Monday, June 13, 2011

Rose, Bud, Thorn

Hey veggie-lovers!

It has been a very busy month here at MSEG! “How to summarize it all?” I asked myself.
Then, some wonderful friends of mine, John and Ryan, introduced me to “Rose, Bud, Thorn”, an appropriately botanical form of appreciative inquiry/general reflection:

Roses (highlights):

Rose: We have a tool shed (with tools in it!), and an irrigation system! We are finally starting to feel like a real farm, instead of just kids scratching around in the dirt. Thank you Alison for your kind donations. And well done Kourosh for setting up the irrigation, with the help of Stephen of Ferme du Zephyr.

Rose: Things are growing!
Pauline and Sophie transplanting onions
In the main field the carrots, beets, peas, beans, arugula, and mesclun that we direct seeded have emerged (in almost straight lines!), and are doing well. We were a little worried about the little carrot seedlings. The cotyledons (first leaves) of carrots are almost impossible to differentiate from grass, so we weren’t sure if the carrots had germinated at all. Then, over the last couple of days, they finally grew their true leaves, which are feathery and easy to identify… go little carrots go! Some of the beet seeds did not end up germinating though, perhaps because we didn’t ‘tuck them in’…beet seeds need good soil contact to germinate.
We have also transplanted a number of crops that were started in the greenhouse, including onions, lettuces, and cucumbers. It seems that onions need to be started in the greenhouse, as our direct seeded onions did not germinate.
In our Hort. Center plot, we seeded beets, turnips, kale, broccoli, squash, and pumpkins, and transplanted onions, scallions, sunberries, aubergine, and lettuce.

Rose: We have started to seed some of the herbs and flowers that will be companion plants for the cash crops. On Friday we seeded nasturtiums, orange flowers that you can eat, and which are good companions for cucurbits (squashes, melons, cucumbers, etc) and brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage, etc), because they deter a number of pests that target these crops, and also attract beneficial insects that eat or parasitize pests. They also attract pollinators and function as a ‘trap crop’ for aphids, which means they distract the aphids away from the saleable crops.

Rose: There are blueberries growing in the meditation garden! We thought it would be at least another year before the bushes would produce fruit.

Rose: Newspaper pots. They really work! Reduce, reuse, recycle...

Rose: We experimented with a biodynamic rooting agent recipe for propagating sweet potatoes from cuttings, and it worked! Here is the recipe we used:
Pauline making cuttings of sweet potato plants

Rose: Volunteers we love you! Thank you Sam (the mosquito army appears discouraged now that they no longer have you to feast on), and beautiful John, Salma, Molly, and Jeff.

Thorns (low points):

It seems that all thorns boil down to three things…Bugs, weeds, and weather.

Lady beetle used for white fly control
Thorn: Early in May, we had a white fly problem in the greenhouse. We decided to experiment with biological control (using living organisms such as natural predators to control pest species). We ordered native lady beetles from, and released them in the greenhouse. They didn’t stick around very long, but they did take care of the white flies before they went…success!

Thorn: Flea beetles are eating our arugula! We bought floating row covers to keep them off, but the covers were soon ripped up and deposited in a tree by some spiteful thunder-storm winds. Plan B involves better anchorage of row covers, planting trap crops adjacent to arugula and, if worst comes to worst, a botanical insecticide of some sort.

Thorn: Rain, rain go away! It’s not just MSEG that has been set back by the cold, rainy spring we have had this year. It seems that all farmers and gardeners in the area are a little behind schedule. Farming depends so heavily on the state of the soil, that nothing can be seeded, weeded, or worked until the earth is sufficiently dry.

And the biggest THORN of all: Weeds! More specifically - nut sedges. And I quote “the world’s worst weed”
This weed got out of control so quickly in the main field that we have had to spend much more time and energy than we anticipated fighting it back.

Buds (things to look forward to!):

Bud: The lower half of the field has finally dried out. Alex from Les Jardins Carya has prepared the beds for us and we can put in our tomato and tomatillo transplants this week.

Bud: We are beginning to realize that, as a demonstration farm, it is not just our growing practices that need to function as a model, but also our governance structure and working performance. We plan on making visits to other farms with alternative management systems, to learn about what might be the best option for MSEG now, and in future years. Starting this week, we have adopted an experimental cyclic governance structure, consisting of two-person management teams that rotate on a weekly basis. Exciting stuff!

Bud: At the end of this month we will be starting to sell our produce from our farm stand in the MS Lobby on Macdonald Campus. Thursdays 11am-2pm BYOBag!!

Beans and greens,