We've had a few experiments running this year and we thought we share preliminary results!
Transplants vs Direct Seeding
Many crops provide you with an option. You can either put the seed directly in the ground and allow them to germinate there or you can germinate the seed in trays or soil blocks and then transplant them into the ground when they are ready. (I suppose you can also transplant into pots, then the ground - like we do with tomatoes.)
We did a trial on winter squash that was positive. As a result, we'll be doing MANY trays of melon, watermelon and winter squash. We may or may not do cucumber, summer squash and zucchini. For these last, it is more likely for the earlier succession.
Row Spacing SARE Grant
We are convinced that companion planting is good. We are convinced that we need to use some bigger equipment to stay up with things. We've been working on spacing plans to see if we can do both. The success on this for the first year is in figuring out what we NEED to have tool-wise. We have also figured out some basic spacing ideas and have identified a number of things that need to be modified to make it work. So - if success is learning better how to do it - we were successful.
We love our tomato cages. Or at least we did. But, those woven wire cages don't Winter well and we don't have the ability to store them inside out of the snow. The amount of time spent trying to bend cages back into shape - or replacing those that broke out was not acceptable. As a result, we have purchased a couple of alternatives from Nolt's and are encouraged. In both cases, set up and tear down will be faster. Also - storage will be easier. Yields don't appear to be markedly different. We'll see.
Farm Visit Work Days
After realizing how isolated we can feel from others who have similar sized farms and/or do similar work, we agreed with three other farms to do a monthly work visit day. A different farm each month. Thus far, we have visited Scattergood and Grinnell Heritage. Blue Gate is coming up! While it may be difficult to take a day off, it has been worth it. It might actually be hardest to host. I don't think any of us has completed succeeded in not falling into the trap of wanting everything to look perfect before our friends arrive! Hint to anyone wanting to do this.... it ain't gonna happen (perfection).
Sierra Blanca - out. White Wing - in. Good deal - it's cheaper to buy seed than plants anyway!
High Tunnel Varieties
Rather than limit our choices, we've tried multiple varieties in the high tunnel in an effort to learn what will work best for us. The jury is still out on some. But, Jaune Flamme looks fantastic. Wapsipinicon Peach looks like another winner. And some of those hot peppers...wow! Beaver Dam may find a spot next year, as might the papricka peppers. We're pleasantly surprised by how the late summer squash and zucchini trial look. And, we knew late green beans were a winner from last year. We're doing that again and the plants look great.
Some not so good things? Kale through the summer - seems like a big magnet for the cabbage worms to us. Potatoes? We'll use it to plant a hill on Good Friday, but that will be it.
We worked on cutting lettuce heads a bit smaller to catch them prior to bolt. While they are not as impressive as our Spring or Fall lettuces, they are still quite good. Biggest key was keeping the plants weeded when temps are high. A little water can do wonders if you time it right too. The other key component? Ducks. They love to eat the lettuce that bolts.