Can you count the times your kids have pushed away a plate full of vegetables with a “yucky” expression on their faces? We have news for you: you are not the only parent facing this problem. In fact, it is highly likely your mother had a couple of similar situations with you. The easiest thing to do would be to let your children eat sweets, burgers, and everything else they want, but parenthood is not easy. Your priority is to keep them healthy, so you will need to use all the tricks in the book to get them to eat food that is good for them. Here are a few foolproof tricks.Read More
We've got the first round of plantings done in our brand-new apple orchard! Last week we planted Honeycrisp and Jonemac trees sourced from the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District in Watertown.Read More
The snow and ice are sadly not entirely receded from Better Farm's property, but we're thinking Spring as we get plants started in the main house and greenhouses. We're also germinating seeds that will grow into plants exclusively for Redwood's Food Pantry and dispersed to individuals and families in need.
|Sweet potato squash!|
Look at all this beauty!
|Organic, heirloom tomatoes: perfect for sauces, salads, sandwiches, and more!|
|Tomatoes, onions (red, white, yellow), garlic|
|White Scallop Squash|
- Apples (heirloom)
- Borage (edible flowers, great as garnishes)
- Elderberries (frozen)
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Cucumbers
- Oregano (giant red, standard)
- Soybeans (Edamame)
- String Beans
- Sweet Potato Squash
- Swiss Chard
- Wheat Grass
- White Scallop Squash
Fermentation expert Paul Jennings will teach attendees basic fermentation principles and discuss various methods for wine- and beer-making. Students will gain hands-on experience creating their own batch of blueberry wine with blueberries picked locally.
Each participant is invited to take a bottle of blueberry wine home for aging (wine may be picked up at Better Farm several weeks after the class, when bottling has occurred).
The cost for this class is $10. Pre-register by emailing email@example.com. If you would like to participate in the picking of local, wild blueberries, please let us know! There will be a picking field trip scheduled several days prior to the workshop.
Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road in Redwood. To see a complete listing of upcoming workshops and events, visit www.betterfarm.org/upcoming-workshops.
|Seedlings and seeds enjoy some fresh air on (yet another) rainy spring day.|
With evenings just starting to offer the sustained warmth necessary to harden seedlings off in the greenhouse, we've been getting the babies ready for the great outdoors by exposing them to the elements during daylight hours on the back deck. This late season hasn't reaked any havoc yet in regard to the health of our preemies—but it has certainly been inconvenient! Usually by this time of year, all the plants are living full-time in the greenhouse, potatoes are in the ground, and we're starting in on onions. Regardless; here are some photos of all the activity afoot:
|Asparagus heads poke up out of the wet soil out back.|
|Tomato seedlings reach for the sky.|
|A preview of what's to come: eggplant, celery, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, and cauliflower make their grand entrances.|
Our CSA begins today; but there are still spaces left if you'd like to sign up for weekly shares of fresh produce throughout the season. We also offer amended CSAs to those who are only in the North Country on weekends; or those who would like a bulk rate on what's in-season but can't commit to a weekly pickup. Our updated list of produce this season:
To join Better Farm's CSA and enjoy a weekly share of fresh produce all season long, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.betterfarm.org/csa.
|Squash trellis image from Pinterest.|
Trellises solve this problem completely by taking these plants up off of the ground. Even for heavier plants like hubbard squash and pumpkins, low trellises at least provide a guide for vines so they're not just tangled piles on your garden floor.
Below are instructions for trellis construction (gleaned from the amazing Instructables site); you can modify the height of the trellis as your needs require.
The goal of this project was to create a trellis that is sturdy and inexpensive for the amount of crops that can be grown and that allows a lot of air flow, sunlight, and easy access for picking fruit and maneuvering the vines. Although we did this for tomatoes, this trellis isn't limited to that particular crop. Just imagine this thing covered in cucumbers and sweet peas!
- 1 1/4"x10' UV resistant electrical pvc pipe (x3)
- 3/4"x10' UV resistant electrical pvc pipe with connectable ends (x10)
- PVC plumbing adhesive
- 3'x50' Galvanized welded wire fence (x2)
- Pack of rebar ties
- Measuring tape
- Wire cutters
- Sledge hammer
- Scrap piece of 2x4
- Prep the soil for growing your crop.
- Glue 2 lengths of the 3/4" pipe together (repeat 4 more times to get five 20' long pipes) and allow to cure for 24 hours.
- Cut the 1 1/4" pipe to 2 1/2' lengths.
- Measure a 10' by 7' area and create line guides making sure to square the corners.
- At 2' intervals along the long side of the measured area, pound the 1 1/4" pipe into the ground using a piece of 2x4 for cushioning so as not to damage the pipe.
- Insert the 3/4" pipe into the 1 1/4" pipes creating the hoop.
- Span the wire fence over the hoops and attach the fence to the pipe using rebar ties.
