Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bouquet Parfait

I am drawn to very bright colors.  I like the pastels but the bold colors are what catch my eye.  Our peonies are starting to bloom and we have many of the soft pinks and the creamy whites but I always go for the hot pink gals.  

The roses are for the fragrance.  The rose, Gertrude Jekyll is an old fashion garden rose that has a wonderful fragrance and a billion swirling petals.  It happens to be hot pink as well.  Got to have a couple of the gals also.

I have to cool this grouping down a bit with some old fashion Sweet William which also is fragrant.  I added another rose, a shrub variety called Bouquet Parfait which is a small blush pink rose that can have so many beautiful blooms at once, it is its own bouquet.  It has a tiny sweet fragrance.

It is all served up in a crystal bowl of my mom's.  It is a remembrance of mom, she would have love this bouquet.   Bouquet Parfait!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I Stopped Fighting Nature.

Quotable Sunday  5-27-2012

I Stopped Fighting Nature.

Our farm is an interesting organism.  The soil drives everything we do and everything that nature creates for us.  When we started in this business I took advantage of our soil and treated it in a conventionally poor way. Every Spring when it was time to get the seedlings planted I'd strap on the ole rototiller to the back of the tractor and proceed to beat the soil into submission. Submission meant a fine light fluffy seed bed, apply some conventional fertilizer, lay the drip tape and plant.  I did this for the first 6-7 years and what I noticed is that each year the quality of our soil was declining.  Its productivity was dropping and it was getting harder and harder to get our clay soil dry enough without the tiller creating huge chunks  that never broke up.

Philosophically speaking we had to change our entire mindset. We had to stop trying to dominate and control our soil, but respect its nature and find a natural way to heal the damage we had done over the years. After reading Masanobu Fukuoka's "The One-Straw Revolution" I realized a that it was quite possible to work within the nature of our farm, to feed the soil, to feed our flowers, to feed ourselves and to do so eventually without huge inputs of fertility having to be purchased from outside our farm.

This last summer I decided to take a journey into the land of "No-Till"  I had been following the experiments that Jeff Moyer at Rodale Institute's New Farm for several years. Jeff and other farmers had been using a combination of cereal rye with a legume like hairy vetch and mechanically knocking it down creating a No-Till mulch that has successfully been used to raise corn and soybeans.  The mulch did an outstanding job of weed suppression and moisture conservation as well as providing large amounts of biomass back to the soil.  This idea seemed like a perfect fit for what we were attempting to do here on the farm.

Since we had the space  we used the tiller and tractor one last time and created a series of permanent raised beds  that are 4' wide and 100' long.  We made these beds into groups of 3 with a 8' wide buffer between each group. The pathways between the individual bed within each group is approximately 2'. This design is so that in the future we can  put temporary hoop houses over the beds and rotate these hoop houses to a new 3 bed group every 4 years.

We then top dressed the beds with 1-2" of local urban compost. We did not work this compost in but left it on top of the beds for the worms to feed on and pull down into the soil.  In mid-September we planted each bed with 60% cereal rye and 40% hairy vetch.  Between the beds and in the 8' buffer we planted Oregon annual rye-grass to provide next season weed suppression and additional biomass.

By early this May we had a fair stand of rye and vetch on each of the beds. The Rye reached an average height of about 4-5' with the vetch climbing up the rye.

Once the rye had reached pollination stage we then manually crimped down the rye/vetch mixture. It took about 10 minutes to knock down each bed.  If this no-till experiment is a success we would make a roller crimper attachment for the tractor to automate this process.

The finished product looked nice and smooth and was ready to cure in the sun. Note ,we also knocked down the Oregon annual rye in between the rows. The annual rye will die down and provide a weed suppression mulch in between the beds.  Cereal rye has alleopathic properties inhibiting a lot of weed germination in the first 30-60 days. This gives our transplants a good head start.

Technically we could plant this row right away with transplants but due to timing we won't be able to get to this for about 7-10 days.  During this time the vetch and rye will die back and the roots of this cover crop will begin to loosen in our tough clay soil.  We did one additional processing step in this first year we used a broad-fork on the bed to loosen any compaction that may have occurred during winter. We think the need to fork our beds will lessen as the soil tilth recovers in 1-3 years.

This is another view of one of the recently crimped & forked 100' beds. Note that the rye/vetch cover yields a good 1-2" mulch coverage.

Checking the soil underneath we noted that the earthworm population was definitely up and the soil tilth was beginning to improve.

Our  soil type is called a Dayton Silt Loam.  This soil tends to have a high percentage of clay and silt together that when we worked this conventionally it was near impossible to get a smooth tilled bed. The clay also  was extremely slow to drain in our wet Willamette Valley Springs particularly the last two years we couldn't even begin to till this ground until late June, let alone plant anything until almost the 4th of July!

The vetch was not inoculated before planting in this rotation so nitrogen fixation is a little less but, you can see this nitrogen nodule by my thumb  and if you look closely you can see others in this clump of soil. A very good sign that we may be on the right track!

