Last year, we planted our single biggest expansion yet: a 1 acre berry patch. It is filled with over 5 strawberry varieties, 3 different raspberries, and of course, the Kentucky favorite, blackberries. While we did harvest a few strawberries last year, the first harvest season will begin this spring, and we couldn't be more excited. In order to provide strawberries to our members over the longest possible season, we were very judicious in our variety selections.
It may come as a surprise to learn that there are currently 103 registered strawberry varieties in the United States. Each of them have been bred for specific traits, such as berry size, flavor, shelf life, ripening time, and disease resistance. By selecting several varieties that ripen at different times throughout the year, we have been able to control the harvest period so that it lasts much longer than usual.
The true workhorse, this variety is an Everbearing, which is different from all of the previous types you've just read about. Everbearing types produce an extra early crop, and then a long harvest of late season berries, usually throughout most of October. After having a long gap of fresh strawberries, these are a welcome sight come autumn. As the weather starts to cool, it is also your final chance to freeze some for all of those winter desserts!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about the strawberries that will provide for our csa program over the next 3 years. We've put a lot of research into strawberry production to ensure that our members will have one of the best (and longest) strawberry seasons in Kentucky, and we are certain that you all will be quite pleased with our efforts. Up next on our list of expansions: an orchard...more info on that soon!
See you next week!
Have you reserved your membership for 2018?
This week I thought you all might want to hear what we are doing differently this year. Last year was a terrible melon, cucumber, and pumpkin year, do in part to an incredibly wet season on the farm, and unusually high pest pressure. 2016 ushered in one of the strongest El Nino/La Nina cycles since the NOAA began keeping records in 1950, and it decided to stick around for not 1 year, but 2. It seems the weather patterns are starting to stabilize, and the unpredictable jet stream may be returning to its normal spot(hopefully). This is a pattern that should occur every 10 years or so, but due to climate change, is becoming more unpredictable. During el nino/la nino events, drought vs. heavy rainfall oscillations are stronger and more frequent, as well as temperature extremes and summer storms (high winds and thunderstorms).
On a farm that uses organic growing practices, this can wreak havoc. Organic fungicides and pesticides (at least the ones we feel comfortable using), are easily washed off during rainfall. They are no match for conventional pesticides that soak into the plant tissue, and stick around for the entire growing season (and also stick around in the vegetables and fruit...no thank you). We use an agricultural peroxide to control fungal issues, and to be effective, it must be applied every time there are wet conditions on the farm (rain, fog, high humidity). The pesticides that we use are actually just a soil based bacteria, and are easily washed away with the rain, and break down quickly in high heat/humidity. You may wonder, why not just use a stronger organic approved substance? Well, as time goes on, we are discovering that even some organic pesticides are dangerous...rotenone, pyrethrums, etc.. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that some conventional chemicals are safer than organic (I know...it's mind boggling). Just because a chemical is approved for organic agriculture use, does not mean that we will use it on our farm; the mechanism and mode of actions must match our growing philosophy. The health of our farm and our members is paramount to all other decisions.
Our main nemesis are cucumber beetles (both spotted and striped), and squash bugs. Since we remain steadfast in not using conventional or dangerous organic chemicals, we have spent the majority of winter researching advanced growing techniques to ensure our success with the crops that these pests target: watermelon, muskmelons, cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins. We have read books, researched what farmers in other countries are doing, poured through the state extension website, and scoured the internet for any piece of knowledge to add to our arsenal of defenses. What we have learned is that it is going to take a multi-step approach to ensure our success, and here is how we are going to do it:
Step 1: Early start
Older plants can sustain feeding damage better than young plants, which pests seem to have a penchant for. Usually cucurbit crops are direct seeded, as it is easier, faster, and more economical than starting them in the nursery and then transplanting into the field. Cucurbit crops are notoriously finicky, and require a high level of management when started indoors. These fastidious requirements, coupled with our dwindling nursery space, has precluded us from considering this approach in the past. However, our csa members are very important to us, so we have decided to stop selling to local restaurants for the 2018 growing season, which will allow us to have more room (both in the nursery and the field) to dedicate to crops for our members. Side note: Dropping restaurants from our sales outlets will also allow us to resume growing crops that took large amounts of room, and provided little return (such as sweet corn, ornamental pumpkins, and decorative gourds). We have made lots of changes in many different areas of our operation to make sure that the csa program is the best you will find in the state...we love you guys!
