Urban Farm Updates, October 5th, 2018
Fun on the Farm!
Did you know? While the plow itself was patented in 1837, it was originally pulled by horses, oxen or people. Tractors weren’t invented in the 1880s; however, they proved to be so useful, that by the 1920s they were becoming already quite commonplace on farms throughout the U.S.
What’s Growing On?
Wow, what an exhausting, whirlwind week it has been! On Friday evening we celebrated our 2017 Farm to Table Dinner with over 60 guests, wonderful food, good music and refreshing company! Every year we are are eager to see what delicacies Leonora Sansbury has developed for this event, and every year they exceed our wildest imagination! As I have been fighting the tide, in the war against bunnies with the munchies, on the farm this week, getting to enjoy the good food and good company on Friday evening was a welcome relief!
As we slide further and further into the fall season, with cooler nights and shorter days, we approach the end of the summer produce season. My cherry tomatoes are producing less and less as they object to the cold evenings as of late. My Okra production is also slowing down, with the older plants especially, showing a great distaste for lower temps and limited sunlight. It never ceases to amaze me how much a slight change in temperature, or a decrease in sunlight hours by the smallest margin, can affect how well plants grow and produce! It gives me such respect for perennial plants that survive the heat of summer, the frosts of winter, the droughts and heavy rains.
I refreshed the soil material in my vertical PVC towers several weeks ago, and now that the temperature has dropped some during the day time, I was able to take some time to transplant some of my lettuce and arugula seedlings into the towers. These towers make use of something otherwise destined for the landfill, and give a usable purpose to some otherwise unusable space. My lettuce towers did quite well in the spring time, and I hope that they will be equally productive during the fall. The towers are also fairly easy to frost protect in advance of a heavy frost, with a large bed sheet over the tower and a bungee cord wrapped around the bottom. The Vermiculite combined with Atlas Organics compost material, the lettuce transplants don’t experience a long transition period, adjusting almost immediately into their new, high-rise home!
Lettuce is one of the most rewarding fall crop, second to radishes, because they grow so quickly, and reproduce rapidly. You can either harvest the entire lettuce head, or harvest the outer leaves for a “pick and come again” harvest all throughout the fall and winter. I like to pair my lettuce greens with a mixture of Arugula, Mizuna and Amaranth for some color, texture and spice! I was really impressed with how well my Lettuce greens did, growing in the PVC towers in the spring time, getting the proper amount of oxygen and water to the roots through the perforated irrigation tube in the center of the PVC tower. Having done research and explored different methods of growing vertically, and as excited as I was to explore and try something new, I was very happy with how successful the towers were during their first go.
As us humans celebrate the lower temps and revel in the midst of apple season, I get more and more excited for what other things fall brings; autumn foliage, hot apple cider, and carrots! I love to grow (and eat) carrots, especially after a frost has hit them! They get so sweet and tender! It is not super easy to grow carrots in the Upstate of South Carolina because of all of the heavy, thick clay soil; some farmers add large amounts of sand to their soil, to loosen up the surface. I am experimenting with incorporating Vermiculite (a donation courtesy of Palmetto Vermiculite) into my soil, to loosen it up and prepare it for carrots. Carrots prefer light, loose soil that is well draining; dense, compacted soil creates small, tough, round carrots because the soil is hard for the root to push through. Loose soil that is easy for the roots to push through and grow, makes for larger, tender Carrots.
The fan motor in the Greenhouse heater that helps maintain a certain temperature inside of the Greenhouse during the winter, has called it quits, after 5 years of service. I am working with an awesome HVAC crew from American Veteran Air Conditioning, so I am Hopeful that by the time I am preparing the blog next week, the heater will be back in working condition, and the fan motor will have been successfully replaced. Despite not currently having any heat source, the Greenhouse has done it’s job, and has maintained a nice cozy environment for my frost intolerant plants in the Greenhouse, including my little Cucumber seedlings. Cucumbers dislike temperatures below the mid 50’s; but my Cucumber seedlings have been kept snug enough that they are still growing well and are producing more and more flowers every day! During my daily inspection, I found the first of the fall/winter Cucumber seedlings.
Don’t forget that the next Open Farm Saturday is coming up quickly, on the 21st of October! The farm will be open to the public for farm tours, volunteering and a gardening class from 10am to 11am. The gardening class costs $5.00 to attend, and will include hand outs to refer to and a giveaway prize for the first 8 attendees. The topic for October is all about fall/winter Gardening and composting; please just send me an email and let me know if you are planning to attend, so I can make sure that I have enough hand outs for everyone and that the prizes are all set and ready to go! I look forward to seeing you on the 21st!
For those of you who did not get to join us for the Farm to Table Dinner this year, we missed you! It was a wonderful evening, and I hope that sharing some of the photos from Friday evening will get you excited to pencil in the 2018 Farm to Table Dinner! Thank you to everyone that attended this year, for all of those that supported us through this event and by giving of their time and help throughout the entire year! A huge thank you to our event sponsors as well, to Harper Corporation, to the Marriott, to Angela Hayes CPA, and to Milliken & Company and Johnson Development Group who were our course sponsors! Their generous donations make it possible for this event to happen and for us to continue spreading awareness about what we do and about food access! We hope you will join us again next year!