The Urban Farm – Winter Update

I know I told you all that The Urban Farm was done for the season, but actually there is something important going on right now that will be critical to our success in 2017.  The cover crop seed I planted in November has been slowly growing and helping the overall soil health.  It was very fortunate that we lucked out with lots of rain and moderate temps for the first half of winter.  I go to the farm and take pics every few weeks or so.  Here is the timeline in pictures:

shortly after germination, picture taken on November 29th


picture taken December 7th


some great growth so far. Picture taken January 3rd


Picture taken January 19th.


As soon as the daylight hours increase and it gets warmer, the rye will take off like a rocket, easily getting over 3 – 4 feet tall.

Seed Starting Grow Station

In preparation for the upcoming growing year and with projects at:

I decided I needed a spot to grow as many of the vegetable starts myself as I could.  I have started my own seeds for decades.  I think it is one of the most rewarding and inexpensive ways to maximize what you grow and how much you grow and it allows you to pick whatever is in a seed catalog and not have to rely on sale at a plant store.  The economy of scale is simple:

$2  =  One head of lettuce  =  one six pack of lettuce transplants  =  one packet of 1000 lettuce seeds  =  $2

So I am going to show how you can make your own grow station at home.

First  thing to do is to pick your spot. Mind it needs to have close electric.  You also need access to water to water your plants.  Shop lights are four feet long so factor that in.  You also need to watch how cold or hot your spot gets.  This is a table top spot I am going to use in my office.  Water is halfway close across the hall,  electric is right there.

Table top area is 2′ x 4′. Has a socket right next to it. Perfect size to fit three flats without crowding.

I needed to build a frame that will allow me to hang the shop lights.  The lights are the cheapest 4 foot shop lights from Home Depot or Lowe’s that you can find.  I will splurge on the bulbs as the amount of light is critical.  I just cut some wood and used the chains and hooks that came with the lights to hang them.  I set the lights at one height and then move the plants.  Much easier that way.

Then I hooked up the lights using a basic timer and a power strip.  The timer is set for 15 hours of sun, which is basically mid-summer.  One common problem many have if they grow at home is not enough light.  You are trying to mimic the effect of the sun in summer. There are no windowsills in Ohio sunny enough in March and April to grow tomatoes, they will get leggy and do poorly.

Then I started some seeds.  Why not?  I have a seed starting class coming up at Bishop Educational Gardens and I will need to bring plants at many growth stages to have good examples.

Lettuce and Asian cabbages are great plants to start with when you are learning to start seeds. They germinate rapidly and reliably and take to transplanting very well.


A little bit on what bulbs to buy. You are trying to mimic daylight in terms of brightness and spectrum.  When I first started growing there was only one choice of bulb and it worked OK.  Now you have many.  I bought highest on the Kelvin scale which is basically looking at the “color temperature” of light.  The daylight one is the best for new seedlings.  If I was going to full maturity on plants or trying to get fruit in my basement or office I would mix up the bulbs a bit to get a fuller spectrum but since the plants finish under the sun, I am only looking for a great start.

LED’s are out there that would do a great job too.  They are out of my budget right now but I am looking forward to using them in the future due to their extreme long life.

pic source:

I will be able to start and grow hundreds of transplants to use in area gardens with this technique.

Plants need to be very close to the light source, only 2-3″ away maximum or they will get leggy.


So now I have some awesome mood lighting in my office.  Stop by and take a look if you want.  I will post updates on growth as it happens.






Fun Projects at Logan Hocking High School

I want to thank Andrew DeLong,  Agricultural Education teacher at Logan Hocking High School, for inviting me to come speak to some of his students this past Thursday.  I had a tremendous time and wanted to share some fun projects we are working on at the school and let you know what we are planning.

A fun presentation I have done in the past is a gross dissection class of a system.  The best one to start with is the cardiopulmonary system as pretty much all the mammal species have the exact same system, just different sizes.  Mr. DeLong was able to source the perfect specimens, two full cardiopulmonary systems from swine.  Pigs are a lot like people.  The organs are near the same size and we use pig heart valves as replacement for defective human valves.

After a short classroom discussion on heart sounds, anatomy and the circulation pathway, it was out onto the shop floor.

We had two tongues, two complete systems from larynx to diaphragm and microscope stations with different things to look at really close.

Then it was time to glove up and get in with it.  The kids were knowledgeable and full of questions.  The future looks bright at LHHS.

Talking to Mr. DeLong with have some ideas for future programs that will be fun.  I will keep you all in the loop.


The other fun thing we have started planning for is using the greenhouse to grow vegetable starts for The Urban Farm at Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen.

The greenhouse is huge and has a ton of cool projects going on in every nook and cranny.  One really interesting thing is the aquaculture experiment where fish swim and create a nutrient rich water that then feeds plants without the need for soil.  I have an interest in aquaculture and Extension has some researchers working on developing this further.  I look forward to working with Mr. DeLong on this project.

Fish in the tub, plants in the tubing.


Lots of fun things to do.   I am looking forward to partnering with Logan Hocking High School on lots more fun projects.

Save the Date!! Seed Starting Class at Bishop Educational Garden, Wednesday March 1st.

OSU Extension and Hocking Soil and Water Conservation District will be partnering to present a FREE workshop at Bishop Educational Gardens, the home of Lilyfest, on Wednesday March 1st from 6:30 to 8pm.


Basic techniques for starting your own flowers, herbs and vegetables will be demonstrated as well as a discussion on how to construct your own home growing environment.


Registration is recommended to ensure we have enough seating.  Bring your questions and your friends.  Bishop Educational Garden is located at 13200 Little Cola Rd. Rockbridge, OH 43149  (click for google map)

For more information or to register contact Rebecca Miller, HSWCD,  at 740-385-3016 or Tim McDermott OSUE at 740-385-3222 or email to