Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Field Trip:: Red Wiggler

Today I will be starting a new feature I hope to carry out throughout the growing season. I'm a new blogger to the GiEi blog (but have been blogging on my own blog for several years now). I'm so excited about this new feature, I began with the "Field trip" idea on my blog earlier this year. I'll be visiting different places that grow food over the course of the growing season!

I'm starting this week with a Montgomery County farm and CSA, Red Wiggler. I thought it might be interesting to show how the season begins behind the scenes at a local small farm. I've made 2 visits out to the farm to see what they've got in the ground over the last couple weeks and things are really just starting to swing into full gear.
The growing season for small farms in our area is really from May to November with most farmers markets and CSA's beginning to sell at the end of May. Because of the scale of the farms food production they don't begin to plant until they really need to and over the years Red Wiggler has become very skilled at knowing what to plant when. Late winter and early spring are the times to prep the ground and there was a lot of unseen work that had recently gone into readying the fields and improving the soil structure through cover crops and tilling practices. The small farm tilling practices include a variety of tools each used for a specific purpose with restraint! In case your interested they use the following tilling equipment:
Spader, large version of the garden tiller but the spades move up and down rather than in circles which damages the soil less.
Disc, this is great for incorporating cover crops.
Rotovator, a walk behind rotary plow.
Subsoiler, creates divets to plant in (illustrated in the photo above).
This Spring has been a cool and somewhat wet one which has delayed some earlier planting. Since Red Wiggler CSA customers begin to pick up at the end of May the farm must schedule their crops to come in "on time" and they need to offer their customers a variety of about 10 crops from the very first pick up! These are considerations that the home gardener may take into account but don't have to stick to. For the small farm though, it's vital that they have a variety of plants producing by the end of May.
I was a little surprised that they didn't have more planted when I visited for the first time at the end of March. They assured me that they were kicking it into full swing and shared with me what had been started so far. There were several crops that had been overwintered (in addition to cover crops they used-rye, hairy vetch, clover and alfalfa) such as garlic (image below), kale, daikon radish and bok choy. The farm also has a couple of early spring perennial that customers may or may not get a taste of, asparagus, rhubarb and some grape varieties (more about these later). Direct sow crops that have been planted so far are, leeks, onion (by sets), arugula, kale, beets, carrots (in raised beds in the photo above), fava beans and peas. I admire the fact that there is very little that is started indoor and transplanted, this makes for less and more efficient work in the field, but it has it's drawbacks for the home gardener who may want to get started earlier and reap the rewards of tender spring greens earlier in the season. Red Wiggler also has no green house (but hopefully will next year) and no room to start things indoor on their larger scale.
Next on the farm's planting schedule will be potatoes, peppers, both sweet and hot and tomato transplants. The farm also takes on some fun projects such as last year's new addition of the chickens, who will hopefully help to control the levels of BM Stink Bugs (maybe, a little!) and the Catawba Grape vines.
I'll be sharing another post soon about the story behind these native grapes, their rescue from Clarksburg and how they came to be at Red Wiggler.
I'll be checking back in with the farm over the growing season to see what's happening. I hope you've enjoyed this virtual "field trip" and will check back for more of them about once a month. Have a great weekend!

2 comments:

  1. Great post! Looking forward to more Field Trips!

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  2. I'm going to love this feature! It will be cool to see what's local - what I'll enjoy virtually, and what I can go and visit as well.

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