Well, everybody, we made it! The end of the semester is in sight! Whoop! It's astounding for me to think that Thanksgiving is next week which means finals are around the corner. Somehow I am terrified and confident about my finals at the same time. Well, no matter what happens I can move into my next semester remembering all the fun I've had on the Howdy Farm in this past couple of months!
This past week on the Howdy Farm was super exciting for me! I showed up Wednesday morning like always. However this time there was a large group of people standing near my butterfly/rain garden area. I walked over to admire the beautiful flowers that have bloomed this week and soon began talking with the group of people there. They were interested in what I was doing and learning more about the Howdy Farm, so I started to tell them about my self and everything we do on the farm. I ended up giving them a whole tour of the farm from one end to the other and even into the Garden Science Lab gardens. It turns out the group of people I had been with for the past 45 minutes worked for the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.
Not only did these nice people work for TNLA but they were the board of directors and the President/CEO of the company! I had so much fun giving this group a tour that 15 minutes later when another crowd showed up for a visit, I hopped in a gave the whole tour over again! I just have so much fun teaching people and learning more myself as I go.
In other news, my little garden area just looks more beautiful all the time! When I showed up to work this week, more flowers had bloomed, and these plants continue to grow much larger than I imagined they might.
Here you can see my borage has bloomed! These beautiful little flowers are almost mesmerizing when you look at them. They have a unique color and shape, and I am so excited they are blooming before it gets too cold.
So just as I predicted on my last blog, I have more cosmos beginning to bloom. However, I was surprised by the change in color. I am so happy they bloomed in this shade of pink. Before these start to die back, I'll be cutting a bouquet of these flowers since they're my mothers favorite color.
I was delighted to see that despite unusual weather around us my black-eyed Susans are looking much better now. On top of that, I also have two more blooms. Yay more flowers!
Lastly, I am thrilled to report about my sunflowers. While at least one was already shoulder hight, all of the sunflowers have buds ready to bloom at any day now. The smallest sunflower plant has already flowered as you can see above. I call him the runt of the litter, but he's growing strong! I hope they will all bloom before it gets too cold!
Well, folks, that's about all I've got in me for this blog. May we all stay healthy for the rest of the semester. Good luck on finals and Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
Fall is here! This week on the Howdy farm was terrific because for most of my time on the farm it was cloudy and cold. While I was working outside the weather stayed around 60 degrees F. My roommate who is from North Carolina, has been complaining about the weather not being cold enough for October and November. Now that cold weather has moved in she seems more at home. Hopefully, this cold weather can stick around a while this time!
While the weather has been changing making many students sick, the plants on the farm are thriving! I hadn't seen my garden in nearly two weeks, and I came back to quite a beautiful surprise. Everything in my garden is thriving and growing beautifully. Some plants are growing much bigger than I anticipated them to. It's all so exciting.
Borage and zinnias were the first transplants to be planted outside. As you can see both of them are doing really well. Some of the borage is even producing little fruit-like things in the center of the plant.
My sunflowers are still growing strong! They are all about 3ft tall so far, and they each have 3 or 4 flower buds around the top. I can not wait to post pictures when they bloom!
Everything I planted is just beautiful right now. I love working in my garden area even if I am just pulling weeds. With all the flowers around and the more pleasant weather, it's really calming to work out on the Howdy Farm.
As you can see my plants are getting so well established that they hardly need me at all anymore! I am so proud of my little garden. I have even been able to teach some students and volunteers about the importance of the combination of plants I have growing here. I can not wait to see what this garden can become in the years to come!
Well, folks, I am sick. This whole week have I been so sick I could hardly leave my room let alone work on the Howdy Farm. I missed the farm and everyone I work with this week. I especially missed taking pictures and coming up with an idea for this blog. Then one day it dawned on me that I could still write a blog, it will just be slightly different than usual.
In addition to this internship, I am also in the garden science lecture with Dr. Pierson and the lab with Dr. King. I love these courses so much! They are entertaining classes which make learning that much more comfortable. I highly recommend these professors for these classes. They are awesome! In Dr. King's Garden Science Lab each student in the class gets to make a video explaining how to do something in the field of horticulture. We could make any "how to" video we could come up with or any video describing the importance of different techniques in gardening. My video will be about the significance of raised bed gardens and what you can use to make one.
