Urban Farm Updates, September 14th, 2017
Fun on the Farm!
Did you know? The Mesopotamians’ were the first, around 7,000 BC, to build an irrigation system capable of fully irrigating all of their crops. Their irrigation technique has been improved upon and altered, into our modern day, closed irrigation systems.
What’s Growing On?
My, what a week it has been! I hope that all of you were able to survive the strong winds left from Hurricane Irma, earlier in the week, with very little damage. I did what prep I could on Friday and Saturday, anchoring what I could and tucking away what I couldn’t, but fortunately the winds don’t seem to have been super strong down at the Urban Farm. The farm is still pretty soggy, even after having a few days to dry out, but I didn’t lose any plants, and there wasn’t any damage to speak of. My heart goes out to farmers in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida who have experienced crop loss and farm damage due to Hurricane Irma. Catastrophic wind and water damage can be hard to come back from for farmers, many of whom are operating paycheck to paycheck, harvest to harvest.
I moved all 54 flats of my fall seedlings into the Greenhouse in advance of the storm, to protect the fragile seedlings from the heavy rain, wind and unusually cold temperatures. It is really amazing to see how quickly the greenhouse is transformed from an empty, hot hoop house, into a vibrant and productive greenhouse again. Unfortunately, when I was doing my seasonal check of all of the systems in the Greenhouse, I also discovered that there was a problem with the Greenhouse heating system, so there is another item to add to my to-do list. It is all a part of working on a farm, keeping everything in running order, and fixing it when something breaks.
Over the next several weeks, I will continue starting more plug trays of seedlings, both for winter crops which will make their journey outside under low tunnels in December and January, as well as crops that will spend their entire lives inside the greenhouse. 2017 is the first year that we have had plants growing inside the greenhouse for 12 straight months, the addition of a coolant system allowed me to utilize the Greenhouse for pepper and tomato plants throughout the summer. As our pilot year, I am happy with the results, and look forward to being able to keep plants in the greenhouse again next summer. Being able to utilize the inside and outside space 12 months out of the year, really increases our production and sustainability, as a small-scale Urban Farm.
Inside of the Greenhouse last fall and winter I had the company of a resident Yellow Garden Spider who stayed nice and warm and safe in the Greenhouse, and helped me to eliminate many of the pests and flying insects in the greenhouse. As I started cleaning out the Greenhouse this month, I discovered that not only was she still alive and well, but that she had had a family! There were Garden Spiders galore, and for someone who is not exactly a fan of spiders, they are a wonderful and panic-inducing discovery. The farmer in me is glad that they are there and doing their job, but the arachnophobe in me wishes that they were anywhere but where I need to be!
Outside, my carrot and beet seedlings are happily growing despite all of the storms and cloudy weather they have gotten lately. My greatest hope is that the first of these carrots will be ready for harvest around Thanksgiving, and that we will be able to produce carrots through the end of December. The beets have shot up as well, and the greens are filling in nicely. My fingers are crossed that the nice loose soil will help them to grow nice big, tender root systems, in a short amount of time! I had really good luck with carrots this spring, despite all of the rain that we got, so I hope to continue that good luck, right into the fall!
One big worry of mine during the Hurricane was what was happening to my little Tomatillo plants at the Urban Farm. My little plants were loaded down with little Tomatillo fruit, but the fruit was still far too small to harvest, leaving me with no options but to wait out the storms and hope for the best. I knew that there was a possibility that we might get heavy winds down at the farm, and that I might lose all of those little fruit, but I was very fortunate. We did not get the heavy, strong winds that they were originally predicting for Spartanburg, so I returned to my perfectly happy, healthy Tomatillo plants. I am glad that they survived, and am excited to see how much they produce over the next month or so, since this is my first experience with Tomatillos. I let them trail, instead of caging them, and planted them high up off the ground, in my elevated raised bed. They don’t seem to have had any complaints about it, and they are covered in fruit! I don’t know if you can see in the photo how much fruit it on them; but I hope that there will be plenty to go around!
Now, for anyone who has asked, or will ask at some point in the future, that white canvas sheeting around the back of the farm is not just a fashion statement. Here at the farm, we are bordered on the back side by a Duke Energy substation site, which mandates that they keep the site free of any weeds or debris. Which of course, invites herbicides and harsh chemicals. The crew working there goes through the site 3 to 4 times a year and spraying some strong glyphosates (RoundUp concentrate) everywhere to cut down on the weeds and plants growing there. Last spring in early February, 2 weeks after I had finished transplanting most of my cold crops outside, the crew came through and sprayed, which they have done before. Only this time, the were spraying during the winter windy period, which meant that their spray went all over my newly transplanted seedlings. I was crushed to see all of my hard work, and my precious little seedlings being coated in this chemical. Needless to say, there were casualties; I lost 50% of my Snap Pea plants, 80% of my Broccoli plants, 25% of my onions, and 80% of my Chinese Cabbage. So, I decided to turn the tables and install a canvas barrier in between my little plants and that herbicide, to prevent future damage to my crops. Several weeks ago, they came through and sprayed again, but this time I had the canvas barrier up, and while the whole canvas turned blue, none of my plants were impacted by the glyphosates. It is a super strong chemical that will kill vegetable plants so quickly, and to be able to prevent future damage to my crops is essential. Loosing a crop like that can put you back several weeks, or result in an entire lost season depending on when the loss occurs and what else is going on weather wise; the same can be said for a sudden early or late frost. I have spoken to several farmers who have lost 3 or 4 batches of seedlings in a row, due to a series of hard, unexpected frosts in one year. Farming is a fine science and a constant gamble all at the same time. You do the best you can with the information and resources that you have, and leave the rest up to God.
It does not appear that the Butterfly Creek Project was particularly delayed or impacted by the heavily rainfall that we did receive during the remnants of Hurricane Irma that passed over us, and they are pressing on with the work. Most of the work shaping the stream banks and placing river rock has already been completed, there are just some final, finishing touches left to complete; followed by the construction and completion of the pedestrian walking bridge and finally landscaping. Then, the Butterfly Creek Linear Park will be finished and opened to the public! It is hard to believe that the project is nearing its’ completion already, especially with as many delays and hiccups that they have had due to the uncooperative weather this summer. It will be a relief to see the project finished, to be able to enjoy the aesthetics of the park, following the construction zone, hear the sound of birds returning to the area and enjoy the peace and quiet that is not punctuated by loud machinery and rock-slides. It will be a standing feature of the Northside Community for years to come!
I do want to remind everyone that this Saturday, September 16th, is the next Open Farm Saturday. The farm will be open to the public, volunteers and I will be hosting an informal Gardening Class from 10am to 11am. The gardening class will just be a quick review for fall gardening, and garden season extension. There will be some give-a-ways, up to the first 8 people to sign up. As a heads up, there are officially 3 more Open Farm Saturdays left to 2017, September 16th, October 21st and November 18th. Please send me an email letting me know if you are planning on attending so that I can make sure that I have enough materials, hand-outs etc. Thanks so much!
As always, I will catch up with ya’ll again next week! Take care!