Southern SAWG - Intensive vegetable production on a small scale - Pam Dawling


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Intensive Crop Production on a Small Scale — Many farmers raise large amounts of food on small acreages. Learn about methods for close spacing, wide beds, using season extension techniques, soil-building, disease and pest management, and dealing with humidity and heat issues in crowded plantings. Presenters will also discuss developing a marketing plan to inform a planting guide and maximize profits. For both rural and urban farmers who want to maximize production on limited space. Pam Dawling, Twin Oaks Community (VA) and Edwin Marty, Hampstead Institute

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  • Fertility Management – slide deleted:Keep a diverse soil biology. Feed the soil microorganisms and they can feed the crops. Prevent erosion and runoff, avoid leaving bare soil. In hot humid climates, the breakdown of plant material in the soil is very quick, so find as many ways as possible to replenish it.Compost adds nitrates, stable carbon-containing humus, a diversity of minerals reflecting the varied ingredients, and beneficial bacteria and fungi, in a mixture which slowly provides balanced food for the soil, improves the soil structure, and can inoculate plants against disease by inducing systemic acquired resistance.Cover crops improve OM, crumb structure, increase the moisture-holding ability, porosity and drainage. Leguminous cover crops provide N and, if densely planted and turned under at the early flowering stage, may be all the nitrogen the next crop needs. Organic mulches, mainly straw and spoiled hay, add OM while reducing weed growth. Using a lot of hay mulch will eventually increase potassium levels, even into the very high level, so watch your soil test scores if you tend towards high K.Soil amendments – get soil pH and nutrients tested every year or two, at the same time of year, same company.Mycorrhizal fungi can be purchasedLiquid Fertilizers can be made from compost or plants, or products made from seaweed and fish can be purchasedOrganic fertilizers can be purchased, such as seed meals, dried composted poultry manure and worm castings, if you need more than you can produce on your farm.An above-ground biomass of 4000 lb/acre (4480 kg/hectare) of cool-season legumes can provide 60 lb/ac (67 kg/ha) of nitrogen.
  • Carrots provide the same maximum yield at very different densities. The weight of tiny carrots from very crowded beds can be the same as the weight of giant carrots from carefully cultivated and thinned beds (or from precision-sown pelleted seed).
  • Red root pigweed is a “Big Bang” weed — the plant grows for a long time, and then all its seeds ripen at once as it starts dying. Most seeds come from a few large plants — pigweed monsters that mature late in summer can shed four hundred thousand seeds! Pulling the largest 10 percent of the weeds can reduce seed production by 90 percent or better.“Seed dribblers” like galinsoga, mature seed while still quite small plants, shed some, make some more, and can carry on for a long seed-shedding season. Galinsoga seeds are short-lived and germinate only near the soil surface, but velvetleaf seeds can lie dormant for years deepin the subsoil and germinate whenever they are brought close to the surface.
