Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Welcome to Heritage Farm

I suppose all cool farms have a name. Therefore, I am proclaiming that the final countdown has begun - here at Heritage Farm - regarding the days before our final transplant and many direct sows.

Brown kraft paper & cardboard with bricks as weights
The garden has been tilled and weeded. I laid both cardboard and brown kraft paper over the soil to kill all remaining weeds (by choking out all sunlight) without using any chemicals. After about 2-3 weeks there are few weeds still beneath the barrier and any remnants are easily maintained once a week. Overall the soil looks good and I would say it did a great job.

Brown kraft paper is something I used in lieu of cutting cardboard boxes and sprawling them all over the garden. The alternative to expensive weed fabrics was newspapers which a lot of folks recommend. I don't subscribe to a newspaper and I already had kraft paper, so naturally it made sense.

The benefits of kraft paper:

- Rolls out easily
- Covers a large area fast
- Allows water to drip into the soil
- Blocks the sunlight
- Biodegradable
- Contains no ink or chemicals
- Durable and does not dissolve easily.

Next year I plan to make raised beds to give the garden some character, and kraft paper will be a perfect bottom liner for weed protection.

Overall our crop for this first year will consist of:

Onions (exciting, eh?)
Already in the ground and showing signs of life:
Lettuce (several varieties)

Ready for transplant:
Tomatoes: Black Cherry, Yellow Morning Sun, Money Maker, SuperSauce, Dester, and the last
minute addition was the Kellog's Beefsteak (I couldn't pass up the deal on seeds at Rural King)
Little Fingers Eggplant
Peppers: California Wonder, Carnival Mix, Lipstick, Purple Beauty, and a generic gold bell seed I sowed from a Baesler's pepper. Ironically, it is nearly the largest of all the pepper seedlings thus far.

Direct sow:
Cucumber, Green Zucchini Squash (Striata D'Italia), and Yellow Zucchini Squash, as well as Spaghetti Squash. 

Dester Tomato - Baker Creek Seed Co.
Out of all the vegetables we have slated for season one at Heritage Farm, I think the most anticipated item is the Dester tomato. This pink beefsteak was brought to America from Germany and in the 1970's, an Amish house cleaner named Anna, who was working in Berne, Indiana for a Dr. Herbert Dester, was given some of these cherished seeds. Years later Anna sold a few of the plants to Kathy McFarland, an employee of Baker Creek Seed Co. in Seymour, MO.

Today Baker Creek, Seed Savers Exchange, and other retailers, sell the Dester tomato - a juicy one and a half pound indeterminate heirloom that won 1st place in the 2011 and 2nd place in the 2012 SSE TomatoTasting Awards. While it is technically not considered a "Hoosier variety", it does have some Hoosier roots in its background, and therefore it shall have a nice sunny spot at Heritage Farm.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Surburban redneck

Suburban Redneck
You might think that's the title to the newest country song topping the charts - and don't get me wrong, I think it would fly in Nashville - but it's not. I feel as though I have entered a new stage in life.

As the picture to the right so elegantly shows, this was my driveway last weekend while continuing some remodeling on my garage. The canoe was a free gift (best kind!) I felt the trash hopper served as a great platform upon which my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants could boast to the entire neighborhood their great growth thus far. This was after all their first real day outside in full sun and wind. Not bad for our first year at this!

The tomatoes have undergone one transplant from their self-watering seed tray. I read from several folks that once they grow their first set of true leaves it is time to move them to a larger container. I followed that advice for the eggplants and peppers as well, and so far things are doing nicely.

2013 Mystery Tomato
As for my tomatoes, I forgot to label one of them. That's kind of a bad thing since I am planning on arranging them with some form of similarity in the garden. Still, I can tell from the leaf patterns and that it is probably going to be a smaller cherry-style producer, so I went ahead and potted it. I followed the conventional wisdom of the online community and lopped-off all branches up to the top 2-3 and buried it deep. This pot is about 12" so I've experienced some great growth in just the last 3 weeks. On March 26 I updated that I had moved the grow lights about 6" -- since that time the plants have nearly doubled in size from about 8" with most of the stalks maturing to a good 1/4" in diameter.

Ollie with the chicks at Rural King
This spring has also been fun with the kids. Not only have they been helping out in garden (as much as a 5 and 3 year old can) but we've also spent several afternoons and evenings together strolling the aisles of Rural King and "seeing the chicks" as they like to say. Here is Ollie, our youngest, in a rare moment of calmness -- usually he is running the aisles calling out "here chicky chicky" and getting them to make their little chicky sounds.

Other than that our lettuce varieties are beginning to show signs of life and our onions are sporting some nice sprouts as well. Soon we should be seeing some potato leaves and carrots...we can't wait!