Step 2: Mechanical Exclusion
Maybe one day soon we will be able to install a screened high tunnel for pest exclusion, but until then, we are going to rely on something that we already have plenty of: fabric row cover. We've used this for years to extend our growing season both earlier in the spring, and later into the winter. Even though this will create several new issues that we will need to manage, it will give the newly transplanted seedlings a safer environment to grow. New issues will be overheating the plants, damaging tender stemmed crops, and pollination. To address overheating, we have sourced the thinnest fabric we can find, which is thin enough to see through. We will use thin metal hoops to suspend the fabric up off of tender stemmed crops like melons and cucumbers. Pollination issues leads us to the next step...
Step 3: Complex Hybrid Varieties & Use of Multi-Species Pollinators
Pollination is the single most important aspect of growing the crops that we are trying to protect, as not only are we going to be excluding pests, but also the pollinators that are essential to fruit formation. Unlike peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, etc., the cucurbit (cucumber and muskmelon) and citrullus (watermelon) species require an insect to climb inside the male flower, and transfer the pollen to each female blossom. If this fails to happen within about 3 days of the female blossom opening, it will wither away and die, and no fruit will be produced. So, we are going to use a little science, and a little nature to work around this problem. Our first approach will be to use parthenocarpic varieties. These varieties are complex hybrids that have been bred for greenhouse production, where insect pollinators are usually absent; they do not require pollination to set fruit. However, these varieties are only available in a handful of crops, namely cucumbers. For watermelons, pumpkins, and squashes, we are going to have to take a different approach: the use of novel pollinators. We have found a source of solitary bees (those that don't build hives) as well as mason bees (which only need a piece of food for nesting). These beeds are notoriously docile, as they are not social, and thus do not have a colony to protect. We will place these pollinators inside the enclosed tunnels where they will hatch. We will provide them with water and a supplemental food source, and in exchange they will carry out pollination duties. Once the pollination has been completed, we will remove the covers, allowing them to flee the enclosed space, and carry out pollination duties on other crops that do not require protection. They are native to our area, so they will reproduce, overwinter, and provide their services for years to come. A win-win for everyone.
Step 4: Provide the pest with their favorite food source
Our last line of defense is going to be providing the pests their favorite varieties to snack on. Since they will be easily accessible (and far away from our protected crops), they should congregate en masse to breed and lay eggs. Once they hatch they are slow and can't fly very well. With careful attention to timing, we will then use our flame weeder for a chemical free extermination. We normally use the flame weeder for pre-emergent weed control, but at 400,000 btus (a normal bbq is around 50,000 btu), it is capable of many different tasks...plus, it is just plain fun (and safe) to use.
Hopefully, these new growing techniques will improve our success with this small handful of crops that are a challenge to produce successfully on our farm. We aren't ones to shy away from a challenge, and we think this year we have the best plan of attack, yet. See you guys net week!
The growing season is upon us, and in less than a week, we will be planting the first of the years seedlings. We have spent the last month finalizing our planting plan for the year, which is a prerequisite for placing our seed order. You may wonder, why does it take so long to write a planting plan? At over 60 pages long, it is a behemoth of a document, that contains every crop type, variety, amounts to be planted, when to start transplants in the nursery, when to plant in the field, what spacing to use, when harvest will begin, and in what csa season it will be offered. The next step is translating all of that data into a spreadsheet which will allow us to make a weekly plan for the rest of the year. That's right, by the end of the week we will know exactly what we are doing on any given week of the year...all the way to February of next year. It may seem tedious, but as we move towards our year round, never ending csa program (and continue to add even more variety), it is essential for success. Our planting plan also allows us to purchase the exact amount of seed we need, so that we don't waste money buying excess, and friends, seed has gotten expensive in the past few years, so we try not to buy any more than we need! Specialty varieties that have been bred to have a natural disease resistance are important on a farm like ours, where you can't rely on synthetic chemical inputs, and they charge good money for those. So, we start with the very best seed we can find: Johnny's Selected Seeds. They were leaders of the organic agricultural movement, and perhaps most importantly, they are an employee owned company! We finally got the seeds in the mail on Saturday, and at 31lbs, it was a behemoth of a package. It really is like Christmas for us; just take a look at all of these goodies:
Of course, in addition to new seed, we also have lots from last year that we purchased in bulk, which isn't pictured. We also have to order seed potatoes and onion transplants, but those wont arrive until the proper planting time, later in spring.
