Last month I pulled our old Earthway “Precision Garden Seeder” out of the back of our tool shed, searched for the bag of seed plates and renewed my appreciation for this very basic and versatile seed drill. These days I mostly use a Jang JP1 with disk openers for direct seeding and it’s a great seeder, but in a very different way from the Earthway, and it’s a little less versatile.
It is September. Two months or so until it starts snowing here in Québec. You’re in the home stretch. What’s the most important thing on this month’s to-do lists? Harvest those storage carrots and potatoes? Get the plastic on the greenhouse? Finish cleaning the garlic?
You should probably get all those things done, but what about sitting down and reviewing the season while the season is fresh in everyone’s mind?
When GFM was looking for someone to write about flower farming, I jumped at the opportunity. A farmer for more than 20 years — also vegetables but now mostly flowers — I have a lot to offer readers. I will describe all the mistakes we have made and show all the successes, too. Currently on sabbatical in the Netherlands, I hope to bring some ideas and information about the flower scene in Europe. First, though, a brief introduction to our farm.
I vividly remember sitting in soil science and plant nutrition classes at my alma mater land grant university, wondering if the conventional agricultural paradigm was really just one long sales pitch.
Despite the so-called “sustainable agriculture” title in my degree, I spent entire semesters listening to professors talk in circles about soil chemistry panels and endless inputs that supposedly “need” to be added to the soil for crop success.
This is the second of a quarterly series on alliums. The first appeared in GfM May 2022. In late summer and early fall, there are some perennial alliums that can be planted, and some that can be harvested. Various alliums already harvested will need curing, sorting and storing, and some will be ready to use. This is the time of year to order bulb onion seeds, along with other late summer seed orders, for fall planting. We are in central Virginia, so adjust the dates if you are in a different climate zone.
In my last article on tools for helping with pricing I talked about the importance of using your variable costs to understand the minimum price you can charge without losing money on every extra sale of a product you make (see “Tools to help you put the right price on your products,” from the February 2022 GFM). I gave examples of those variable costs, but I didn’t explain how I track those costs and inevitably I got responses asking for suggestions. I also think it may be helpful to expand here on what I consider a variable cost and what kind of analysis I use them for.
Three years after starting up our Oregon farm, my husband, Casey, and I decided it was time to grow our farm family. In April 2009, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Looking at the pregnancy test double lines felt like the start of a whole new adventure in our farming life, one that would require me to carry almost all of the physical burden of the pregnancy while together we operated our farm.
Growing lettuce in the summer is a challenge almost anywhere. The heat stifles growth and kills germination rates. The sun scorches leaves and rapidly wilts the fresh harvest. Summer is just not lettuce’s season. But fresh, local lettuce is as in-demand in the summer months as any time of the year, maybe even more so. So for advice on how to grow lettuce when the heat is high, I turned to the people growing where summertime is pretty much the norm: the South.
Some flowers are more difficult to deal with than others. They may be hard to hydrate, particular about the time of day for harvest, or have an ideal harvest stage. We have eliminated some flowers that are overly difficult, such as basil and euphorbia, but there are some that we just can’t live without, so have learned to deal with their pickiness. We are also updating our post harvest care each year based on efficiencies and systems that are developed.
Whether you’ve been on the flower farming scene for a while or are brand new, you have likely been in this scenario. You’re sitting at your computer or holding your tablet or smartphone refreshing a webpage a thousand times as the clock ticks closer to the start of a sale. The anticipation has been building for days or weeks. Countless social media posts have prepared you for this moment. The countdown ends and you frantically start adding bare root roses to your cart.
Last summer during the drought and never-ending heat dome in the Pacific Northwest, I watched field bindweed on my vegetable farm go from spotty to ubiquitous. It went from a nuisance in a few spots that I kept an eye on, to a presence that haunted my days and nights.
I went on a mission to understand field bindweed, why it suddenly exploded at my farm, and what I could do to manage it. I found a lot of conflicting information from state agriculture extension agencies. I will do my best to make clear what management strategies work. I will also share tips from GFM readers and strategies I am experimenting with on my farm.
I was first introduced to flame weeding as an apprentice farmer. We had a single wand torch with a squeeze valve and we’d carry the “20 pound” propane tank (which actually weighs over 30 pounds when full) in our other hand while flaming beds seeded to carrots. 24 years later, despite having tried a few other options, I’m back to that same set up, and basically I’m still using it for the same thing – pre-emergence weeding of carrots and parsnips, which for me means just a bed or two every two weeks or so.
I think a lot about what makes me want to keep showing up to farm each day, and each year turn the calendar to a new production season. Good food, working outside, mental and physical challenge all come to mind. Yet, being part of a positive crew culture and productive farm team tops my list.
Ten years ago, a spot on my husband Casey’s neck grew darker and larger in a way that I noticed, my mother noticed, and even my best friend noticed. If you aren’t aware, changes in existing moles or birth marks are a big red flag and potential indicators of skin cancer. I’ll share that awareness with you, explain why sun-exposure matters, and provide guides for taking care of your skin (while still getting important farming work done). In addition to official sources, I also gathered tips from several farmers via social media and a listserv discussion. Some of my research surprised even me, so I encourage you to read to the end even if you think you’re already well-informed about sun and skin protection.
In this article I cover aspects of growing potatoes that I did not review in previous GFM articles. To come up to speed, take a look at the January 2022 article on planting and green sprouting potatoes (including stages of growth); October 2021 covered harvest and storage; November 2008, root cellars; and in February 2008 we covered succession planting.