We're pressing forward with the farm! We don't have much time before winter is here and there's so much to do. Blogging is not a natural thing for me. First of all, I despise computers. Secondly, I'm not a guru of the written (or spoken) English language, so you're likely to find many errors in my writing (OCD folks...you've been warned). Third, I've read a lot about farming, I haven't actually done it, so you're likely to see many miscues, overlooks, and downright dumb actions being taken on my part. Also, you'll probably observe me making up words and using the wrong word for something I'm doing since I don't have the agriculture/organic vocabulary built in my brain. But, perhaps you can learn from my errors if and when you decide to follow this path. So here we go...join us for the ride....like it you will.
First thing's first. Our seed garlic needs to be planted after the first hard frost. That's about mid October. We needed to convert a 100'x75' from pasture to seed bed. First I Brush Hogged the area to mow down the existing grasses. Then, I staked out the plot and used a tiller to rip up the remaining grass loosen the soil. Ideally, we don't want to use a tiller and invert the soil because it disturbs the soil and kills the earthworms. Plus, tilling brings weed seeds to the surface. But, it was our only means to create the beds. FYI, using a tiller in grass and vetch is a pain! After every path created I had to stop the tiller and rip out all the roots/stems that wrapped themselves around the tine shaft. They got so wrapped up they'd actually stall the tiller. Thankfully, I found a good use for the little can opener tool on my Leatherman. That thing works pretty good for grabbing and cutting the roots out.
After tilling, I grabbed my shovel and spent the next 3-4 days scooping 18" wide paths and piling that dirt up along the way to create 23 30" wide beds (my back only went out once!). We made 30" beds our standard because it allows you to access plants in the middle of the bed from either side of the bed. Additionally, many gardening tools and implements use 30" widths as standard.
We next soaked the beds with an overhead sprinkler for two days straight. The goal being to get the soil nice and moist to allow germination of weed/grass seed. We watered from our well pump which doesn't have the volume to provide water to more than one sprinkler at a time...so it took a few days to get the moisture down to that size of an area.
We then covered the entire plot with 5 mil silage tarp. Silage tarps don't allow light or moisture thru. The goal with putting these down is to get the weed/grass seeds to germinate. Once they do, they quickly die because there is no light to grow any further. Creating the warm, moist, and dark environment is perfect for germination. Additionally, since the plot stays nice and moist it allows earthworms to come to the surface, eat all the remaining organic material, then take it below ground. Earthworms provide both aeration and fertilization to the soil. Yesterday the wind picked up and blew part of a tarp off the soil. I went and took a look and found good moisture in spots and dry soil in others. I don't think I got enough water down on the ground. But, in the moist spots, plants had germinated and were beginning to die and earthworms were on the surface. Looks like the method works! So now we just sit and wait. Around the first week of October, we'll take the tarps off, add a few soil amendments in, then prepare to plant the garlic seed!
Since the garlic won't be ready to harvest until July, we needed another income stream for the farm. This is where microgreens come in. Microgreens are just baby plants basically; but larger than sprouts. Microgreens are harvested when their first true leaves begin to form. What's the benefit of harvesting them so small you say? Well, they are harvested in usually 7-14 days, don't take much space to grow, are very profitable, and extremely nutritious! The University of Maryland conducted a study of microgreens and found that they contained four to 40 times more nutrients than their adult versions!
We'd like to grow them in an environmentally controlled green house or hoop house, but we don't quite have the time or funds right now to make that happen. For now, we grow indoors. Microgreens don't take up much space. We can grow four 10"x20" trays worth of microgreens in 8 sq ft. Each tray, depending on variety, will yield about one pound of microgreens. Normal retail price is $2 oz....that's $32 a tray gross! So on one 6 ft high storage rack, I can grow 12-16 trays at one time. That's potentially over $500 worth of microgreens harvested every 10 days! Not bad. The hard part is educating and finding buyers.....