- Plant your vegetables or ornamentals or whatever! Have fun and enjoy!
|An afternoon harvest from last fall.|
Weekly share amounts fluctuate in accordance with what is in-season. In May, a share may only consist of some salad greens and asparagus; while a share in October will include artichokes, tomatoes, greens, herbs, Swiss chard, potatoes, flowers, pumpkins, leeks, and much much more.
- $250/individual (roughly $8/week)
- $450/couple (roughly $14.50/week)
- $800/family of four (roughly $25/week)
- ______$100 Summer Weekender (weekends only June 1-Sept. 1)
- _____ $150 Weekender (weekends only May 1-mid-November
- ______$250/individual (roughly $8/week)
- _____$450/couple (roughly $14.50/week)
- _____$800/family of four (roughly $25/week)
|Image from Etsy.|
Better Farm plans to increase access to fresh, locally produced foods for community residents in and
How It Works
- Vegetarian (with or without packaged goods, checking all that apply: maple syrup, jams/jellies, lotions/salves, fibers/yarns, dairy products, eggs)
- Omnivorous (with or without packaged goods, checking all that apply: maple syrup, jams/jellies, lotions/salves, fibers/yarns, dairy products, eggs)
What It Does
- Reducing pollution from vehicles going to and from several supermarkets to get groceries
- Reducing pollution associated with the import-export of produce, meat, dairy products, and eggs
- Shifting demand from large-scale agricultural practices to more sustainable, family operations
- Encouraging local farmers to employ sustainable, organic practices
- Encouraging consumers to eat more nutritious food that sustains healthy lifestyles in the long-term
- Educating children (and adults!) in the community to make healthier food choices and to enjoy a larger diversity of products in their diets
|Image from Scenic Reflections.|
If your strawberries live in garden beds, simply cover them up with a few inches of straw or leaves for the winter. Wait until the ground is fully cooled off and your plants are done growing for the year. Then give them a nice, thick layer of mulch. This does double duty; protecting the fruits from frigid winters, and providing great compost material for your soil. Be sure to check on the plants a few times over the winter to make sure freezing and thawing hasn't forced them up. If so, tamp them back down, water, and add more straw or leaves.
Strawberries that are growing in pots should be placed somewhere cold but not frozen. An unheated garage is a great place to store the fruits for the winter, but you'll need some sort of insulation to ensure your strawberry plants don't freeze solid. Don't worry about the lack of light, as the strawberry plants will be dormant and won't need any light. Just be sure to add water every few weeks to ensure the roots don't dry out. You can also plant your strawberries in the ground for the winter, utilizing the straw-as-insulation approach outlined above.
One of the best ways is to over-winter container strawberries is to put the pot in a larger container and insulate the space between with leaves or straw. Or, place the container on the ground next to a heated wall and ideally out of the winter wind. Insulate the exposed sides of the container with mulch, leaves or straw. Or just bury the container. The surrounding soil will insulate the roots over winter. Then dig up and hose down the container next spring.
Please don't try taking your strawberries inside to continue growing as houseplants! Strawberries need a dormant season in order to trigger a new round of growth in the spring for fruiting.
|Image from www.thisiscolossal.com|
After inserting the strongest plant starts into your hydroponic system, your tomato plants will begin to produce fruit within 60 days. Make sure you plan ahead and have an appropriate support system for your tomato plants. Tomatoes are a soft-tissue vining plant that requires a lot of support. Without a trellis or support stakes, the stems of your plants will most likely break under the weight of the tomato fruits.
Although spacing will depend on the particular variety that you are growing, typically tomato plants should be spaced about 18 to 24 inches apart. However, you can place the plants closer together if you train the vines appropriately to allow enough room for the fruits to develop. Vertical hydroponic systems such as the Bio-Tower are especially well suited to growing vining plants like tomatoes since the vines can easily hang off the sides of the growing containers.
Tomatoes like a lot of light but can thrive with as little as seven hours of sunlight per day. However, tomatoes in too much strong direct sunlight may eventually show signs of heat stress.
Ideally the temperature for tomatoes should remain between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 55 to 65 degrees during the nighttime.
As a fruit-producing plant, most tomato varieties require relatively high levels of phosphorous and potassium. A typical hydroponic nutrient solution for tomatoes has a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Tomatoes may also require a calcium supplement since the creation of fruit uses significant amounts of this secondary nutrient. However, make sure to follow the instructions for your particular brand of nutrients before adding any supplements to your reservoir.
After approximately 60 days, you should begin to have tomatoes that are large enough to harvest. Although there are many different varieties, most tomatoes turn red when they become ripe. You can pick off immature fruits and blossoms to maximize the size of the remaining fruits. You can also increase your harvest by “suckering” your tomato plants. “Suckering” is simply removing internodal branches that are not producing fruit. This encourages the plant to devote more nutrients to the branches that are producing fruit.