Dry beans were a member favorite last year (which surprised us), so we have decided to add a few more for you all: We are keeping the baking/multi-purpose bean from last year (Kenearly Yellow Eye), and adding a black bean (Midnight Black Turtle), as well as a multi-purpose soup bean (Vermont Cranberry).
We're pretty appreciative of the warm spell we had last week, and took the time to go back to check on the garlic, which is looking excellent. Garlic is planted in the fall, and harvested the following year. The purpose of this planting is so that the bulbs have excellent roots, so that they can produce the biggest bulbs possible. Normally the tops will grow a short amount during our mild Decembers, and then die back in the cold of January, continuing to work on creating a strong root system. However, these organically raised bulbs, which we purchased directly from a farmer in Pennsylvania, are exceptionally cold hardy, and still look great!
In addition to producing the traditional bulbs in summer, which you all are familiar with, this variety will also produce scapes, sometimes called "green garlic", in late spring. Scapes are used somewhat like a green onion, but have a wonderful, mild garlic flavor. Here is a random photo that Ive pulled from the internet to show you what scapes look like, as well as a picture of the bulbs before we planted them (which are representative of what we will harvest in summer).
We hope that everyone is getting excited for the 2018 season...it may still be cold outside, but each day is getting longer, and we will be seeing you all at pickup before you know it. Remember, the spring season starts on April 20th, so if you haven't signed up for your share yet, now is a great time! See you next week!
We started the first of the harvesting this week. It's always a big week because it marks the start of a period I like to call "Sorryicantdoanythingwithanyoneforthenext6months becauseimafarmer" period. I apologize now for any skipped birthdays or holidays.
Our first wholesale crop to be harvested are salad mixes: Spring Mix, Baby Kale Mix, Baby Spinach, and a secret blend of our favorite baby greens. The biggest buyer of them is Vinaigrette, a local salad-based restaurant with 4 locations. They can really go through the greens....in fact, each of the locations goes through about 100 lbs of spring mix, and 50 lbs of baby kale every week!
Baby salad mixes are actually prematurely harvested head lettuces and bunching kales. If we planted the seed at the proper 6" spacing and left them to grow for about 60 days, we would have full sized butterhead, oak leaf and romaine lettuce. They would look more like these heads of artisan lettuce that we grew for the CSA members last year:
However, we don't plant at this spacing. Instead of 1 seed every 6", we plant 60 seeds every foot! This reduces the room the plants have to grow, forcing them to stay small and to grow upright, which makes the harvest much easier.
When we first started producing salad mixes, we only did around 40lbs total a week. At that level we would hand harvest with knives; a labor intensive process that can really eat into an already slim profit margin. In fact, you can't hand harvest lettuce and still turn a profit once you are producing more than 25lbs or so a week. Enter the greens harvester, a small machine whose design is reminiscent of old sickle mowers. It works by using a serrated blade to cut the stem, and nylon cord to grab and throw the greens into a collection basket.
This machine allows us to harvest around 50 lbs in 20 minutes. It would have taken 2 people about 4 hours to cut the same amount by hand. At $10/hr, that is a savings of roughly $75 per harvest!
After that it is to the pack house, where we really set our product apart from the crowd. A quick dunk in some ice cold water removes the residual field heat and any soil that has splashed onto the leaves. We then hand sort every leaf. Any broken, wilted, or faded leaves are removed and fed to the chickens and turkeys (Yes, we have turkeys this year...no, we aren't selling them...yes, the kids can check them out when you come to pick up your CSA shares :-)). This is the most time consuming part of the entire process, but one that sets our mixes apart from the crowd.
Our process results in bagged greens that last at least 21 days in the fridge (I've left out a few of our secrets). It takes a very high level of attention to detail to get greens to stay fresh this long, and we like to think it is proof of our commitment to quality. We put the icing on the cake by packing them in a 100% compostable bag, before sending them out to be served in thousands of salads throughout the area.
Until next week,
This past week was all about potatoes. All in all, we planted 600 lbs of seed pieces. We started this process back in December when we placed our order for seed potatoes. Believe it or not, seed potatoes sell out fast!
We began by figuring out which varieties from previous seasons were the most popular. Then we research any new varieties that have come out, and decide if we want to give any of them a try. Once we have decided on what we want, we purchase certified disease free stock from Maine farmers.
