First Spuds!!!!

Here at One Straw we love potatoes. In fact I have an inordinate affection for the entire solanacea family which makes my rotations difficult in the garden, but that is another post. This year we went Big Time and planted 1000 row feet of potatoes from about 200#’s of seed stock from local growers and FedCo. The beds they went into were pure finished compost on a permaculture farm north of here. I had concerns about planting a monoculture block that large, we didn’t test the soil so I had concerns about that too -it was all leaf mulch compost -would it be deficient in nitrogen? minerals? But with time pressing in we jumped in and winged it. I will try to get some pics up soon from the fields, but suffice it to say that many of the Carola plants are over waist high! Better yet, the MASSIVE rains here in the upper midwest seem to have completely obliterated the Colorado Potato Beetles on the property. I have used essentially ZERO inputs on the planting -no BT, no fertilizer, no amendments, and only irrigated one day thus far in 60. Is it working? The pic at right should answer that question. We started harvesting baby taters last week -and we are already getting 12-16oz of spuds per plant. And the largest is barely 3″ long – with another month to bulk them up 3-4# per plant may be possible. Add in the fact that I have about 700 plants left to harvest, and I think my 1-2000# harvest is doable!

The dish pictured is about 1/3rd of a plant of baby taters, fried up with garlic scapes picked fresh, along with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. Crap, I just drooled on the keyboard…again.

The skin on the Carola’s is so delicate you can actually rub it off when you are cleaning them and they keep their firmness amazingly well in the frying pan. Delicious!

-Rob

Sub Acre Ag- Suburban Addition

All the action on the Sub Acre Farms have been hogging alot of space here at Onestraw, so I wanted to double back and show some of the work that has happened on the Suburban home front. The bed pictured at right was created last year when I made my permaculture beds. I had taken the sod I cut off with my uber cool hand sod cutter and turned it face down to make a 24″x20′ bed that I then planted with Rye Vetch last September. The winter was fierce here in Wisconsin (second worst on record) and the entire bed top killed to form a 4″ thick mat of straw, only to regrow to this 3′ tall stand by May.

I had decided to mow it down for a few reasons. I am still working on when to cut and when not to. Hairy Vetch is notorious for regrowing if mown before it flowers, but more importantly: the Rye was going to seed and I want to plant this bed to tomatoes in 2 weeks.

One of the biggest struggles with gardening in a brand new subdivision is the complete lack of organic matter. The soils are dead, and you have no trees for leaves. So last year I began growing my own green manures, primarily Russian Comfrey and Red Clover. Having seen how long it takes the ecologically challenged soils on my property to break down raw materials, I opted to mow off the green growth with a hand sickle. The scrub that is left (at left) I then rototilled under with the Grillo. In the future, I would like to trial the practicality of using a stationary chicken tractor at this point to scratch this layer in over the course of a week or so, but the HOA says “Hell No!”   Anyone able to answer why it is ok for me to use a stunningly loud and smelly air cooled diesel tractor in my backyard but not house 6 quietly clucking hens would do a great service to this country. The soil when done bore no resemblance to the dead caked black clay that the sod roots had attempted to pierce last year. Light, rich, and full of organic matter, it was a stark transformation, and the vetch should provide much of the nitrogen to get the tomatoes going.

The mown grass netted over 10 cu feet of material some of which I used to supercharge my compost bin (went from 90 to 136 degrees in 1 day!) and the rest to mulch a third of one of the permaculture beds.

To review: for $1.50 in seed I prevented erosion, grew my own mulch, accelerated my compost, re birthed my soil, mulched a garden and fertilized my tomatoes. Not bad for watching plants grow for 3 months!

Covercrops and green manures are not just for farming, they play a critical role in ALL soils-even if all you grow each year are tomatoes and zucchini, cover the soil the rest of the year with a simple mix of Rye and Hairy Vetch which can be bought from most seed sellers or Johnny’s or Fedco seeds. Small outlay, little work, and HUGE gains.

-Rob

March! Updates! Health!

First off we are finally pulling out of the influenza epidemic of the past several weeks with all its secondary infections and contagious bouncing around the family.  What a mess.  Thanks again to all the well wishers.  That was the first time we ever accepted meals from Church…

 Garden Updates:

Purchased another 2 grow lights and will be sourcing a table (will double as the market stand) soon.  This should give us the ability to have 12 flats going at any time under lights.  with 72 cell flats that is over 800 plants, though many will be larger 2″x2″ flats for the nightshades (peppers/tomato/eggplant).  Spinach transplants are up and just getting into its first set of leaves.

At the Hoop house the longer days and slightly warmer temps are having Big Results.  Yesterday with an outside air temp of 36, interior temps at noon were already 74 degrees at ground level.  I weeded in a T-shirt in rich, earthy and humid air-what a treat!  Spinach is on its second set of leaves and the ground is ready for transplants in a few weeks.  Next year will need to start transplants earlier to maximize the Hoop House.
Rotation for the market garden is about wrapped up.  Taking the garden completely out of production  every other year simplified the rotation immensely.  All beds are getting 2 crops, some 3.  Add 1 if you count the over wintering cover crops. Hold tight for an upcoming post on this.  Suffice it to say we will have 100 tomatoes, 120 peppers, 80 squash/melons, 1800 carrots and 600+ spinach (in 3 plantings) and more beets and mache than you can shake a stick at.  At the second farm will be 200#’s of seed potatoes planted on a huge leaf mould windrow, a 300 sq ft bed of drying beans, and another 300 sq ft “3 Sisters” polyculture using heritage cultivars traditionally grown by Native Americans. The livestock aspect is toning down some -the farm owners have agreed to double their chicken flock, and I will buld tractors to use as needed.  This frees me from having to come out twice a day to feed/water/inspect and gets them extra help on the farm -freeing them to take vacations.   Will start grant writing this week as well!

Household Ecology Center 

Otherwise known as the Eco Victory Garden, met with raves reviews at our Sustain Jefferson meeting and is so green lighted as to be radioactive.  Presentations with display units to be up on Earth Day in two county communities and counting.  We are even planning on displaying them, with a full presentation, at the MREA!  Current tasks are searching for a more sustainable lumber source than Menard’s, finding sponsors, and setting final pricing.  Have a strong feeling that my original goal of a dozen installs is wildly under the mark.  Current limit is that we only have 42 barrels…

Very exciting Spring -all the more so now that I am feeling healthier and more able to embrace the activity!  Soon the summer tires will be back on the Insight and I can’t wait to be getting 70mpg again!

-Rob

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