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Look What We Found In the Weeds: Farm Finds Friday

Meredith : July 10, 2014 9:14 pm : Blog

Unweeded Asparagus Bed Resized

Can you guess what’s growing here? If you said grass you’d technically be right. But hidden beneath this jungle of weed is something far more appetizing.

Asparagus.

Asparagus Plant

The asparagus that you’re used to eating is actually the plant’s shoot when it first emerges. When allowed to grow asparagus ends up looking more like a fern, which proved challenging when tackling this bed. In a well-weeded asparagus patch this wouldn’t be a problem. But when you’re trying to pull a clump of grass while avoiding the asparagus, patience is definitely a virtue.

Ian Weeded End Day 2 Resized

It took six hours over two days for one person to weed this portion of an asparagus patch. Because it had been months since this area was weeded the weeds were not only dense but had strong root systems as well. That’s why regular weeding is paramount. The more often you weed, the less you’ll have to pull. Doing it as a family is a great way to make the task go by quickly. Of course you could avoid it all together by having your friends at Love and Carrots do it instead!

Asparagus No Longer Covered by Weeds

Weeding will not only keep your plants identifiable, it’ll also help reduce competition for water and allow full access to sunlight. A mass of weeds suffocating your asparagus could result in stunted plants, which means less to harvest at the start of spring the next year.

Asparagus Stalk Upclose

Why the next year? Asparagus has a very short harvesting season at the start of spring. If your plants are young it could only be a couple weeks. If your plants are established it could be as much as 8. Use your asparagus’s diameter as a guide. Once it’s about the size of a pencil it’s done for the year and needs to be allowed to grow to prepare for the next winter. This asparagus was done months ago.

Even if it isn’t harvestable for long, asparagus is still a great addition to your garden. It’s a perennial, which means it’ll come back year after year. Although you do need to wait two to three years before you can even think about harvesting, your plants could end up lasting you more than twenty years. That’s a lot of asparagus. With Love and Carrots taking care of your plots, all you’ll have to do is cook and eat.

Contributed by Ian Whittington

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Friday Farm Finds

Meredith : June 12, 2014 7:29 pm : Blog

In the Garden…Common Questions & Answers

 

Peas
Question: ”These peas are looking awesome.  How do I know when to pick and eat them?  I’ve been sampling and they are tasty, but I don’t want to pick them too soon.”

Answer: Harvest, Harvest, Harvest!  Sugar Snaps are ready when plump pointer-finger length and Snow Peas when thin and pointer-finger length.  Not to worry if a few Sugar Snap pods snuck past your harvesting eye growing more fibrous and less sweet–you can still harvest and instead of eating the whole pod, pop it open and use the round peas inside of the pod.  The more you harvest, the more will grow.  If you don’t harvest, the plant will think it’s completed its life cycle and stop producing new white flowers and then fruit i.e. your peas.

Eggplant
Question: ”Can you tell me what this plant is with the purple, prickly stem and veins?  And what I’m supposed to do with it?”
Answer: That’s Eggplant and it belongs to the Nightshade or Solanaceae Family of plants–let it grow.  It likes hot weather, sun and consistent watering (maintain soil moisture rather than over watering or letting dry out too much).  The purple flowers will self-pollinate and grow into fruit–the Eggplant we know and love.  Let the fruit grow to a size slightly bigger than your hand (the exact size/shape of the fruit will depend on the variety), and then use a harvest knife or scissors to snip off at the stem of the fruit near to the main stalk.  
Brocolli
Question: ”When we left on Friday morning, the top of this stalk was a quarter-sized head of broccoli.  When we got back yesterday night, it had exploded into this.  Are we out of luck with the Broccoli?”

Answer: Your Broccoli plant is bolting due to the warm wet weather.  I would harvest it, yellow flowers and all !  Chop up buds, flowers, stems and leaves to eat raw or lightly steam them and toss into a pasta dish.  If you harvest the main head, smaller florets will sprout from the side–they’ll likely be small but if you don’t harvest the main head and let it grow from flower to seed, your Broccoli plant will think it’s completed its life cycle. You can also help keep the soil cool with mulch (straw, leaves, shredded wood) which will help slow the flowering process.

carrot-cont10-300-300pxs
Question: ”I’m curious about when I should pick the carrots – the stems are getting long but I can’t tell.”

Answer: Carrots take a while to mature.  There are varieties that are ready in about 60 days and others in 90 days.  Use your fingers to move around the soil near the top of the root and base of the stalk and stems and if the diameter is about an inch, they could probably come out.  If the roots seem stuck, use a garden fork or hand spade to help free the carrots– if you try to pull it out using only your hands the tops could break off or half the carrot could stay stuck in the soil.  Carrots sown in March will likely be ready to harvest by May/June.  No need to rush the harvest, however.  Carrots can stand to stay in the ground as long as you mulch the soil around them to keep them cool and moist.

