Ok, there may not have been lions or tiger, but there was a snake on the farm this week! A friendly (maybe, still to be determined) neighborhood snake stopped by the farm this week, and decided to lounge around in our pergola for a bit. He was definitely enjoying himself and it was another cool spotting of wildlife on the farm.
I am pretty sure I have said this every week so far, but it was another good week on the farm! I was able to get my project going, we got a lot of things planted, we got rain, and Nepeta let me pet her again!
To start of the week, we worked on getting a lot of things planted. We started transplanting our seedlings into the ground and then adding a layer of mulch around them. The mulch provides a lot of great benefits including helping to control temperature, lessening water loss and helping to control weeds. We planted a bunch of different things including lettuce, arugula, cauliflower and kohlrabi. We started by digging nice little holes for each plant and carefully removing them from the trays. We covered them with dirt and then added a layer of mulch around them. The mulch also makes the rows look really great!
This week I was also able to start my project: hydroponics! Before I started this project, I knew very little about hydroponics. To be honest, I probably still do not know all that much. I have spent quite a bit of time researching about hydroponics, but it seems like one of the best ways to learn is to just do it. Luckily, Corey knows a lot more about hydroponics and has been helping throughout this whole process.
We will be growing a greenhouse variety of cucumbers that are a pickling cucumber. This week, the first thing I did was get all the baskets ready for the buckets. This required using clay pellets to secure rockwool cubes into the baskets. The seeds will grow in these baskets and as they get bigger their roots will navigate through the pellets and will eventually stick out of the bottom. The roots will grow directly in the water buckets and be able to get the nutrients they need from it. There are also air stones at the bottom of each bucket t provide aeration and oxygen for the plant.
After packing all the baskets, it was finally time to get everything officially started. I cleaned out all of the buckets, and then we put them in the greenhouse and hooked each of the buckets up to an air stone and the air pump. Next, we filled them all with water and added the nutrients in. Finally, we tested the pH to ensure that it was in a good range. It was right around 6.5, so it was in the perfect range for the cucumbers. We placed the basket into each bucket and then stuck the seeds into the rockwool cubes. Now, we just have to wait for them to germinate and to start growing!
For the pesto, I mixed the radish leaves with some olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and some salt and pepper to taste. I put all of the ingredients into a food processor and let her rip! I tossed it with a bit of pasta and paired that with a salad. I loosely based my pesto off of the recipe you can find right here: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fresh_basil_pesto/. Of course subbing radish leaves for the basil and I changed up the amounts a bit to meet my liking. Yummy!
The pickle brine consisted of apple cider vinegar, sugar, garlic, peppercorns and a bit of salt. I will give it a few days to do its thing before I give it a try. Fingers crossed it turns out good! Here is the recipe I used for the pickle brine, although I left out the mustard seeds and instead I opted for garlic: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/basic-quick-pickle-brine-56389776.
A couple of weeks ago, we worked on moving around the zinnia plants. They were all growing very close to each other, and that is not something we want if we want big and productive flowers. We carefully dug out plants that were close together and moved them to an open area in the bed. It has been a couple of weeks since that and I am happy to announce that they are all thriving and blooming! Just look at how pretty they all are . It is so cool to see how parts of the farm that you worked on earlier are progressing!
This week, I also helped sift some compost that the Howdy Farm has been working on for about 2 years now. We used wood frames with chicken wire on the bottoms to get out any large objects that were still in the compost. Compost is one of those things that always surprises me. When you compost correctly you can turn the stuff in the left picture into the stuff on the right! The compost will add all sorts of nutrients into the soil and will help the plants thrive. In my Garden Science class, we actually just talked about making compost. In order to make compost, you needs carbon material, nitrogen material, oxygen and water. The best carbon to nitrogen material ratio is about 30:1. Carbon material is also known as brown material and includes things such as cardboard, old leaves, newspaper and sawdust. Nitrogen material is also known as green material and includes things such as food waster, grass clippings, and clover. The two main reasons compost smells (which it shouldn't smell) is if the pile is too wet or there is too much nitrogen. It is also essential that you turn your compost pile to aerate it and to keep it from getting too hot.
One of my favorite activities is harvesting! And this week we were able to harvest some yard-long beans and cucumbers. It always feels so satisfying when you are able to gather the fruits or your labor, literally. It makes me feel good, from my head tomatoes! I was even able to take some of the yard-long beans home and eat them. I decided to make a side dish with them that I have decided to call Asian-Style Yard Long Beans. I added some olive oil to a pan and cooked the beans in it for a little while. Then I added a bit of five-spice powder, garlic, ginger and a small dollop of hoisin sauce to make a glazy sort of sauce. They were delicious!
To end out the week, we spent most of Friday working on the plants for the plant sale in October. (It is October 21st, add it to your calendar now so you don't miss out). We had planted seeds about a week ago into our six-pack containers, but in some of them we had multiple plants growing that needed to be thinned out. We wanted each "group" to have six plants in them, so we moved around the seedlings. We had to be very careful with each of the seedlings because the have delicate roots and we want them to grow nice and big once we move them into their new home.
