Father Earth Organic Farm welcomes you to the year 2020!
Hello Friends of the farm and Happy New Year to you all. I am really excited to leave the old year behind and to get into a new year with so many possibilities for new growth. Although last year's weather of hail storms, 4 inches of snow in May the week after mother's day, rain and thunder storms all during the month of June, super high temperatures of 90 plus degrees during the months of July and August, and an early snow in September that wiped out most of the crops, we, as farmers, must keep in mind that the next day, the next week, the next month, and now, the next year, will be better than the year before in terms of growing and producing quality food for our community. The weather also brought to mind that we will have to make some changes in the way we grow some crops.
The above paragraph is very similar in wording and weather conditions that I wrote about just one year ago. But the 2019 growing season brought more vegetable growing challenges than I had ever experienced in the 15 plus years I have been growing here. On May 15, 2019, the high temperature was 81 degrees with a low night temperature of 51 degrees. Six days later on May 21, 2019, the high was 41 degrees and the low was 32 and we received 4 inches of snow. The low temperatures and snow caused major damage to most of the fruit trees that were already in bloom or had already set fruit. The apricot, peach, pear, cherry, apple and some plum trees had already set fruit and most of that fruit was destroyed. Some plum, nectarine, apple ad peach tree blossoms had not opened yet and managed to survive and produce fruit later in the year.
The month of June was a wet one with rain and thunderstorms, some with hail, most every day in June. With all that rain, it was difficult to get into the fields and plant anything. The rains also encouraged massive weed growth which crowed out 80% of all the veggies I had planted in the month of May. Without having help to weed at this critical time, caused about 30% of all I had planted in April and May, to be plowed under and start over. Several 100-foot rows of carrots, beets, turnips, spinach, onions, and lettuce were overcome with weeds and could not be saved. Another factor that contributed to the loss of these crops was the fact that the months of July and August had record heat of day temps over 90 degrees. With this much daily heat, it was impossible to keep the crops watered without also watering the weeds.
During the months of July, August and September, I was fortunate to have the help of an Intern to do 20 hours of work a week on the farm. The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) began a pilot internship program that allowed farmers and ranchers to apply and get financial assistance. I paid half of the salary and the CDA paid the other half. With this extra help, I was able to salvage some previously planted crops and start some new ones to finish out the rest of the season. I must say that the produce that was grown in the hoop house and the greenhouse produced much better than the crops grown outside. It was much easier to manage and control watering and weeding.
At the end of the season in late October, my Intern and I planted five 100-foot rows of garlic. Although it had snowed in September, there was a slight warming trend in October that allowed us to get the garlic planted before the next snows came. The week after Thanksgiving brought eighteen inches of snow to the farm and that proved to be devastating. The weight of all that snow crushed the small hoop house.
So, to give myself a little leeway in providing more variety of crops earlier in the season for my customers, I have purchased another greenhouse/hoop house to grow in. As soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws enough, I will get the greenhouse assembled and begin growing, hopefully as early as mid-March. I am looking forward to a better growing season and also to having some great volunteers this year.
Although the weather outside looks and feels like winter, the farm is beginning to come alive with the beginning of seed starting indoors.
Some flowers take 90 to 180 days to produce a bloom. That's 3 to 6 months. So on January 23rd, with the help of a Dariel, a volunteer, we planted several trays of Lisianthus seed (150-180 days). Lisianthus is a prized cut flower and is really tricky to grow from seed. The seed needs to be pressed into the damp planting mix and placed under a light that is 3 or 4 inches above the tray. The room temperature should be around 70 degrees in order for the seed to germinate in 10 to 14 days. The lights are on 12 to 14 hours a day, and once germinated, the temperature can be lowered to 65, with some airflow from a small fan. Some of the seed that sprout are about the size of the "period" at the end of this sentence. A bouquet of these flowers will last 10 to 15 days in a vase of water. So I hope to grow enough to sell at the market and also share some with the CSA farm share members.
Other flower seeds planted this week on February 17th with Renee's help, were Echinacea (126-165 days), snapdragons (110-120 days), statice (110-120 days), strawflower (75-80 days), and gomphrena (globe amaranth 85-100 days).