  • Southern SAWG - Intensive vegetable production on a small scale - Pam Dawling

    1. 1. Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale ©Pam Dawling 2013 Twin Oaks Community, Central Virginia Author of Sustainable Market Farming Published by New Society
    2. 2. Starting Your Plants Photo Kathryn Simmons• Choose high-yielding varieties suited to your climate, budget, certification and market (smooth or savoyed? OPs or hybrids?)• Buy seeds or starts? Is what you want available as plants? Do you need Organic? Is the price worthwhile? Money vs labor.• Direct sowing or transplanting? Do you have the equipment to grow transplants? (germination chamber, greenhouse, heat)
    3. 3. Direct Seeding Photo Kathryn Simmons • Pros – Less work – Better drought tolerance – roots grow without damage – Some crops don’t transplant easily – Some crops have millions of plants! (Carrots) • Cons – Uses more seed, more money – Occupies the land longer – Maybe harder to get started in cold (or hot) conditions
    4. 4. Getting the best from direct sowing Viable seed, not too old Good soil conditions lead to even germination: tilth (size of particles), moisture Decide by soil temperature, not calendar. New Seed Starter’s Handbook. Correct depth and sowing density Good seed contact with soil: tamp lightly Good tools: Earthway, precision seeders, hoes, jab planters for large seeds, tractor seed drills.• Photo Bridget Aleshire
    5. 5. Transplanting Pros – Can start seed in more ideal conditions in greenhouse, better germination, more fun! – Can start earlier than outside, get earlier harvests – Easier to care for new seedlings in a greenhouse – Protected plants grow quicker – Can select sturdiest plants, compost the rest – More flexibility if weather turns bad. Plants still grow! – Fit more crops into the season – Use time windows for quick cover crops – Save on seed costs Cons – Need to plan and schedule Photo Kathryn Simmons
    6. 6. Getting the best from transplanting Open flats, plug trays, soil blocks, bare root plants. Roots need space. Transplant shock is less for plants with plentiful root systems, and harvest starts sooner. Seed compost: fine texture, enough nutrients, good water-holding and drainage capacity. Good pH, enough P Use a soil thermometer, not a calendar, to decide when to plant out tender plants. At 65°F (19°C), tomatoes and sweet potatoes can be planted. 70°F (21°C) is better for peppers and melons. Don’t rush! Measure and mark the correct spacing: tractor equipment, rolling dibbles, row marker rake, measuring sticks and triangles, width of the hand, span of finger and thumb. Ideal conditions for transplanting are mild windless afternoons and evenings just before (or during!) light steady rain. Transplanting late in the day gives the plant the chance to recover during the cooler night hours when the rate water loss is slower. Shadecloth or rowcover can be used to reduce the drying effects of wind and sun. Don’t assume they’ll make it hotter!
    7. 7. Hardening off (or not)• Most starts need to be hardened off before planting out in the field.• Move the plants to a transitional zone - a coldframe or a shade house, with conditions midway between outdoors and the greenhouse.• Hardening off requires lower temperatures (for most crops) with greater fluctuations, more breezes and more direct sunlight.• Less watering can be part of hardening off, (but not for brassicas, lettuce).• Avoid sudden changes, as stress may cause permanent damage.• Plants respond by reducing the size and number of their stomata and by developing a sturdier stem, a thicker leaf, perhaps with a wax coating.• Slower growth causes the plants to store carbohydrates, which feed regrowth after transplanting.• Move the plants out to the coldframe when weather conditions are mild, and use lids or rowcovers to moderate the microclimate for the first several days.• Or keep the plants on a cart and move it outside in the daytime, in at night.
    8. 8. Transplant age and sizeVegetable Notes Ideal Age at TransplantingCucumbers, melons, squash 2 true leaves max (maybe less) 3–4 weeksWatermelons (older is OK) 3–4 weeksSweet Corn 3–4 weeksTomatoes age is less important 4–8 weeksLettuce 4–7 weeksBrassicas 5 true leaves is ideal 6–8 weeks spring/ 3–4 weeks summerPeppers & eggplant 4 or 5 true leaves, not yet flowering 6–8 weeksOnions (spring sown) & leeks 10–12 weeksCelery 10–12 weeks