Turnip
Question: ”This is what the turnips look like — how do I know when to pick them?”
Answer: The Turnips–I would use your fingers to dig around the top of the root where it meets the stalk and stems and check for the heft of the root.  If the turnip is a Globe variety, then when the turnip root is about 2-5 inches in diameter and popping above the topsoil line, pull it out by placing your hand around the stems of the greens near the root top–if they’re Hakurei variety then when they’re about 2 inches in diameter or so.  You can also harvest and eat the greens.

Broccoli, Peas, Turnips, Eggplant and Mustard Green photos and questions courtesy of Bryan Sivak 2014.

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Monday Musings

Meredith : June 3, 2014 1:58 am : Blog

From the Farmer…A Farm Apprentice’s View

Farm work is hard.  There’s no other way of putting it.  It’s physically demanding and exhausting AND requires an inquisitive mind with a knack for both big picture systems thinking and keen attention to the smallest details.  Farms could not operate without the wonderful help of Farm Interns and Apprentices.  And we are no different.  These folks enthusiastically give their time, physical strength and mental know-how in exchange for on-the-job experience, which in the Agricultural world, is the way to become a Master Farmer.  Degrees are nice, but getting your hands into the soil alongside experienced Farmers is the way that we share our knowledge and grow the next generation of Farmers.  Apprenticeships are  a right of passage for us Aggies, and a question you’ll here us ask one another more frequently than “Where did you go to school?” is “Where have you Farmed?”  Our three Spring Apprentices have moved on leaving room for our new Summer Apprentices.  All of them will one day answer that question with: “Love & Carrots,” and we couldn’t be more proud.

Here are some thoughts from two of our former Apprentices on their time with us and in our Clients’ Gardens.  We couldn’t have done it without them and we know they’ll do great work wherever their Growing journey takes them.

 

Julia and Christian

Spring Farm Apprentices Christian and Julia

Christian from Maryland

1) What’s one thing you’ve learned during your Apprenticeship with L&C that really stuck with you or surprised you?

“Wow, only one thing? I’ve learned so much! When it comes to growing food, there are many environmental factors that need to be considered, but it all eventually boils down to the soil. One thing L&C really taught me was just how important of a role the soil plays in plant propagation. While installing raised beds around the city and mixing our own blends of soil, I was lucky to be able to learn the necessary balance of various aggregates needed to provide adequate structure, texture, density, biomass, etc. to a garden bed. It can be tough in the swamps of DC to provide sufficient support for organically grown food, and the soil is literally your foundation on which to build. Luckily the soil scientists at L&C love getting down and dirty, and go hard in the peat to build a habitat where plants not only survive, but thrive.”

2) Where will your food career take you next?

“I’m thinking I want to experiment with grapes soon! :)”

3) What do you like most about growing food?

“Growing food is not only a passion or hobby but a way of life for many people. If and when you make the decision to take you life into your own hands, a good way to start improving yourself and your way of living is by growing your own food. An idea as simple as growing your own food can have HUGE impacts on the way our society operates, and as an individual, the act of growing your own food is both liberating and practical. Liberating in the sense that you no longer need to rely on external sources for a large portion of your life sustaining nourishment…FOOD, and practical in that it will allow you to reduce your level of consumption, especially at the pump. My favorite thing about growing food personally is that while growing, I feel empowered by the fact that my actions are giving strength back to nature, and promoting a biodiversity I once participated in corrupting.”

Julia from Massachusetts

1) What’s one thing you’ve learned during your Apprenticeship with L&C that really stuck with you or surprised you?

“Maybe it was because it was my first day in the bleak cold of February when any sort of growing seemed like a far off dream but when Guy explained the vast benefits (power) of radishes I fell in love with them and at that point I wasn’t even sure I liked their taste. Basically you can plant both fast growing radishes and turnips (french breakfast, china rose, white egg etc.) in between crops to maximize the yield. They will keep soil covered, which prevents nitrogen loss and compaction from watering. Then when you harvest them it leaves a pore, which will provide aeration and the roots left behind will give a nitrogen boost when they break down. Essentially radishes rock and we should plant them everywhere!”

2) Where will your food career take you next?

“Lucky for me Love & Carrots keeps growing and I was hired to help out in the office. I still make a point of going to a few gardens and working on our Farm here so I continue to learn and get my hands dirty!”

3) What do you like most about growing food?

 ”Harvesting it for lunch!”

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