This is a picture of my garden bed and me from the beginning of the semester. Since then everything has grown like mad. My tomatoes are way beyond the cage, my squash is growing over nearly everything else, and my zinnias are almost two feet tall. However before anything could grow here that little bed had to be built and filled with the right stuff. Since the video I am going to make can only be two minutes, this blog will be a more extended and more in-depth description of garden beds.
Raised bed gardens are important in places like this area of Texas because of the parent material in this area. The soil is made up of three different components; sand, silt, and clay. Places like College Station Tx have more clay in the ground which makes it harder for water to drain through. Places like Galveston Tx have more sand in their soil which makes it harder to hold water and leaves the root systems less stable. It is ideal when your soil has all three components in relatively equal parts. This perfect soil is often called loam or medium loam.
As shown in this triangle chart ideal soil is found in the middle of the chart at 20,40 and 40% of each component. This table can help identify what kind of land you have. You can have your soil tested by Texas A&M extension service at http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/. On the howdy farm a little while ago we received some new dirt, and we wanted to know what was in it. Instead of sending a sample off to be tested we decided to have some fun with the new soil. We took an empty water bottle and filled it halfway with soil and then filled it with water. After putting the cap back on Michael, our new Farm Manager shook the bottle for about 5 minutes, and the soil started to separate. After a few days, we could see almost equal thirds of clay slit and sand. The clay was the heaviest and settled at the bottom, and silt was in the middle and sand being the lightest was on top.
Once we can understand the soil and what it is made of, then we can understand it's composition. When we think of soil, most people probably don't realize what is actually in their soil. The materials discussed earlier will only make up 45% of the soil no matter what percents of clay silt and sand. All soil, in general, is 50% solid matter and 50% pore space.
Now that you know the soil is made of sand, silt, and clay in the 45% of solid material Lets talk about the critical 5% of organic matter. The organic material in soil is essential for microbes and the plants themselves. When creating your garden be sure to have organic matter in your bed for nutrients for the plants.
The raised garden beds we built for my garden science lab were constructed from planks of wood which we cut into 4ft long pieces. We made 19 (WHOOP) 4x4 beds for the students in the lab. The bottom of each box was lined with newspaper to keep some of the weeds from growing. Next, some of the original parent material was added back into the box. We used some of the soil from that area because it had low enough percentage of clay that we would not be concerned by it. On top of this soil, we added a bag of potting soil and half a bale of peat moss. Peat or peat moss is a excellent component to add to any garden. It's great for the pants and the microbes living in the soil. This peat moss incorporated our organic matter to the beds.
Lastly, we all mixed the different soils in our boxes to create a homogeneous mixture. This step is crucial but can be easily overlooked. One student did not mix their soil well enough, and her plants did not grow well and eventually died. After they remixed the soil and replanted their garden bed, they became much more successful plants. After all your soil is mixed, you can plant seeds and transplants and watch them grow! Have fun gardening!
Howdy, everybody! My little garden is coming together, and I am super excited! When I started this internship, I honestly had no idea what I was doing let alone what project I wanted to do. When I finally told Corey I liked butterflies we decided on a butterfly garden and went from there. Since then I have realized I want this butterfly garden to have many purposes. First of all, I want my garden to be a place for butterflies to travel through during migration season which has already begun. Second I see this garden as just the beginning of an idea for future Howdy Farm members. I want this garden to be used as an educational tool as well as the rest of the farm.
What I mean is that a butterfly garden can be used to teach students of all ages about butterflies and why they're significant as well as about habitats, ecosystems, different types of plants and how butterflies and other pollinators are attracted to them. It can be beautiful and educational and if properly taken care of, could last a long time.
Well, that is my hope for the future anyway! For now, I'll just talk about whats currently happing out on the Howdy Farm. As of this past week, I have filled every row in the garden with plants and things are starting to grow!
I started out with all of these transplants that were growing in the greenhouse, and I took them out into the field for planting. With the help of some excellent volunteers and a fellow intern we got everything planted and watered down in no time at all. We planted a combination of plants that attract pollinators as well as a variety of host plants that can be used in the spring if they make it through the winter. Once all the work was done, we were left with this cute looking piece of land.
