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.
Here’s an update on the veggies growing in the backyard. We have a slight infestation of cucumber beetles. Every morning and evening, I go out and kill these by the dozen and we have sticky traps out to try to catch them. They are so devastating to the cukes and squash, but hopefully they will survive the attack. Also, tomatoes are coming along nicely, despite a couple getting eaten by some unwelcome 4-legged critter (deer, perhaps?).
We are now starting to call our operation a micro farm after reading this term in a great new book: The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier. This is a must-read for any new farmer just starting out (and even for those with some experience under their belts will probably learn something) and we have already gleaned some great tips from his methods. Stay tuned for a more in depth blog post about this.
And, Spink is now full-time on the farm. It is amazing how much he gets done now that he is not juggling two jobs, though he continues to do some small computer consulting on the side, which helps pay the bills. We also took what could be considered an ill-timed 2 week vacation in the end of April. Normally, this would be a terrible time to be away from the farm since there are so many spring tasks that need to be tackled. However, our starts were in great hands in a beautiful heated greenhouse at our farm mentor’s house (thanks Bruce!) and looked amazing when we returned. And, the weather continued to be cold and wet, so we would have had some very stressful days if we had stayed in town, trying to transplant things and having them go into serious shock. Transplanting is always a shock to plants, but when the temps are so cold and the soil is still cold, it’s even more drastic, especially coming from a very controlled environment. Here are a few pics of what’s in the ground so far.
Last year we prepped part of our backyard for planting by tilling the grass in and planting a cover crop. This year we are actually planting in this area! We planted potatoes (thanks to generosity of farmer friends), butternut squash (saved seed from last year’s crop) and cukes. This weekend we will plant tomatoes in between the cucumbers and trellis those as well. Great to be using this space for producing food instead of mowing it as lawn.