This is a multi-season experiment to be able to judge the effectiveness of this technique.  We thought we'd share this first year's journey through our process.  The things we will be looking at are:

  • Soil tilth improvement & fertility improvement year to year.
  • Soil organisms, good and bad, slug control in particular.
  • Rodents, voles could be an issue.
  • Soil Temperature....even though tilth improves does the  mulch cover keep the soil too cool, too long for some of our flower varieties?
  • How do we reseed  the next years cover?  what to do about late maturing crops and the need to reseed the cover?
  • What do we do about crop residue from the prior cash crop?
There are lots of things to still work on but we think this was worth exploring and sharing with others. As we move forward  through the season we'll keep this updated with the good and the things that still need more work.

Any thoughts or ideas you would care to share, are encouraged.

"I am happy simply to work joyfully on my farm, which to me is the garden of Eden.  The way of natural farming is forever uncompleted.  Nature can never be understood or improved upon by human effort."     -Masanobu Fukuoka- 1986

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quotable Sunday  5-19-2012

Just Keep Planting!

We are at the point in the season where the spring flowers have come to an end and the summer flowers are not ready.  We are a 90% field grown operation as we have not built a lot of hoop houses YET.  We have used the lower tunnel system which works great for flowers which  can take the cool weather.  But now it is mid-May and our summer flowers need to go in to the ground in a major way.

There are trays and trays of zinnias and other warm season flowers waiting to be planted but our night time temps are still in the 30s in May!  Unbelievable!  In the past we have planted the zinnias into cool temps and watched them sit and become stunted.  So we wait.....

and wait......

Multiple rows of zinnias are in a holding pattern.  Trays of our sunflowers wait.   And trays of celosia, rudbeckias, asters and on and on.

So when in doubt, Tony keeps saying just keep planting.  So I keep seeding more flowers and he keeps punching them in to the ground.  

And at some point the weather will change to summer like temperatures and we will have lots of seedlings to put in the ground and lots of summer flowers to offer.

Meanwhile we wait for the peonies and the lilies to bloom.  Both are getting real close.

So for this week's flower bouquet, I have the last of our tulips.  I have only had a few tulips for our house each week but this week I have several bunches left over from market.  We have noticed that folks really like tulips through Mother's Day but after that they become a hard sell.  Everyone is looking for the peonies.

I love these colors of tulips and I am glad I got to enjoy a few myself.  

"Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow." - Anon

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quotable Sunday   May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Just want to wish all the mothers and grandmothers a very happy Mother's Day.  We appreciate all that you do for us and should say so more than just one day a year.  

                     Thank you Yvonne, you raised a very nice boy!  He is kind, 
                   loving, caring and an extremely hard working guy.   You 
                   did a very nice job.

To all the moms and grandmothers who have passed on,  we think of you daily, miss you greatly and hope that we are making you proud.

                                                         Happy Mother's Day to All!

                                       "Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
                                        Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
                                        Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn, 
                                        But only one Mother the wide world over.
                                            -George Cooper-

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Quotable Sunday 05/06/2012

Taking the Good with the Bad.  Always learning....

What a Great year for anemones.  This was our first year growing them in a hoop house in crates and it was wonderful.  We started cutting on them on Feb. 22 and we still are cutting on them this May 6th.  They grew with very long stems, huge flower heads and bright cheerful colors.  They are still putting out great stem length but the heads are getting smaller.  The colors are still vibrant and now are perfect for my little vases. 

The bad news is the ranunculus are finished and we were not able to cut them as long and hard as we had hoped.  They also were grown in our first large hoop house.  On the weekend of April 21st, we had three days of 80 degrees,  the hoop house was warmer, and they all went to bloom at once while we were at the market.  Thousands of stems of glorious colors went to waste.  The temps cooled, but the plants were done.  Lessons learned.... have a backup plan in place when the biggest day for flowers (Mother's Day) is still a week away and plant less dense and vent the hoop house way more.

So now the ranunculus come out and hundreds of heat loving celosia are going to go in after a bit of soil amending.  We are growing about a dozen different types of celosia and they were all started in our mini soil blocks.

These will be transplanted this week to bigger soil blocks and moved to the propagation house to get bigger and hardy for the hoop house.

These celosia were planted on Thursday and germinated on Saturday,  boy they are ready to grow.

The  big fig tree is setting on many little figs.  They are really tasty but too many can upset the tummy.  Sometimes during the summer we will get a dust devil wind blow through and the ready figs will go flying.  Maybe that's where we get the saying: "Don't give a flying fig." 

We are excited about a new tomato variety we are going to try this year.  It is called Indigo Rose and it is a purple tomato.   Rain Drop Farms here in Corvallis grew this beautiful little plant.  Can't wait to get it planted. 

The downside to our veggie garden is we don't have much planted, some strawberries and spring peas.  With so much to do with the flowers, we got to make time for the food side.

We have some beautiful flowering cherry trees, which are very large and can be seen from the road.  They are a beautiful pink color and for a few days are just lovely.

Then the spring rains come, the wind blows and the petals go flying.  We have tried to capture the pink snow with our camera but the evidence is on the ground, on all the plants, the roof, the car,  the greenhouse.  It becomes a brown slippery mess that takes a few weeks to clean up.

So now we are in that transition time where our spring flowers are coming to an end and our summer flowers need sunny warm days to grow and flower.  So we don't have a lot of flowers to offer but I still had a few left for my windowsill.

Hoping you all have a cheerful day in May.

"You've got to take the good with the bad, smile with the sad, love what you've got, and remember what you had. Always forgive, but never forget. Learn from mistakes, but never regret." -unknown-

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