It is incredible how things have grown just since I have taken this picture. My zinnias are blooming, the borage is enormous, and my sunflowers get taller every day. And down in the rain garden section, the Turks caps are looking healthier since I started watering them, the milkweed is healthy, and my hibiscus flower bloomed again! It is comforting and beautiful out here.
I am not the only one finding the Howdy Farm comforting. There are many insects that find our farm irresistible. However, some of these creatures are not as beautiful or as helpful as butterflies. For example, moths. Moths are one of the pests we have an abundance of on the farm. The adult moths themselves are not so bad, and they can be helpful like butterflies when it comes to pollination. Their larvae, however, can reek havoc on crops.
This picture I took of some of the daisies I planted in the garden, and you can see three moths enjoying the flowers I planted. This photo gave me another idea for my garden. If pests are eating away at my plants, then maybe they won't be eating our produce that we eat and sell. I planted half of my garden with host plants for them to be eaten anyway, so I did not mind the moths plating their eggs in my garden. My primary concern with that idea though was that it is possible that these plants attracted more moths instead of just distracting the ones that were already there. Oh well, it is all a learning experience!
This week on the Howdy farm I continued planting in my section of the garden as well as some usual farm duties. This week some of these responsibilities involved pulling lots and lots of weeds!
I was going to start planting in my butterfly garden but I couldn't because there were so many weeds! After removing as many as I could then I planted my transplants from the greenhouse. When I had finished, I stayed to help weed some more in other areas.
On the Howdy Farm, we have some carrots, beets, and radishes growing in one plot. This section of the farm needed some serious help. The weeds were nearly out of control. So a group of us worked on weeding that plot for hours.
In this picture, you can see a row that has been only half weeded. The little green sprigs left behind on one side are the carrots we seeded there. The other side of this row is so full of weeds you can't even see the tops of the carrots. Then on the far left of the image, you can look at the piles of weeds that I pulled from just half of a row.
Weeds are a big problem for many reasons. The most critical issue that weeds can cause is competition for nutrients in the soil. When we plant seeds or transplants in a field, we are already creating competition among the plants. This healthy competition is okay for us to do because we want as many as possible to do well, so by overplanting there is a possibility of getting too many of a plant rather than not enough. When you add weeds into the mix, the weeds use up nutrients in the soil that our crops need. If our plants don't get the nutrients, they need they won't survive. Another problem weeds cause, especially in this situation, is reduced sunlight. In the picture above the weeds have grown taller faster than the carrots. These tall weeds are blocking out most of the sunlight that the carrots need to develop. With no sunlight, plants cannot photosynthesize or make sugars to use to make a carrot.
Some other fun things happening on the Howdy farm this week was preparation for the plant sale next week! Whoop! While on the Howdy Farm this week, I helped harvest, wash, and store some of the delicious plants we will sell at the Bryan Farmers Market as well as the Plant sale on the 21st of October, 2017. You should come check us out.
Now with some crops, you will have to dry them before you store them. If you can, sometimes run your leafy green vegetables through a salad spinner. As you can see below just fill the bowl of the spinner, then put the lid on and pull the chord to spin the bowl. This will rapidly spin off any extra water that is on the leaves. After this point, we bag the produce, dump the ice from the coolers put the crop back in the ice chest and put it all into a freezer until its time to sell. This keeps everything nice and fresh for our customers.
Well, that was my week on the Howdy Farm! Thanks for joining me and see you soon.
As I have mentioned before, I am starting a butterfly garden on the Howdy Farm that future howdy farmers can use to teach others about the importance of butterflies. Well, I am super excited to tell you that I have finally gotten some things planted! I am so thrilled not only that this project is finally taking off but it also looks super cute!
These two pictures here are how the butterfly garden area used to look. It was empty other than the few plants that remained from last year. The soil had been mulched and formed in such a way that rain and additional water is filtered down a slop into a rain garden. Well, now it is starting to look very different!
In these rows, I have transplanted some of the plants I had growing in the greenhouse. Here we have sunflowers, zinnias, borage, as well as some seeds of bachelor buttons. The middle picture shows the trenches that Michael dug in which we planted seeds. We planted them like this so the seeds will get enough water and sunlight. If I recovered the seeds with all of the soil as well as the mulch they seed would not get enough sunlight to grow.
