Thursday, April 18, 2013

4th of July Corn

Tom and his crew were out this morning planting the first section of yellow corn.  Allison, Colin, Jacob, Jax and the rest of the team members from the greenhouse seeded this section, 150 trays with 105 plugs per tray, on March 26th.  2 week and 4 days later the trays of corn were removed from the greenhouse to acclimate to the weather.  The trays were placed on the back of a trailer and were left out in the field.  During the 5 day acclimation period the trailer had to be moved into greenhouse a couple times because of a frost.  Today, Tom used a water wheel planter to transplant the corn plugs.

As you can see from the pictures, a water wheel planter is a tractor attachment that has two yellow jugs of water, shelving for the trays of plants, a wheel with spikes to poke holes into the plastic, a hose to water the soil, and two seats for the field workers to sit.  Today, Tom used a single wheel for 1 row planting that plants the plugs 8" apart but if he were planting peppers or another crop he may have used a different wheel that allowed for different spacing.  Since he was seeding in single rows he had to go down each row twice.

Back at the greenhouse 150 more trays of Butter & Sugar corn, 2 varieties, are waiting to go out for acclimation.  When people ask about corn one of the first questions that tends to come up is, "Was this corn seeded from GMO seeds."  You'll be happy to know that we DO NOT use GMO seeds.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Got Deer?

Some variables in farming, such as the weather, can do some serious crop damage.  Unfortunately, that type of variable is out of our control.  Other elements elements of farming, such as preventing deer from entering our fields, we can mange well enough to prevent losing crops.

We have been fighting the deer and the damage that they do to our crops for many years.  In the past, we tried a number of methods to keep the deer out of our fields.  We've tried tying bags of human hair onto our fruit trees.  We've also tried tying small bars of bath soap onto fruit trees.  We've installed electric fences around the bean patch and corn fields (and as soon as a branch or even grass contacted the wire, the wire shorted out.)  Any of these ideas work for a little while.

For the past 10 years we have used plastic fencing that can be taken down at the end of each season.  This option worked well, especially on the fields that we lease, but with the increase in the amount of deer trying to break in, this method is no longer working.  The deer pressure is so high that they keep pushing down the fence, brushing the straw cover off of the plants, and eating the plants.

The last couple of days, Tom and his workers replaced the plastic fence on the other side of the strawberry field that backs up against the woods with metal box wire 8 feet tall.  We installed 8 miles of fencing.  The fencing cost about $100,000 to surround our fields and orchards.  It's the only way to go to protect our livelihood.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Splitting Wood & Pruning Apple Trees

Justin Scott Delivering Wood
Tom's crew had a busy weekend splitting wood and pruning apple trees. The guys split 6 chords of wood to feed the furnaces that heat our 3 greenhouses. Depending on the weather and temperatures set in the greenhouses (2 are set at 60 degrees, one is set at 65  degrees), this much wood should fuel the fire for 2 or 3 weeks.

Usually Tom saves the apple tree pruning project for summer but we didn't prune all of the apple trees last year and those that weren't pruned need pruning now. Here are a few tips from Tom on pruning apple trees:

How many can you fit in a 4240?
  • Do not start pruning new apple trees until the branches are as thick as your thumb (a fat thumb)
  • Pruning in the spring promotes tree growth  
  • Pruning in the summer helps control the size of the tree and provides you with a good estimate of how many apples you will harvest in the fall
  • Trim the trees to a central leader, leave 3 branches on the bottom, 3 branches in the middle, and one branch in the top center 
  • Clip enough branches so that sun shines through the tree

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cole Crop Experiment

Tom's crew spent yesterday planting cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale along with beets, swiss chard both red and green as well as assorted lettuce varieties. In the past we have always laid black plastic on the prepared field and then transplanted into the plastic, but there has been some concern that the black plastic creates too much heat from the sun and bakes the plants.  This year Tom is trying an experiment.  He laid the black plastic to suppress the growth of weeds, then laid a layer of white plastic over the black to protect the plants from overheating.  The plants were then planted through small holes into the two layers by hand.  

In the photo above Tom prepared the field with a one row zone tiller.  In the photo to the right two of Tom's crew members transplanted plants by hand.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring Is Here! We Are Opening!

4/10 - It's crunch time!  The market opens in 3 days!  We have been busy renovating the store, planting apple trees, dividing rhubarb, tilling asparagus rows, seeding; corn, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, beet greens, and potting perennial, and annual flowers.  The crews are hard at work!  This year we added 750 new apple trees to the high density orchard that we started last year.  The varieties include Linda Mac, Honey Crisp, Macoun, and Granny Smith.  We also added Lavender and Stir Fry Basil to our herb collection.  Have to get back to work!  Hope to see you Saturday!
3/28 - You may have seen a video of us on our Facebook page, just a few weeks ago, clearing snow off one of our greenhouses.  Over the past few day days we have since removed all of the plastic covering the greenhouse and replaced it with new plastic.  Shortly we will prepare to fill this greenhouse with tomatoes.  In the mean time, here is a clip from our latest news letter!

Each year we keep track of all the produce as it comes in from the field. All the calculations are reported to the USDA. It's amazing to see the totals on paper.  In 2012 we picked:

799 lbs of asparagus
425 trays of peppers
9000 lbs of greenhouse tomatoes
16737 lbs of field tomatoes
1014 lbs of green beans
434 lbs of yellow beans
568 lbs of peas
4437 lbs of summer squash
331 bushels of winter squash
5200 bushels of apples
1719 bags of sweet corn
1000 boxes of peaches both yellow and white
5 tons of pumpkins
1/7/13 - The store is closed for the season and our work slows down for a couple weeks before we're back in the greenhouses.  The down time is used to recharge and prepare for the up coming season.  We are headed to Oregon for the North American Strawberry Growers bus tour and conference.  Following the conference we will join the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association on a bus tour of the Pacific northwest.  We will travel from Portland to Seattle with other farmers we have met over the past several years at this same conference.  Can't wait!