It is sad to think that I am slowly coming to the end of my internship at the Howdy Farm. I have learned so much during my time at the farm and I am going to miss spending so much time outside, working at the farm.
My cucumbers are still doing good, and I have continued my pH monitoring and adjusting. The pH has been consistently low so each time I am out at the farm I check the pH, and if it is still low I will add a bit of the liquid to increase the pH. As you can tell from the pictures, the plants are getting huge! They have a bunch of flowers on them and you can even see the baby cucumbers. Hopefully, they will give me a couple that I can harvest before school ends for the semester! You can even compare the hydroponic cucumbers to plants that are being grown the traditional way - in soil. All of the seeds were started at the exact same time, so it is really interesting to see how much faster the hydroponic cucumbers are growing.
The start of this week was rainy and cool, so on Wednesday I spent some time getting garlic ready for planting. Also, once the rain cleared out we planted garlic and onions! Those are two of my favorite things, and honestly you can never have too much garlic. I always have about five cloves at my house because I always end up buying more from the store because I never want to be out of garlic when I decide to cook something. To get the garlic ready for planting, we separated the individual cloves from the head of garlic, and then inspected the clove to ensure it was good to be planted. We mostly discarded cloves that were discolored or soft.
In addition to planting the garlic into trays, we also planted some of the cloves directly into the ground. As well, we planted some onions in the same bed as the garlic. The onion plants had already began growing in trays, and were finally ready to go into the ground. The onion plants needed to be planted fairly deep into the soil and you wanted about half to three-quarters of the plant covered with soil. That is where the onion will eventually develop. I dug the holes, while Jourdan followed behind me and planted them into the holes. I felt like I dug about a million holes, and my hands were definitely sore the next day. However, we were able to get all the rows planted with onions! This week, we also planted some Swiss Chard and kale!
There has also been a lot of harvesting going on. We have been harvesting everything from lettuce to tomatoes, and all of our coolers are getting very full. During our harvesting their is always some produce that just doesn't look all too great so we don't sell it. However, that doesn't mean that someone can't eat it. This week their were quite a few eggplants that did not make the cut, so I brought them home with me and added them to some pasta that I made. They had a couple of bad parts to them, but nothing that a knife couldn't help. They tasted delicious and it was even cooler that I could say that they were grown at the Howdy Farm!
This blog is actually encompassing two weeks of work, so I thought I would post another picture of the hydroponic cucumbers. They are now pretty much attempting to escape the greenhouse they have gotten so big. As well, the cucumber fruits are starting to get bigger. I have continued to check the pH, and for the most part the pH has been much better.
I hope everyone has a fun and safe Thanksgiving!
The farm is looking great and there are so many things that are ready to be harvested, and still many things to be planted. The hydroponic cucumbers seem to be doing much better this week, however I have been checking the pH of the buckets each time I am out at the farm. We also changed out the nutrients solution again this week. The plants are starting to get a lot of flowers, so we switched the amount of the different liquids that we added. We used the solutions called Flora Bloom and Flora Micro, along with some Cal-Mag.
At the beginning of this week, the pH was extremely low in the buckets. It was the lowest I have ever seen it, and to be honest I am not really sure why it was so low. Michael thought that maybe the greenhouse leaked while we were getting all of the rain, and the rainwater got into the buckets causing the really low pH.
The process of changing out the nutrient solutions is relatively straight forward, but does take a bit of time. I once again started off my rinsing out the extra buckets, and then I filled them up with water. I utilized a beaker to add in the nutrient solutions and then we transferred the lids over. We let them circulate for a bit, and then we went back later to check the pH. The pH was low in all of the buckets again, so we also added some pH raising liquid to the buckets. I will continue to check them this week and monitor how they are looking. They are getting very big though, hopefully they might start producing some cucumbers too.
It rained at the beginning of the week, so on Wednesday we spent time doing tasks that didn't require us to be plodding through the muddy fields. First, we spent some time going through and organizing all of the seeds we have at the Howdy Farm. We sorted them into groups that were similar. For instance, we had a pile of tomato seeds, squash seeds, etc. There are so many seed options out there! It must be really hard to decide which variety to buy and especially which variety to plant.
Next, we spent some time cleaning up the farm! We weeded the walkways throughout the farm and we even cleaned up the entryway. The entryway was much overdo for a good clean-up and it looks so much better now!
On Thursday and Friday, we moved to working on the beds in the field. We cleaned up and weeded the melon bed and put down some new soil. The melon plants have stopped producing and there was also some powdery mildew on the plants. Since the powdery mildew was there, we made sure to take the plants we pulled out away from the field and threw them away (as opposed to composting them). Luckily, we had a lot of help in the form of volunteers to tackle this task. They were such a huge help. After we finished cleaning up the bed, we planted some romaine and butter crunch lettuce in that field. The week also consisted of some more weeding, which I am sure comes as no surprise. The plants love the rain, but so do the weeds, so they are also growing really well after our rain at the beginning of the week.
I am looking forward to some cooler weather towards the middle of next week, and seeing what all we can accomplish on the farm. I thought I would leave you with this photo of Nepeta. She is doing a wonderful job of promoting the farm and I think she might have ambitions of becoming a model! It has been another fantastic week on the farm! Until next week!
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!
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!