Monday, January 14, 2013

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Website is now updated with photos!

Go to Seedsower Farm's Website and click on the Farmer's Grant Page for photos of the grant project.

Stay tuned for 2013.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Onion Harvest 8/8/12

Today, I was able to wrap up most of the onion harvesting at Fox Hollow Farm.  Due to my resignation, I will not be completing the Broccoli planting this year.  I have been given an extension on the study and will replicate it again next year.  Just have to finalize the location. 360 of my 504 broccoli plants will be used in a study at Cornell Horticulture and Research Lab in Riverhead. The rest of them will be going into the home garden and to a friend who is putting up a high tunnel.

Used index cards with detailed info about the treatment area (SBG, Straw, Control) and if it was weeded (weeded, not weeded) and wrote weight and number count on back.  Took photos of the different harvests and will download them here next chance I get.

Without actually doing statistical analysis and just by observing, it appears that the onions did best in the straw treatment. This was true even in the areas that were not weeded. The SBG treatments areas yielded fairly large onions, too.  Since straw is expensive and also requires labor to apply, it might well be that though the onions from the SBG treatments weigh less, that it is more cost effective. I'll need to provide Meg McGrath (my study advisor) with all of the data so she can analyze with the JMP Statistical Software program.

A few notes to change for next year:
  • Use one variety of onion, or at least of the same size and maturity date (the red cippolinis were likely not able to handle the amount of grain put upon them)
  • ensure that the sunlight is equal among all areas (Trees at the south side of the field created more issue with other crops as well)
  • plant onions seedlings of consistent size (When planting the first row of onions, I planted all of the onions no matter what size; as I saw that I would have more than enough, in the second, third and fourth replications, I chose a minimum size and planted those and larger.)
  • order plants and don't try to grow them yourself; you'll have the number you need without worrying.
  • order a storage onion variety
  • Get a jig!  Dibbling 4,000 holes is tiring and probably caused some shoulder trauma as well.  (Ideally, I'll find a way to make a "roller" with the dibbles spaced at 8" each.)
  • Put all the grain down at once in one area at 1" and do it fast.  SBG is really putrid smelling after a few days of hanging around.
  • Weed more regulary and when weeds are still small.  Pulling large weeds greatly upset the SBG and likely allowed more weeds to invade more quickly.
  • Keep a log of when the field was irrigated
All together, without including the harvest four of the plots (Row 1 SBG not weeded; Row 1 Straw not weeded, Row 4 Control not weeded; and Row 4 SBG not weeded) I harvested 846 Red Marble Cippolinis weighing a total of 79.79 lbs and 996 Ailsa Craig Exhibition Onions weightin 205.11 lbs.

Of note: when I started to harvest Row 4 Control (not weeded), it was obvious that the plants had no chance against the Pennyslvania Smart weed that engulfed them.  The few I had tried to harvest appeared to not change in size at all from when they were planted, and though it might seem pretty fruitless, I will harvest the rest of the treatment areas in the next few days.

Also of note were the large number and size of earthworms in the SBG areas. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weeding the treatments July 2012

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have spent a considerable amount of time weeding half of the treatment areas.   If only weeds were edible!  I have "harvested" over 482 lbs of weeds!  I was unable to weed the all of the treatment areas at one time, so I did it piecemeal and weeded on 6/24, 7/2, 7/7, 7/9 & 7/11.  Between my first weeding session on 6/24 and the next on 7/2 I completely forgot to count the weeds as I went.

Of note is that the treatment using spent brewer's grains yielded weeds of less diversity: mainly Pigweed, Purslane and Crabgrass; with the Pigweed and Purslane being extra large and succulent.  The control area had a much wider range of weed types, including: Pigweed, Purslane, Hairy Galinsoga, Field Pennycress, Chickweed, Henbit, Barren strawberry, & Bittercress.  The treatment area mulched with straw had some Pigweed, Purslane, but mostly Oats grass, which appeared to originate from the straw itself.

Also of note was that I saw lady bug nymphs here and there on the pigweed.  Also in the SBG treatment areas, the pigweed had a lot of wooly aphids...perhaps a result of the high nitrogen content contributing to the outrageous growth.  Insect pressure seemed fairly minimal, until the last session of weeding in the SBG treatment area, where the mosquitos were wild! (Cilantro geranium leaves work great to keep them away, so I rubbed my neck with them and stuck a couple of sprigs behind my ears.)

