This is what the garlic we planted in October looked like this morning. No, it’s not sick – it’s ready to harvest!
First, we dug up the heads of garlic (gently!) with spading forks and removed most of the soil from the roots.
We have some nice looking garlic this year. Krystal is stoked!
Then we tied the heads in bunches so we can hang them in the barn to cure. They will be ready for sale in just a few weeks.
These two LOVE garlic!
Nice job, gang!
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.
We decided to use straw mulch in the market garden because it moderates soil temperature and holds in moisture (which will be very important as summer heats up). Plus, it will break down into some nice organic matter over the winter.
Here is the difference between mulched and unmulched soil. You can decide which looks better!
Chet and Jim delivered a load of straw bales to the market garden on Monday.
Jessica and Ginnette spent the day spreading mulch. But first, they had to weed. We swear there are potatoes in these rows!
Oh, there they are!
Jessica, Queen of the Straw Bale!
Many of you know that our blueberry u-pick was hit hard by the 17-year cicada last year. This year we are focusing on pruning away the damaged branches and nurturing the bushes as they put on new growth. In the case of blueberries, fruit grows on second year branches, so taking good care of the bushes now means a nice crop next year!
This is how most of our blueberry bushes look right now. As you can see, there are lots of dead branches, but some new growth (and even a few blueberries!), as well.
Here is a close up of the cicada damage. They scratch into the bark to lay their eggs.
We spent the day pruning, and will spend many more days pruning this summer, fall, and winter!
One row pruned and looking happy!
Our Summer Crop Production class started last week, and we lucked out with this crew. They work hard and have a blast doing it! Here are some pictures of one of several projects we accomplished today.
This morning, our strawberry patch was in the weeds!
But we got after it.
Sylvia is a master mulcher!
They were like, “What else you got?”
Thanks again, gang! We are so happy to have you at Black River Organics!
Our summer market garden is finally prepped! We can begin planting as soon as we finish laying the irrigation line this week. There will be lots of good stuff going in here over the next few weeks, including beets, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, squash, melons, and flowers! Here are some pictures of the market garden preparation process for those of you who are interested.
In early April, we tarped the 100′ x 40′ plot to prevent weeds and keep the heavy spring rains off of the soil.
We took the tarp off a few weeks ago to let the soil warm up. On Wednesday, we tilled the plot, then used this nifty bed former attachment to build the raised garden beds.
Here’s the finished product!
We’ve had spring greens for a while, and now we’re looking forward to those summer crops! Our high tunnels let us get a bit of a jump on the season, so they will be here before you know it.
Pictured here: purple snow peas, cucumbers, and tomatoes.