Friday, March 20, 2015

Feedback Friday - How are these plans?

The farm plans are pretty close to done and we are starting to implement them.  So, we thought we'd entertain you with some of them.  We are always happy to field your questions and take suggestions.  If you don't want to leave them here, then send us an email!

Brassica and more Brassica!
We've had a few years with some excellent results for our brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, etc) and we would like to continue along those lines.  So, what are we doing this season to continue to improve in this area?

The broccoli has been really tasty!
We have identified Gypsy and Belstar as our main broccoli crops.  However, we learned the hard way several years ago that you can't count on a particular hybrid variety for very long.  Those who produce the seed may discontinue at any time (Early Dividend was our mainstay years ago, try and find it now).  So, this year we are trying two new varieties.  Green Super is supposed to be a great summer crop variety and Arcadia is supposed to be good for last Fall.  They both will get trial runs this year.  We are going to trial Amazing and Goodman cauliflower in 2015 and let Snow Crown carry most of the burden.  Snow Crown is an F1 hybrid and the other two are open pollinated.  Early returns from prior trials indicate these two should do well enough.  This is the first larger scale trial for each of them.  We've modified our schedule for kohlrabi a bit and hope it helps us provide a few nice batches of kohlrabi to our CSA and we're working on the kale transplant timing as well.  These are not big changes, but we do feel that little tweeks can provide excellent results.  We are also working on the timing of our chinese cabbage, cabbage and pok choi.  We've only grown each of these for three to five years, so now have a better knowledge base to work with.  New varieties include Emiko (chinese cabbage) and Win-Win (pok choi).  We decided to discontinue Minuet (chinese cabbage) and our seed source changed for Joi Choi (pok choi) so we felt we needed to hedge our bets and find a replacement in case Joi Choi goes away (that would make us sad).

Onions and Leeks
Most of these are already seeded and growing in trays.  We are hopeful that we can find a way to get these in the ground even earlier than last year so we can get a better crop.  We've got some strategies to get the drip tape in a bit sooner and we know the flex tine weeder works now.  So, we're feeling pretty good about the possibilities. 

In fact, getting them in the ground earlier is the biggest thing for us this year.  The issue with that is the fact that nature may not see fit to allow it.  But, that's the way it is sometimes.  We'll make the goal and set up to make it happen as best we can.  If it doesn't happen, we adjust.

We will be trying two new yellow onions in 2015.  Sedona is an F1 hybrid storing onion and Dakota Tears is an open pollinated storing onion.  We'll trial them against each other and see what we can learn.  Otherwise, White Wing, Redwing and Ailsa Craig come back in 2015.  Yellow of Parma will sit out until we see how the other yellows do this year.  King Richard returns as our leek of choice.

Melons and Watermelons
We planted our entire field of melons in about two thirds of a work day.  Now, keep in mind that I am simplifying here.  Planting includes things like prepping beds, laying the paper mulch, drip tape, putting in transplants and other things.  Also, one work day is the length of time we have workers on the farm.

We plant our transplants by hand and we were doing some research that required some special spacing that took more time.  But, the reality is that we want to shorten the planting window so we can hit the optimal planting window with more crops.
Ideally, we'd love to put in all of our melons, watermelons and winter squash in the same day.  This is also a good time to put in tomatoes and peppers.  So, clearly we need to do something to speed the process up a bit.  As a result, we're looking at adding a mechanical transplanter to our tool list.  We've got the tractor for it now, so let's see if we can id the transplanter and climb the learning curve quickly in 2015.  Our hope is to also provide more time for weeding/cultivating by reducing planting time.

We will be running similar melon and watermelon varieties to 2015 this year.  We will reevaluate the varieties after this season and determine if changes need to be made after that.

Root Crops
We would like you all to root for our crops.

Oh, sorry.  This must be a no punning zone.

Root crops, next to our long season winter squash, have been our biggest challenge on our farm.  The early planting timings are often missed because of wet fields.  A person can transplant into wetter soils, but seeding in wet soil is a problem.  And, if the soil temps are cool, like they've been the past two years, you have other problems with direct seeded crops.

So, in 2015, we've reworked our succession plan for root crops to respond to the issues we've had the last couple of years.  We've taken the successful batches and figured out some common themes for them.  Similarly, we've identified some common problems for the failed batches of these crops.

Our two goals?
1. To increase our fall root crop capacity and have more storage crops to take us deep into Fall (and perhaps past the first of the following year).
2. To hit the Spring window harder with a single succession and get our cold storage built so we can store the crop for distribution over a longer period of time.

Two things we need to do to make this work?
1. Get that darned walk in cooler built... finally.
2. Improve our techniques for keeping weeds out of these crops.

And there you are!  An insight to some of the things we are looking at for 2015.

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