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Sustainable farming practices 2016 Pam Dawling


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An introduction to three aspects of sustainable vegetable production: crop planning and record-keeping, caring for the soil, year round production.

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Sustainable farming practices 2016 Pam Dawling

  1. 1. Sustainable Farming Practices ©Pam Dawling 2016, Twin Oaks Community, Virginia Author of Sustainable Market Farming
  2. 2. Twin Oaks Community Gardens
  3. 3. What’s in This Presentation Part 3 - Year Round Production Direct sowing Transplanting Crop spacing Succession crop scheduling Efficient production strategies Season extension Pests Diseases Weeds Harvest and maturity Part 4 - Resources Part 1 – Planning and Record- keeping Tools for crop planning 12 steps of planning Part 2 – Feed the Soil Crop rotations Cover crops Compost making Organic mulches
  4. 4. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Tools for Crop Planning • Be clear about your goals (before choosing tools). • Design a system you like, so you’ll use it. • Do you prefer clipboards, computers, or photos? • There are Web-based Tools, Spreadsheets, Worksheets and Notebooks • Build in the ability to adapt the plan if conditions change.
  5. 5. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Create Your Own Field ManualThe Fundamental Four  Descriptive month-by-month Calendar  Maps of the layout of the crops  Field planting schedule  Seedling schedule for greenhouse production of transplants Other useful pages: • Soil Temperatures for vegetable seed germination • Days to Emergence at different temperatures • Sunrise and Sunset Timetable • Crop Rotation Plan • Winter Cover Crops Maps • Cover Crop Information • Farmscaping Worksheet • Other charts and lists from your planning
  6. 6. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Twin Oaks Garden Calendar • A month-by-month task list describing in words the tasks to be done each month, including –Crops to sow, transplant, thin –Areas to compost and disk or till –Equipment to check over –Fruit bushes needing attention –Crops to harvest • I’ve posted this on my blog See my slideshow Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production on
  7. 7. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Planning is Circular - Just Like Farming 1. How much money do you need to earn? 2. Which markets to sell at 3. Which crops to grow 4. How much of what to harvest when: Harvest Schedule 5. How much to grow to achieve your harvest goals 6. Calculate sowing dates to meet harvest dates: Field Planting Schedule7. When to sow for transplants: Seedlings Schedule 8. Where to plant each sowing of each crop: Maps 9. Packing more in: succession plantings, intercropping, relay planting, double cropping 10. Adjust to make your best possible plan 11. What to do if something goes wrong: Plan B 12. Record results for next year’s Better Plan
  8. 8. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 5 How Much to Grow to Meet your Harvest Goals Take likely yields and add a margin for culls and failures (10%?). The table I provide in Sustainable Market Farming lists 48 crops, with likely yield, quantity required for 100 CSA shares, and length of row needed to grow this amount.
  9. 9. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 6 Harvest Dates Sowing Dates When to sow to meet the harvest dates?  Find the number of days to maturity (from the catalog).  Is that from seed to harvest or transplant to harvest?  Work back from each target harvest date, subtracting days to maturity, to give the planting date.  Days to maturity in catalogs are generally for spring planting once conditions have warmed to the usual range for that crop. ‒ If you are starting very early, add about 14 days - seedlings grow slower when cold. ‒ In summer crops mature sooner than in spring. ‒ When growing late into the fall, add about 14 days for the slowdown.
  10. 10. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 6 Days to Maturity • “Days to Maturity” usually means “Days to First Harvest” which may not be the same as “Days to Full Harvest”. • With carrots it doesn’t matter exactly what size they are, but an unripe eggplant is just no good. • With CSAs, you can distribute eggplant to some sharers one week, and others the next, although keeping track involves more work. • If it’s important to have a plentiful harvest when you do start, add another 7-14 days. Carrot photo Kathryn Simmons
  11. 11. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 6 Field Planting Schedule Draw up your list of outdoor planting dates, along with varieties, row feet, spacing, notes and space to write down what you actually do.
  12. 12. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 7 Seedlings Schedule Pepper transplants. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  13. 13. East Garden 227’ x 265’ Plots are 9,275- 10,600 ft2 More about this and crop rotations later Part 1 – Planning and Record Keeping Step 8 Where to plant each crop ? Measure and Map; Divide the land into roughly equal plots
  14. 14. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 9 Fitting in Summer Succession Crops After locating the major crops (including sweet corn), following our rotation plan, we look for any extra space in the plots, to fit in the succession plantings of beans, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, edamame and cantaloupes. Green bean flowers, Photo Kathryn Simmons
  15. 15. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 9 Succession Crops Chart  We pencil in arrows, fitting the succession crops into the spaces available.  At the beginning and end of the season, and in mid-season when space in the main plots is tight, we also look for spaces in our raised beds.
