Archive for May, 2010

Egalitarian Gardening

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Undulating Hand-Hoed Beds

Our gardens are a tremendous mish-mesh of styles right now. We’re constantly experimenting with how we grow things.

Andy has been forming his raised beds by hand with an eye hoe. Tiny variations in the beds are amplified with each iteration, so we have these gorgeous curves. He’s also planning to irrigate minimally.

Andy’s in the background of the picture, using a scuffle hoe on aisles that barely show weeds – the idea is to break up the surface just as the weeds are germinating, so they never even get a chance to get established.

River’s garlic and perennial onions, on the other hand, are in beds formed using the bed-maker implement on our tractor. We mulch them all winter long, with our own straw, to keep the moisture in and the weeds out. With all that mulch, they need to be hand-weeded to control the few weeds that do make it through. In the spring, we pull the mulch off and into the aisles.

Strip tillage

Jon’s experimenting with strip tilling and hoeing those strips into hills. I know he wants to write about this so I won’t steal his glory.

It’s so much fun and such an opportunity for all these young innovative gardeners to try different techniques. Everyone has responsibility for different crops, but everybody helps each other out and manages to share the fields and greenhouse spaces with aplomb.

Garden Highlights

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010


I am dumbstruck by the size of these Imperial Star artichoke plants! We’re growing them as annuals – these were started very early this spring in the greenhouse, then transplanted out under row cover. Along with cotton, it’s one of the few things that’s been under row cover this spring.


Andy transplanted out these Purple Hyacinth Beans today. They’re an eighteenth century heirloom flower grown by Thomas Jefferson himself, and they can grow 10-20 feet tall.


Our Hanover Kale is beautifully in flower! One of the joys of growing things for seed is getting to enjoy the flowers.

Enormous Collard Trials

The collards are enormous! With our spring spinach not yet bolted, we’re overwhelmed by fresh greens. Tonight we ate sauteed Bull’s Blood beet greens with dinner.

No-Till Transplanted Doe Hill Golden Pepper Plants

River’s been busy getting out the peppers and eggplants. These Doe Hill Golden Bell Peppers have been transplanted into an area that was cover-cropped in rye and vetch over the winter, mown, but not tilled.

Greenhouse Turned Drying Barn

Friday, May 21st, 2010


The greenhouse has been covered with shade cloth and is in the process of transforming into a drying barn.  On the right side in the background you can just see the two-story drying barn and tractor shed we’re busily building.  But for now, we’re moving out our pallet-tables, like the one in the foreground (which made convenient waist-high tables for growing transplants) and replacing them with the collapsible wooden drying racks you can see just inside the doors.  Soon we’ll be drying onions and garlic!

Corn Transplants

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
Corn plants grown for transplant in the greenhouse directly in the ground.

Corn plants grown for transplant in the greenhouse.

To fill in any gaps in our direct seeded corn rows, we started corn plants in the greenhouse for transplanting. We sowed seed thickly – maybe a 3 inch spacing – directly into the soil in the greenhouse! No black plastic trays, no fuss. A little bit of extra time to dig them out with a handy spatula. We carefully place them roots down into a five-gallon bucket with an inch or so of water in the bottom for transport to the field.

We love using less plastic – those trays do break down over time. I saw people in France using this method with a variety of vegetables. With lettuce and cabbage, they simply sowed a tightly spaced “nursery bed” outdoors and covered it with a portable wooden cold frame. I don’t think I’d try this with anything with tender roots, like melons, cucumbers, or beans, although corn itself is often grouped with these as being harder to transplant.

Florian Red Flint Corn

Florian Red Flint Corn

These plants are the variety Floriani Red Flint, which is not a sweet corn for eating off the cob but is grown instead for drying and grinding into cornmeal. We’re growing it to sell for seed, but we like growing it because we love eating it. We grind it with our hand cranked Corona grain mill. We like eating it as grits for breakfast, but the variety was bred in Italy for making polenta. The kernels are deep red, but it’s actually only the husk that’s red: inside the kernels are yellow, so after grinding all that’s left of the color is flecks.

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