Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The first factor determining whether we start transplants indoors concerns how early we can get a crop and what the overall outcome for a crop will be. For example, we start alliums (onions, shallots, leeks) indoors in February. This family needs a long season and is photosensitive, meaning its plants respond to daylight hours to bulb up. It needs to be well established before solstice in order to take full advantage of the season's daylight.
We can get earlier crops of almost everything we grow by doing early plantings indoors. We do this for brassicas (cabbages and broccoli), lettuce, fennel, squash, tomatoes and cucumbers. Many of these crops are seeded every week in order to have a continuous crop or to ensure we have a plant ready to go in the ground when the weather is right. Squash, for example, does not hold well in transplant pots. We seed our crop three times over three consecutive weeks to ensure we have at least one set of healthy plants when the weather is right for transplanting.
In another example, we previously only direct seeded corn. But due to the low spring temperatures, we often didn't get proper germination or an early crop. By doing transplants this year, we found that we could get an early crop of sweet corn with no gaps in the bed space from poor germination. This helped to make the most out of every inch in the bed.
The second factor we consider is the cost of the seed. In the past, we did early fennel plantings indoors and later plantings were seeded directly into the beds. But the cost for 10,000 fennel seeds is now over $300. We weren't getting the germination we desired doing direct seeding and the weeds out performed the fennel in many instances. By doing all of our fennel as transplants we make the most out of our seeds, thus reducing some costs, while getting a better crop in the end.
The third factor concerns weeds. For the vast majority of crops, if you can transplant them, you have a better chance of staying on top of the weeds. We don't use plastic mulch on crops other than cucurbits (squash, cucumbers), so being on top of weeds is crucial. By transplanting, we are able to give the crops a head-start.
Crops such as spinach, dill, cilantro, rutabagas, radishes, turnips, beets, parsnips and carrots are all best done as direct seeding. They generally germinate well and for most, because of their taproots need to have an undisturbed growing environment. For spinach, dill and cilantro, the volume being seeded every week means that direct seeding is most efficient.
When direct seeding, bed preparation is of particular importance. Being able to prepare a bed in advance (up to two weeks before seeding) gives weeds an opportunity to germinate. Prior to seeding, the bed can be weeded (hoed or with a tractor-mounted basket weeder). Alternatively, a few days after seeding, the bed can be flame weeded (i.e. scorching the weeds with a propane torch). This allows the crop to emerge into a relatively weed-free bed, thus having a head-start over future weeds.
The main advantage transplanting provides is control over the crop and generally earlier crops, plus some cost savings in seed. The main disadvantage is scalability (i.e. finding efficient ways of doing transplants for larger crops/operations) and cost of start areas, whether a growing room with artificial lights or greenhouse space.
We have done all of our transplants in plastics trays in the past. This year I tried experimenting with soil blocks, which help to hold plants for longer and reduce transplant shock. What I found, however, is that we will need an entirely different setup to make soil blocks work. We'll try more in the future, but they won't necessarily work for everything and will take more space, time and care to do successfully.
So, if anyone has any other transplanting tips, I would love to hear them. Please share!
Monday, June 20, 2011
It occurs to me regularly that our system of organic farming involves a significant amount of compost that, of course, comes from various livestock operations. In order to grow, we need soil fertility. Keeping our soil healthy and rich requires nutrients.
As required under organic guidelines, we use compost made of manure from organic livestock. The vast majority of our compost comes from off-farm operations, including chicken, goat, duck, turkey and mushroom sources. In addition to this, potting soil mixes often use blood meal and bone meal and fish fertilizer is used on transplants to keep plants alive when planting is delayed.
As a result, the veggies you eat from organic farms, depend on livestock operations in a fairly direct manner. I often wonder how this sits with our customers, particularly those who are vegan or vegetarian for a variety of reasons related to animal treatment. I've wanted to discuss this issue for some time.
The need for fertility
All systems of agriculture rely on the use of some inputs of nutrients and organic matter for the sake of fertility. When we grow and harvest a crop, we are removing plant matter from the fields. With it, we remove organic matter and nutrients that went into the plants' growth.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
When stewing rhubarb, add chai spices (cardamon, star anise, cinnamon and ginger) or citrus rind and juice.
