Free Raised Bed Workshop April 1st

Plan to join us Saturday April 1st from 10 am to 2 pm for a potluck lunch and a hands on raised bed workshop for all skill levels at the Grayson National Bank conference center in the Gywnn shopping center next to FoodCity

. We’ll talk about planting dates, spacing, interplanting and succession plantings. Using information from the best national and local gardeners you’ll learn to apply these techniques to a single raised bed or a full sized market garden. Hope to see you then! We are able to offer the workshop free of charge thanks to our FMPP grant from the USDA. The class is limited to 50 people. Please email Michelle Pridgen at independencefarmersmarket@gmail.com to register. Don’t forget to bring a dish to share.


Pre-season Vendor Meeting and Potluck lunch

Friday April 7th

Plan to join us Friday April 7st from 11 am to 2 pm for a potluck lunch  at the Grayson National Bank conference center in the Gywnn shopping center next to FoodCity

Learn about becoming an IFM vendor,sign up for the season and enjoy a potluck lunch with your fellow vendors. Please bring any scales you plan to use at the Market so they can be certified by VDACS.

It’s planting time!


Rick and Jen loaned me their broad fork so I could get a few garden beds ready for early spring crops.  It’s time to start planting peas, spinach, kale, carrots and cabbage outside.  The row cover is handy in case we get another cold snap.

The large bed rake is great for both forming and preparing beds as well marking rows for transplants or seeds.

The lettuce transplant has a nice root system and is ready to be planted. I use a marking stick to give the in row spacing on the rows created by the marking rake.  The holes are a great size for the transplants.  To speed things along, I go ahead and remove all the plants from the cell packs and drop them in the holes and then go back and firm them into the soil and water them in with a transplant solution.  I like Maxicrop, it’s a seaweed based soluble fertilizer.

Happy gardening!

Some Information from the SSAWG Conference

The Organic Vegetable Farm tour went to Elmwood Stock Farm. A 550 acre certified organic farm that features both livestock and crops. Most of the acreage is in pasture with crops on about 75 acres.  They produce feed for their animals which include 80 cows, sheep, laying hens and broilers and turkeys.  The key to their success is integrating the crops and livestock in an 8 year rotation.  After 5 years in perennial forage they plow and plant both feed grains and food crops. Raising their own feed ensures quality and reduces out off farm expenses.

The 1st year planting features high nutrient demanding, long season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers and melons.  Plastic and drip are used. The second year crops are early, cool season crops with slightly lower nutrient needs including beets, radishes, carrots, lettuce, brassicas, chard and turnips.  Overwintering spinach, onions and garlic are planted in fall and any spare ground is put in covercrops.  Year three features nitrogen fixing legumes like peas, cowpeas, endame, green and dried beans.  Following harvest the field is sown back to perennial forage for 5 years.  Working with the University of Kentucky, they have shown that levels of organic matter and soil life are nearly the same at the end of the 5 years in pasture as undisturbed pasture.

Next we toured their seed sowing area.  They make use of homemade tools to speed production and help maintain uniformity.  A germination chamber minimizes heated space and speeds germination. On a smaller scale, take away lessons include using vermiculite in a thin layer to cover seeds. It helps retain moisture and can reduce seedling diseases. A small cabinet can be converted to a germination area.  They also use a technique developed by tobacco growers for leafy crops.  Speedling flats (a stiff Styrofoam tray) are floated in a dilute nutrient solution until ready for transplanting.  This minimizes watering and fertilizing time but requires quite a bit of space.

 

Happy New Year

We’ll be posting events for 2016 soon.

A few large conferences coming up include:

Southern SWAG conference January 27-30th in Lexington Kentucky

www.ssawgconference.org

Virginia Biological Farming Conference. JANUARY 29-30 2016. W.E. Skelton 4-H Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake.

Conference

 

 

Building a Hoop House

Anthony Flacavento led a very popular Hoop House Demonstration Monday September 30th 2013 at the Bill Smith Farm. The workshop was sponsored by the NCSU Extension Service and Blue Ridge Seeds of Change. Alleghany High School Students attended as well as interested people from Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Grayson Counties.

A hoop house is a low cost structure, similar to a greenhouse, but shorter in height and without heating or cooling capacity that still offers a means of extending both ends of the growing season. The 96×14 foot hoop house cost about $800 in Sept of 2013. Construction started about 9am and was completed by 3 pm. A group of almost 20 people assisted throughout the day.

Cold tolerant crops inside the house can withstand outside temperatures in the mid twenties. Adding a layer of row cover inside the house can add another few degrees of protection. Anthony usually plants transplants of tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons in mid March and starts harvesting in early June. He cautioned that those plants should already be hardened off before planting and it’s best to wait if very cold weather is predicted. Early crops usually bring premium prices. The hoop house can also offer late blight protection, which was a real benefit this year.

There are a few challenges to growing under cover: you must provide irrigation for all your crops and pollination for others. Tomatoes only require occasional shaking while in bloom to spread pollen, but Anthony recommends placing a hive of bumblebees in the house in early spring for squash and melons. They tolerate the cool weather better than honey bees.

Shay Smith will be growing in the hoop house this fall. He plans to grow carrots and radishes, both cold tolerant crops that grow well in fall.

Gardening workshop with hands-on activities APRIL 18

Looking for a way to garden or farm and grow food and flowers for yourself, or to provide some extra income? Interested in a small way, a big way? Head for the next Independence Farmers Market workshop on April 18th at the Grayson Bank Conference Center in downtown Independence, VA. It’s a two-part all day event geared to help you take your garden production to the next level: featuring practical information, all important hands on learning, and a network of other gardeners and farmers! And it’s only $10 now, or $12 at the door. Or free for students and season vendors of the market!

The morning session, starting at 8:30 am, looks at the basics, with the details of bed preparation, plant spacing, intercropping, succession planting, and crop yields per bed area. Michelle Pridgen, Market Manager for the Independence Farmers Market will walk you through these important plans. After a break, Rick Cavey of Wagon Wheel Farm will discuss his favorite tried and true garden tools and techniques for sustainable growing, such as seeders, broad fork, colonial hoes, flame weeders!, raised beds, laying plastic mulch, setting up drip irrigation, and season extension. But how do you figure out what to sell and grow? Caleb Crowell, owner of New Appalachia, and formerly New River Organic Growers, focuses on specialty crops, how to decide what’s best for you to grow and how much to grow to increase sales and profits.

Then comes a pot luck lunch — your contribution to the fun and informative day!

And then in the afternoon, we’ll head to the nearby Wagon Wheel Farm, just west of Independence. There, you’ll see the practical applications of what you learned in the morning session including growing transplants, intensive planting in the high tunnel, examples of raised beds and contour gardening, features of drip irrigation. If weather allows, we’ll bend a few hoops for a small tunnel, and watch a demonstration of a bedder/mulch layer.