Bay Branch Farm

a vegetable farm in lakewood and cleveland, oh | we grow food


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What’s hiding out there?

Things on the farm are cruising along. The summer weather has been pretty amazing. Cooler temps, fairly steady rainfall (about 1/2″ a week) and sunny days. I love seeing the new growth on things like red peppers – they almost look fake on the plants because they are so bright red! Butternut squash are often a surprise because the patch becomes jungle-like in the summer and then you discover the bounty in the fall when the leaves die back. We also have some awesome looking melons coming in. Our farm mentor gifted us 5 plants and we put them in and now we cannot find the markers to know what’s what!

What’s growing in your summer garden?

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Farm update

A quick update on the farm. It’s been an amazing season so far weather-wise. Been getting rain on a weekly basis and lots of sunshine (mid 70s to 80s) and cool evenings. I love it! Garlic is almost ready to harvest, potatoes are getting close and beans are starting to flower. And, our paw paws are producing fruit!!

What’s growing in your garden? What are you enjoying the most this season?

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View from the back of the plot

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Paw paws!

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Gold beets killing it!

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Chard: had to strip the outer leaves, which were riddled with holes. Not sure what got to it. Hoping this allows it to recharge and come back stronger. 

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Trellised cherry tomatoes have been amazing in the larger hoop house


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Spring 2017 – what’s growing?!?

Spring is here and things are really cranking up on the farm. It’s definitely the busiest time of the year for us: prepping beds, soil blocking, transplanting, weeding, watering, and all things in the dirt that come with being soil farmers. Here are a few updates of some of the crops coming in. Lots of row cover and bug netting over the tender greens to protect from pests (mostly flea beetles and leaf miner).

View of the plot in Lakewood. Pole beans planted last week barely visible at base of trellis.

Argentata chard – tastes like spinach (more so than the bright lights variety)

Ovation greens mix – so yummy!

Eric trellising the tomatoes in the hoop house. Cukes and basil also growing under protected culture.

3 rows of potatoes – Red Norland and Yukon Gold


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Germination chamber

Last year Spink built a germination chamber complete with grow lights. Unfortunately, the lights (LEDs) produce too much heat and the chamber has no way to cool down, so he made some modifications and now we just use it to germinate seeds and then move them to heat mats to grow a bit before hardening off and transplanting outside. The germination chamber can hold up to 12 – 1020 trays on 2 shelves (with option to add another shelf in the future). There is a heater inside (white plate) plugged into a temperature controller, a small fan to keep air flowing inside, and a humidifier outside with cold, moist air pumped in to the side via a drilled hole. The entire chamber is insulated.

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The inside of the germination chamber (6′ x 3′ x 2.5′).

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The temperature and humidity controls.

When we realized the lights make it too hot, Spink built a chamber on top of the germination chamber for the starts to go once they pop up. This is where they go to be under lights. Lights can be moved up and down depending on the height of the plants. In the picture below we moved the lights down closer to the seedlings. This is where they stay for about 3 to 4 more weeks before potting up again or transplanting outside, depending on the plant.

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Once seeds germinate they are moved under lights and onto heat mats.


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Hoop house update

Last season we talked about removing the plastic from the hoop house. It had given us 6 great seasons and was showing wear and tear, plus I wanted to flush out the soil under plastic with a good soaking rain and a season of snow. The more we discussed it, the more we liked the idea of moving it completely. We disassembled it and moved it to our back yard. The best thing about having a hoop house right behind our house is that we can easily vent it on a sunny day and close it back up when the sun goes down. Speaking of venting, we are installing roll up sides on the updated version, which will facilitate venting. In addition, our new space allows for a slightly bigger hoop house. We are going from a 12′ x 20′ to a 12′ x 28′ and increased the height of the new one to allow our summer trellised tomatoes to grow more. Although it’s not that much bigger, it feels huge to me! We have some more work to get it ready for plastic, but this is major progress, especially considering it’s February! Really, there should be snow on the ground and temps below freezing, but the winter has been unseasonably mild with a full week of 40+ degree days, including a day that got over 70.

Here are some recent pics of the process:

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Oak frame attached. Posts are buried 3′ deep with 3′ above ground.

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We covered it with some shredded leaves and put ag fabric around the edges by the fence

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Adding and securing the 21.5′ hoops with Tek screws. Hoops are 8″ inside the posts.


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Moving the hoop house

In 2011, we built a 12′ x 20′ hoop house. Over the years the plastic has weathered and at the end of this season we took the plastic off. Since we were doing that, we decided to move the entire structure to our house and extend it to make it bigger. Below are some pics of the process. The new hoop house will be 12′ x 32′ and we are making it a bit higher too in hopes of accommodating more indeterminate tomatoes next season.

When we get the rest of the frame installed, I’ll post again. We don’t plan to put the plastic on until spring – no point in putting it through a winter unnecessarily.

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The trusty hoop house – end of this season.

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The auger we rented to drill the holes for the new site. Got lucky with a 70 degree Nov. day.

 

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We put the first hoop in to get a feel for size.

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Setting the posts at the new location.


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The kale came back!

We thought it was a goner, but the kale came back (not quite) the very next day.

Earlier this summer we had a beautiful kale bed. We started seeds in the spring, transplanted and covered with ProtekNet bug netting. Once mature, we uncovered it to facilitate weekly harvesting.

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Kale bed June 28th

We managed to get several harvests out of this bed. The leaves were big, beautiful, green and delicious. Unfortunately, we started to notice some flea beetle damage in early August. We made a mistake of planting kale next to broccoli – two brassica crops that flea beetles love. We will never do that again. The pests just jumped from one bed to the next for a generous buffet of food each day. We thought the kale would weather the onslaught since it was more mature and tougher than young leaves, but the beetles proved to be too much and it got to a point where we had to stop harvesting. It was no longer marketable.

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This is the damaged kale – August 30th

I did pull out the broccoli beds, but never got around to pulling out the kale. The month of September had its fair share of cooler nights and warm days. I believe flea beetles thrive in warmer weather or perhaps they simply reached the end of their life cycle. In any case, the population has greatly diminished and the kale appears to have rebounded. New leaves look beautiful and I hope to be able to continue to harvest from this bed until the end of the year.

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New leaves coming in look good – September 12th

I tried some other organic controls throughout the summer, including diatomaceous earth and neem oil as a foliar spray. Neither really made much difference. I had to cover all plantings of arugula and mustards to prevent damage. Next season we will not plant any brassicas in this plot in an attempt to eliminate the flea beetles. I have to say, though, I’m pretty excited to see this kale bed recover.