  16. 16. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 9 Veg Finder Example: Squash #3 WEST Plot J Plant 6/23 120’ Planted….. Harvesting… Finished….. BEANS CUKES SQUASH CORN CARROTS EDAMAME #1 29W, 29E Plant 4/16 180' dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #1 BED 13W Plant 4/20 90' Planted Harvesting Finished #1 BED 23W Plant 4/20 90' Planted Harvesting Finished #1 EAST Plot G 4x265’ Plant 4/26+4/29 1060' Bod Planted Harvesting Finished #1 BED 9E Plant 2/14 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #1 BED 21W Plant 4/26 90’ Planted Harvesting Finished #2 EAST Plot G Plant 5/14 176’ dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #2 EAST Plot I Plant 5/24 180’ slice 90' + pickle 90' Planted Harvesting Finished #2 EAST Plot I Plant 5/24 88’ Planted Harvesting Finished #2 EAST Plot G 4x265' Plant 5/21 1060' Bod/KK/SQ Planted Harvesting Finished #2 BED 25E Plant 2/28 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #2 EAST Plot G No-soak Plant 5/18 88’ dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #3 WEST Plot J Plant 6/7 240’ dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #3 WEST Plot J Plant 6/23 120’ Planted Harvesting Finished #3 WEST Plot J Plant 6/23 120’ Planted Harvesting Finished #3 WEST Plot A north 4 x 180' 6/6 1080' Sug Pearl /KK/SQ Planted Harvesting Finished #3 BED 12W Plant 3/13 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #3 EAST Plot I Plant 6/7 60’ dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #4 EAST Plot K Plant 6/29 175' dbl (5x35’) Planted Harvesting Finished #4 CENT Plot D Plant 7/15 240' slice 120' +pickle 120' Planted Harvesting Finished #4 EAST Plot K Plant 7/15 105’ (3x35’) Planted Harvesting Finished #4 WEST Plot A 6 x 180' 6/19 1080' Bod/KK/SQ Planted Harvesting Finished #4 BED 12E Plant 3/27 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #4 CENTRAL Plot D Plant 6/26 60’ dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #5 25E 22W Plant 7/19 180’ dbl (2x90’) Planted Harvesting Finished #5 BED 15E Plant 8/5 90' slicers Planted Harvesting Finished #5 BED 13E Plant 8/5 90’ Planted Harvesting Finished #5 WEST Plot A 6 x 180' Plant 7/2 1080' Bod/KK/SQ Planted Harvesting Finished #5 BED 19W Plant 4/10 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #5 EAST Plot K Plant 7/14. 70’ (2x35’)dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #6 BEDS 9W, 9E Plant 8/3 180’ dbl Planted Harvesting Finished #6 CENTRAL Plot D 7 x 200' Plant 7/16 1400' Bod/KK/SQ Planted Harvesting Finished #6 BED 17W Plant 5/14 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #8 BED 1 CARROTS#8 BED 30W Only if needed Plant 7/8 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #7 Not this year, perhaps never again #7 BED 27E Only if needed Plant 6/11 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished #8 BED CARROTS #9 Overwinter Raised Beds Plant 7/28 Danvers Planted Harvesting Finished
  17. 17. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 11 What to do if Something goes Wrong: Plan B Have a brainstorm list to help deal with disasters:  Do immediate damage control to stop the problem getting worse  Ask for help from sharers, neighbors, kids,  Salvage anything you can and process it in some way to sell later.  Plant some quick-growing crops to substitute for crop failures  Buy from other local growers to tide you over  Team up with other growers, share a market booth, save on the rent  Write down what went wrong and why, so you don’t have the same problem next year Senposai can be harvested 40 days from sowing. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  18. 18. • Make recording easy to do • Have a daily practice of writing down what was done that day • Allow time for that, without losing much of your lunch break • Delegate to reliable people • During the main growing season, we don’t do a lot of paperwork. We record planting dates and harvest start and finish dates. • At the beginning of the winter, have a Crop Review Meeting, discuss and write up what worked and what didn’t, to learn from the experience and do better next year. • Adjust dates to halfway between last year’s plan and whatever actually happened - gradually zero in on the likely date without wild pendulum swings based on variable weather. Part 1 Planning and Record Keeping Step 12 Record Results for Next Year’s Better Plan
  19. 19. Part 2 – Feed the Soil What are Healthy Soils? • Healthy soils promote plant, animal, and human health. • They produce good crop yields, year after year, without degrading the environment. • They grow strong plants and make the conditions unsuitable for diseases and pests. • Sometimes plagues still strike! Tatsoi Photo Wren Vile See my slideshow Feed the Soil on
  20. 20. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Healthy Soil is Alive One acre of organic soil can have 2400 pounds of fungi and 1500 pounds of bacteria. These contribute to good soil structure, the breakdown of nutrients, and increased levels of organic matter. USDA image
  21. 21. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Signs of a Healthy Soil • Has good crumb structure, lets air and water in and out. • Resists erosion and compaction. • Absorbs, holds and releases nutrients. • Promotes good root growth. • Provides good habitat for soil organisms. • Has a moderate pH (6.0 – 7.0). • Has low levels of salts and toxins. • Has balanced fertility with adequate levels of nutrients.
