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Back at Market: Newsletter February 1, 2022

We plan to go to Lynchburg Community Market on Saturday. For the month of February we will still be deciding on a week-to-week basis depending on the weather, but it looks decent this weekend! You can order online to pick up at market this weekend.

In the Greenhouse

The greenhouse is starting to fill up and some of our transplants are getting close to going in the ground. We will be clearing out some fall-planted crops in the tunnels and transitioning to a quick spring crop before the tomatoes and cucumbers take them over. Some beds we interplant (example: head lettuce and tomatoes) so that we can make the most of the space. Our first itty bitty tomatoes have germinated and will go in the ground in our heated tunnel in about 6 weeks! Our new greenhouse benches are working nicely. We were able to repurpose more of an old wood fence we had to take out when we put in the deer fence. They keep the plants up higher off the ground so they can get better airflow, more sunlight, farther from mice, and of course protection from a cruising toddler.

Project Progress

We’ve been moving around our work flow this winter, including rebuilding our walk-in cooler (left) to expand to a 2 room structure connected by a window so that we can have 2 temperature zones that are cooled by the same unit. It should also help that it’s out of the hot barn and under the shade of a small tree also! We’ve also moved our seed collection to a refrigerator on the farm so we don’t have to go all the way back home when we forget a jar of seeds. It seems simple, but sometimes it takes the quiet of winter to make these little changes.
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One of Us! CSA Launch: Newsletter January 24, 2022

CSA 2022 Sign-ups are LIVE!

We are excited to launch our new CSA season, with the same great offerings as last year, and we are proud to be offering our own eggs and weekly flower bouquets as add-on options. Sign-ups are limited but we are offering more shares than last year to reflect our larger production capacity. Read about our Community Agriculture Program and sign up on our website!

CSA all the way!

Sweet, sweet turnips
We’ve got a good selection of produce available this week, but I wanted to give a special shout out our salad turnips. We have so many right now and they are at peak sweetness with these cold cold nights. They are so good! If you haven’t tried them, this is the week to do it. They are succelent and can be eaten raw or cooked. Try pan roasting them and tossing with a balsamic reduction! The tops are good too- tender enough for a salad, also good for a sautee.


Anemones blooming in the high tunnel (left) and our first transplants groing in the greenhouse (right).

Bread for the Farmers
We were excited to bake Pan au Levain hearth loaves and sorghum dinner rolls for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming conference at the Hotel Roanoke this weekend. Everything but the salt and yeast in the rolls was sourced locally, including the sorghum syrup, eggs, flour, milk, and sunflower oil. It takes a significant amount of effort for us to acquire these things, but the end product is so worth it!

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We’ve Got Greens: Newsletter Jan 10, 2022

Order for Wednesday
If you’re like us, you are moving past the holiday dessert days and craving fresh salads and crunchy carrots. We’ve got a beautiful selection of lettuces, herbs, cabbages, salad turnips, bok choy, and more! We also have a limited selection of bread available.

Ordering is open now for our regular Wednesday sites (we won’t be back at market for another couple of weeks).  Hope to see you soon!
Our new tunnels have been proving themselves. The crazy swing in temperatures from Christmas to the New Year is stressful for plants, but luckily our tender greens have some extra protection and warmth. The tunnels are not heated, but the plastic holds in heat created by the sun during the day and the soil stores some of that extra warmth overnight. Plus we don’t have to worry about 8″ of snow crushing the delicate leaves!
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How Does the Garden Grow Pt 1: The Garden

It’s been a while since we did an update, and I think it is about time we go in depth on how our vegetable crops are doing. This week was our first CSA drop off, and here is a picture of what our members got in their bag this week:

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Our first ever CSA share! Kale, spinach, salad, parsley, radishes, red onions, sugar snap peas, country white bread and the world famous duck eggs!

The speed at which our plants grow and the amount we are harvesting is accelerating fast this time of year, just 2 weeks out from the solstice. Hot weather also brings a plethora of insects into the garden, some friends and some foes.