    9. 9. Transplanting depth o Deeper planting seems to reduce wind stress on young plants. o Plant to the depth of the first true leaves - increases yields of many crops. Often this is deeper than the plant was in the flat. o Some plants (tomatoes) grow extra roots along the buried stem. o But, soil is cooler deeper down, and this may not be a good thing for warm- weather plants. e.g. sweet potatoes and tomatoes o So - plant in a shallow horizontal or diagonal trench. Bury much of the stem in the soil, increasing the growth of extra roots and protecting the plant against wind damage, while keeping the roots in the warmer soil near the surface. Photo Kathryn Simmons
    10. 10. Water is Vital for Transplants! Damp soil is important before, during and after transplanting. Water your plants an hour before transplanting, and then also well after planting. If necessary, in very dry weather, water the field ahead of planting, either with overhead sprinklers or drip irrigation right on the planting row. Set out drip tape with emitters at the chosen crop spacing, water for twenty minutes before planting, and then plant directly into the wet spots. No other measuring is needed. When setting out a large number of plants, I recommend most people water every twenty to thirty minutes, regardless of the number of plants set out. Water the transplants the next day, on days three, seven and ten after planting, and then weekly after that.Photo credit Luke Stovall
    11. 11. Irrigation – which method?Overhead Sprinklers Drip irrigation • Greatly reduces the amount of• cheap to buy water used• easier to understand • waters only the crop, not the weeds between the rows• in some circumstances they do • Reduces likelihood of foliar a better job, for instance when diseases in dryish climates you need to water in a • can run on timers broadcast cover crop or closely • Once set up, less gear to move drilled rows before watering • Can water large areas at once• can help cool crops in hot • can be used to mark spots for weather transplants• can help prevent frost damage • Tape can be wound up and re- used• Can run overnight • Old tape can be used to batten• Use less plastics hoophouse plastic
    12. 12. Crop Spacing Goals  Yield is related to plant density. Balance point at which the plant density provides the maximum total yield. Some plants will be too small to use, that’s taken into account when calculating yield.  Area per plant is the important bit, not particular row spacing.  Crop size (do customers want big carrots or small carrots?)  Disease control (humidity and molds)  Preferred layout (beds with equidistant plants, or rows). For large plants such as okra or eggplant, it makes more sense to plant a single row in a bed and have the plants close together in that row, forming a “hedge.” It is easier to cultivate plants that are 2 feet (60 cm) apart in 5-foot (150-cm) rows than plants at an equal spacing of 30 inches (76 cm) in all directions — an eggplant jungle!  Ease of cultivation (tractor equipment, hoes, horses) and irrigation Photo of Morris Heading Collards by Kathryn Simmons
    13. 13. Optimal Crop Spacing for Various GoalsCrop Row spacing In-row spacing NotesBeets 7" (18 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early harvest 12" (30 cm) 1" (2.5 cm) For max total yield (small). 2" (5 cm) for bigger beetsBeans, fava 18" (45 cm) 4.5" (11 cm) For tall varieties.Beans, green 18" (45 cm) 2" (5 cm) 12" (30cm) × 3" (7.5 cm) gives the same area/plantBroccoli (Calabrese) 12" (30cm) 6" (15 cm) For equal amounts of heads and side shootsCabbage 14" (35 cm) 14" (35 cm) For small heads 18" (45 cm) 18" (45 cm) For large headsCarrots 6" (15 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early crops, limiting competition 6" (15 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For maincrop, medium size rootsCelery 11" (28 cm) 11" (28 cm) For high yields and mutual blanchingCucumber (pickling) 20" (51 cm) 3" (8 cm)Leeks 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) Max yield of hilled up leeks, average sizeLettuce 9" (23 cm) 8" (20 cm) Early crops under cover 12" (30 cm) 12" (30 cm) Head lettuce 5" (13 cm) 1" (2.5 cm) Baby lettuce mixOnions 12" (30 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For medium size bulbs 12" (30 cm) 0.5" (1 cm) For boiling, pickling, kebabsParsnips 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) For high yields of large roots 7.5" (19 cm) 3" (8 cm) For smaller rootsPeas, shelling 18" (46 cm) 4.5" (11.5 cm) Can sow in double or triple bands, 4.5" (11.5 cm) apartPotatoes 30" (76 cm) 9-16" (23–41 cm) Depends on size of seed pieces; small pieces closerSweet Corn 30-36" (76–90 cm) 8" (20 cm) Closer than 8" (20 cm) the plants shade each other.Tomatoes, bush types 19" (48 cm) 19" (48 cm) For early cropsWatermelon 66" (168 cm) 12–24" (30–60 cm) For small varieties. 5–10 ft2 (0.5–1 m2) each 66" (168 cm) 30–84" (76–215 cm) For large varieties. 13–40 ft2 (1.2–3.7 m2) each