Weeding the SBG treatment areas really messed up the mulching, and also because the weeds were pretty closely spaced to the onions, the onions were often damaged in the process. This is especially true of the last weeding session on 7/7. Being unable to add more mulch, due to the density of the weeds in the area that will remain unweeded will probably mean that even more weeds will emerge.  I estimate that about 1/2" of SBG was put down in thesen treatment areas, and not the intended 1".  The weeds that are firmly established in these treatment plots that will remain unweeded will impair my ability to add any more to the SBG treatment areas at this time.  Oops!  The rate of weed growth is a consideration I didn't factor in.

I'm in un-chartered territory, so I have to cut myself a break for not thinking that adding mulch as I went would be a problem.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hot Stuff

Sunday, June 3.

Spent the entire day on Saturday going out to Long Ireland Brewery to pick up a bin of spent grain from the previous day's Celtic Ale 20 barrel brew session...a total of 1,200 lbs.  This was the amount of grain I needed to finish off the rest of the treatment plots that would use the spent grain as a mulch.

All set to start mulching Paul and I removed the tarp from the bin to find that the stuff was steaming.  It registered 110 f on a compost scale, so we decided it was best to pull some out and cool it off before applying it to the planting area.  All told, I mulched a total of 424 square feet with this last batch of grain.

Tremendous thanks goes to Dan and Greg from Long Ireland who supplied the grain last minute...depriving some east end farm animals of this weekly treat.  An equally big thank you goes to my friend Jen who helped me retrieve the bin with her trailer, and to Larry for helping us get it off with the forklift. 

Since starting to mulch two weeks ago, the plants are looking healthy and happy. 

To do: Post photos of the grain retrieval and the onions; measure the depth of the grain and continue to add to it to reach the intended 1"; start cultivating and mulching the other areas with straw and cultivating the beds without any treatment so that all get started with the equal number of weeds.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Let the Mulching Begin!

Wednesday, May 30.

Applied second batch of Wet Spent Brewers Grains (WSBG) today.  First a notes about the first mulching, which took place on Sunday 5/27.

Had about 56 gals worth of grain which covered 22 feet of the 40 feet I needed for the first replication.  Some observations:  Wet brewer's grain is stinky...especially as it ages.  The spacing of 8" was a blessing because it makes applying the grain much easier; closer spacing would have made it more difficult because I am trying hard to keep the grain away from the base of the onion plants by about a half inch. 

Some calculations:  The brewer used 165 lbs of dry grain to brew a Belgian Style Beer on Monday 5/21, that yielded approximately 214.5 lbs of WSBG (a 30% increase from dry weight).  This amount of grain yielded approximately 55 gallons of WSBG.  This was the first batch of grain I used to mulch.

The second batch of grain was from a Hefeweizen and 220 lbs dry grain yielded about 286 lbs WSBG...about 66 gallons of WSBG.

Application of the grain is manual.  I suspect a smart farmer with mechanization could find a way to apply it with a tractor, but hand mulching is my method.

Because I'm working to get everything mulched with the grain first, I opted to start mulching the second replication rather than finishing the first. I also wanted to see what type of area this amount of mulch will cover.  Consistent application is difficult, but the first batch of WSBG (214.5 lbs) mulched 22 feet, which equaled 9.75 lbs per foot.  The second batch of WSBG (286 lbs) mulched 32 feet which equaled 8.9375 lbs per foot.

The brewer I am getting grains from is small (nano, actually), so I am now looking to source more grain from larger breweries in the area so I that the mulching can be done in relatively close proximity. 

The depth of grain is approximately 1/2 inch, and I will be adding to it as time goes on to attain a 1" high mulch

I am hoping to mulch with Straw this weekend and have all mulched areas completed by June 9.

After mulching both areas, I am running the overhead irrigation system for 45 minutes to settle the mulch down and to minimize the smell, which smells something like puke. Fun!

Soil samples were taken before planting, but I have yet to send them in.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

10, 6, 2

Those are the planting distances on a measuring tape for 8" spaced onions.  Started to plant today for the SARE Farmer's Grant and will finish tomorrow.  Started with a jig, but soon realized it was too hard to use it for the amount of linear footage that needed planting.  Instead, resorted to laying lines, and dibbling with a long tool handle the distances along the line.  Having done this already several times, I knew a pattern would emerge.

Not the only change today; committed to planting two types of onions rather than two shallots and two cippolini.  Reason prevailed: getting an equal distribution of 4 different varieties, not to mention accommodating for 6 different plant ages was a logistical nightmare.  Couple that with the real possibility that I still would not have had enough with the Shallot/Cippolini mix to encompass the entire proposed area.

So, the winners are: Ailsa Craig Exhibition Onion and Red Marble Cippolini's from Johnny's.  The switch will allow me to compare small vs. large onions under a wet spent brewer's grain mulch.

Planting moon tonight: and one that is at perigee, so it will be an interesting anecdotal side study to see if the moon has any effect on plant development.