  22. 22. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Crop Rotations - Many Benefits Optimize the health and fertility of the land, Maximize productivity, Reduce pests and diseases, Increase opportunities to plant cover crops, Meet Organic Certification requirements, Make the planning work easier on the brain. See my slideshow Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops on
  23. 23. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Steps to Creating a Permanent Rotation 1. Figure out how much area is needed for each major crop (the ones needing the largest amount of space). 2. Measure and map the land available 3. Divide into equal plots 4. Group compatible crops together to fill each plot 5. Determine a good sequence 6. Include cover crops 7. Include no-till crops 8. Try it for one year, then make improvements
  24. 24. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Crop Rotations step 1 Space Needed for Major Crops • Sweet corn: 6 or 7 plantings of about 3,500 ft2 (322 m2) each • Spring planted potatoes: about 7,000–9,000 ft2 (644–828 m2) • Summer planted potatoes: about 7,000–9,000 ft2 (644–828 m2) • Spring broccoli & cabbage: 4,000 ft2 (368 m2) • Fall broccoli & cabbage: 7,000 ft2 (644 m2) • Winter squash: about 8,200 ft2 (736 m2) • Watermelon: about 9,000 ft2 (828 m2) • Sweet potatoes: about 4,300 ft2 (396 m2) • Tomatoes: 4,000 ft2 (368 m2) • Peppers: 2,200 ft2 (202 m2) • Garlic: about 3,600–4,000 ft2 (332–368 m2) • Fall carrots: about 3,600–4,000 ft2 (332–368 m2)
  25. 25. Part 2 Feed the Soil Crop Rotations steps 2 & 3 Make Maps  Divide your land into roughly equal plots, each big enough to take your largest crop  Start filling your map with your major crops remembering crop rotation and cover cropping considerations. Note the spaces for squeezing in other crops
  26. 26. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Crop Rotations step 4 Group Other Big Crops Together to Fill Each Plot:  Two or three corn plantings together in one plot  (3,500 ft2 (322 m2) each)  Spring broccoli together with overwintered garlic  (4,000 ft2 (368 m2) +  3,600–4,000 ft2 (332–368 m2 ))  Tomatoes together with peppers  4,000 ft2 (368 m2) + 2,200 ft2 (202 m2) Left to right: Broccoli under rowcover, garlic, strawberries. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  27. 27. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Crop Rotations step 5 Determine a Good Sequence To figure out a crop sequence, we looked at the families of our major crops, and kept crops in the same family either • beside each other in the same plot, or • in plots several years apart in the rotation. To decide what follows what, we looked at timing and at winter cover crops.