The Colorado Potato Beetle (which we wrote a previous post about) has showed up and done a little bit of damage to the plants’ foliage. We’ve kept them covered and go by every few days to squish the buggers by hand, and so far it’s looking like we’ll prevent them from reproducing on our plants, keeping the population down for next year.

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Potatoes in the hill and under cover, lookin’ pretty bug-free.

Another conspicuous predator of veg is the cabbage white butterfly, which lays its eggs on cabbage-family crops. The caterpillars then munch your kale or mustards until there is nothing left but a wilted, fibrous skeleton. We are not doing a great job of keeping this one at bay, with only some of our kale and cabbages with row-cover blocking the butterflies.

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Look closely and you’ll see the cabbage white butterfly. Look closer and you will see holes in the kale.

The pests are present, for sure, but so far not enough to keep us from harvesting the quantities of things we need for market and the CSA. KNOCK ON WOOD.

The most exciting thing about this time of the year is that we are SO close to harvesting some early summer crops: potatoes, tomatoes, and squash. Other crops like tomatillos and eggplant are just now starting to flower, with promised of delectable fruits later in the season.

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Tomatillo flower.

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The babiest, tiniest squash.

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Our first tomato a-ripening on the vine. Destined to be slathered with olive oil, balsamic, basil, and mozzarella.

Weed pressure is pretty high since the soil is very warm, so we are doing our best to stay ahead of them (and not always winning). We are also trying the “stale seedbed” method for our next round of carrots and beets. The idea is to prepare the soil in a bed, then water it very heavily. The weed seeds will germinate, then we will come in with the hoe when they are very young and scratch the surface, killing most of the weeds. This means that there are little to no weeds in the carrot bed by the time they sprout, and we only have to weed the bed once or twice before harvesting.

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(Mostly) weed-free swiss chard, carrots, parsley, dill, and garlic.

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An attempt at knocking back the weeds we brought in with the hay used in sheet mulch. You can see the grass to the right.

Overall the garden is in great shape. We are staying on schedule with our plantings and happy with our yields, especially considering the poor quality of soil we started out with. Somehow the tomatoes, carrots, and garlic seem to love it! Some crops like the okra and beets are growing very slowly, however. Much more soil improvement to be done, the ducks are hard at work.

Here are some more pictures, enjoy!

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Calendula in bloom.

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Mature carrots next to peas and covered potatoes.

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Maximize the space: tomatoes, head lettuce, and basil all sharing the same bed.

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Purple sugar snap PEAS.

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Mother’s Day Flower Arranging Workshop at the Farm

Come out to the farm for a special Mother’s Day!  

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Susan Randolph will demonstrate putting together a flower arrangement; she will suggest tricks and materials to enhance the outcome. We will provide vases, baskets spring flowers for the workshop. The flower source is Pharsalia in Massies Mill, Virginia.  Flowers are grown by Foxie Morgan. Participants will have an opportunity to make their own arrangements and take them home at the end of the workshop.

$20 per person OR $35 for a mother & son/daughter—ages 12 and up

May 10 from 3-5 pm

Great Day Gardens, 2261 Thomas Jefferson Road, Forest

Please RSVP to greatdaygardens@gmail.com or call 434-962-0451 by May 8, 2015

Susan Randolph arranges flowers as an avocation.  She has made arrangements for weddings, church receptions and a variety of parties.  Susan resides in Keswick, Virginia.

For the official event poster, click Here.

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Caring for Soil

The garden is wet and mucky today and after some intense weeding yesterday, we are letting things and ourselves rest until it dries up a little bit. Plentiful rain is an absolute blessing for our young onions, potatoes, and brassicas who are now glistening with beaded drops of water. However, this spring has been a bit challenging with the rain coming so frequently, giving us only a few windows in which it’s dry enough to till and prepare the soil.

So, why shouldn’t you work in the garden when the soil is wet?

Compaction!

Good soil structure is essential for growing healthy plants. Soil pores allow for oxygen and water to flow freely through the soil and form homes for the vast diversity of soil organisms. When you walk on, hoe, dig, or till wet soil, you are likely causing compaction, which causes these pores to collapse. So when you walk out to your garden and the soil sticks to your boots, resist the temptation to work! Instead, do what we did today: go inside, make some hot chocolate and read about organic pest management.

