Tomato Planting Time

I took the opportunity to plant tomatoes at two different locations that I help maintain here in Hocking.   My target date for tomato planting is usually around Memorial Day.   That avoids almost any chance of a late frost as well as allows the critical soil warming tomatoes need.  Tomato plants will stop uptake of nutrients from their roots if temps are too low.   That is also why I told folks to hold off planting in April even though we had some great weather.   The past week had very high temps for most of the week(perfect to warm soil), then moderate temps with rain for the ten days following.  Perfect to plant and then have a good source of water for the new transplants.

First up was the Children’s Educational Garden here at the fairgrounds.  Here is the spot:

Four raised beds filled with compost. Great sun exposure, up against chain link fence.

Last year I planted a couple cherry tomatoes and then trellised them along the fence.  It worked great.  I tied the vines horizontally in a modified espalier technique.  It allowed tremendous production and I was able to keep the vines at kid level so they could easily harvest.

Building on that I started seedlings for six different colors of cherry tomato in my seed start grow station.  That will give us way more that can possibly be eaten but I was looking for a colorful effect.   I am a little worried about following tomatoes with tomatoes in back to back years and not following correct rotation.  I will only be able to do an every other year rotate.  I do heavily mulch and we reapply compost.  I will keep a close eye for disease.  Cherry tomatoes have shown they can out grow the blight so I am not super worried.

L -> R: White, Red, Chocolate, Orange, Green and Yellow.

The mulch is mission critical.  It smothers weeds, keeps the soil cool(not cold), prevents moisture loss as well as provides a barrier to the fungal spores in the soil that splash on the leaves and cause most of the tomato diseases.  That is why I had to wait until the soil warmed.  The mulch would have slowed warm up.

 

Next up The Urban Farm:

We are planning to use 2 of our 6 beds in tomatoes.  One of each of the two different growing media.  I want to see how they do in comparison.  The trellis method here is different.  I am using cattle panel that are zip tied into a steep triangle.  This will allow easy harvest and the panel will last years.

dark soil is a mark of lots of organic matter.

Tomatoes are one of the only plants that should be buried deeper than where they were growing in their container.  This is because they will grow roots off the stem below the ground which makes a stronger plant. I pinched off the lower branches and leaves and planted them in 10 inch deep holes.  Then comes the mulch.  I put about 3-4 inches deep hay around the plants.  I will add more as the plants grow.

14 plants per bed, 28 tomatoes total.

The asphalt next to the right side bed will keep the heat in.  This might hurt the plant in high summer heat.  I put cherry tomatoes in that bed as they do less blossom drop due to heat.  Now I just need to get my home plants in.

Butterfly Garden at Hocking Valley Community Hospital

I was able to participate in a fun event at HVCH this past Friday.   The containers from last years container vegetable garden were planted with a mix of plants that are specific attractors to butterflies, either for nectar or forage.   Rick Webb from Webb’s Perennials kindly donated the plants,  Thanks Rick!

The butterfly knowledge was provided by Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center which is located in Hocking Hills.  They have some land they are developing with plant species specific to butterflies and other pollinators.

Here is my favorite species of butterfly

It was a fun event.  The plan will be release of butterflies over the season into the protected courtyard so they can eat and then lay eggs.  Then after the caterpillars hatch they have forage to eat to mature into butterflies to continue on their journey.  The courtyard is a pleasant place for patients and staff to relax and this will make it even better.

I am looking forward to helping care for the butterfly garden this season and you will see me there periodically.  I also look forward to partnering with Butterfly Ridge to host programs at their center to provide educational programming later this summer.  I will let you all know about that once we get the details finalized.

Urban Farm Spring Update

It is amazing to me to see the old pictures of when we first started the raised beds.

Now we have some fertile growing media and are in full swing for spring harvest.  The cover crops have been terminated and mowed and are getting ready for tomatoes, beans, and peppers.  It is still too early to plant those, but not too early to get the space ready to go.

 

I got the trellis up for the sugar snaps and if the deer do not eat them we will have a fine harvest.  I am using cattle panel as my trellis as it will last for many seasons.  I am going to do the same when I trellis the tomatoes.  I mulched with hay to keep the weeds down and the soil moist for this cool season crop

 

Carrots take quite some time to germinate and get started but they are coming on now and will be part of the produce boxes for the seniors in a month or two.  I will start lots more later in the season.

Senior Farmer’s Market voucher season starts this week and I am hoping to add radishes to the spinach, lettuce and broccoli.

The Urban Farm – April Update

So my last post back on April 2nd showed snow on the raised beds.   We had planted about 40 or so transplants to take advantage of an early warm up then put some row cover season extension over the plants for protection.  Lettuce and broccoli are generally cold tolerant but the weather was in the teens for an extended period of time plus I did not have time to set my low tunnel up correctly so I was thinking we would have some loss.  And we did.  But not too bad.