  28. 28. Winter Squash Late Corn undersown with oats (1/2). Sweet Potatoes (1/2) March-planted Potatoes, followed by fall-planted broccoli & cabbage, undersown with clovers All-year Green Fallow Early Corn followed by fall Garlic (1/2) and oats (1/2) Garlic followed by Carrots (1/2). Spring Broccoli & Cabbage, then rye & vetch (1/2) No-till paste Tomatoes Water- melon Mid-season Corn, then rye & crimson clover June- planted Potatoes
  29. 29. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Crop Rotations step 8 Improvements • We tightened up the rotation by having more than one vegetable crop in a plot within the year. • This lets us keep a 10-year cycle round the 10 plots while having one plot in cover crops all year round, to replenish the soil. • We follow the spring planted potatoes with the fall broccoli and cabbage transplanted in July/August. • We undersow the fall brassicas with a mix of clovers, to stay as a green fallow the whole next year. Fall broccoli undersown with clover mix. Photo Twin Oaks Community
  30. 30. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Cover Crop Goals • Smothering weeds: sorghum-sudan, cereal rye, buckwheat, brassicas (we don’t do brassica cover crops – rotation, bugs). • Fixing nitrogen: clovers, vetches, Austrian winter peas, cowpeas, soybeans, lentils, sunn-hemp. • Scavenging leftover nutrients : small grains, brassicas, annual ryegrass (we don’t use annual ryegrass either – danger of it becoming a weed) • Improving soil drainage: sorghum- sudangrass, sunflower, daikon, sweet- clover, alfalfa, brassicas, sugar-beet or forage-beet (never tried that.) • Grazing • Bio-fumigation • Killing nematodes See my slideshow Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers on
  31. 31. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Plan Good Cover Crops For early spring food crops, a preceding cover crop of oats (maybe with soybeans) is ideal, as it winter- kills and is easy to incorporate. Add legumes in mixes with grasses whenever possible. Crimson clover, Photo Kathryn Simmons
  32. 32. Part 2 – Feed the Soil 5 steps of cover crop planning 1. Identify your opportunities for cover crops 2. Clarify your cover crop goals 3. Shortlist suitable cover crops for each situation 4. Make a decision from among the options 5. Record your decisions and results, and review for possible changes next year. Crimson clover and bumble bee. Bridget Aleshire
  33. 33. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Cover Crop Opportunities  Late winter or early spring, if the area will not be planted with vegetable crop for 6 weeks (Oats)  In spring, summer or fall, 4 weeks or more between one vegetable crop and a later one  Undersowing at last cultivation (oats and soybeans in corn shown here.)  In fall, after food crops, for winter  Frost-seeding of small seeds such as clover: Broadcast in the early morning when ground is frozen. As it thaws, the water draws the seeds down into the soil.  To replace a crop failure.  Year-round cover crops/green fallow. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  34. 34. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Cover Crops - Oats  For early spring food crops, a preceding cover crop of oats (maybe with soybeans) is ideal, as it winter-kills and is easy to incorporate.  Oats need to be sown at our farm 8/5-9/17 - they need to follow an early finishing crop, such as spring brassicas, spring potatoes or early corn. Photo Oklahoma Farm Report
  35. 35. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Leguminous Cover Crops Include legumes in cover crop mixes whenever possible, to add nitrogen to the soil. For maximum N, mow and incorporate cover crops when they start to flower. A good legume stand can provide all the N the following crop will need. We only spread compost for our late crops if we had poor luck with the legumes. Crimson clover is our favorite clover for over- wintering. We use it in almost half of our winter cover crop mixes. Red clover would also work, but grows less biomass. Cowpeas or soybeans are warm weather legumes. Most cowpea varieties mature in 60- 90 days and will be killed by the first frost. (Oats may provide temporary protection). Austrian winter peas can be sown later than clovers. Crimson clover flower, Photo Kathryn Simmons
  36. 36. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Summer Cover Crops  If we have a 4 week gap between crops in warm weather, we sow buckwheat.  If we have 6 weeks, we sow soy with buckwheat.  If longer, Japanese Millet or  Sorghum-sudangrass Shown here after mowing. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  37. 37. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Late Fall Cover Crops We sow Crimson clover up till 10/14. After that, we sow Austrian Winter Peas as late as 11/8 here, with our later rye and wheat cover crop sowings. Winter wheat is easier to incorporate into the soil Winter rye can be planted later than any other cover crop, up to mid- November here. Winter rye is the hardiest cover crop. Hardy to −30°F. It’s only worth sowing in November if it will have time to make some growth in spring Austrian winter peas with winter rye. Photo Cindy Conner
  38. 38. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Incorporating Cover Crops into the Soil • If possible, grow to early bloom for max biomass • Incorporate before plants set seed • Mow with a rotary mower (eg bush hog) which chops the plants into small pieces. (Sickle-bar mowers and scythes leave long strawy plants) • Till shallowly, put cover crop where soil life is most active, not deeper. • If direct-sowing the next crop, incorporate cover crop 3-4 weeks before sowing date, especially winter rye.
  39. 39. Part 2 – Feed the Soil No-till Cover Crops We plant our paste tomatoes into a mowed cover crop of winter rye, hairy vetch and Austrian winter peas. This reduces inversions of the soil, and the legumes (if plentiful) can supply all the nitrogen the tomatoes need. Tomatoes in hairy vetch (without added N fertilizer, or weeding) can out-yield plastic-and- fertilizer plots by 25%, and out-yield fertilized bare soil by 100%. Rye and vetch is best sown here in early to mid-September, creating another restriction on which crops the tomatoes could follow. Winter rye and hairy vetch. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  40. 40. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Compost Making  Compost improves the soil organic matter, humus, and the soil structure.  The effects of compost last longer than cover crops and crop residues, especially in humid conditions where plant material breaks down rapidly.  Compost adds beneficial bacteria and fungi to the soil, which can inoculate plants against diseases (“induced systemic acquired resistance”). Plants produce antibodies and other protective compounds before any infection occurs.  Many farms make their own compost, using materials that could otherwise be a waste disposal problem. Certified Organic Farms must follow Organic rules.
