We have hydroponic troubles. The cucumbers were not looking so good this week after we switched out the nutrient solution last week. The leaves were yellowing badly and the plants were not looking very good. The troubles are most likely due to a nutrient deficiency in the plant. It is most likely an iron deficiency which causes yellowing of the leaves. We added some more nutrient solution to the buckets, as well as some Cal-Mag which is a mixture of calcium and magnesium. The pH of the water was also a bit low, so we added a bit of pH raising liquid. Cucumbers like a pH of around 6.0 to 7.0 and the buckets were sitting right around a 5.0 pH. I continued to check on the pH of the water each day I went to the farm this past week. The second day I checked the pH only 3 of the buckets had a low pH and on the third day only 2 of the buckets had low pH. Hopefully the additional nutrients and more neutral pH will get the cucumber plants growing healthy again!
As well, this week we stringed up the cucumber plants to give them some support when they start producing fruit. We had some fancy devices that we could hook onto the wire spread over the plants. Then we pulled the string down to the plants and tied it loosely around the bottom of the plant. Next, we carefully wrapped the string around the plants and then locked the string in place on the device. Now if we can just get their nutrition and pH back in check so they will start to produce cucumbers.
I will continue to check on the cucumbers this week, and hopefully they start to look better! This week I also did something that we hardly ever get to do on the farm: weeding. Just kidding, weeding never ends at the farm. This week we cleaned out a bed towards the front of the farm that will soon be a home for garlic, onions and leeks. I totally forgot to take a before picture to display how much work we put into the bed, but I guess just an after picture will have to do.
We also spent a lot of time weeding the bed with our lettuce, arugula, Tokyo bekana greens and more. I know I have said this before, but I always love seeing a bed right after it has been weeded. It always looks so good and it also means that the plants have more space to grow and less competition for nutrients and water, The lettuce in these beds was really starting to be taken over by weeds, so it was time for us to step in and clear out the weeds. I went thorough and weeded around the plants, while some other people used a saddle hoe to clean out the walkways. The grass weeds are one of my least favorite weeds to pull out, but seeing the finished row always makes it worth it.
I feel like we are on one of those HGTV shows where they show the different parts of your house before and after. Although these are even more exciting because that is food growing in there! It is finally starting to get a bit cooler here, and this Friday it was actually somewhat cool while I was out working at the farm. I think that may have been the first day that I wasn't sweating profusely as I left the Howdy Farm :D I am excited for what is to come during this next week at the Howdy Farm!
This week I had my first ever experience of harvesting ginger! It was so neat to see ginger growing and to also see how much ginger grows from just a bit of parent plant. First we dumped out the pots that the ginger was growing in into a plastic tub. Next, we carefully removed the soil to reveal the ginger! I was so surprised by the sheer amount of ginger we uncovered, and it also smelled so delicious!
Throughout the week, I also spent time harvesting various things including yard long beans, cucumbers, arugula and eggplants. We harvested three varieties of eggplants, which included one that looked kinda like a cucumber. Growing your own crops means that you can grow all sorts of varieties of plants that you normally do not see in the grocery store and lets you experiment with those varieties. I also helped out with bundling some of the radishes that were harvested. We had a couple left over, so I got to try one of them. The radishes were pretty spicy, but they were really delicious. This is a really exciting time on the farm because so many things are ready to be harvested!
It is week three of the hydroponic cucumbers growing. This week we replaced the water and nutrient solution in the buckets. I started off by washing out 8 additional buckets and then I filled them up with water and we added nutrient solution to each bucket. Next, we transferred the plants from one bucket to the other. The cucumbers are starting to get really big! I am amazed by how fast they are growing, and fingers crossed they will produce a lot of cucumbers. The roots have just continued to get bigger and bigger. It is so weird to be able to see the roots of the plant, since they are usually nicely hidden underground. After we transferred the plants we took the old buckets of water and nutrient solution out of the greenhouse and transported them in order to dump them out. I think I ended up with most of the water on me by the end, but they were all successfully dumped out eventually.
In other news, Nepeta has continued to warm up to me and now she does not always feel the need to dart full speed ahead away from me whenever I am at the farm. This week, she actually showed me some of her yoga skills and I thought she just looked too cute not to share.
To finish off the week, I worked with a couple of volunteers from NDA (Nutrition and Dietetic Association). We worked to thin out the beets and then we went back over and mulched them. They are looking really good now, and hopefully the mulch will keep some of the weeds at bay and the beets will be able to get big and tasty. The volunteers were a lot of fun to work with and did a great job out at the farm! I totally forgot to take a before and after picture, but just imagine a fresh, newly mulched bed that has just been thinned out. Until next week!
The weeds are unfortunately still alive and thriving at the Howdy Farm. I spent a good portion of my time at the farm this week helping to get the weeds out of the beets, carrots, rutabaga and radishes planted in the bed you see below. The weeds were definitely feeling right at home, as they were really starting to overtake the crops we are actually trying to grow. The weeds can decrease the amount of light our crops get, and they also take nutrients and water away from our crops. They can also be host plants for pests. Some of the weeds in this field were host plants for moths so we also made sure that we removed the weeds from the field after we pulled them out.
