Chris and I looked out the kitchen window yesterday morning to see this little critter watching us eat our breakfast! Kinda gives the definition of “people watching” a whole different meaning. Actually, I think what this fella was really wanting us to know is that he was waiting patiently for his own breakfast. You can see that the feeders behind him are empty. Guess I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain:)
Last week a wildfire erupted about 6 miles from the farm, just on the other side of Cooper Mountain (which you can see there in the distance from our driveway). The fire is being called Eight Mile Fire and it is burning off of Phantom Canyon, which is the drainage to the east of us. This wildfire is burning in very rugged country and near to a State Wildlife Park called Beaver Creek. It is an area we like to hike in during the winter or late fall when the rattlesnakes are not out! Anyway, the fire, as of today, is 25% contained, but we are having very high winds and temps in the 90’s…not good fire-fighting weather. Dry lightning is in the forecast for the next couple of days, which is a bit worrisome, however, tomorrow we are also to have temps in the 70’s, which should help quite a bit in the work they are doing to get that fire under control. Our farm is safe, in large part because of Cooper Mountain being between us and the wildfire.
The past two years have been extra challenging for us in terms of finding a good soil/media mix to grow our plants in the greenhouse. In the past, I have grown in Sungro Organic #2 Basic, and I’ve been growing in that brand of soil for decades. I like it a lot!, but it is super expensive.
Oh, for those that may not know, greenhouse “soil” is actually called media, even though we still refer to it as soil. It actually is a mix of ingredients that does not contain any true soil, but rather things like shredded wood bark, perlite, peat moss, coir, and the like. It is good for potted plant growing because it is lighter than soil, typically drains better, and doesn’t have weed seeds, etc.
Anyway, two years ago we tried another mix that we thought would be similar in how it behaved for growing quality plants, but it was more reasonably priced. It did ok, but had some significant challenges that we couldn’t find a solution to, so this past year we switched again to another mix that we thought would do well, and which contained mycorrhizae, which helps plants develop a good root structure and be less susceptible to fungal and other problems. In an ideal world, we would have found an ideal media in this mix to grow in this year, but it was not to be so. This mix has even more challenges and again they do not seem to have a solution. What is the answer to the situation is still not decided, however, we are leaning very strongly to going back to the Sungro mix, which we know performs well.
Now the question revolves around which formulation of Sungro do I want to grow in. #2 Organic Basic is what I’m used to and have used for many years. They also have a mix that never used to be available as organic, but now is, called #4. This is the same mix except with more perlite added to it so that it drains even better. That mix might be the one I choose. But just to keep things interesting, they have come out with another mix that has coir(shredded coconut fibers) added to it and it will require less watering, plus this mix uses less peat moss in the blend making it more environmentally friendly. I really like that part, but I’m not sure it will drain well enough for some of the crops we grow like tomatoes. Tomatoes are notoriously fussy about drainage in the early spring when temps are still cold and too much water on the roots can cause problems. Sungro has said that they can custom blend for us to add mycorrhizae to their blends, so that might be the answer to getting that ingredients, which we really like having, into the soil and available to the plants.
Decisions, decisions, decisions! So, Lizz and I have set up a trail of all three blends to see which one we feel will do the best job for us with the variety of plants and pot sizes that we grow in. Below are tomato plugs for Red Robin Tomatoes planted in the mixes.
We do some large patio containers in spring of vegetables for our Farm Stand customers, so I’ve planted some peppers in these pots to see how they will like the various mixes. Tomorrow we will sow seeds in plug flats and transplant some seedlings into 2.5″ pots (which is what we offer mostly for our wholesale customers), plus we will take some tip cuttings to be rooted and see how all these various sizes and plant varieties do.
I order our soil for the whole year in August, so I want to have a sound plan of action well before then. Sungro will cost the farm a lot more if we go back to growing in one of these mixes, but compared to struggling with growing challenges it may end up being cost affective all the same. We’ll see.
Another project that I did this week was to put permanent copper metal tags on our fruit trees and grape vines here on the farm. We have had them all labeled with plastic tags and handwritten names, but over time the writing fades away or the plastic tags deteriorate in the sun and then you are left with the possibility of not remembering the name of the tree or vine variety that is planted in that spot. Plus, it is just really nice when visitors are walking about on the farm for them to be able to read the names of the fruit trees, most of which are heirloom varieties, or grapes, some of which are wine grape varieties. These tags will hold up to the weather and will give our trees a permanent name marker.
I think we have enough of the tags left to mark some of the other trees and interesting shrubs that we have growing on the farm too, so next week I plan to make labels for those and put them on the plants.
The other nice bit of information that I put on some of the tags is the year that tree/vine was planted. Our older orchard was planted in 2006, and the new heirloom orchard was planted this year in 2014, so that information is reflected on the tag.
Well, I’ve run out of stuff to say for the moment. That must mean that it is time to close for now. I’ll be back in touch soon.