For years, I have been planting my gardens by the phases of the moon. This method is considered a part of "Biodynamic Gardening." I usually try to plant a couple of days before the "New" moon, and as late as 14 days after the "new" moon, or when the moon is full. The timing of the plantings assures a shorter germination period for most seeds. As an example, the germination period for carrots is 14 to 21 days as stated on the package. Of course a lot depends on the temperature of the soil, sunlight, and moisture conditions, but I find that carrot seeds planted a couple of days before the New Moon, gives germination in 7-10 days.
With the help of Renee, another volunteer, we set up the greenhouse (high tunnel) with drip lines to get ready to begin watering the seed we planted on February 17th. My underground watering system is shut off for the winter, so I have to run 260 feet of garden hose from the house to the greenhouse. So we have planted greens mix, arugula, turnips, spinach, carrots, and beets. We will cover the rows with row cover (remay) and then put hoops over the rows and cover the hoops with a poly plastic. So essentially we have a hoophouse within a greenhouse to help keep the seeds and seedlings warmer during these cold winter/spring nights. With this indoor early planting, we hope to harvest for the CSA farm share by the first few weeks of May.
For photos and more information, see our Greenhouse / Hoophouse page.
I've had several veggie requests from customers to try growing a few new items this year. So I have ordered a few different seeds this year and will give it a try. Lemon cucumbers, Chioggia beets, lemon thyme, artichoke, arugula, viroflay spinach, Japanese eggplant starts and potatoes to name a few. I buy organic seed whenever available from NON-GMO companies like Johnny's Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, Harris Seeds, Fedco Seeds, and Botanical Interests. Seed orders have been arriving since the second week of January. The potato seed order should come in mid to late March and the fruit tree order should arrive about the middle of April. This year I ordered 4 more Plum trees on order to have two more varieties that ripen later in the year than the plums that I currently have. With these additional trees, I should have 106 fruit trees on the property. I would say that 70 to 80 percent should be of fruiting age this year. Of course getting fruit will all depend on the weather. So lets hope we don't get a freeze once the trees begin to blossom.
I'm looking forward to a bountiful year again, and I hope to see you as a customer and/or volunteer soon. Blessings,
The 2012 growing season here on the farm brought a few new challenges, a few obstacles and setbacks, several changes and improvements, and despite all that, produced an abundance of fresh organic fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.
In the spring, I started several crops in the newly constructed high tunnel greenhouse. Tom and I had transplanted chard, spinach, and strawberries from the field, into the greenhouse in the fall of 2011. Although there was no added heat in the greenhouse, the transplanted veggies seem to be doing well and showed signs of new growth in early February. As the days began to get longer giving more light and warmth, new growth was quite apparent. I planted parsley, lettuce, leeks, and salad greens in mid February. The lettuce and greens took three weeks to germinate and the parsley and leeks took about six weeks. The days in Feb and March were quite sunny and so the greenhouse warmed up nicely to a balmy 65 to 80 degrees, even though the outside temps were in the 30's to mid 40's. The nights cooled down to the mid 20's to low 30's, and thus the slow germination.
By April, I had planted chard, kale, carrots, beets, cilantro, lettuce, cress, purslane, spinach, arugula, and potatoes in the field, or in starter trays. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and melons had been started inside and growing nicely. The greenhouse plants were growing nicely and some were ready for harvest. Because there wasn't much airflow inside, the aphids began to appear and multiply. By the end of May, the greenhouse was well infested. I had begun to spray a mixture of neem oil and Dr. Bronners and Tabasco sauce, but couldn't keep up with the spraying frequency that was needed to get rid of the aphids. I didn't want to spend the money, but finally broke down and ordered 9000 ladybugs for about $40 with shipping. I had been spraying for about three weeks before I got the ladybugs. After I applied the ladybugs to the plants, it took about a week and 905 of the aphids were gone. A lesson learned. Spend the money and do it fast and right the first time. I could have saved hours of time and energy by letting the ladybugs do their job. It was well worth the $40.