Stewed rhubarb is great on its own, with yoghurt and/or with granola. And it's best with rich custard -- don't forget to pick up some eggs and heavy cream for a heavenly spring treat (I think the custard negates the spring tonic aspect of rhubarb . . . if you care).
1.5 lb rhubarb, cut in 5 cm pieces
25 mL water
175 mL sugar
5 mL vanilla
1 egg white
Puree rhubarb with water. Add sugar and cook until rhubarb is tender (about 5 min), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; add vanilla and food coloring. Cool to room temperature. Beat egg white until stiff but not dry. Fold into rhubarb mixture. Pour into 2.5 L baking dish (23 cm square). Freeze until firm around edges (about 1 h). Turn into chilled bowl; beat until smooth. Freeze partially (about 1 h more); beat again. Freeze until firm (about 2 h more). Makes 8 servings (125 mL each). If you have an ice cream maker, use it to freeze the sorbet.
Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt
2 Cups Stewed rhubarb
1/2 Cup Plain yogurt
3 Tablespoons Granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons Orange juice
In food processor puree stewed rhubarb until smooth. Blend in yogurt, sugar and orange juice. Freeze in icecream maker or cover and freeze in shallow metal pan for 3 to 4 hrs or until almost firm. Break up mixture and process in food processor in batches if necessary until smooth. Freeze in airtight container for 1 hour or until firm.
Fish with Rhubarb Sauce
2 c rhubarb cut into small pieces
1/2 c tomato sauce
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1/2 c water
1 lb fish
Wash rhubarb well. Peel off the hard skin.
Cook all ingredients except fish together in a pot for 30 minutes, until rhubarb is cooked thoroughly.
Add cut-up pieces of fish and simmer until fish is cooked.
Chicken Smothered In Rhubarb
3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
Fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Garnish: 2 cups cooked white rice, warm, 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
In a mixing bowl, toss the chickens with Essence and flour. In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, brown the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Add the rhubarb and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, wilt and brown the onions, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any brown particles, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, herbs and wine, cover and reduce the heat. Stir occasionally and cook for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir in the parsley. Arrange the chicken on a platter and garnish with Essence (eseence of emril) and parsley and serve with rice.
Baked Chicken And Rhubarb
3 lb. chicken breasts and thighs or 1 whole chicken cut up
2 c. diced rhubarb (1/2-inch pieces)
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. water
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
rice for serving
Combine cornstarch, sugar, rhubarb and water in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Cook until clear and thickened, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice. Cool.
Place chicken in a shallow baking dish. Brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake uncovered in 375 degrees oven for 30 minutes. Spoon rhubarb sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with spices. Return to oven and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve immediately with sauce spooned over chicken. Serve with hot cooked rice. Yields 4 to 6 servings.
Almond Rhubarb Coffee Cake
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. milk
1 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbls. butter, melted
1/4 c. sliced almonds
Beat brown sugar, oil, egg & vanilla until smooth. Combine flour salt & baking soda; add to sugar mixture alternately with milk. Beat until smooth. Stir in Rhubarb & almonds. Pour into 2 greased 9-inch round cake pans. For topping, combine sugar & butter; stir in almonds. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or test done.
Need more ideas? Check out http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/ for more rhubarb ideas than you ever thought possible.
Monday, June 13, 2011
- It reflects poorly on the market when customers arrive and can't find produce;
- We're only thinking about ourselves and not the people we need to feed (who consequently can't get our produce); and
- People who have never been to the market before will arrive, find no selection, and never shop at a farmers market again.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Our first major planting of spinach started to size up last week. I was sure we would have enough for harvesting this week. But the spinach had already been in the ground a long time through the cold, wet spring. Then, with a blast of hot weather last week, it didn't look like the spinach would hold for long. We had to harvest what we could for weekend markets. The rest of the planting hasn't sized up. Moreover, after seeding the current planting we had to wait almost three weeks before seeding our next planting due to intense rain in the past months.
All of this means that the spinach people are expecting to receive tomorrow won't arrive. NOW BC can't secure spinach at the price we offered (spinach is wholesaling for the price NOW BC would have retailed ours for).