Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Farm Stand

Farm Stand

It's been seven weeks since the start of our farm stand. With the exception of last week, which was abysmally slow, it's been going surprisingly well for a poorly advertised, back street vegetable stand. The question is, was last week a fluke, or was it a sign of things to come now that it's summertime? Kids are out of school, so less pick-up traffic (we are right around the corner from John Wister Elementary). Time will tell I guess.
The nice thing about having a stand at the garden is that I can still get some work done if nobody shows up, although I'm not sure just how dirty I'm allowed to get before patrons are turned off. A possible fine line between authentic farmer charm and dirt-and-sweat-near-food gross out. Maybe stick to tying tomatoes and other duties that don't have me on all fours in the dirt on a 95 degree day in between sales.
My mom comes up every week to help me set up and she stays for an hour or two, depending on the heat (we are opposites in that regard, I'm afraid. She she starts melting at 85, 80 with humidity). People always seem very pleased to meet her. I think it's cute for them to see the two of us there together. She's also painting us a giant, beautiful sign for the gate (imagine that, a name posted out front and everything). As soon as she finishes it I'll post a picture of it. It's going to be great.
The refrigerator repair man is here now, to take a look at our Traulsen commercial fridge that's been either freezing everything or reaching a minimum temperature of 82 degrees, depending on the day. Here's hoping we don't have to squeeze everything into that tiny little fridge for much longer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Women Infant Children

Today someone from the PA department of Agriculture came to make sure I was growing food so he could approve me to accept WIC checks. Approved!! Starting in June (which I guess is when they start giving them out) we will be accepting WIC farmers market checks at our stand. I even get my very own stamp with my very own vendor number on it. This operation is just getting more and more legitimate (and cost prohibitive?) by the day.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Mulching first, then planting is the best idea I've had in a while. It's a huge time saver.
For example, I used to plant a tray of peppers into bare soil, align the irrigation perfectly, then put salt hay down in between and around all of the plants, careful not to cover up their stems. Today, I laid salt hay over the entire bed and irrigation lines, then simply put the pepper into the hay, brushing excess hay out of the way with my hand. This is probably something a lot of people do. It takes me a while to get a good system down.

Revision: It's 2013 now, and I've changed my mind about this whole issue. I was really excited about this at the time, because it meant that I didn't have to reach around the plants with tiny stacks of straw, tucking it under leaves and getting it all over the place. However, pre-mulching the bed presents a problem that I think is bigger than the one it solves: irrigation. All of the irrigation is below the mulch. If I turn the drip line on at the time of planting, and I wait to mulch, I can plant each head of lettuce exactly at a drip site, so that each plant is being irrigated directly. If I mulch first, I can't see the drip so I can't plant accordingly. I should mention that my drip system is not so great, and if a plant is a few inches off the hole, it might suffer. So, back to old systems I guess. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's time to get the bird netting out, apparently. I didn't expect to see this little guy so early. I couldn't bring myself to pick it, because it did have a little more ripening to do, but I'm afraid that may have been my only chance- now I'm contending with the birds and the squirrels and I doubt if it will be there by morning. Lucky for me, there are plenty more on the way.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

What gets wound up must be unwound.

Spring is upon us. And it is cold again. While I've had enough of 50 degrees and overcast by now, the last week and a half has been a great time for seeding and transplanting, so I went ahead and direct seeded the first round of beets, all of my peas, and a "wild" salad mix (seeds bought from Johnny's) I'm growing for my friends who are getting married on May 1st. The salad mix came up in five days, so we're right on track. It can be a little nerve wracking when the crop must be ready on precisely this day or that, but salad mix is pretty predictable, and usually only takes between 25 and 35 days to mature, depending on weather and what kind of salad it is. Plus, I gave myself a good two week buffer.
I also transplanted the first round of cabbage, two kinds of kale, onions, broccoli raab, and bibb lettuce. The lettuce we've had to cover up with Reemay and plastic a few nights where the temperature dipped a little too far down for comfort, and we'll most likely do the same tonight- since it's going to SNOW.
Don't curse the weather.
Since I brought the first round of seedlings outside, I made room for tomatoes and peppers and perennial herbs, the latter of which I hope to get into a nice, permanent raised bed on the west side of the garden, to keep with the "perimeter of perennials" theme that I've noticed.
The tomatoes were up in just a few days, and they are so cute. If I could find the charger for my dead camera I'd certainly put a picture up so you could see their little pale green heads poking up out of the soil. I started six heirlooms types, and expect to get many more from PHS, too, so it should be a colorful, tasty spread again this year.
Other preparations we've made include: digging one more bed for asparagus, transplanting strawberries from their nursery bed into the orchard, and buying wire for the fruit trees to be trained along. I'm debating whether or not to go outside and seed the first round of carrots, taking advantage of promised precipitation, or to wait for the threat of snow to pass us by.
Things I'm avoiding include: unwinding and patching all of the irrigation that I just got done pulling in and winding up (the latter is typically a fall activity, probably so that you don't find yourself saying, "I just got finished pulling it in, can't I put it off for a while?").
Seeds to be planted this week or next include: Swiss Chard, Turnips, Radishes, spinach, arugula, baby lettuce.
Happy Planting!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Currant Events