It was a very warm spring and so the fruit trees began to bloom near the end of March, a month earlier that I had ever seen them bloom. We had 60 to 80 degree temps for the first two weeks in March and by the end of March, 90% of my fruit trees were in bloom or setting fruit already. That includes apples, peaches, pears, cherries, apricot, nectarines, and plums. In the 10 years that I have been here, I have planted over 100 fruit trees, 84 of which made it through some harsh winters, and are fairly established. The apricots were the first and the peaches were the last. I was hoping it wouldn't snow and kill the blossoms, but I woke up on April 3rd and there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground and on the trees. Luckily the day warmed up to 40 and the snow melted and the fruit trees were OK.
The first codling moth appeared on April 23rd. I got my sprayer working and sprayed all of the smaller trees on the 25th. The next two days were pretty windy, so I had to wait until Saturday, the 28th to spray the two big trees in the front yard. I noticed that there are worm holes in a few apples already. The codling moth usually appears around Mother's day here in Colorado. They lay the eggs that hatch into worm that bore into the apples. I spray with ORMI kaolin clay. The film of clay prevents the moth from laying the eggs on the leaves, branches, or apples. I have had great success getting "worm free" apples using this method of control.
Besides being a very warm spring, it was also dry. The summer was an extension of the spring with six weeks of temps above 90 degrees. In my area here, we only had 4 days of significant rain from June to September. Colorado and most of the West were in a drought situation. With the water restrictions, many of the plants and trees on the farm didn't get proper watering. The dryness caused some of the branches on the fruit trees to break under the weight of the fruit on them. Luke and I discovered deer droppings in the field near the corn and the grape vines in mid June. Two days later I noticed that all the fruit trees along the street side had their lower branches stripped of their leaves. Sometimes, farmers get a little annoyed, frustrated, disappointed, peeved, and etc., with circumstances on the farm. This was one of those times. I started a dusk to dawn patrol with the dogs. On three different evenings, we spotted three young bucks and chased them off the property. One morning about 6:30 while harvesting kale for the CSA, I heard a noise and looked to see those three bucks eating the yellow squash about 4 or 5 car lengths from me. At 6:30 in the morning, it was already hot and I had my shirt off and was down on my knees. I wasn't making much noise or had much movement picking kale, so the deer probably thought I was just a bear or something eating kale. I jumped up yelling and screaming as I ran towards them. (yes, I can still run if I have to). With their galloping "pogo stick" hop, they disappeared over the railroad tracks. Another time Alison and I had just driven into the drive and spotted the same three bucks nibbling the fruit trees near the tomato house. We both chased after them yelling and screaming like crazy people. Allison runs faster than I and probably would have caught them if she could have jumped over the fence like they did. They didn't come back after that episode. I ended up spraying the lower branches of all my fruit trees with the Dr. Bronner's and Tabasco (hot sauce) mixture just to keep them honest. My fruit trees survived.
So if the drought situation wasn't enough, the insect and weed infestations were the worse that I have seen in the 10 years of gardening here. The spring winds of 60 to 80 mph brought in a lot of weed seeds that I have not seen on this property before. The young seedlings that I had planted in March and April were having a tough time trying to come up amidst all the weeds that were trying to do the same. Even with all the volunteer weeding help, we just couldn't keep up. So, on June 4th, I plowed under all the rows of veggies that I had planted on the 11th of April. Those included arugula, turnips, greens, rutabaga, radish, beets, and carrots. This was another "one of those times." The grasshoppers began to chew on everything. With every step on the farm, some 20 to 30 little grasshoppers would jump to get out of the way. Lara and I ordered some "nolo bait" (organic grasshopper control) and spread it around the farm. The bait really helped with the hoppers, but the aphids, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, squash beetles, grubs, cabbage loopers, and a few other pests, really did some damage.