To start this week off, we finally finished putting up trellis' for the luffa, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes! The trellis will provide much needed support to these plants as they continue to grow and begin producing fruit. I think it ended up looking pretty darn good. And as my title states, I think they are salad as a rock. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed if there is a wind storm that they do not fall over. See some pictures below of our hard work.
We also continued the eternal fight with the weeds for garden space and continued to weed more of the farm. After we freshly weeded a couple of areas of the farm, we planted some watermelon radish seeds. While I do know what radishes are, I have never seen a watermelon radish before so I have taken it upon myself to do a bit of research into the topic.
Watermelon radish is definitely good looking! Not only are watermelon radish pretty to look at, they also provide you with a good dose of Vitamin C and can be eaten raw or cooked. Try putting them in salads, sandwiches, stir fires, pickling them, add them to soups or stews, or get creative and make a new dish with them! I am excited to pull these guys out of the ground.
One of the other interns is working on making hibiscus tea. I did a bit of research on Renee's Garden and Tyrant Farms to learn about making hibiscus tea. To make the tea, we are actually harvesting a part of the plant called the calyx. The calyx is collective name for the sepals of a flower. To harvest this part of the plant, you first want the hibiscus plant to flower. The flower will die in a couple of days and then the calyx will enlarge. The calyx is ready to harvest after the seedpod forms. Today she harvested the hibiscus and I was able to help her take the leaves off of the flower. Next, the leaves will be dehydrated and then they can be used to make some delicious hibiscus tea!
On Friday, we gave the bean beds a whole new look! I am giving y'all a bit of a before and after, because I think they look mighty fine. We had planted the bean plants about two weeks ago and all the plant babies have started to grow. However, our weeding we did prior to planting the seeds only worked for so long. One of the raised beds was covered in weeds, so we pulled out all the weeds we could, added a bit of fertilizer and then added some mulch on top to hopefully keep the next round of weeds at bay.
It is already two weeks into my internship at the Howdy Farm and I have already done so much! Before I get into all of that, though, let me introduce myself. My name is Colette Langley and I am a senior Supply Chain Management Major. I am sure you are all wondering, what is a Supply Chain Management major doing on the farm? Well, I am actually getting a minor in Horticulture so this Howdy Farm internship is helping me to achieve my minor. I joined Howdy Farm during my sophomore year and I fell in love with farming and I decided I wanted to go more in-depth into farming and horticulture so I decided to add a minor in it!
Now back to the actual internship. The interns have already been able to help out with so many things, and I am already learning a lot about farming in general. First of all, it is a lot of work! I am only working for 9 hours a week at the farm and this weekend my back has made me feel like a grandma. There are muscles that are sore that I did not even know existed. But with all of that said, I have absolutely loved my time at the farm so far. It is wonderful to spend time outside with plants and to learn all about growing food.
During the first week of my internship, we got all sorts of seeds started. We planted them into trays you can see below. There are all sorts of good seeds planted. We have seeds such as cauliflower, lettuce, cilantro, and also an interesting seed called Shungiku. I have included a picture below because I thought the seeds were so unique and I wanted to see if I could learn some more about the plant!
I did some research about Shungiku online and here are just a few of the tidbits that I found. Shungiku is also called chrysanthemum greens and they are used as a leaf vegetable in many Asian dishes. They are especially an essential ingredient in hot pot dishes and can be found in dishes from Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Vietnamese dishes. The greens are also used in stir fries, salads and sushi. Shungiky has “a fairly strong, slightly sweet, somewhat grassy/herbal flavor” according to diversvore.com. Once the plant blooms the chrysanthemum flowers can also be eaten or dried to use in tea. See below for a picture of the Shungiku greens and its flowers!
The interns have also harvested Sweet Potato leaves. Who knew they were edible? I definitely did not! We spent an afternoon cutting off the shoots and leaves and then washing and bundling them. The leaves have a bitter taste, but I was pleasantly surprised by a nice aftertaste that tasted a bit fruity. You could use Sweet Potato leaves in a salad or stir fry to add some unique flavor and to use more of the plant so not as much goes to waste! According to Prevention they are "ridiculously healthy" and noted that they are nutritionally very similar to spinach leaves with lots of B6, Vitamin C and riboflavin. I think these sweet potato leaves could be the next super food (you herb it here first).
After we harvested the leaves, we got to harvest the sweet potatoes! It was a little disappointing in that we did not find too many sweet potatoes, but I had a great time digging around in the dirt. It kind of felt like we were archaeologists because you have to be careful when digging out Sweet Potatoes or else they will break in half. Once you find a potato you have to carefully dig around it until you have uncovered the whole sweet potato and then you can carefully remove it from the ground. We definitely went all in for our search for the sweet potatoes. We destroyed the row, but I think we can safely say that we found all of the sweet potatoes there were!
That is all for this week, but I will be back again for another blog (hopefully) by the end of this week!