After another long, cold winter, we are coming out of hibernation. February is said to have been one of the coldest on record and I’m all too happy to see it go, though old man winter is a reluctant traveler and seems to be wearing out his welcome in March as well.
This year we plan to focus on infrastructure and soil building at our home plot and do not have plans for going to market or growing for market. Of course, we will still have a home garden and will experiment with a few new plants. We also hope to add some perennials to the mix, including raspberries and perhaps figs. The decision not to market farm this year was not an easy one. We are both working full-time jobs and have a new family member. We are fostering a 6 month old baby boy. Last year we became licensed foster parents and the experience has been incredibly rewarding, albeit somewhat frustrating (due to the situation not the baby – he’s great!). So, that new responsibility takes up quite a bit of time and market farming is just not realistic this year. Though, I still can’t stop myself from getting excited by the beginning of spring, one of my favorite times of year. I love seeing the bulbs emerge from the soil and hear the birds chirping. And, we have started seeds in the basement. Here are a few pics of spring in these parts:
We are keeping the plot in Lakewood and will put it under cover crop. We are confident that our soil is a living system and want to keep it that way. Putting in a cover crop will keep out the weeds and build the soil structure even more, especially after nearly 5 years of intensive growth there.
Last year we saved some seeds from one of our butternut squashes and early in the season I planted them in tiny pots in the basement. Those 15 seeds turned into about 100 squash! So exciting to watch them grow through the season. And, right now, with this warm spell, they are continuing to flower and put on new fruit.
The new area in our backyard now has a nice cover crop mix of peas and oats. In late June we planted buckwheat, which matured through the season and was cut and tilled in during the month of August. After that Spink drilled in the mix of oats and peas, which will fix nitrogen, build a nice deep root system and winter kill leaving great organic matter behind. There is still quite a bit of buckwheat in there too and we think that will be okay. The condition of this soil is so much more amazing than that of our Lark plot. We are super excited for growing veggies in here next spring!
Wow, the buckwheat we put in as a cover crop has reached ~3 feet tall and is full of pollinators. It is just an awesome experience to both watch and listen to all the activities by bees and other insects now that the buckwheat is flowering. There are so many honeybees out there! We put the buckwheat in as a cover crop to help build this area of land that we plan to plant veggies in next spring. The buckwheat is a rapid growth weed suppressor that also helps make nutrients more available to plants, particularly phosphorus. As it breaks down in the soil, it releases these nutrients. It also attracts lots of beneficial insects.
Another experiment! We built a hugelkultur bed in the back yard. This is a raised bed that is composed of dead wood, grass clippings, sod and dirt. The benefits of this type of bed include nutrients from the composting materials, water retention, and aerated soil. Right now we are trying to grow cucumbers in the bed. Will post an updated picture of them in a few weeks.
Summer is definitely here and the high temps are in full swing. Luckily we have also had intermittent rain storms, so most everything is growing super well. Here are a few pics showing the progress to date at the homestead. The small patch we planted in the spring is wild like a jungle and the newly turned soil is sporting a cover crop of buckwheat in the hopes that we build the soil structure, add biomass, and shade out weed growth. And, our first attempts at sunflowers and celery seem to be progressing smoothly.
Since we started this journey in 2010, we have tried growing all sorts of lettuce varieties and there are numerous choices out there. To date, our best performing lettuce is Johnny’s Salanova. Seeds come pelleted for easy planting. We plant in soil blocks and then transplant in the field. When we harvest, we mix the red and green varieties to make a nice bagged mix. The taste is delicious and the mix lasts about 7-10 days in the fridge. It’s easy to cut, core, wash and bag. It’s pricey, but worth it in our opinion since it performs so well. Plus, the pelleted seeds mean we don’t waste seeds during planting.