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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.

GDG_web

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.