Tag: southern tier

Seeding the Solstice

“I read somewhere…” is a phrase that gets me in trouble regularly.  Typically, I connect two or more thoughts together that are not related.  However, that is how today started.  The weather here has been unseasonably warm and will be getting warmer the next couple of days.  Today is the winter solstice, oh so few hours of daylight today.  I remember reading, somewhere, it is optimal to plant onions on the shortest day of the year to harvest them on the longest day of the year.

Well, I thought I would give it a try.  The frost around the micro farm is barely an inch or two deep.

The meager frost trying to hold on.
The meager frost trying to hold on.

Under this layer the soil was loose and much warmer.  I mixed the two soils together.  I planted two types of onion, Cortland – a storage, yellow onion; and Redwing – a storage, red onion.  I also planted a short row of Lexton leeks.   I have not had good luck with leeks in the past so I wanted to experiment with a few this year.

Cortland seeds ready to be planted.
Cortland seeds ready to be planted.

Over the next few days the temperatures will be better for planting.  I am traveling for Christmas and won’t get time to plant on the warmer days.  The most challenging part of the past two weeks has been the lack of sun.  Our televison weatherman predicted we may not see a sunny sky for another day or more.

To help my seeds adjust to the soil with rain and varying temperatures I added at least two inches of pine needle mulch.  Hopefully the pine needles will act as a buffer as the rain, snow, and crazy temperatures come.

Seeds under their pine needle blanket
Seeds under their pine needle blanket

We are enjoying a slower time around the micro farm.  We here at Cohocton River Rock Micro Farm wish you a merry Christmas.  We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday.

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

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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.
DSC08433
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.

Raspberry Pruning

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and took a few moments to reflect on the most important elements of life and said a prayer of thanksgiving for them.

Warmer temperatures early in the week allowed me to pick up three more garbage cans of free wood chips.  My mulched pathways were getting thin and needed to be replenished.  Our local electric company has a site where they offer free wood chips, if you load them yourself.

Two more areas mulched.  1) In the top of the picture 2) In the middle of picture - almost done
Two more areas mulched. 1) In the top of the picture 2) In the middle of picture – almost done

My raspberries suffered this summer from not being tied up and pruned.   It was difficult to harvest or walk around.

Black raspberries
Black raspberries
Red raspberries
Red raspberries

When working with raspberries I recommend thick leather gloves, long pants, and long shirt.  Their rasps grab and pull.  Grabbing a can is difficult if you do not have gloves on.  For pruning tools I use a hand shear and a large two handle shear that really works well on the thicker canes.

I start by cutting canes that look dead or wooden.  The wooden canes are not pliable or may even have a hollow wooden sound to them.

You can see a difference in canes.  The closer canes look more like a tree stem
You can see a difference in canes. The closer canes look more like a tree branch

Often the dead canes will come off when I tug on them.  However, I like to cut them with my shears so the cut is clean.  Jagged cuts leave more surface area for disease and insects.

Then I selectively cut to allow for the best sunlight access, air flow, and space on the trellis wires.

The black raspberries, long view.
The black raspberries, long view.
Black raspberries, side view
Black raspberries, side view

I was aggressive with the black raspberries.  They are fast growers and I have difficulty controlling them.  The “V” shape helps to get air flow in.  Inside the “V” is were new canes can grow and get plenty of light.

I tied each cane to the trellis wire with twist ties.  I get a roll of twist tie, that is about 25 feet long, from my local nursery.  I wrap each cane so it has enough room to grow thicker but does not get away from the wire.

The sun set before I was able to finish tying the red raspberries.  I hope to get out on a sunny day this week and finish.  I think both berries look better than they did when I started.  I hope they now have enough space to grow.

I have already begun dreaming about next spring.  Seed catalogs are starting to come in the mail.  It is good to get outside and do some work.

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.

 

True Leaves and Soil

The onion, tomato, and tomatillo seedling’s plastic was impeding growth so I removed it for good this week. It is exciting to see them progressing well.

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings.  You can see the "true leaf" starting to develop.
Tomato seedlings. You can see the “true leaf” starting to develop.

While taking pictures this evening I noticed there had been a small water accident and a number of my seed packets were wet.

Wet bottoms of my seed packets
Wet bottoms of my seed packets

Well, mistakes typically force us to create a better method.  I will have to work on developing a better storage plan.  I should be keeping seeds in a more water tight containers anyway.  So I will be thinking about how to do this efficiently and cost-effectively.

The weather has been difficult to work around.  On Friday morning I went cross-country skiing in my neighbor’s field.  By noon that same day most of my tracks had melted from snow to grass.  Looking back over four years of pictures about half the years I am working the soil, but this is not one of those years.  Until the soil thaws I will not be working the soil.  Walking on wet soil just compacts all the air pockets and makes it the harder for roots to push through the soil and for them to get the nutrients they are desire.

I did order another type of tomato seeds.  I have been growing Pruden’s Purple the past few years.  I like the tomatoes, and I find it is fairly disease resistant.  So they should be arriving soon, and I will get them started so they can be big and strong going into the soil.

I hope we will all be getting hands dirty soon.

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