Speaking of “pests,” do you recognize this fella?

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You guessed it! The notorious Colorado Potato Beetle. We have spotted one of these on the property but luckily they have not found our patch of potatoes that are just barely poking up through the soil.

So what to do when these guys do begin to gnaw on our taters? Conventional wisdom would have us declare all-out war on them, and bring in whatever chemical insecticides necessary to eradicate the menace. But wait, these are just tiny little insects on a mission to feed themselves, have a family, and die knowing they contributed to the backyard economy.

Too often we humans appropriate the lexicon of warfare when communicating our horticultural endeavors. But by doing so, we are forgetting the goal here: promote, tend to, enhance, support, and feed life, not recklessly destroy it.

So, again, what to do? Well, the plan for now is to first spray Neem Oil, which is made from the Neem tree. The oil makes nomming on potato leaves less pleasurable for the beetles, so in theory they will find a more satisfying meal elsewhere. Simultaneously, we will cover the plants with a fabric that lets in light while hiding the plants from beetle invaders. The key here is timeliness: both of these strategies are preventative measures that are not very useful after the beetle has shown up, sat down to eat, and realized the tater salad is scrumptious.

We have traded the role of warmonger for that of the merry prankster, the one who is tricking brother beetle into letting us eat his lunch. Still not very fair for the beetle, but at least he is not being murdered and we are not disrupting the soil food web. These kind of compassionate pranks are what let natural growers conjure nutrient-dense foods out of a mess of weeds, bugs, water, dirt, and confusion.

Hope you have enjoyed this tidbit of garden minutia. We should also mention that CSA shares are still available, and please contact us if you are interested. Weekly markets start on April 25, and from then we’ll attend the Forest Farmer’s Market every week and the Grandin Village Community Market in Roanoke every other week.

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Markets, Logos and More

Greetings all, apologies for taking our time since the last update. We’ve been busy preparing things for the season and taking time to enjoy cold days inside, getting good nights of sleep (these may become scarce in a couple weeks when we have to heat the greenhouse every night), and the run of good weather we’ve had for the past few days.

The first news is that we now have our first market for the season scheduled! We will be selling bread and other baked goods at the Forest Farmers Market in Forest, VA (right behind the Forest Public Library) on Saturday February 21. This will be Michael’s first run at “production” scale baking on his own, and we’re excited to feature a cornmeal loaf made with our very own heirloom corn from last season.

Despite our initial thoughts to the contrary, last week we learned that the Merrywood kitchen is eligible for state inspection. We’ve now begun the process of certification, which is just a little bit of paperwork, cash, and the inspection itself. This means that soon, we will be able to sell our breads and other prepared foods both at the farmers market and wholesale to restaurants or groceries. Foods we’re considering making include hummus, peanut butter, apple cider vinegar, and other healthy pantry-stuffers.

We also have a logo! Thanks to Henry Jones/HBJ Designs for the excellent work.

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The ducks are just about fully grown, but the first trickling of eggs is still about 2 months away. Right now they are simply enjoying the weather and good rest (we finally removed the heat lamp), completely ignorant of their reproductive duties to come! We have noticed them behaving more independently and being less afraid of humans as they grow older. Their bills are gradually producing a lower and lower quacking noise, and our next step is to come up with some kind of small pond for them to play in.

Well… back to the farm. See you soon!

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Great day in the morning!

Welcome to our new blog! We hope you are here to learn more about how you can get involved in sustainable farming or to see what we have been up to at Great Day Gardens. It is almost November, and we are gearing up for our first growing season in the spring. There is much to do! You can stay in the loop by checking this blog, or by getting on our email list by emailing greatdaygardens@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you!

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Arden is spreading compost on newly cover-cropped beds to condition the soil for next year.

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Michael plants tree seeds in a raised bed. In front of him is an area that we are sheet-mulching with cardboard to suppress the grass and add organic matter to the soil.

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Rubio the rooster poses for the camera.