You may remember me talking about potatoes a few weeks ago, when we cut them into seed pieces and started to chit them. They started out looking like this:
After a few weeks they started drying out, and the eyes began to sprout:
This process also allows us to remove any bad potatoes that would have otherwise rotted in the ground and could have potentially introduced disease into our fields. When you farm like we do, you don't have an arsenal of fungicides at your disposal, so prevention of disease becomes paramount. As we crate the potatoes up, we remove any gnarly looking spuds:
Then they are out to the field! We plant our potatoes in raised beds, and use a waterwheel to mark the spacing. Our goal is to get the cut side down, and the sprout side up. It doesn't always happen that way, but we give it the ol' college try:
You can see that me and the mother in law have to work in perfect sync to keep from making a mess of things. When she misses, I have to speed up and catch her skip by doing her planting and mine...and she has to do the same for me. We've had several years of planting with each other to practice, so we're pretty much robots at this point:
This year we will have our red, white, and blue new potatoes. All of the potatoes are gold fleshed, only the skins have color. For our main season potato we will have a German variety that is a gourmet delight. We will also have two varieties of fingerlings, for those that like to get fancy with their cooking. One is a Russian variety that tastes like it is already buttered, and the other a brand new development, called Pinto Gold. It produces a marbled, bi-color potato:
Photo from Johnny's Selected Seeds website.
I hope you all enjoyed learning a bit about what goes into getting local potatoes on your plate! CSA members should see them in about 5 to 6 weeks.
Until next week,
Can you believe this weather? It's the best we could hope for, and we have seriously seized the opportunity. We spent the week preparing the ground, forming beds, laying plastic, and getting as many things in the ground as we could.
Beans, carrots, radishes, summer squash, cucumbers, lettuces, kale, spinach, and beets were all planted this week.
Im putting a strong focus on perfecting our herb production this year. Some herbs take a considerable amount of time to provide a harvest, particularly the perennial herbs: rosemary, thyme, and sage. I couldn't source organic rosemary seed this year, so I ordered organic plugs several months ago (the process takes 15 weeks). Plugs are cuttings that have been taken from a larger plant, and rooted in nursery flats.
Sage (above), and thyme (below), were started from seed about 20 weeks ago, in the dead of winter. We are planning to plant around 250 of each of these 3 varieties.
This week I also started rotational grazing. Before we moved onto the farm it was managed on an open pasture system, which is where cattle are given a large swath of land to graze. It may sound idyllic for the cow, but a cow was never designed to live in one place. Cows are migratory creatures, and have a natural tendency to want to move away from where they have been. This keeps distance between stalking predators, keeps them healthy by keeping them away from their manure, prevents a build up of waste products in a small area (which changes soil biology and balance), and prevents soil erosion and pasture degradation.
MIRG (managed intensive rotational grazing) is designed to mimick this migratory behavior. Using a solar powered fence energizer, I can section off their large pasture into smaller paddocks, which I will frequently move them from.
The fence works by sending a positive charge down the wire fence from the energizer, which is then connected to a set of grounding rods (above). Like it is, it is an incomplete circuit. When an animal touches the hot wire (the fence), it completes the circuit, by connecting wire to earth, and delivers a small shock. Don't worry! I've now been shocked 4 times by the fence, and it's not as bad as it seems. It's scary, but not painful...in fact, it's a lot like when we were kids and would dare each other to stick our tongues to 9 volt batteries!
The idea of MIRG is to help the animals manage their pasture more effectively, and that involves a lot of math and plant biology. To make the process a little easier, I decided to create a spreadsheet that would auto calculate everything for me. I plug in the variables (yellow fields), and the formulas perform all of the calculations (green fields). This lets me play with the numbers without much effort, so that I can quickly see how a small change will effect the bigger picture.
I can then take those calculations and head to google earth. Using the gps coordinates of our fields, I am able to map out the required paddocks, which can get quite challenging. Trying to make sure that there is adequate shade and water in each and every paddock requires an abstract look at the fields. Your natural tendency to want to follow hills, valleys, treelines, and roadways makes this part just a bit aggravating.