  41. 41. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Compost is Central to our Soil Fertility Program • One of our businesses is making and selling tofu. Okara is a high-N by-product • We mix in high-C sources: sawdust (from our hammock-making business) or woodchips (trade with a neighbor) • We add food scraps from our dining hall • and sometimes weeds or crop refuse from our garden. • We use the tractor bucket to lift and turn the piles.
  42. 42. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Compost is a Long-Term Plan! Because it breaks down slowly, generally about 10 percent of the nitrogen will remain after harvest for the next crop (assuming an adequate amount of good finished compost was used).  Some growers aim to build the soil to a high overall fertility level, and then maintain that level with smaller applications of compost each season. Others aim to apply a consistent amount each year. Whatever your aim, it is generally agreed that the occasional shortfall in compost application will not be too dire if the soil fertility is high from previous applications.
  43. 43. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Compost Making is Both Art and Science • There are several methods and recipes. • Hot (aerobic) compost combines 1 to 3 parts high-C materials with 1 part high-N materials in a 25:1 to 40:1 C:N ratio, and enough water to make the piles damp, air to keep the bacteria alive. • The mesophilic stage lasts for the first 2-3 days after the pile is made. Bacteria which are active at 90°F–110°F (32°C– 43°C) begin to break down the sugars, fats, starches and proteins.
  44. 44. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Hot (aerobic) Compost • The pile moves into the thermophilic stage, which lasts several weeks. Temperatures in the middle of the pile can reach 120°F– 150°F (48°C–66°C). • Thermophilic bacteria increase, and keep working as long as decomposable materials remain available and the oxygen supply is adequate. • Pathogens, weed seeds and fly larvae are destroyed. Large-scale compost-turning equipment
  45. 45. Part 2 – Feed the Soil When the Pile Starts to Cool, Turn it • Because more oxygen or more water is needed. • Turning remixes the material - all gets composted. • Turning prevents the pile from overheating — above 150°F (66°C), thermophilic bacteria can die • During turning, add water if needed to keep the pile damp but not dripping. Large scale compost-turning machinery
  46. 46. Part 2 – Feed the Soil When the Compost Stops Heating  After the compost materials have all been consumed by bacteria and the N is converted to nitrates, the pile cools to around 100°F (37.7°C)  More turning won’t reheat it  The C is now resistant to further breakdown, and the N slowly becomes available for crops  Leave it to cure for about 30 days, allowing beneficial microorganisms to move back in. It is then ready to be used. Large-scale compost screening equipment
  47. 47. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Finished Compost Finished compost ideally has a C:N (carbon:nitrogen) ratio of 10:1. If the C:N ratio is greater than about 25:1, almost no N is available from the compost and it is unable to mineralize. Between 16 and 20:1, about 10% of the N is available. Even at a C:N ratio of 10:1, only 50% of the N is available in the near term.
  48. 48.  Some people worry about using too much compost and the levels of Phosphorus getting too high. On the other hand:  Steve Moore, a veteran high tunnel grower, uses 12-27 gallons/100 sq ft.  In his Winter Harvest Handbook, Eliot Coleman recommends spreading compost at 20 gallons/100 sq ft or 15 tons/acre (8.6 l/m2) of outdoor raised beds, for each successive crop.  For his hoophouses, he makes a plant and seaweed compost and applies it at 41 gallons/100 sq ft.  At the MSU student farm, compost is applied before every crop at a rate of 25 gallons/100 sq ft).  Ben Hartman of The Lean Farm: When establishing new raised beds, they covered the entire growing area with 8-12" of compost. They reshape once each year and replenish with an 1-2” of compost if the soil needs help. Their soil now has 10-12% of OM. Part 2 – Feed the Soil How Much Compost?
  49. 49. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Growing Compost Materials • If you have land where you are not growing food crops and don’t want to improve the soil by growing cover crops, you can grow compost crops, to cut and haul to your compost piles. • This can be a good way to grow food crops very intensively in a small area, with the compost crops growing elsewhere.