This week Corey and I also went plant shopping! We bought some more mature plants to transplant on the farm so they wouldn't take as long to become established. We bought some of these plants from Home Depot and others from Farm Patch in Bryan. Later in the week, after letting the plants adjust a bit, I planted them in the butterfly garden. Below are the plants I bought adapting to Howdy Farm conditions which is also called hardening off.
Here are the rows of store-bought flowering plants. Now, something important to know about the plants we bought is that all of them are biennials. Biennials mean that all of these plants have a two-year life cycle. If we had bought annuals, they would have grown just to be killed off in the winter. These biennials will die back but will grow again as soon as the weather warms up. So we get another year out of biennials than if we had annuals.
These are close-ups of the plants and their common names.
Lastly this week on the Howdy farm I harvested a bunch of yard long beans and almost 13 pounds of cucumbers!! It was so much fun working on the farm this week, and I can't wait to keep growing!
Howdy, everyone! Thanks to the fantastic (gross) weather we've been having I couldn't do too much on the farm this week. That means, this week's blog will be a bit thinner than usual, but I'll keep it as interesting as possible!
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, that the Howdy Farm every semester we have a huge plant sale. I am super stoked to say that the plant sale is this month! Whoop!! Since we look forward to this event so much we are already getting things started. We have so many people come to our farm for the sale we want everything looking as beautiful as possible. This means I have more weeding in my future. Hooray! (Ugh)
Generally, when you are pulling weeds, most people just grab and yank. Sometimes this works sometimes it doesn't. Just pulling on whatever you can grab won't always get all of the weed. With grass-like weeds, just pulling from the top will rip the leaves off and keep the roots in the ground. Morning Glory though is a different story.
Ironically enough, morning glories are one of my mother's favorite flowers! Here I am ripping up tons of my mom's favorite flowers! So when one popped up in my garden science lab plot, I transplanted it for mom to take home. I told her not to plant it next to any other plants she likes!
In other Howdy Farm news, the seeds I panted for my butterfly garden and sprouting! Last Wednesday I went to the greenhouse to take a look, and I am so excited that so many are already growing! As they grow larger, I will begin to take them out of the greenhouse to harden-off or become adjusted to life outside the greenhouse! I'll keep you updated on that!
Some other fun things that happened this week (although not strictly Howdy Farm related) were the plant rescue and giveaway that my friend Avery and I completed. Allow me to explain. The horticulture department has loads of plants that they use for the labs especially the HORT 202 lab. This past week they finished up the labs involving hundreds of coleus plants and the lab instructors and TAs were just going to throw them all away! So we saved as many as would fit in our cars!
After that adventure, I brought all the ones I "saved" in my dorm. As girls walked by I would ask them if they wanted a free plant. I got many strange looks, but no one turned me down! Eventually, as I unloaded all the plants I just started pulling them outside my window so people could walk by and see them and take one or two. Within a couple of hours, all 15 plants had been claimed! I was super excited, and I can't wait to do that again. Girls even came back to talk to me about their plants later asking for tips on how to best take care of their new coleus.
Yep, so that was my week on the Howdy Farm. I've also been seeing loads of butterflies flying about. Hopefully, I can get things growing around here for the butterflies to enjoy!
This week on the Howdy Farm involved a lot of planting seeds. There were tons and tons of seeds that germinated this week and tons more that just got planted. Now this time, not everything planted was specifically to be grown the Howdy Farm. As a farm, we sell produce, usually at the Bryan farmers market. However, once a semester we will have a large plant sale. At the sale, we will have plenty of produce to buy (unless I eat all of the cucumbers we grow), but we will also sell little six-pack trays of plants that you can take and grow at home. For example, we have dill and kale where instead of just buying the vegetables from us you can grow it yourself! It's super fun and also so important to know how to grow your food. Plus it's fun!
So as I mentioned, we planted a lot of seeds this week. The picture above is of a raised bed in which I worked. It's under a large rosebush growing on a trellis and behind our tall bay tree. So this bed is hiding under some serious shade. So Corey watered the bed and made rows for me. Then I came behind him planting beet seeds in the row one inch apart. We planted beets here because they don't require too much sunlight. The morning sun the bed receives should be sufficient for them to grow.
Since I spent so much time with seed this week, I thought it might be cool to teach a little bit about how seeds develop. I know most of us learned this process a long time ago in the fifth grade, but maybe I can give you some new information on a more collegiate scale.