Nevertheless, all of this extra work will not only help our land and our animals, but it will also solve a $40,000 problem. By grazing the animals in a single pasture for so many years, the soil nutrients are way out of whack, and $40,000 is what the fertilizer bill would have come to to correct things. What they don't tell you is that if you don't change your management style, you'll have to shell out that exorbitant amount of cash every few years to keep "fixing things". Sounds like a clever ruse, to me 🤔. No thanks, Mr. Fertlizer Salesman...you'll not fool us. I'll take the extra work!
See you next week.
Anytime I think we may get a few minutes to get off the farm , I am quickly reminded otherwise. We had planned to take the Easter weekend to spend time catching up with family, and getting chores around the house taken care of. However, on Friday, a little calf decided she had some better plans. She decided to try to cross the creek in a muddy spot, and got all four of her legs stuck. We were re-seeding the pasture that night, so we spotted her fairly quickly. It just wasn't fast enough. It was hot that day, and the sun wasted no time taking its toll on her. She was pretty dehydrated when we found her, and she had completely exhausted herself trying to wriggle loose from the mud. Even after we freed her, she still couldn't stand or walk. She could hardly even lift her head. It's common for a cows legs to go numb if she hasn't moved in a while. It can actually be very dangerous, especially for larger cows, who can stumble, fall, and break something. Or worse yet, the numbness never goes away, and they can never stand again. That's why it is very important to get them up fast. We gave the vet a call, decided on a game plan, and went to work. We gave her an NSAID to reduce the inflammation and relieve any pain, and to encourage her to stand, as it causes them to just overall feel better. It had also been a while since she had eaten, and she was dehydrated from the sun, so we also gave her concentrated electrolytes.
You can see at the end of the video that she can't even upright herself. She is so tired that she struggles to even keep her head off the ground. We got 1 pint of electrolytes in her, and we had to leave for the first of the Easter celebrations. When we returned she seemed to be doing even worse, not even able to lift her head to suck her bottle. Luckily, with a little help, she was able to nurse another pint. In this video you can see that I have to actually open her mouth and insert the nipple for her to suck. I use my left hand to hold her head up, and to feel her throat with my fingers. It is easy for a sick calf to get choked on liquids when they are ill, so I use my fingers to feel if/when she begins to have trouble swallowing, and give her breaks as needed. Her mother also required some convincing that I wasn't up to no good! After a quick taste test, she gives her approval for me to take care of her baby.
When we went back to check on her the following day, she had improved greatly, and was attempting to stand. We stood her up, and helped her to get her balance. We hoped she would go to her mother to nurse, so we headed back to the truck to wait out the rainstorm. After a few minutes, she stumbled and fell right on her face. We stood her back up, and made our retreat once more. After several long minutes, she wobbled towards her mother, and was able to nurse. What a glorious sight to see.
We backed away slowly, being careful not to disturb them. The calf was shaking from her attempts at standing...but she was still upright. We left them for the night. This morning I caught them in their same spot, down by the creek. The calf was standing, but not moving. As I got closer to her, she started to walk after her mother. It was obvious she was feeling much better, and for the first time I thought she was in the clear.
650 lbs of seed potatoes also arrived last week. Seed potatoes are generally graded under a wide range of sizes, so they often require cutting before planting. We generally try to keep 2-3 eyes per seed piece, which makes some of the cuts rather tricky.
After we have finished, they go into a warm area with lots of bright light. This allows the cut side to dry out and heal over, protecting the seed piece from disease and rot after it is planted. The bright light causes the eyes to begin to grow, giving us a little head start...this process is called "chitting". Here they are after a few days, nearly ready to be planted.
In other news, the strawberries we recently planted are doing awesome. The red plastic seems to really make a difference.
We also managed to get our early tomatoes and cabbage transplanted.
The berry bushes I wrote about last week are also leafing out, and doing great.
Remember the hardening process I talked about last week? I told you the process was done to prevent sunburn. Here is a photo of a table that we tried to harden off too fast, and did the one thing we were trying to prevent. Luckily it was a mild burn, and did relatively little damage to the plants. If anything, it just added a couple of days to the hardening process.
You have to love the busy season. It will be over before we know it, and we will be left wishing for its return. I hope you all get to enjoy this beautiful weather while it is here.
Until next week,
This week has been a whirlwind. Raspberry and blackberry bushes needed planting, tomatoes needed hardening, and our cattle needed moved from their winter pasture (but first they would need sorted).