For many years now, I've read or heard from the "gardening experts" that if you have insect pests on your plants, then your plants are probably not healthy. Something to the affect that insects only attack unhealthy plants. Well, don't you believe it!! If you know anything about nature at all, you will probably question the "expert's" theory about the insects attacking unhealthy plants. Certainly my whole farm can't be unhealthy!! I'm no "expert," but I want to give my "gardensmarts" experience on this subject. The drought of 2012 may have caused more insect pest to attack my veggies than in previous years. Drought affects every living organism in the area. Birds, insects, animals, bees, people, and plants, are all affected by the lack of water, or moisture. With only four days of significant moisture from June to September, and temps above 90 degrees most days during the summer, moisture in the air or on the ground was non-existent. Many times, the only moisture available for these living organisms, is in the plants that we humans water and nurture for our food and pleasure. And so, the insects nibble and chew on these plants just to get a drink and survive. Even in a normal moisture year, insects will converge on certain plants because those plants are their natural habitat to promote the reproduction of their species. Codling Moths converge on apple trees in order to keep their reproduction cycle going. The sphinx moth don't use apple trees for reproduction, they lay their eggs on tomato plants to produce the tomato worm. Those pretty white butterflies you see fluttering around the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage plants, are laying eggs to produce the cabbage looper. Flea beetles reproduce on broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radish, kale, and other greens plants. And aphids cohabitate on almost any plant they feel comfortable to be on. My personal opinion is that none of these insects are just strolling through your garden looking for weak trees and plants to lay eggs on. And what about the lowly earwig? They will bore a hole in just about any fruit they can get to. The drought affected them in that the dryness kept their numbers down. I may have mentioned that this was the best fruit year I've had in the ten years I have been here. But it just didn't happen without thinking ahead and preparing the fruit trees for the insect onslaught. On June 10th, Sara spent 3 to 4 hours painting a 6-inch band of "Tanglefoot" around the lower trunk of every fruit tree that had set fruit. This action alone probably saved my fruit from earwigs crawling up the trees and entering the fruit.
I planted the first sweet corn on May 5th. It really had poor germination (about 30%). I thought that I had some bad seed but decided to dig up a few seeds to see if they were sprouting. I found several seeds that were just an empty shell of a seed. Upon a closer look, here were very small ants inside the seed shell. I assumed that the reason the corn didn't germinate was because the ants had eaten them. This was the first time this had happened, or maybe it was the first time so many seeds didn't sprout, that it forced me to dig up some and investigate. By the first of June, what little corn was still left growing, had been taken over by weeds. I mowed everything and rototilled, and then replanted Mistique and Delectable on June 13th. I used the seeder because it was much faster, but it plants too many seeds too close together. Germination was 95% but I didn't thin them as they grew. Some stalks didn't produce because they were too close to each other. Will need to thin them this year.
By August, the farm had produced not just vegetables, but plenty of fruit to include apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, and nectarines. Some of the branches on the plums, peaches, nectarines, and apricots, broke under the weight of the fruit and because they were so dry form not getting enough water throughout their growing stages. I gave a lot of the fruit to the volunteers and CSA members, and sold a lot at the farmers market. One of my biggest accomplishments last year was the purchase of a shop press, which I converted into an apple (fruit) press. The volunteers and I pressed several crates of apples to produce 70 quarts of apple cider. I gave some to the volunteers and sold most of it for $6.50/quart.
Another huge accomplishment last year was the construction of a walk-in cooler from the shed. I had been meaning to do this for a few years, but wasn't sure where to build it. While Allison and I were reorganizing the shed, I decided to divide the shed in half by putting up a wall, and cutting a door in the side of the shed to access the cooler. I used a "cool Bot" controller and a small window air conditioner. It needs some adjustments and some more insulation, but for the most part, it worked very well for storing veggies brought back from the markets.
It was a great year despite all the obstacles and challenges.
8881 Elgin Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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Father Earth Organic Farm is a small family farm in east Boulder County, Colorado that provides quality, locally grown, organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs. We have both a CSA program and a farm stand. We offer hydroponically grown tomatoes and peppers. All of our produce is non-GMO. Father Earth Organic Farm is a small family farm in east Boulder County, Colorado that provides quality, locally grown, organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs. We have both a CSA program and a farm stand. We offer hydroponically grown tomatoes and peppers. All of our produce is non-GMO. Father Earth Organic Farm is a small family farm in east Boulder County, Colorado that provides quality, locally grown, organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs. We have both a CSA program and a farm stand. We offer hydroponically grown tomatoes and peppers. All of our produce is non-GMO.
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