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.)

Planting has started at The Urban Farm

The 2017 growing season is underway.  I had started a ton of seedlings to have as teaching tools for the many seed starting workshops that I have done in the last month or so. ( 10 classes on seed starting this season).   The first seeds were sown under the lights in my office seed start growing station in January.

Lettuce and Broccoli starts on 1/23, germination occurred two days after sowing.

At about a week or so of age, when the seedlings were at the true leaf stage of one or two leaves, I divided them and transplanted into cell packs.

11 days from sowing.


The seedlings were allowed to grow in 1″ cells for another couple weeks.  We had a really nice warm up lately and I knew I was going to be out of the office for a while for a conference so I took them to The Urban Farm to transplant.  I picked a bed to use that was close to the parking lot to make use of the nice warm microclimate that the blacktop would provide.  I had looked at the forecast to see the 60 degrees was going to go back to closer to normal.  The first thing to do was terminate the cover crop to get a planting area.

Turned winter rye under with a garden fork. At this stage will provide a nitrogen boost.


The soil was awesome at this point.  It had broken down further, was very friable and a nice dark color.  Extremely easy to work, I could plant with my fingers and did not need a trowel.

I spaced the plants for planned harvest.  The lettuce was on the edge and was on about 7″ centers.  The broccoli alternated with lettuce on 10″ centers.  As I harvest lettuce every other head, the remaining heads have room to get bigger, and when the lettuce comes out completely the broccoli can have that whole side of the bed to expand.  The leaves will quickly make a canopy over the soil making a nice microclimate to shade the soil to conserve moisture and help prevent weed germination.  Basic bio-intensive principals.

The whole bed was covered with medium weight row cover.  This will allow water, air and 90% of sunlight to penetrate to the plants while providing frost protection as well as predator (deer and rabbit) protection in this time of little forage.

Row cover loose on top of the seedlings. I will raise it up with hoops when I get some free time!


Now I need to see how the seedlings grow.  If you remember back when the growing medium was added I had concerns of chlorosis as the pH of the growing medium was a little too sweet.  The cover crop and ammonium sulfate should have corrected it, but I want proof before the May 1st target date.  If everything goes well we should be able to start private sales of this produce in a few weeks.

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: foodiegardener.com

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.

The Urban Farm is Done for the Season

So on a sunny 60 degree day in late November (I know, right?), Sam, Brad and I finished the paths around The Urban Farm and are now done with Phase II construction.   The target for growing will be to sow some seed like spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes and peas in March of 2017 to prepare for vegetable sales on May 1 for the Senior Farmer’s Market Voucher Program, and to hopefully have some extra for public sale and inclusion into Meals on Wheels and lunches at the Senior Center.

Special THANKS! to Athens Hocking Recycling Center for some more donated mulch.  I took some pics for you all to enjoy.

Phase I, the herb bed, is doing great. It is still being harvested for use in the Kitchen

Phase I, the herb bed, is doing great. It is still being harvested for use in the Kitchen


The winter rye cover crop is starting to germinate. Hoping it gets enough root growth to survive the winter

The winter rye cover crop is starting to germinate. Hoping it gets enough root growth to survive the winter




See you all in the spring.

The Urban Farm – Raised Bed Growing Medium

We built six raised beds as our starting point for growing vegetables next spring.  Each bed is 4′ x 12′ and 8 inches tall.  The math works out to about 32 cubit feet of soil per bed, with a cubic yard being 27 cubic feet, we need over 7 cubic yards of fill material.

I wanted to get a good head start on organic material as increasing soil organic matter over time can take years, but I did not want to put all my eggs in one dirt basket, so I went with two different compost options,  one a commercial blend and the other a municipal yard waste blend.  We used the municipal blend here at the Children’s Educational Garden at the fairgrounds and while it is a dynamite additive to soil,  when I planted into it straight away,  some plants did not look happy,  showing a symptom called chlorosis, or yellowing of the leaves.  That means the product needs something done to it to smooth out any rough edges.   That is my main concern, making sure I correct any needed deficiencies before planting season.

The first was the compost created at Athens-Hocking Recycling Center.  Sam and I wanted to purchase from them as they have been so gracious with donations of mulch for this project as well as the What a Waste Project.  This material is made from food scraps they collect regionally from homes and businesses that keeps this waste from a landfill and turns it into a salable product by mixing it with wood mulch, turning it, then shredding it down.

Here is a close up of the finished product, some cover crop seeds are visible:



You know me,  I have to soil test it:


Pretty impressive numbers.  High organic content,  lots of nutrients.  You can still see some wood pieces as well as some egg shells if you look close.  It is an excellent soil amendment  The problem with using it straight is the alkaline pH of 7.7 can cause some problems with certain nutrients being available right away.   The soil test states to add sulfur to combat that.


