Patchwork Green is a hillside and ridgetop farm overlooking the beautiful Canoe Creek Valley several miles north of Decorah, Iowa. Our family grows five acres of vegetables on a farm near Decorah, Iowa. We grow a wide variety of high quality, chemical-free vegetables using sustainable techniques.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is The Garden Planted Yet?

I try not to chuckle when we get this question.  Home gardeners often plant their entire garden in a single day in May, getting in the potatoes, green beans, lettuce, carrots and sweet corn in one fell swoop.
The Patchwork Green Farm has to operate a little differently.  Because we strive to provide a consistent supply of each type of vegetable for as long a season as possible, we spend a lot of time planning and executing successions.  I maintain and annually modify a large spreadsheet that I call my ‘planting schedule,’ otherwise known as my ‘back-up brain.’  
My planting schedule, for example, shows that the first green beans should be planted on May 13.  This is based on the fact that dark-seeded beans (including the green bean variety that I grow) germinate in cool, but not cold soil, I want to harvest beans ASAP each summer, and the old farmers’ wisdom that you can plant corn and beans when the oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.  I then will plant green, yellow and purple beans every two weeks through July 17, after which time there are not enough days to mature a crop before the killing frosts of fall.  Ideally, this will ensure that we have beans available from July through September.
Each year poses its’ weather challenges that affect the timing of the successions, and I’ll modify the spreadsheet based on experience, new varieties and customer interest/demand.  No, the garden is not yet planted!  We plant from March (onions seeded in flats) through October (garlic cloves are planted), and it is one of my favorite parts of our weekly routine.
This spring, we have had to postpone early, direct-seeded crops like peas, radishes and spinach because of the cold, wet weather in April.  Transplanted crops like onions went in several weeks later than ‘usual.’  Last week, however, we got a lot of field work done, including planting all the potatoes, the last of the onions, and many flats of lettuces, kohlrabi, beets and parsley, among other crops.  With a wet start to this week, we’re hoping to get the first succession of cucumbers and summer squash transplants in the ground by Wednesday.  
We are not harvesting much this week except for asparagus and rhubarb, but the spring greens are loving this wet, mild weather, and we hope to be harvesting lots of crops by June 1st.  Thanks for being patient with us, as we work with the seasons!
Your Patchwork Green Farmers, Erik and Sara

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Can’t wait any longer……must plant

Getting the hoop house ready for spring.
This past weekend provided ideal drying conditions: dry, breezy and sunny. We shallowly tilled a few beds of wet soil on Saturday, then came back and tilled them a bit deeper on Sunday. Once tilled, our soil quickly warms and dries out, although it was so wet that we were still transplanting into almost-mud on Monday morning.

We hedged our bets, keeping a close eye on the low temperatures forecast for later in the week. On Monday, we transplanted beets, kohlrabi, lettuces, bok choy and a few onions, and immediately covered them with floating row cover. The spun-bound rolls of row cover are supported by wire hoops. We then bury the sides with soil, and presto, a mini-greenhouse has been created over the new plants. It warms the air 10-15 degrees during the day, and 4 degrees at night. The cover also keeps flea beetles from turning the boc choi to lacework, retains moisture (not a problem
this week) and protects the tender plants from wind damage.

On Sunday morning, we also cajoled friends to help us pull the plastic top on our big 96-foot hoop house, where all the cherry tomatoes are grown. We left the house closed up tight during the early week heat wave, and the high temperature warmed the soil. Hopefully, we’ll be transplanting all the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (and a few other varieties) in mild temp’s in the hoop house Friday, while it rains and snows and blows outside!