Tag: microfarm

Garlic Madness

How does growing garlic get out of hand?

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My garlic and onion patch

Most of this patch is German Extra Hardy, a common variety that stores well and is delicious.  Last year, I saved more than I need. If you would like some they will be for sale in the next month.

The other four varieties are Broadleaf Czech, Chesnok Red, Pink Music, and Hanging Dog.  I am growing Chesnok Red, Pink Music, and Hanging Dog for the first time.  It is always exciting to see how the plants look in the spring.  I had not seen them before this spring.  They are all heirloom varieties.  In a few years I will have enough of a harvest to supply my growing and eating needs.  I am most excited to dig up and eat Hanging Dog, from what I understand it is an elephant style variety.  So I am looking forward to seeing what a full head looks like.

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Hanging Dog garlic

The garlic flowers are also developing.  The scape is the flower of the garlic plant.  I cut them so the plants put more energy into the bulbs.  There are some who disagree with this process, but it works for me.

The spring weather has been beneficial for the raspberries and other early fruits.

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Spring Raspberries

The yellow raspberries are coming along nicely too. It is nice to go outside early mornings and pick fresh raspberries.

Fresh lettuce this time of year is great too.  Tennis Ball lettuce is a very nice head lettuce.

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Tennis Ball lettuce

The Monticello gardens grow tennis ball lettuce.  Apparently, President Thomas Jefferson liked how easy and low maintainence this lettuce is.  It is also tastey.

This looks like a busy week, with lots of projects to get down.  Fortunately, we are eating well.

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

Transplanting is Transformational

The Micro Farm is a “buzz” with activity.

Pollinators are enjoying the black raspberry flowers
Pollinators are enjoying the black raspberry flowers

The strawberry patch is also producing lovely berries this year.  Such a nice crop mean I need to protect the ripe berries from animals nibbling.

The strawberries protected
The strawberries protected

I use a bird netting purchased at a local nursery.  It keeps most of the critters from eating the ripe fruit.

I spent a good deal of the week transplanting seedlings.  One evening while working on the Micro Farm.  I noticed small movements near my neighbor’s shed.  Sure enough two small rabbits.  I knew I needed to do something to protect my tender and young plants.  Fencing is what I needed, but I wanted to avoid the traditional woven metal fence.  A local home store had landscaping timbers on sale, decision made.

New "fencing"
New “fencing”

Hopefully this will keep the rabbits out.  We will have to wait and see.

I transplanted tomatoes, peppers, celery, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Cabbage transplants
Cabbage transplants
Cauliflower transplant
Cauliflower transplant
Tomato transplants
Tomato transplants

I also planted five pounds of seed potatoes, another 75 onion sets, beets, edamame,  popcorn, and carrots.

Growing greens has been a failure so far this season.  So I am tried putting some seed in six-packs to determine the quality of the seed.  The seed produced well.  I In another week I will put them into the ground.

Lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seedlings

As the rain falls tonight.  I am excited to see how the young plants spring to life over the next week.

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

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.

Unexpected Productivity or Who Knew?

Earlier this afternoon I started to wonder what had happened around the Micro Farm this past week.  The events of the week that first came to mind were good things, and productive, just not around the Micro Farm.

Then I went out to take pictures to document the plant growth of the past week.  The pictures tell the bigger story.   After a light rain in the middle of the past week I realized I needed to re-configure the angle of the gutters.  After thunderstorms today the gutters are working better.

These are things growing well on the Micro Farm  Upper left - strawberries; Upper right - rhubarb; Lower left - blueberry;  Lower right - peas
These are things growing well on the Micro Farm
Upper left – strawberries; Upper right – rhubarb; Lower left – blueberry; Lower right – peas

The rhubarb is coming along well.  It has been a very dry spring for us, and I was concerned it would slow down the rhubarb.  I am please to see it doing well.  I have a rough history with this blueberry bush.  It has been there for about three years.  It has watch me kill its three other compatriots.  Now it is full of green growth.  I am very happy to see it doing so well.  I am looking forward to strawberries, basically for strawberry-rhubarb pie.  Hmm. Now I am hungry.  The peas are pushing their way through the pine needle mulch.  They are looking very strong.  Although, it has been unusually hot here for about a week it is expected to cool down.  This is good news because peas get tough in the heat.

Upper left - cilantro;  Bottom left - basil; Right - alyssum
Upper left – cilantro; Bottom left – basil; Right – alyssum

I have grand plans to re-located my herb bed this spring.  I have a spot that gets a little more shade that I think would be more conducive to herbs.  It would also let me get away from a wildly aggressive mint plant.  So I started a bunch of basil and cilantro.  I also use flowers to help with insect control.  I like alyssum, or carpet of snow, so I started several six packs recently.  It will not be long before they are placed in the gardens.

So while I was thinking not much happened, I am thrilled to be wrong.  There is much more to do this week.  It would be nice to get more done than I think for two weeks in a row, but that might be expecting too much.

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

One project, two project, yeah!

The past two weeks have been a busy around the Micro Farm.  The first project was a new compost bin.  We have become the compost center for several households in our neighborhood.  The two bins we had did not give us enough space.  I also had several pieces of material that needed to be used.

The new compost bins.
The new compost bins.

There are now three bins instead of two, and all three bins are larger in size.  I also was able to sifted a load of compost in my lawn tractor trailer.  I am hopeful these new bins will help us make more compost.

The second project has been connecting our rain-barrels.  I was able to connect the first barrel using parts that I had on hand.

The first barrel connected to our garage
The first barrel connected to our garage

This barrel is completely full after about two storms.  It collects from about 18 feet of gutter and fills with a small rain shower.

Connecting the second barrel required new equipment.  I am still waiting on a few parts from the store to complete the full set up.