    14. 14. Biointensive Integrated Pest ManagementFour steps of IPM:1. prevention (reduce chance ofproblems) Carrot pest damage photo by Jessie Doyle2. avoidance, Zipper spider on tomato, photo by Wren Vile3. monitoring (is action needed?)4.Suppression (least toxic solution)See the handout for more details
    15. 15. Sustainable Disease ManagementDiseases need• a susceptible host,• the presence of a pathogen,• suitable environmental conditions.Plant pathogens can be• soil-borne,• foliar-borne,• seed-borne,• a combination of seed-borne with one of the others.See the handout for more details of these types and of the Biointensive IPM steps
    16. 16. Bio-intensive Disease IPM1. Cultural controls Proteknet on hoops, keeps (preventative strategies) cucumber beetles out. Dubois Engineering2. Monitor crops for problems3. When control measures are neededa) Physical controlsb) Biological controlsc) Microbial controlsd) Botanical controlse) Inorganic controls (Also known as biorational disease controls)See the handout for information onthese types of controls
    17. 17. Sustainable Weed ManagementWeeds compete with crops for sunlight, water and nutrients, and can encourage fungal diseases by reducing airflow.Too-frequent cultivation to remove weeds can leave the soil more prone to erosionEach tilling or deep hoeing stirs air into the soil and speeds combustion of organic matterMost weeds respond well to nutrients, especially nitrogen. If you give corn too much nitrogen, even as compost, its productivity will max out and the weeds will use the remaining nutrients.
    18. 18. Sustainable weed management is about effectiveness• Remove weeds at their most vulnerable stage, or at the last minute before the seedpods explode —ignore weeds doing little damage.• Different types: annuals and perennials; stationary perennials (docks) and invasive perennials (Bermuda grass); cool-weather and warm-weather types; quick- maturing and slow-maturing types; “Big Bang” types (pigweed) versus “Dribblers” (galinsoga, shown here)• Photo Wren Vile
    19. 19. Methods of sustainable weed control1. Preventing weeds from 2. Reducing weed seeding germinating 3. Reducing weed seed viabilityPhoto credit Luke Stovall 4. Reducing the strength of perennial weed roots and rhizomes See the handout for more on these strategies. Photo Brittany Lewis
    20. 20. Season Extension Advantages and disadvantages in time and money Growing earlier crops in spring: o Fast-maturing hardy varieties o Warm microclimates o Transplants o Rowcovers, low tunnels, Quick Hoops, high tunnels (hoophouses) Extending the growth of cool-weather crops into summer: o Learn how to germinate seeds in hot weather o Shadecloth o ProtekNet to keep bugs off o Intercropping allows a new crop to establish before the old one finishes Extending the survival of frost-tender crops beyond the first fall frosts o Rowcover returns to the fields o Minimizing frost damage Growing cold-hardy winter vegetables
    21. 21. Resources• The Complete Know and Grow Vegetables J. K. A. Bleasdale, P. J. Salter et al.• Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers, Donald N. Maynard and George J. Hochmuth• The New Seed Starter’s Handbook, Nancy Bubel, 1988, Rodale Books• The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, 2009, Chelsea Green• Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, (Detailed information on age of transplants, container size, biological control for pests, diseases, hardening off, plant size, planting depth and temperature. )• ATTRA Plugs and Transplant Production for Organic Systems, Scheduling Vegetable Plantings for a Continuous Harvest, and Season Extension Techniques for Market Farmers, and many other great publications.• Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to Market, Vern Grubinger, 1999,• Nature and Properties of Soils, fourteenth edition, Nyle Brady and Ray Weil• Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Cranshaw• Cornell Extension website: Good detailed information on seed treatments.• Manage Weeds on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies, Chuck Mohler (not yet published)• Extending the Season: Six Strategies for Improving Cash Flow Year-Round on the Market Farm, a free e-book download for online subscribers to Growing for Market magazine• www. The organic agriculture community with eXtension. Publications, webinars, videos, trainings and support. An expanding, accessible source of reliable information.• Debbie Roos keeps this site up to the minute.
    22. 22. Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale ©Pam Dawling 2013 Author of Sustainable Market Farming Published by New Society