This winter I am enjoying some good play time with Wren and Milo as well as planning for the season to come. Today I unpacked and organized all the new seed that has arrived ($6000 worth! Can you believe it?! I can’t either…). I have also planted the first tomato seeds to eventually graft onto disease resistant rootstock. These plants will be put into one of the little hoophouses that held tomatoes last year (near the herbs and parking) that now has HEAT. Ta-da! So if all goes well, we should see some early tomatoes next year.
What else is new for next year?
I am experimenting with a bed of sweet onions (these come as plants that are over-wintered in Maine, dug, and shipped in the spring) and a couple beds of sweet potatoes. I had attempted sweet potatoes a few years back, but found most of them had wireworm damage. As sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods, I decided to give them a shot again in a better location.
I am also planning on growing more green beans, carrots, and edamame.
Oh, and fruit! I have heard some feedback that more fruit would be welcome. Of course! We planted a couple of beds of strawberries back in June and can’t wait to see and taste the results. I am also planning on growing more watermelons and cantaloupes. In addition, I have hired new help this season and she tends around 700 high-bush blueberries on her landlord’s property, so these will be available to purchase. I will also see about bringing in some apples from my friend Ben Clark’s farm for purchase.
Oh, and flowers! Many of you were so happy to pick sunflowers last year that I have decided to expand on a cut flower garden for you to pick from whenever you’d like.
It is hard, with limited space, to pick and choose crops sometimes. If I add something, something else must go… But by trying to make existing beds more productive I hope to offset what I want to add. I haven’t plotted out maps yet, but will do my best to squeeze it all in!
People often ask what there is to do for the farm over the winter. You wouldn’t believe the amount of work there is! There is the fun part of pouring through seed catalogues and picking out some new items to try this year. Then making spreadsheets and maps of when and where to seed, plant, etc…
I spend a good amount of time researching and applying for grants. This year I applied for a small grant to help fund an electric salad greens spinner. I am also in the process of obtaining an energy audit for the greenhouse to make energy improvements there. Speaking of greenhouse, I installed a fan and shutters this winter to help ventilate it. This is very exciting because prior to this year, I had to open and close the doors to adjust the ventilation with two kids in tow! Not good when you are running errands and the sun unexpectedly pops out!
I also spend a good amount of time educating myself on different farm related things. I spent three full days in New Hampshire attending the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference. There I learned a great deal, especially about growing hoophouse tomatoes. I have been having trouble over the past few years and have been trying to troubleshoot the issue. Unfortunately, when I think I have it all figured out and make the necessary adjustments, I find it is not the problem. But I now have to wait until next year to try and solve them! I am confident I have it all figured out now, though, and plan on doubling the amount of tomatoes grown under cover. As you may know, Late Blight is an annual disease that comes in on the wind from the south and can level a tomato crop overnight. More and more farms are choosing to grow under cover because the hoophouse creates an environment that excludes the disease (dry leaves). I am planning on growing 20 different varieties this year and am so excited for them. I also plan on grafting my tomatoes! This is a relatively new practice of grafting a desired tomato variety to a disease resistant and precocious rootstock. If done right, you can see an increase of yields up to 50%! So, if all goes right you should be seeing a good deal of tasty, nutritious tomatoes in your shares!
For the 2016 season, I am planning on a few positive changes to the farm. I hope to extend the weeks I have green beans available and will be trying my hand at growing edamame. With the investment of insect netting, I also hope to have a more consistent and abundant supply of greens and arugula available to you. And the brussels sprouts! This crop is so frustrating as it grows beautiful all season and then succumbs to a foliar disease, making the sprouts un-edible. I hope to combat this with wider spacing (better airflow) and with hot water treating the seeds. This is a practice of soaking seeds at a very specific temperature for a length of time to eliminate bacterial diseases that can be found in the seed. I am also using this technique on spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and other brassicas. I am trialing new main season carrot varieties, growing more baby lettuce, and trying more organic sweet corn varieties (with names like ‘lucious’ and ‘who gets kissed’!).
Farming is exciting and challenging because there is always room for improvement. There are new crops or varieties to grow and different ways to grow them. There is also better ways to take care of them. With the addition of full-time help this year, I hope to be caring for the plants in the best way I can for better yields of healthy and nutritious crops!