However, with a few pieces installed and a little rain fall I have been able to collect about ten gallons of water.  Only 10 feet of gutter is connected, and the rain fall since it was connected has been small.

The second barrel connected.
The second barrel connected.

I am not happy with how the downspout looks.  After the rest of the parts arrive I will make that change and a few other small changes.

I have also planted several cool weather crops.  The peas were planted but have not come up yet.  The radishes have come up though.  There are two varieties this year, an heirloom black radish and an heirloom red radish.

Small radish plants.  You might have to look close.
Small radish plants. You might have to look close.

I walk in the garden everyday and I am still amazed to see the garlic as tall as it is.

Two varieties of garlic.  Foreground is one variety; background another
Two varieties of garlic. Foreground is one variety; background another

I have a good crop of plants.  I planted four varieties of garlic in the fall.  Two of the four did not come up.  They did not look good when I planted them and was not surprised when they did not come up.

The other two are very strong.  It is difficult to see in the picture but each varieties’ greens have a different color and shape.  I am excited to taste each variety.

More projects are on the way.  The seedlings are growing in the basement.  It looks to be shaping up to be a nice spring.  Hopefully, it warms up a little.

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

The Butterfly Buffet?

Everyday Biscuit (our dog) and I take a walk.  We have our patterns and variations on a theme but we regularly follow the same route.  Our route takes us past several areas that currently be used for field corn.  Eventually, these areas will be developed into either residential or business uses.  Over the past few summers I have seen an increase in milkweed plants.  I was very excited to see milkweed on the edges of the corn field and hoped the Monarch butterflies would be equally excited.  Last summer I noticed a disturbing trend.  The farmer pushed further than he had in previous years and could be plowing under more and more milkweed.

Coincidentally this summer a friend, native to this area, was sharing how she used to see fields full of Monarchs and that she had not seen one Monarch at all this past summer.  On one of my walks looking at the seeds of the milkweed ready to take flight I began to wonder if I could save milkweed seed and start some on my own.  If I could I thought they would be a great addition to our native and butterfly planter.

Sure enough you can propagate wild milkweed.  I ended up using Wild Ones’ website.  They promote native plants and landscaping, which was what I was the type of website I thought would be most helpful to me. I did not want to use the milkweed in a way that was outside its preferred characteristics or unknowingly unleash an invasive plant in my community.  They have a nice milkweed fact sheet to help the average person, like me, propagate and learn about milkweed.

Milkweed is the only food source for Monarch larva.  If, for example, the plants in my neighbor hood get mowed down next summer what or who is going to replace that food source.  Hopefully, I can help build up the milkweed population in my area in places that will be more stable than along my walking route.

So what have I actually done so far?  This fall I harvested a few seeds from a few plants.  I tried not to take to much from the plants, but just enough for my purposes.  I pulled off all the fluff and keep them in a cool, dry place.

A few of my milkweed seeds.
A few of my milkweed seeds.

I did some simple research and I believe I have Common Milkweed or Asclepias syriaca.  Today they were mixed with sand, according to the Wild Ones’ instructions and were placed in our refrigerator.  The process is called stratification and it is to create a simulated winter experience for the seeds.  Wild Ones recommends sixty days for common milkweed, but the USDA recommends ninety days.  I am trying sixty plus a few days to see what will happen.

Common milkweed seeds undergoing stratification in my refrigerator
Common milkweed seeds undergoing stratification in my refrigerator

In about sixty days I will start the milkweed seedlings.  It should be interesting to see how it works out.  I am hoping to be able to help provide some food for local Monarch butterflies.

I would encourage you to watch for milkweed and try planting around your home to help feed the Monarchs.  I have heard several reports about the Monarch population is declining.  Maybe this will be one more piece of the puzzle to help increase the population of this wonderful butterfly.

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

Clean Up and Finishing Up

Work at the Micro Farm this week has been mostly inside.  We have been canning more and more pickles and tomatoes.  We were able to finish canning the tomatoes, and ended up with a lovely variety of sauces and a few quarts of just tomatoes.

Similar to the week before I harvested all the cucumbers because the vines were withering.

The final cucumber harvest.
The final cucumber harvest.

This week we will finish with several batches of pickles and will be done with our garden canning. However, we will still be making jam for a while.

After the cucumbers were harvested I cleaned out the cucumber bed. It was hard to believe how far the vines traveled.

The cucumber bed cleaned out
The cucumber bed cleaned out

After the cucumber bed was cleaned out. Then I went over to the tomato bed and worked on cleaning it out.

The tomato bed cleaned out
The tomato bed cleaned out

Then all the vines went to the fire ring.  The tomato and cucumber vines had some disease and I did not want to add that disease to my compost pile.  So I burn it and then use the ashes around the Micro Farm.

Vines waiting to be burned.
Vines waiting to be burned.

Like much of the Northeast we had a frost scare last week. I covered the tenderest of plants.

Tomatillos covered to protect against frost
Tomatillos covered to protect against frost

Fortunately, the frost protection was not needed in this area. It was unseasonably cold but not frost.

There is still growth happening at the Cohocton River Rock Micro Farm.  I planted a late crop of rutabaga and cauliflower from seed.  Only a few seedlings popped up, and I thought they were the cauliflower plants.

Rutabaga, I think.
Rutabaga, I think.

Now I think the plants are rutabagas, and not cauliflower.  Keeping better records late in the summer will be a goal for next year.

The plants given to me by a friend are doing well.  I am pleased to see the doing so well.

Cauliflower plants.
Cauliflower plants
Cabbage plant
Cabbage plant

This week promises to be another busy and exciting week around the Micro Farm.  The weather forecast this week appears to be a rollcoaster of highs and lows.  It appears this fall will be interesting.

What are you busy with?  Are you enjoying fall?

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