Pests and Diseases
Tomatoes are susceptible to a variety of plant diseases; including tobacco mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, and various other mildews and fungi. Tomato plants require significant amounts of calcium for fruit development so blossom end rot is another common problem that growers encounter. Common pests include the cutworm, aphids, and the tomato hornworm. Check with your local garden supplier to find the best pest prevention treatments for your particular environment. Remember, birds, squirrels, and deer will also eat tomatoes if they can get access.
Better Farm's gardens are virtually overrun with more zucchini, cucumber, string bean, pumpkin, lettuce, kale, artichoke, onion, you-name-it than we can shake the proverbial stick at. Kristen and I picked 50-plus-pounds of veggies in about 20 minutes the other day:
|Kristen shows off the string bean harvest.|
|String beans, zukes, tomatoes, leeks, broccoli, tomatoes, Swiss chard, and kale.|
|Smoothie made from apples, raspberries, Swiss chard, kale, wheat grass, peaches, and cantaloupe.|
Contact Better Farm at email@example.com to schedule a pick-up, tour, or set up a CSA program until the snow starts to fly!
One of our favorite heirloom produce items is the tomato; and each year, we have a bunch of different fruits to choose from that we'd love to duplicate. This autumn, we're selecting some of the best-looking tomatoes and extricating the seeds so that we can grow the plants indoors in a new hydroponics setup (more about that to come!).
Here are some very easy-to-follow instructions for harvesting your own tomato seeds, gleaned from Garden Web:
You may have brought home a particularly delicious tomato from the supermarket, or gotten an heirloom tomato from a Farmer's Market, or grown one in your own garden that is so wonderful you want to save the seeds from it and grow them next year. Nothing ever tastes quite as good as a home-grown tomato!
So, how do you save the seeds? The method is easy to do....it's a little gloppy, and it's a little funky, but you'll be able to save seeds in a manner that will lesson the occurence of tomato disease while giving you plenty of seeds to germinate, and with left-overs to share or trade. This seed saving process is a process of fermentation.
Select to save seeds from a tomato that has a flavor that you love....if you're a home gardener and saving seeds from tomatoes that are growing in your garden choose tomatoes from the very healthiest-looking plants.
Take your chosen tomato and slice it in half across the middle (its "equator"). With a spoon or your well-washed fingers scoop out the seeds and their gelatinous "goo" into a clean cup or container. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the seeds.
Cover the container with a piece of plastic-wrap and then poke the plastic-wrap with a paring knife or pen point to put a small hole in it...this is to allow for air-transpiration. (A little fresh air needs to get in and out of the cup to help foster fermentation.)
Place the container of seeds in a warm location; a sunny windowsill or the top of the refrigerator are both excellent sites to place the container of seeds. Now Mother Nature will take over and begin to ferment the seed and water mixture. This takes about two or three days. Each night remove the plastic-wrap, stir the seed and water mixture, and then replace the plastic-wrap, if you use a new sheet of plastic-wrap then don't forget to put a small hole in it for air-transpiration. The top of the liquid will look "scummy" when the fermentation process has seperated the "goo" from the seeds. It also helps destroy many of the possible tomato diseases that can be harbored by seeds.
Take the container of fermented seeds to the sink and with a spoon carefully remove the scummy surface. Then pour the container's contents into a fine kitchen sieve and rinse the seeds with water several times...stir them while they're in the sieve to assure that all surfaces are thoroughly rinsed. Give a few sharp taps to the sieve to help remove as much loose water as possible from the seeds.
Line an open plate with a piece of waxed paper or a large automatic-drip coffee filter. Place the rinsed seeds onto the wax paper or coffee filter and spread them about so they are in a single layer. Place the plate in a safe location where the seeds can dry for a few days. Stir the seeds a few times during the drying process to assure that all their surfaces are evenly dry. Spread them out again into a single layer after each time you've stirred them. Tomato seeds are thick and can take up to a week to dry thoroughly. If you're having a rainy week that drying time may lengthen by a few days.
How do I know when the seeds are dry?
Dried seeds move quickly and easily across a plate, they do not stick to each other.
How do I store them?
I like paper packets or some folks like plastic. Whichever envelope style you choose is a matter of personal preferance. If you choose to store your seeds in plastic the seeds must be BONE DRY....otherwise any moisture in the seeds will be transferred to all seeds inside the plastic packet, it will foster mildew and rotting and the seeds will be ruined.
How do I label them?
Tomatoes are generally self-pollinated so there is rarely a chance of cross-breeding. If you save and trade your seeds you might wish to describe your trade offering as "open-pollinated" tomato seeds. That way the trader knows that Mother Nature was solely involved in the fertilization of the flower which produced the tomato that you have saved seeds from.
Onto the packet write the tomato variety name (if you know it) or a very good description if you don't, add the term "open-pollinated" if you're sharing or trading your tomato seeds, and also add the current year to the packet description.
And that's that! Do enjoy saving tomato seeds and growing your own tomatoes at home from them. Home-saved tomato seeds are a wonderful gift to tuck into a holiday card for when you want to add a "little something extra", or to share with friends and neighbors.