Hopefully, everyone already knows how a seed looks. The most familiar would probably be the lima beans we all planted in elementary school. They are small little seeds that you can split open, and they are symmetrical.
Now as the plant continues to grow everything is still underground, but the plant needs sunlight. So the hypocotyl grows so it can pull the rest of the seed above ground. Eventually, it will reach the surface and begin to get the sunlight it needs to pull everything but the roots above the soil. I know it sounds a little strange so let me show you a picture.
You can see in the picture to the left how the stem is pulling the rest of the seed out of the soil. Then to the right is what the plant will look like once everything but the root is out of the ground. In this picture, you can even see whats left of the seed coat still covering the soft part of the seed or the cotyledons. Cotyledons are the part that contains the first leaves that grow on the plant. From these first leaves, we can tell many things about the plant!
All life on earth is classified into a system. Most commonly plants are called by their genus and species. For the lima bean we've been using as our example, it's Latin 'genus/species' name is Phaseolus lunatus. Then further into classification if what type of plant it is. Is is vascular or nonvascular? Does it produce seeds or spores? Since most plants we know about are flowering, seed-bearing plants we will look further into those.
Flowering plants or angiosperms will either be monocots or dicots. These two words sound pretty similar to a bunch of other words I've used in this blog. Hypocotyls, cotyledons, and now monocots and dicots. So just a cotyledon refers to the first leaves so do monocot and dicot, these terms, however, refer to how many first leaves the plant will create and grow. Mono means one, so all monocots will only have one first leaf, like grasses. Di means two so all dicots will have two first leaves. So based on this knowledge what do you think our bean plants are?
If this is what our first leaves look like, then your plant is a monocot just like our bean plants here! Well, now you'll be able to tell what kind of plant you're buying at our plant sale!
Well, I am going to enjoy some fresh grown cucumber from this beautiful plant here and can't wait to write about next week!
Howdy! This week on the Howdy Farm was so much fun! Four of my six hours that I completed this week were spent planting seeds in trays so they can begin to grow in the greenhouse. Yes, FOUR HOURS with seeds! But, I loved it! I spent so much time on this one thing because it was so crucial to my project and hopefully just as important to some butterflies in the area. In other words, I spent a good long while working on my particular Howdy Farm Project!
Not only are butterflies positively beautiful but they have many other important values too. For starters, when we were all in elementary school we all studied the butterfly life cycle. We learned the wonder of how something that it practically a worm can turn into one of the most beautiful things on the planet. They also have scientific value as well. Butterflies are an obvious indicator of a healthy ecosystem. They are a food source for other important animals in the food chain, and scientists have been studying them for years for biological research. Researchers have studied butterflies in complex fields such as navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, genetics, population dynamics, and biodiversity conservation.
So, since these butterflies are so essential to the environment, I wanted to do my part and give them a place to stop on their travels. I also wanted to create a space for the butterflies in the area to lay their eggs. There are specific plants that eat species of butterfly will use as a host plant for their eggs. Monarch butterflies only use milkweed as a host plant. Some other common host plants are fennel, dill, clover, and even carrots. These plants contain everything the caterpillars will need to grow. Then near these host plants will be pollinator plants. For example sunflowers, hyssop, and lantana all attract butterflies. Putting all of these different types of plants near each other creates a great space for the butterflies.
Some of these seeds required some extra attention. Specifically the nasturtium seeds. These seeds need to be scarified before planting. Scarified means that the seed had a hard outer coat that needed removing before it would grow in soil. The best example of a seed that needs scarifying is Texas Bluebonnet seeds. Bluebonnets have a hard seed coat but after they are eaten by an animal, usually birds, that hard coat is worn off by the animal's stomach juices. Once the seed passes through the bird and lands on the ground, then it can germinate. Some flowers produce seeds this way to keep them safe, to keep them from growing too soon, and even so they will grow in other places. If you think about it, most animals don't 'go' in the same spot they ate...usually. Anyway, a simpler way to scarify the seeds I needed to plant was just to scrape it against the concrete a few times. Once I saw white part under the seed coat I knew I was ready to go!
