Monthly Archives: January 2010


I finally did it: I removed the annuals that we planted in August. We all wondered how well they would do and how long they would last into winter. Turns out, I will not be planting hot season annuals at the end of summer again! While we did finally see plenty of ripe and delicious tomatoes, it simply took too long. The plants were stressed, which invited disease. My last post featured some questions about timing; I have decided that what we need to do is focus on growing crops that can take the cold during the cold season, rather than fighting it and then worrying about it when the inevitable comes. Go with the flow: that’s a permaculture anthem, right?

Now what we’ll research is when to seed the winter crops, and when to start the summer crops, and of course the fall and spring crops of fast growing salad mixes. I’m finding out just how slow seeds are to germinate in the short days of winter. The possibility of using a grow light has been raised. This is a viable option, but seems to go against some of our goals. I’m hoping to get the timing down so we have continuous crops; it just may mean seeding our winter crop in August or September, so the plants are big by the time the depths of winter roll in.

Currently, we have seedlings of broccoli, peas, kale, and beets, as well as basil, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and chives. The cool season annuals will likely be our winter staples, along with plenty of salad greens. The herbs are perennials except for basil, so we can plant them outside and inside, except rosemary which won’t take the cold outside.

I direct seeded mini onions, spinach, a lettuce mix, cilantro, mache, and more arugula this week, after spending some quality time with our pile of composted sheep manure. It’s more of an igloo of manure now, as the outer foot or so of the pile did not thaw, and so I had to dig into the inner depths to find some that I could bring in. With this addition as well as the topsoil that Deano stockpiled out the west door, the soil in the raised beds seems to be improving. Texture and color are both progressing away from “construction soil” and towards “garden soil”.

I am being conscious of rotating our crops, as we did seem to have a small problem with disease. I think rotation and proper watering will be crucial. This will need to be carefully monitored once we turn the irrigation back on.

Our spring seeds are arriving, so I’m trying to hurry up the winter crops. They don’t listen well, though. A little sun would help! Luckily we have heat mats and floating cloth covers. We need to get them planted up, out of the 4″ pots and into the beds, so we have room to germinate the new seeds on the shelves.

Unfortunately, the other two dwarf bananas are showing signs of cold damage. I cut them back, as I did the other dwarf. I’m hopeful that the banana growth cycle will prove resilient; they are rhizomes, with about an 8 month growth cycle. I think new shoots may appear soon, as it warms up. Growing all summer should give them the time they need to complete cycles. We’ll see. Oddly, the large banana seems to be doing just fine, as do our other exotic perennials.

All in all, we’ve been pretty busy these past weeks. We are really trying to gear up for a busy summer, making sure everything’s in place and ready to roll when spring returns. Hopefully, I’ll be getting dirty and we’ll be selling produce every week.

Beautiful and tasty edible flowers!
This was part of our very first sale, to Giovanni’s, for their special New Year’s Eve dinner.

The new year finds us here at Elkstone already thinking ahead to the warm and productive months of spring. We have been watching our cool season annuals grow bigger, planting them up into 4″ pots, hopefully to be planted into the raised beds of the greenhouse in a few weeks. Meanwhile, we’re picking the seeds for our next crop. Most of these we will start indoors, to be transplanted to the raised beds, as well as to some new gardens outside, hopefully. We also will likely be direct- sowing outdoors.

Timing in the greenhouse is emerging as an issue which we are all unfamiliar with. We are learning how long different crops produce in here and what can take the cool temps we’ve seen; but when to remove them to make room for the next is a question that needs to be examined.

Also, some of the perennials are showing signs of damage from the cold. I don’t believe it’s a cause for great alarm, but it is an issue that I’ll keep in mind the next time -20 weather rolls in. We’ve discussed measures to help combat the chill, including covering with cloth, and even heat lamps. I will definitely be ordering some large sheets of crop cover to use in here when the next sub-zero blast blows down.

Our deciduous trees (pomegranate, figs, papayas, jujube, mango, guava, lychee) have gone into dormancy, which is good, though it was a bit alarming when leaves started to drop. One of our four bananas I had to cut back; this should be OK as bananas grow from a rhizome, which is presumably surviving well in our warm soil. I hope to see a new shoot emerging in a few weeks.

I am seeing evidence of a fungal wilt, which I have been addressing by minimizing watering; warmer temperatures should help eliminate this as well. I believe that this is a common greenhouse problem that we will see again, but I’m a worrier, and so have been drying the soil, amending it as I can, removing unhealthy plants and throwing the greenery in the trash rather than compost, and adding gypsum. The gypsum will also help improve drainage, lower the pH and equalize some of the nutrients and minerals which we have in abundance (phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, iron, copper, and boron). I think we’re lucky to have such rich soil, but in some cases, it may be too rich for some plants or seedlings.

After the last release of beneficial insects, I have not seen many pest insects.

We are in the process of choosing and ordering seeds for the spring/summer crop. I’m curious to see how this next chapter in farm life unfolds!