  50. 50. Part 2 – Feed the Soil Organic Mulches Organic mulches such as straw, hay, sawdust, woodchips, tree leaves, newspaper and cardboard all add organic matter to the soil Here we are preparing a new strawberry bed mulched with 2 layers of newspaper and dried sorghum-sudangrass cut from the plot in the background. Photo Luke J Stovall
  51. 51. Part 3 - Year Round Production Direct Seeding Pros and Cons Photo Kathryn Simmons • Pros – Less work than transplanting – Less money compared to buying starts – No need for a greenhouse and equipment – Better drought tolerance – roots grow without damage – Some crops don’t transplant easily – Some crops have millions of plants! (Carrots) • Cons – Uses more seed – Uses more time thinning – Occupies the land longer – Maybe harder to get started in cold (or hot) conditions
  52. 52. Part 3 - Year Round Production Transplanting Pros and ConsPros • Start earlier than outside, get earlier harvests • Start seed in more ideal conditions in greenhouse, better germination, more fun! • Easier to care for new seedlings in a greenhouse • Protected plants grow quicker • 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 • Extra time caring for the starts • Transplant shock can delay harvest • More attention needed to watering new plants Photo Kathryn Simmons
  53. 53. Part 3 - Year Round Production Transplant Age and Size Vegetable Notes Ideal Age at Transplanting Cucumbers, melons, squash 2 true leaves max (maybe less) 3–4 weeks Watermelons (older is OK) 3–4 weeks Sweet Corn 3–4 weeks Tomatoes age is less important 4–8 weeks Lettuce 4–7 weeks Brassicas 5 true leaves is ideal 6–8 weeks spring/ 3–4 weeks summer Peppers & eggplant 4 or 5 true leaves, not flowering 6–8 weeks Onions (spring sown) & leeks 10–12 weeks Celery 10–12 weeks
  54. 54. Part 3 - Year Round Production Transplanting Depth o Deeper planting reduces wind stress on young plants. o Plant to the first true leaves - increases yields of many crops. Often this is deeper than the plant was in the flat. o Some plants (tomatoes, sweet potatoes) 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
  55. 55. Part 3 - Year Round Production Water is Vital for Transplants!  Damp soil is important for transplanting. Water plants an hour before transplanting, and again after planting.  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 20 minutes before planting, and then plant directly into the wet spots. No other measuring is needed.  When setting out a large number of plants, water every 20-30 minutes, regardless of the number of plants set out.  Water the transplants the next day, on days 3, 7, 10 after planting, and then weekly after that. Photo credit Luke Stovall
  56. 56. Part 3 - Year Round Production Crop Spacing Yield is related to plant density.  Area per plant is the important bit, not particular row spacing.  There is a balance point at which the plant density provides the maximum total yield. At that density some plants will be too small to use. That’s taken into account when calculating yield.  Crop size (do customers want big carrots or small carrots?)  Disease control (humidity and molds)  Preferred layout (beds with equidistant plants, or rows).  Ease of cultivation (tractor equipment, hoes, horses) and irrigation  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, in a “hedge.”  See handout for chart of crop spacings Photo of Morris Heading Collards by Kathryn Simmons
  57. 57. Part 3 - Year Round Production Optimal Crop Spacing for Various GoalsCrop Row spacing In-row spacing Notes Beets 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 beets Beans, 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/plant Broccoli (Calabrese) 12" (30cm) 6" (15 cm) For equal amounts of heads and side shoots Cabbage 14" (35 cm) 14" (35 cm) For small heads 18" (45 cm) 18" (45 cm) For large heads Carrots 6" (15 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early crops, limiting competition 6" (15 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For maincrop, medium size roots Celery 11" (28 cm) 11" (28 cm) For high yields and mutual blanching Cucumber (pickling) 20" (51 cm) 3" (8 cm) Leeks 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) Max yield of hilled up leeks, average size Lettuce 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 mix Onions 12" (30 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For medium size bulbs 12" (30 cm) 0.5" (1 cm) For boiling, pickling, kebabs Parsnips 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) For high yields of large roots 7.5" (19 cm) 3" (8 cm) For smaller roots Peas, shelling 18" (46 cm) 4.5" (11.5 cm) Can sow in double or triple bands, 4.5" (11.5 cm) apart Potatoes 30" (76 cm) 9-16" (23–41 cm) Depends on size of seed pieces; small pieces closer Sweet 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 crops Watermelon 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
  58. 58. Part 3 - Year Round Production Succession Crop Scheduling • Plan sowing dates for even, continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers, sweet corn; year round lettuce and winter hoophouse greens. • Length of time from sowing to harvest varies according to temperature (and day length in some cases). • Planting squash once a month will not provide an even supply. • Keep records and use information from other growers in your area to fine-tune planting dates. Photo Credit: Kathryn Simmons. For all the details, see my slideshow Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests on
  59. 59. Part 3 - Year Round Production Approaches to Succession Crop Planning 1. Rough plan: “every 2 weeks for corn and beans, 3 weeks for cucumbers, squash, edamame, 4 for carrots and cantaloupes” 2. “No paperwork” methods 3. Sow several varieties on the same day 4. Plan a sequence of sowings to provide an even supply, using graphs 5. Use Accumulated Growing Degree Days data Squash drawing by Jessie Doyle
  60. 60. Part 3 - Year Round Production “No Paperwork” Methods Sow another planting of sweet corn when the previous one is 1”–2" tall Sow more lettuce when the previous sowing germinates Sow more beans when the young plants start to straighten up from their hooked stage
  61. 61. Part 3 - Year Round Production Sow Several Varieties on One Day Use varieties with different days-to- maturity sown on the same day. We do this with broccoli, lettuce, sweet corn.