Some plants I'll be using for my butterfly garden are already planted there ready to go. These flowers were from last years rain garden which is what I am converting into a butterfly garden. Some of these remarkable plants are milkweed and toad flower which are two host plants for butterflies. I couldn't have planned that better myself! Then we also have a hibiscus flower and Turk's caps growing from the old rain garden.
Even more exciting than the hibiscus flower is the Turk caps! It's a tall bush of small red flowers that are native to Texas, and they grow everywhere. They've grown on the Howdy farm, they've grown in my backyard at home, they even grow on campus off military walk! Little did I know that these little flowers are delicious! Well not the whole flower, just the bottom where the flower connects to the stem. If you pull off a flower and flip it over you will see a small white circle where all the petals meet. This area kind of makes a tiny bowl of sugar. Bite that little part, and you get a little bit of sweetness sort of like honeysuckle. On occasion when I crave something sweet I'll swing by for a taste of sugar.
Other fun things that happened on the farm this week involved our Howdy Farm Mascot; Nepeta! She usually hates all humans like any feral cat. However this week in a change of heart she let two interns, myself being one of them, pet her for a good 5 minutes or so. It was incredible. Then she let Corey pick her up and hold her. She's come so far! Well, she likes Corey because he feeds her. Colette and I just got lucky I guess. Oh well, see ya next week!
One thing I learned out on the farm this week is just how many MANY insects are out there. I think in largest quantity first place goes to the ants all over the place! Sugar ants to fire ants and nearly everything in between. We also have a fair amount of wasps in the Howdy farm as well. Unfortunately for me, I am terrified of wasps. A fellow intern got to watch me flip out when one almost landed on me. However we besides the fire ants I brought home in my shoes and the wasps I run from we do have a bunch of fascinating insects on the farm!
This beetle looks like a ladybug on steroids because in a way it is. The Mexican Bean beetle is part of the family Coccinellidae which is also known as ladybird beetles. So just think of the Mexican Bean beetle as the hardcore cousin to the ladybug and the Asian lady beetle! As similar as they look, however, this guy does some things differently. Most insects in the Coccinellidae family eat other pests this one eats plants. Maybe he and his buddies were the reason there were some holes in the sweet potato leaves?
Okay, I keep talking about the sweet potatoes that we worked with. I'd say 'harvested,' but that's not as accurate a description as we'd hoped. Oh well, better luck next time! When I arrived on the Howdy Farm Wednesday, Corey told me we'd be harvesting some sweet potatoes. I was pretty excited since I love sweet potatoes, they're just so good!! Anyway, we get out there and start cutting the vines and leaves out of the way and saving them to sell to Ronin cooking, a unique company that makes all of their food only from the freshest of veggies! While cutting off leaves and such is when I found my little beetle. Once we got everything out of the way, we began to dig.
We dug and dug following the roots trying to find some Sweet potatoes. The picture above is Corey showing us how to dig around the tuberous root without breaking it. Despite his excellent demonstration I still broke at least two. Oops! I still had fun though! We cut back three or four plants all of the same variety to see what we could find.
From the plants that we cut back, we only harvested a few sweet potatoes as you can see from the picture on the left. I know it wasn't much, but I still had a blast working with all that dirt. The other interns, as well as myself, enjoyed using our hands rather than shovels too! Now anywhere on the Howdy Farm, you will find some rouge plants growing randomly. For example, that picture on the right is a dried up Okra I found under the sweet potatoes. There had been an okra plant there, but it got choked out by vines of the sweet potato. The cool thing about this particular pod is the thing sticking out of it. By the time I uncovered this okra on the ground the seeds inside started to germinate and the radicle (or first root) became so strong that it broke through the hard outside of both the seed inside and the okra itself. Pretty nifty!
I also worked on the farm Thursday this past week, but for the sake of you dear reader, I'll keep it short-ish. Thursday involved cutting back the blackberry bushes, ripping up the morning glories that were taking over the trellis and planting sunflowers and zinnias. Then (literally) on top of all that, we added mulch and compost to all the beds we had been working on. We shoveled a lot on Thursday. Back and forth from the beds to piles of compost and mulch with two wheelbarrows. When I got back to my dorm from the Farm Thursday, my roommate asked how my day was. I told her "I am sunburnt and smell like compost...and I had a blast!"
*Note to self: WEAR SUNSCREEN AND A HAT!