Friday Field Update Volume 2, Number 1

It’s so good to be back at it! I think I enjoy the winter a little more than the average Western New Yorker; it’s a time for me to take a step back and breathe. However, once we get the flowers going in the greenhouse and I smell the fresh soil and green growth, something inside me switches on and I’m ready for the new season.

  Farmer Tim breaking ground with an offset disc on Earth Day. 

Farmer Tim breaking ground with an offset disc on Earth Day. 

Once the snow finally melted in late April, we were able to break ground on Earth Day! A very fitting day to farm I think, even though it’s three weeks late for us. Usually we have our Peas Planted on April 1st, but they can’t really grow when it’s snowing outside, so we opted to wait for when that was done.

One thing I am very happy with this year is that we didn’t plow on our Brockport farm. Usually, plowing is what you have to do first to loosen the soil, turn any weeds that may be growing completely upside down and start fresh. Plowing is a great tool, but recent research has shown that the negatives far outway the positives. It compromises soil structure, creates a compact layer called the plow pan, and disrupts the soil microbiology, which is extremely important to crops. Large scale field crops (soybean, corn, wheat) farms have more tools and methods at their disposal to help minimize tillage(plowing and other soil working methods) than a diverse vegetable farm. When you are seeding small plots, and making raised beds covered in plastic, plowing or other types of tilling are basically the only option you have. However, with the help of a cover crop called the tillage radish, we were able to skip the plowing process, and disrupt our soil that much less. In the late summer and fall, this radish grows 2-3 feet deep, and 2-3 inches in diameter. Then in the winter, the radish is killed and rots away leaving a huge hole in its place. The holes create a space for all the meltwater from winter snow to drain into, and also help break up the soil (slowly through the growth of the actual radish) and when the soil is worked, create a fluffy, tender layer without plowing!

  Using a subsoiler on our new high tunnel.  

Using a subsoiler on our new high tunnel.  

I am excited to announce that this year we have created a second high tunnel! We have actually converted one of our small greenhouses out back into a high tunnel where we can grow crops directly in the ground. This is different than a normal field situation. We had been using this greenhouse for over a decade to grow flowers in, and over the winter store various equipment and tools. All this use has created a lot of compaction, which we needed to break up. That’s what the subsoiler on the back of the tractor in this picture is doing. Digging deep down, and breaking up the compaction we have created over the years.

  Marco and Francisco waking up our strawberries! 

Marco and Francisco waking up our strawberries! 

One other thing we have been up to so far this spring, is uncovering the strawberries! This is always one of the most monumental moments of spring for me. The straw acted as insulation for the strawberry plants over the winter, but now must be raked into the walkways between the rows, so the plants can regrow and produce this years crop in June.

Friday Fruit Update:

Every week, I will post pictures of the four major tree fruits we grow: cherries, peaches, plums, and apples. The pictures will be of the same (I hope) buds/fruits every week so you can see exactly how they grow.

  From left to right: Sweet Cherry, Peach, Prune, Apple. Bursting and ready to break. 

From left to right: Sweet Cherry, Peach, Prune, Apple. Bursting and ready to break. 

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Bonus: Peaches are healthy and alive as of right now!! You can see that this flower bud is bright and intact. It’s looking like a pretty darn good year so far.