.  So I was adventurous and looked underneath my pine needle mulch to see find out if my garlic was there.  Sure enough I saw a small green spike poking up through the soil.  So I have, at least, one garlic plant for Spring.  If we can get consecutive warms days they can stretch out of the soil.

The seedlings are growing well.  I had a few more pepper plants show themselves.

A few pepper seedlings
A few pepper seedlings

I have about ten pepper seedlings with more planted a week later.

Last fall the thyme plants in the herb garden looked like they were struggling.  I am not sure if it was my timing or the plants.  Going through my seed packets I found I had a few thyme seeds that needed to be used.  I figured the long and hard winter may have done in my thyme in the garden.  I took the old seed and filled on cell in a four pack.

My "old" seeds doing very well
My “old” seeds doing very well

I did not expect the germination rate to be so high.  In the other cells there are thyme seeds I purchased new this year.  Will I have enough time for all my thyme?

On our front porch we have a couple of hanging baskets.  A friend has graciously given us flowers each year.  Last year the flowers were impressive.  Now we are just left with two hanging baskets.  So I am experimenting with a variety of strawberries called “Gasana” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Gasana is an ornamental strawberry that works well in containers.  It is day-neutral so it will produce small to medium fruits.  If everything works.  So my plan is to sit on the porch, read, and snack on strawberries.

Gasana seedlings.
Gasana seedlings.

I have found it challenging keeping my seedlings watered this year.  They are drying out quickly.  Heating from below really improves germination, but it makes it difficult to not dry out young seedlings.  To challenge myself more, I have been starting seedlings at different times.  So there are different needs all under the same light.  I think everything is good now, but it has been challenging.

What are you seed starting challenges?

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


A Season of Hope

I took full advantage of the weather today.  I started to finish the work I started last fall.  I clipped, trimmed, and pulled lots of dried and dead plants.  The Micro Farm is starting to look like it should.

Clean up was partially motivated by seeing the seedlings starting to pop up out of the soil

Tomato and onion seedlings
Tomato and onion seedlings
Onion seedlings
Onion seedlings

Seeing the seedlings has brought excitement to the new growing season.  I was feeling overwhelmed by the clean up I would have to do.  After a few hours of clean up today, I know (with a little good weather) I can get everything done quicker than I then I thought.

After clean up I had energy and decided to keep going.  I started a few more seedlings.  My order of Yankee Bell pepper seeds arrived late last week so I planted those.  I also ordered container strawberry seeds.  I started those.

In the next couple of weeks they will sprout and we will see how many plants I have.

Peppers and strawberries under a plastic blanket
Peppers and strawberries under a plastic blanket

I always start a new journey with such excitement and with dreams of all that could be.  I know there will be difficult times ahead.  I know there will be days when I do not want to go out and do the work I should do.

I hope you are excited about this growing season.  What are you excited about?

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.