  62. 62. Part 3 - Year Round Production Make a Graph - 6 Steps 1. Gather sowing and harvest start dates for each planting of each crop 2. Make a graph for each crop: sowing date along the horizontal (x) axis; harvest start date along the vertical (y) axis. Mark in all your data. 3. Mark the first possible sowing date and the harvest start date for that. 4. Decide the last worthwhile harvest start date, mark that. 5. Then divide the harvest period into a whole number of segments, according to how often you want a new patch. 6. Figure the sowing dates needed to match your harvest start dates For details of this method see Succession Planting on
  63. 63. Part 3 - Year Round Production Year Round Lettuce Part 1 Photo Credits Kathryn Simmons The short version - sow • twice in January, • twice in February, • every 10 days in March, • every 9 days in April, • every 8 days in May, • every 6-7 days in June and July,
  64. 64. Part 3 - Year Round Production Year Round Lettuce Part 2 Photo Kathryn Simmons • every 5 days in early Aug, • moving to every 3 days in late August, • every other day until Sept 21. • After that we ease back to every 3 days until the end of September. Those last plants could feed us right through the winter.
  65. 65. Part 3 - Year Round Production Winter Succession Crops in the Hoophouse To provide continuous supplies of salad and cooking greens, as well as radishes and small turnips, we plan successions of winter hoophouse crops. For details, see my slideshow Hoophouse in Fall and Winter on
  66. 66. Part 3 - Year Round Production Growing Degree Days  A measure of heat accumulation  can indicate when it’s warm enough to plant tender crops,  or when they might be ready to harvest.  GDDs can also be used to plan dates for succession sowings.  GDDs reflect actual conditions, rather than simply the calendar, a method which will not work well now climate change has taken hold.  For most purposes a base temperature of 50°F (10°C) is used –roughly the temperature at which most plant growth changes start to take place. Each day when the temperature rises above the threshold, growing-degrees accumulate.
  67. 67. Part 3 - Year Round Production Growing Degree Days  Average the maximum and minimum temperatures for the 24 hour period, and subtract the base temperature. Add each day’s figure to the total for the year to date. This is the GDD figure.  Wikipedia has a good explanation at  has a free mobile phone app!  Using GDDs to schedule sweet corn plantings  Using Heat Units to Schedule Vegetable Plantings, Predict Harvest Dates and Manage Crops
  68. 68. Part 3 - Year Round Production Efficient Production Strategies See Jean-Paul Courtens and Jody Bolluyt at Roxbury Farm Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange  Plan ahead for success when growing a wide range of different crops and doing many different tasks each day.  Plant similar crops together to minimize time-consuming switching of tasks.  Plan roads and paths for your truck or carts to haul away the bounty.  Break long rows up into manageable chunks. Don’t ask anyone to haul a harvest crate more than 100ft. Keep container weight reasonable.  Get the tools ready before you start. Make sure there enough knives, scissors, crates, etc. for everyone  Set containers along the rows when you arrive. Put full ones near the path.
  69. 69. Part 3 - Year Round Production Make a Harvest Methods Manual Describe the crop when ready to harvest, the tools needed, the harvesting technique, how to pack in the field, washing and storing techniques, and how to pack in the barn. Train the crew on each crop, and have the harvest manual for reference. Include the standards for how many boxes, heads, etc. an average harvester can harvest in an hour. See the Roxbury Farm Harvest Manual at
  70. 70. Part 3 - Year Round Production Season Extension in Every Season Advantages and disadvantages in time and money  Growing earlier crops in spring: o Choose 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 in the shade of the old one  Using spring and fall for carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach  Extending the survival of frost-tender crops beyond the first fall frosts  Growing cold-hardy winter vegetables See my slide show Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables on See Fall Vegetable Production on For details, see my slideshow Hoophouse in Spring and Summer on
  71. 71. Part 3 - Year Round Production Formula to Determine Last Sowing Date for Frost-Tender Crops Count back from the expected first frost date, adding: • the number of days from seeding to harvest, • the average length of the harvest period, • 14 days to allow for the slowing rate of growth in the fall, and • 14 days to allow for an early frost (unless you have rowcover). Zephyr Summer Squash CREDIT: Kathryn Simmons.