When we bought our new herd, we quarantined them for the first few months they were on the farm. This allows for any illnesses to be addressed before we commingle our herds. In order to properly quarantine them, we had to increase our stocking rate much higher than the pasture could support. This wasn't an issue until this week because the cattle were eating hay through winter. Well, winter is now over, and the cool season grasses have resumed growth. It was time to move them into the lush spring pasture that they love more than anything.
Last week I talked about planting the strawberries for the berry patch addition. The berry patch will not only contain strawberries, but it also has Yellow Raspberries, Red Raspberries, and Blackberries. These ship to us as freshly dug 1-2 year old plants, and are highly perishable. They also have to be hand planted due to the size and nature of their roots. All in all, we planted 450 raspberry and blackberry bushes. They may produce a small crop this year, but we expect it to be next year before we get a decent harvest.
This week we have been happy to have the help of Tara, who is taking part in the WWOOF program. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms) aims to connect people interested in farming with actual farmers. It is a worldwide based educational program that is rich with culture. Tara is originally from Guam, so we have been able to enjoy some pretty awesome Chamorro treats, like kadu (chicken stew with coconut milk), and latiya (a delicious cake/custard desert). We'll be sad to see her go at the end of the week!
We also managed to start hardening our tomatoes this week. Hardening is a process of slowly introducing plants to the harsh outside environment that they will be grown in. Up until now they have been in a warm and comfy nursery...temperatures carefully maintained at exactly 70-80 degrees, bright lights for exactly 16 hours/day, and a watering schedule designed to keep them disease free and healthy. Now they must acclimate themselves to the reality of growing outside: spring storms, fluctuating temperatures, and varying degrees of light and water. If we were to pluck them straight from the nursery and put them in the field, most would die and the rest would languish. So, we introduce them to their new environment slowly, over a period of 5 days. Each day they spend longer and longer outside, until they are finally "hardened", and ready to be planted in the field.
Lots of other things happened as well: we discovered beetles in our beehive which will need trapping, the storm blew the plastic off of several raised beds and will need to be repaired, and we had our first meeting with the Organic Association of Kentucky to begin navigating the waters of USDA Organic certification.
Until next week,
Berries and onions...that's been the focus on the farm this week. Strawberries are only productive for 3-4 years before they need to be removed and replaced, and ours turned 4 this spring. When we initially started our berry patch, we planted 500 strawberries. As we've grown over the years, they've become a favorite amongst our CSA members and restaurants in town. To keep up with demand we decided to plant around 1 acre of berries: 6,000 strawberries, 200 red raspberries, 100 yellow raspberries, and 100 blackberries. We've learned several things over the past 3 years of growing strawberries, and thus made several changes to our berry production method. The biggest change is the use of a red plastic film over our beds. This will keep the strawberries off of the soil, and thus improves food safety, confuses birds by camouflaging the ripe berry, and reflects specific light waves (IR), which produces a larger berry and overall greater yield.
We also selected several different varieties so that we can have and extend harvest season. An ever bearing type was added...this should give give us strawberries at other times of the year than just early summer.
We finished up the onions just before the big storm hit. This year it will take 15,000 onions to keep our CSA members happy. We managed to get them all planted in 2 days, an amount of time that I am quite happy with considering they all had to be hand transplanted.
Onions went into metallized mulch. Research has shown that silver mulch reduces the incidence of center rot, which claims about 20% of our onion crop each year. Center rot is a difficult disease to manage because there are no signs of infection until the onion has matured, has been harvested, and then cured. Only then does it show you evidence of infection. Last year the number of cull onions seemed to increase, and consequently, we didn't have as many onions for our CSA members as we wanted to have. So, this year we are trialling the metallized mulch, as well as just planting 20% more onions than what we actually need. Who knows, maybe this will be the year for an onion bumper crop 😊.
Until next week,
We have been watching the weather with great angst over the past few weeks. The 10-day forecast promised rain every other day...just enough to keep us out of the field. The weekend had other plans, and provided us with the perfect opportunity to work the ground. We spent both days forming almost 100 raised beds in anticipation of the spring planting.
This year we are trying out a few different colors of plastic on our beds. We have black, red, silver, and white, with each color having its own benefit; from insect reduction to soil temperature manipulation.
Another benefit is that we no longer have to wait for perfect conditions to plant our crops. After a storm we only have to wait about a day before resuming work, whereas with bare ground the wait can be as long as 3-5 days. This allows us to keep our plantings on schedule, and thus the harvest, too.