Something that I love about the Howdy Farm is the insect diversity that is present. Every time I am out at the farm I run across a neat looking bug. This time I actually managed to get a picture as well! I think this little guy is lookin' very cool. I did not attempt to touch him, although I was very tempted. I have a feeling that even though he looks nice and fuzzy, he is probably not all that fuzzy. I searched around online to identify what type of insect it will become, and I was only able to narrow it down to the fact that it will eventually become a moth. There are so many types of caterpillars that is was very hard to narrow it done much more than that. I have been learning all about pests in my garden science class, and I would bet he is an chewing machine and is probably causing quite a bit of destruction out at the farm.
My project is also coming along nicely. The cucumber plants are getting bigger by the day, and their roots are continuing to grow. It has been 2 weeks since I started the project and I am amazed by how fast they are growing. We had a couple of extra rock wool cubes that we had planted some cucumber seeds in, so we put those guys into a pot with some soil. That brings us up to a total of 12 cucumber plants. Hopefully we will be able to get a lot of cucumbers off all of those plants. Next week we will also change out the water in all of the buckets and give them some more nutrient solution so they can keep growing strong.
Corey also took me to look at some of the tropical plants on the farm including a flowering banana tree and our passion fruit vine. The banana trees are a really neat plant and one of them has a flower on it! The flower is huge and when you look inside you can see all of the baby bananas forming inside. It is not very likely that we will get any bananas off of it though, since it is flowering so late. Each of the banana trees has shoots coming off of it. We can wrap the shoots over winter to protect them from the cold, and then hopefully next year we can uncover it and it will be able to start to flower sooner and give us some bananas. The passion fruit vine is also producing fruit right now, and it will be a race to see whether cold weather gets here first or they are able to ripen quick enough. I am hoping the fruit can make it before the cold sets in, because I would love to try a passion fruit straight off the vine.
I am excited to see what happens next week on the farm!
Another week has flown by on the farm, and a lot of exciting things are happening! Lots and lots of plants are growing, and things are starting to be harvested. My project is also starting to take off and the weather may be getting ever slightly cooler.
I started my hydroponic cucumbers last week, and they have already germinated and are growing towards the skies! One of the rockwool cubes did not have any seedlings in it, but luckily we had planted some extra seeds in additional rockwool cubes. We just switched them out and now all of the buckets have plants growing in them. They are making good progress and we also checked out the pH again this week. It was at a great level of 6.5, so I think the cucumber plants should be enjoying themselves. The air stones are doing their thing and the nutrient mixture is doing its thing, so it will be exciting to see how they continue to progress.
This week, we also continued with preparations for the plant sale and worked on creating six-packs of romaine and butter crunch lettuce. It was a delicate operations as we tried to get the lettuce seedlings out and transfer them without hurting their roots. We also continued to thin out trays we had planted with seeds so that each section had six plants in it. We have lots and lots of plants waiting to find their forever home in a few weeks.
We also planted some snow peas this week! We planted the seeds and then put up a trellis to support the plants once they start to grow. We used stakes at either end of the row, and then tied pieces of string to act as the trellis.
Today, I spent the better part of the morning weeding a row of watermelon radishes. I always think weeding is really relaxing and it is also super satisfying because you can see the labors of your work so quickly. While I was weeding I also noticed that some mushrooms had popped up in the field. We have been learning about fungi in one of my classes, and I have been very intrigued by them so I decided to look into them a bit more.
I actually went and looked up if it was possible to grow mushrooms at home. I read a couple of articles, and it is definitely possible. Mushrooms are very different from other plants, in that that reproduce by spores and not seeds. To grow mushrooms at home, you first needs to have some spores that you can use to "inoculate" your growing medium. The growing medium is usually not soil, and depending on the type of mushroom you are trying to grow, they require a different growing medium. The mushrooms grow best in cool, dark and moist environments. I looked around and bit, and there are stores that sell you a kit that includes the growing medium that is inoculated with the spores. You would just have to have a location that is the right temperature, humidity and is dark enough for the mushroom to grow. I may be trying one of those out in the future!
This week, I also was able to do some harvesting! The best part about gardening! This time I harvested some basil. I used clippers to trim the top of the basil plant off, while ensuring that I left branching leaves on the stem to ensure that the basil plant will grow and produce more leaves for us to harvest. After I harvested, the basil was washed and then placed in a cooler to make sure they stay as fresh as possible, for as long as possible.
I always love seeing all the plants grow, so I have decided to include some growing progress in my blog posts. This section of the farm was planted a couple of weeks ago with beets, radishes, carrots and rutabaga and all of the seedlings are starting to pop up.
I am still waiting for those cool, fall temperatures to blow in, but at least the temperature is starting to cool down a bit. It has been another great week on the farm, and I will be back next week with another post!