First week of April after hard long hard freeze period

 

No worries.  We pulled dead plants and put in new ones.  That is why you have a seed start grow station at your house and you plant every two weeks.  Having a dozen plants ready each week or two ensures a steady stream of produce.  We had nice weather with decent rainfall and it shows.

Here is that same bed a couple weeks later.

Lettuce is interplanted with broccoli and cauliflower.  We will harvest the largest heads to allow the smaller heads to get bigger as the broccoli and cauliflower grow to maturity.  We have about 30 heads of lettuce going in a separate part of the farm for later on.

I need to find a few hours this week to work at the farm.  The peas are coming up and if the bunnies and deer do not eat them they will need a trellis in a week or two.  Targeted harvest for sugar snap peas is early June.

Spring Planting at The Urban Farm

So,  back on February 26th, I did a post on how we had started planting at the farm.  I had started a ton of seedlings for various seed starting classes and they needed to get into the ground.  The weather had been beautiful which was not typical for late winter around here.

Then we got some actual winter.  Sam and I put row cover over the seedlings and then doubled up on it for further season extension weather protection.  If it had been spinach under the cover I would have had zero worries but baby lettuce and baby broccoli do not tolerate multiple days in the teens, even under cover so we lost about 25% of the plants from the cold snap. It did not help that I did not have time to put hoops under the cover.  That would have held the fabric up higher and helped the microclimate.  It did help that I had planted right next to the driveway so the asphalt would soak up and release heat locally.

No worries.  The best part of having your own seed starting grow station is the ability to have plants ready to go into the ground every two weeks.  We had started dozens more lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower seeds.  I figured it would take me hours to plant but then Sam and a bunch of her co-workers at The Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen came out with her and we planted everything plus turned over two more beds of cover crop in an hours.  Big Thanks to them!!!

We filled the whole bed and replaced any dead planting.  Started more under the lights as well.

Covered them up and had some nice rain a couple days later.  I will check on them this week.  Cover will stay to protect for deer plus we have some cold nights still.

 

Speaking of cover crop the rye is going like crazy and will take off towards three and four feet tall here shortly.

(gallery pic credits: Naomi S.)

Ramp Cultivation

A special thanks to Tanner Filyaw, Rural Action, for background and source material.   Used with permission.

 

pic credit: Appalachian Sustainable Development

 

Ramps are a species of wild onion that is native to the eastern North American mountains.  They prefer rich, moist, shady soils under tree species such as maple, oak, hickory, buckeye, beech and birth which means they are commonly encountered in Hocking County.

Pic credit: Rural Action, Tanner Filyaw

 

 

I personally grow a bunch of different onion varieties but these have several unusual cultivation characteristics if folks want to propagate them.

And we should.  Ramps have increased in popularity in recent years as a foraged local food for both home use and restaurant use.  The primary source for ramps has been harvest off of public land with little thought to sustainability and this has negatively impacted ramp population in the wild.

pic credit: Appalachian Sustainable Development

A study of the ramp life cycle is important to understand the challenges of propagating this plant.

Ramp Life Cycle –> Ramp Life Cycle Calendar-wl0p66

 

Cultivation:

  • From divisions/transplants – be gentle, can purchase plants or divide mature clumps in spring.  If divide clumps, harvest no more than 15% of the clump.  ( I have seen as few as 5% recommended)

pic credit: Rural Action, Tanner Filyaw

  • From seed – can sow anytime,  BEST time is late summer to early fall. Can take up to 18 months to germinate!  Total time to harvest from sown seed can be 5-7 years.

pic credit: Rural Action, Tanner Filyaw

 

Ramp seed sources:

Awesome ramp cultivation links:

 

 

 

2017 Hocking Hills Farmer’s Market

I was absolutely sick to my stomach when I woke up, started reading the paper and saw that the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge had burned down.   The lodge provided jobs for many people as well as a place for local artists to showcase their art.  It was also the location of the Hocking Hills Farmer’s Market last year.  It was their first year in that location and the word was getting out.  Now they have to start over.

The good news is that they have a great new location for 2017 at the Hocking Hills Winery.

The market is still looking for produce vendors!!!   Think about that if you are looking to make some money as the market is an excellent small business incubator to showcase product with minor overhead costs.

Market Rules and Regulations —>  HOCKING HILLS FARMERS MARKET INFO-usj0tq

Vendor Application —>  2017 HOCKING HILLS FARMERS MARKET APPLICATION-25q2w80

I wish them luck and will help market the market.  Opening day is May 27th.