My seed order came in the mail last week. We get most of our seeds and seedlings from the PHS Growers Alliance, but they are supporting lots of other gardens in the city in the same way, and we can't very well hog all the resources. So this month we'll be starting some things indoors, as always, on our high tech "growing stands," which are really just a pair of wooden shelves, skillfully crafted from two-by-fours and plywood. They are exactly the width of our "grow lights" (read industrial hanging flourescents) which always makes for a frustrating time putting the whole thing together- shoving the sharp metal fixtures in between the posts, then trying to unjam them each week as we raise the lights to make room for the growing plants.
I shouldn't complain, because it actually works quite well. It's compact (each stand is 2 feet deep by 4 1/2 feet wide or so), so it fits snugly against the wall and doesn't jut out too far into things. Each fixture hangs from the shelf above it, so all of the plants get nearly equal time and aren't competing too much for the light. We even have special heat mats for the warm weather lovers, which were an investment years ago that I do not regret. Now, to keep the cat from becoming interested, that's the challenge this year. This whole setup is in our bedroom.

I've got this great new desk that has all kinds of little cubbies that are perfect for seed storage. I labeled each cubby with the latin name of a crop family and put each packet in its appropriate cubby. This keeps me on my toes and makes me feel very organized.

I made some very large purchases this past month. I placed an order last week for 18 currant bushes (6 red, 4 black, 4 pink, and 4 white) and 12 gooseberries (drawing a blank on which ones), which should be arriving in time for early spring planting. These bushes tolerate partial shade, and I'm so happy to be able to use our shadier spots for something edible. Last summer I fell in love with red currants. The black ones will take some getting used to, unless I come across a food dehydrator for my birthday (ahem), in which case I can make lots of scones.
And finally, the fruit tree order has been placed. Yesterday I ordered 32 dwarf fruit trees, which I plan to prune to espalier along two fencelines in the area we've been calling an orchard for 3 years. Eight apples (Wine Crisp, Winter Banana Antique, Cox's Orange Pippin, and Honeycrisp), 8 peaches (Redhaven, Blushingstar, Burbank July Elberta, and 4th of July), 6 pears (Tyson, Moonglow, Beurre Bosc), 4 Plums (Starking Delicious, Shiro), 4 Brown Turkey Figs, and 2 sweet cherries. So, who wants to help prepare the site when all this snow melts?

Monday, January 3, 2011


The office renovation is complete and I've begun to plan this year's garden. After fiddling around with several online garden planners I finally got out a piece of good old fashioned paper and a mechanical pencil (my new love) and started drawing. I didn't like the online programs for several reasons:
1. I can't see the whole garden at once unless I scroll out so far that everything is microscopic. I really need to see the whole garden at once. Splitting it in half disorients me and I can't quickly reference beds when I need to see what I've got planted where.
2. It doesn't do anything that I don't tell it to do. It boasts all kinds of email reminders and frost dates and succession schedules, but only if I tell it when those things are happening. At that point, I'd rather write it down in a simpler form than use their strange (to me) format.
3. It doesn't know the difference between succession plantings and relay plantings. Worse yet, it thinks "succession" means "relay." Relaying is when you follow one crop with another crop as soon as the first is finished. Succession is when you make several plantings/sowings of the same crop at weekly/biweekly/triweekly whathaveyou intervals. Trying to manipulate this feature into doing what I want just seems like a waste of time.
Finally, it should be said that I am not a computer savvy person, and these programs may very well be the bees' knees and I just don't know how to use them properly. I think ultimately my problem is that I don't know what I need or want in a program of this sort. I'm taking the "I'll know it when I see it" approach.
A few highlights of the rough draft include:
-one more bed of sweet potatoes for a total of two beds
-one more summer bed of beets for a total of three beds
-broccoli raab
-1 bed shared by eggplant and hot peppers. In the past, they've each had their own bed, but nobody eats eggplant, and hot peppers are insanely prolific.
-one more bed of cabbage, for a total of three beds.
-ONIONS!!! We usually say "No" to onions on account of their long season requirements, but we can't do without. It just isn't right.
-Winter Squash- two beds!!! We also usually say "No" to winter squash on account of its hogging all the space, but we absolutely can't do without that butternut, and neither can anyone else. We are going from 0-2 beds this year.
-So far, so good. I've got to show the plan to Matt when he comes home so we can tweak it. Then maybe we can order our seeds.