In 2015 we are building on our past successes. We are growing more and we are growing better. We have expanded our acreage to 3.25 acres plus the 1/4 acre of greenhouses. We have improved on our tillage, seed spacing, weeding, and planting dates. We are trialing new varieties of vegetables while sticking with some favourites that we’ve been growing for years. We are experimenting with new pieces of farm equipment, like a root washer, and building more infrastructure, like a frost-free water line, to increase our efficiencies.
We are growing out heirloom varieties of potatoes, sweet potatoes and garlic that we have been saving since 2011, with hopes that they will yield enough to make it into our winter CSA. We are trying new crops such as celeriac and kohlrabi that will store well in our cold cellar. Other experimental crops include scorzonera, parsley root and Jerusalem artichoke – weird ones that might just turn up in your baskets!
One aspect that we are very excited about this year is our cover crops. This is the first time in our farming career that we have been on the same land for a second year. So now we have the opportunity to see and manage our second year of cover cropping. Last year, we seeded red clover with our winter squash and potatoes. This year we have moved the squash and potatoes to another field, and we have 1 acre of red clover growing back. We have been practicing this cover cropping since 2011 and first discovered it in a COG article by Gavin Dandy at the Everdale Environmental Learning Centre (https://www.cog.ca/documents/07SP_SquashClover.pdf). It is one of the first organic farming articles we read back in 2008 that got us interested in commercial production. This year we mow the red clover several times over the season to remove weeds and help the crop thrive. The red clover develops deep roots and establishes a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, which take nitrogen from the air and make it available as nitrate that is useable by plants. The nitrogen fixing is more prominent in year 2 of growth once the clover has become established. We will disc some of the clover field this fall and prepare raised beds for our fall garlic planting.
Our greenhouses are also planted with a cover crop for the summer: buckwheat. This will be mowed back into the soil to increase fertility and organic matter, before planting our fall greens. We have learned a lot in our first year of greenhouse production and are excited to apply our lessons from a blustery winter. We will be starting spinach, kale and chard in early September. We will then begin successive plantings of leaf lettuce, head lettuce, bok choy, and salad greens. Our gourmet salad greens will be back online in October to continue our retail and restaurant sales, as well as for our CSA members. We’ll also grow radishes, baby turnips and herbs to round out the CSA baskets.
Our big push will be bringing in the harvest this fall from both the fields and greenhouses. Last year we were so busy with construction that it was hard to keep up with harvesting. With the greenhouses now up and running, and extra help being hired, we hope to stay on track and not have to use a skidsteer or axes to harvest our leeks from the frozen ground! We are excited to be building our farm business slowly but surely and experimenting, learning and sharing our experiences with our community.
Happy rest of summer, make it a good one.