Krystal is taking the Summer Crop Production class at Black River Organics through Lorain County Community College’s Sustainable Agriculture program (SAGR).
It was a warm and sunny day on the farm today and the first thing on the agenda was addressing the latest damage from some deer getting into the orchard. One great deterrent for deer is soap. Next time you are at a hotel, don’t leave that soap behind. We drilled holes into the soap and ran some wire twist ties like you would find on a loaf of bread and attached those to the tops and bottoms of each tree as well as the fence posts along the perimeter.
Next up was clearing a few rows in one of the plots. The flame weeding done earlier in the week was not perfectly timed enough to stop the spreading of some groundcover weeds so out came the broadforks. Two of us broadforked the row while another two cleared away the weeds. We then covered several of the rows with black tarp and sandbags to stop weed growth for the next crop going in.
Sweet potato planting was next on the agenda. To get the plot ready for planting sweet potatoes I learned how to use a two-wheeled motor-tiller to loosen up the soil and help build raised rows. It took some getting acclimated since the tiller has a kick to it and it was a practice of controlling the machine to loosen the soil rather than an effort to run down the row as fast as possible. Once the rows were created we planted sweet potato slips, which are really just the continued growth of the sprouts you get in the eyes of the potato when you leave it on the counter too long. To turn the sprouted sweet potato into slips you simply just break those growth off (once they reach 3-4 inches) and sprout some roots by placing it in some water.
SAGR students putting in sweet potatoes.
The remainder of the day was spent mostly focused on the raised beds that each student is in charge of as their personal project. I learned how to bend some pipe framing and we zip-tied some irrigation over our beds so they could get regular watering (roughly 30 minutes of spray every other day). So far my plants are showing some good signs of growth. My sugar snap peas and black beauty zucchini have fared the best in the warm summer heat.
Dr. Chet Bowling and SAGR students irrigating the raised beds.
The author’s raised bed.