Next up is municipal yard waste from the City of Logan.   They very graciously donated to this project and Sam and I are grateful.  They take collected yard waste and pile it up and it sits there for years, slowly breaking down.  Here is a close up:


Not bad looking stuff,  still some bits and pieces.  The soil test results:


Very similar numbers noted here.  High organic matter,  lots of nutrients,  same alkaline pH.  I did the same with both.   Added ammonium sulfate fertilizer then sowed cover crop seed.



Ammonium sulfate has  both sulfur, to correct the pH and some nitrogen to help both the cover crops grow and help the soil bacteria break down the residual carbon bits.  My hope is that the fertilizer, the cover crops and the winter will combine to help both of these growing media get to a good point for vegetables by April.


Sam and I want to say THANKS!!!! to the City of Logan for generously donating a huge dump truck of compost that we will be able to use to grow vegetables for years.  


The Urban Farm – fall harvest has started

The Urban Farm is now actually a farm.   The paperwork has been processed and we have gotten permission to proceed through the Ohio Senior Farmer’s Market voucher program.  Harvest started on some herbs from our own beds with some fresh fruit from the Chesterhill produce auction.  Sam will come up with some recipes based on what we have to sell seasonally.  We have apples, seckel pears and an assortment of fresh herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano right now.   I am thinking pork chops with sage and apples myself.


While there is only one more week left in the voucher program,  these are also available for sale to the public.  Stop by The Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen but do not dawdle,  once they are gone, they are gone.  Each box costs 5 dollars.  To order a box as well as some other great produce deals CLICK HERE FOR THE ORDER FORM FROM THE KITCHEN


Phase II of The Urban Farm at Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen

Yesterday was the ground breaking day to get some raised beds built and filled so that we could get cover crops in the ground anticipating rain this week and using the last little bit of nice weather for germination.   I had prepared the site a couple weeks prior with some glyphosate.   The area we are using to plant had some seriously potent weeds.


The plan was to get six raised beds,  4′ x 12′ by 8″ tall placed in this area with 3 foot paths between them.   We had received a donation of lumber from an amazing local partner, Mike’s Lumber LLC on 93N, of all the wood to construct the planting beds.  Huge thanks to Mike!!

Our original orientation would be north-south, but we had some last minute questions about property lines, so we placed the beds on an east-west orientation in case we had to move row two.


Next we laid cardboard on the pathways and the bottom of the raised beds.  Thick cardboard for the paths,  thin stuff that will break down by next year in the beds.  We put landscape fabric on top of the paths, and then spread wood chips on top of the fabric.  Weeds are a real concern to me and if I get a chance to minimize them I will.  A good start on weed control will minimize them potentially for years. Huge thanks to Athens-Hocking Waste Recyclers for a load of wood chips for the pathways.

Then once the beds were ready a cover crop mix of rye, vetch and clover was planted and watered in.  The cover crop will help the compost we filled the beds with become more bio-active and be ready for spring planting.  I am hoping that we get the second row filled and cover cropped as well.  We were waiting on permission to plant from the neighbors and thankfully got that permission shortly after this part of Phase II was done.



A huge thanks to the work crew: Sam, Brad, Bob and Robert from HAPCAP.   We also had two sponsors contribute materials that Sam and I want to recognize for their generous donations:

  • Mike’s Lumber LLC
  • Athens-Hocking Waste Recyclers
The Phase II work crew.

The Phase II work crew.

Fall Project Updates

As we progress through fall and the growing season slowly comes to an end I thought I would give an update on several projects that I have been working on over the last few months.

First up is the Children’s Educational Garden here at the fairgrounds:

The garden is still doing great.  Tons of cherry tomatoes and peppers still.  Some shell beans left from the green bean bushes.  Parsley and onions as well.   Feel free to come down to the fairgrounds and help yourself, especially if your tomatoes are done as we have lots.

In a few weeks when frost has killed most of the leftover summer veggies we will plant cover crops in the raised beds.  It is the same blend as last year which turned out great.  Rye, clover and vetch from Walnut Creek Seeds.

72.5% Winter Cereal Rye 12% Crimson clover 11.9% Hairy Vetch

72.5% Winter Cereal Rye
12% Crimson clover
11.9% Hairy Vetch


Next up is The Urban Farm:

The perennial herb garden is doing great.  We finally got some rain and it has cooled off.



The site we have selected for the raised beds could not be much better.  South face, full sun, aligns east to west. Perfect.




Last update is the accessible raised beds from the What a Waste project.  The veggies did great and they got a major harvest.  Fall is definitely a great time to grow vegetables.



I will have a bigger update on The Urban Farm at Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen in a few weeks.