  72. 72. Part 3 - Year Round Production Sustainable Pest Management 4 steps of Integrated Pest Management: 1. prevention (reduce chance of problems) 2. avoidance, 3. monitoring (is action needed?) 4. suppression (using least toxic solution) Carrot pest damage photo by Jessie Doyle Zipper spider on tomato, photo by Wren Vile
  73. 73. Part 3 - Year Round Production Sustainable Disease Management Diseases 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. But don’t blame the victim! Bad things can happen to good farmers! See for more details of these types. Search for Biointensive Integrated Pest Management
  74. 74. Part 3 - Year Round Production Sustainable Weed Management • To be most effective, 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
  75. 75. Part 3 - Year Round Production Harvest and Maturity Indicators • Size: Cow Horn okra at 5” (others shorter), green beans a bit thinner than a pencil, carrots at whatever size you like, 7” asparagus, 6” zucchini • Color: Garden Peach tomatoes with a pink flush. The “ground spot” of a watermelon turns from greenish white to buttery yellow at maturity, and the curly tendrils where the stem meets the melon to turn brown and dry. For market you may harvest “fruit” crops a bit under-ripe • Shape: cucumbers that are rounded out, not triangular in cross-section, but not blimps. Sugar Ann snap peas completely round • Softness or texture: eggplants that “bounce back” when lightly squeezed, snap beans that are crisp with pliable tips. Harvest most muskmelons when the stem separates easily from the fruit (“Full slip”). • Skin toughness: storage potatoes when the skins don’t rub off, usually two weeks after the tops die, whether naturally or because of mowing. • Sound: watermelons sound like your chest not your head or your belly when thumped. Try the “Scrunch Test” - press down firmly on the melon
  76. 76. Broccoli Select blue-green broccoli heads and harvest them before the flower buds open, but after they’ve enlarged. We press down with finger-tips and spread our fingers to see if the head is starting to loosen. Cabbageswhen the head is firm and the outer leaf on the head is curling back. To keep mature cabbage in the ground a bit longer, twist the heads to break off some of the feeder roots and limit water uptake, and they will be less likely to split. Part 3 - Year Round Production
  77. 77. Sweet Corn • Sweet corn will be ready to harvest about three weeks after the first silks appear. • Corn is ready when the ears fill to the end with kernels and the silks become brown and dry. • An opaque, milky juice will seep out of punctured kernels. Part 3 - Year Round Production
  78. 78. Determining When to Harvest Garlic • Garlic is ready to harvest when the sixth leaf down is starting to brown on 50% of the crop. See Ron Engeland's Growing Great Garlic. • Harvesting too early means smaller bulbs (harvesting way too early means an undifferentiated bulb and lots of wrappers that then shrivel up). • Harvesting too late means the bulbs may "shatter" or have an exploded look, and not store well. • Cut across hardneck garlic – airspaces around stem show maturity See my slide show Growing Great Garlic on Part 3 - Year Round Production
  79. 79. Onions Wait until the tops fall over to harvest, then gently dig up the whole plant and dry. Leave the dry, papery outer skin on the onion. Photos by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Part 3 - Year Round Production
  80. 80. Resources - General  ATTRA Market Farming: A Start-up Guide, Plugs and Transplant Production for Organic Systems, Scheduling Vegetable Plantings for a Continuous Harvest, Intercropping Principles and Production Practices (mostly field crops, but the same principles apply to vegetable crops), Season Extension Techniques for Market Farmers, and many other great publications.  SARE -A searchable database of research findings. Available to download: Using Cover Crops Profitably and Crop Rotations on Organic Farms, A Planning Manual  http://www. The organic agriculture community with eXtension. Publications, webinars, videos, trainings and support. An expanding, accessible source of reliable information.  Growing Small Farms: Click Farmer Resources. Debbie Roos keeps this site up to the minute. Includes Farm Planning and Recordkeeping  The Center for Environmental Farming Systems at North Carolina State University has good information on compost-making, such as Composting on Organic Farms.  Compost recipe software is available from Cornell University  Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, hort/research-extension-ozores/veg-transplant/ (Information on age of transplants, container size, biological control for pests, diseases, hardening off, plant size, planting depth and temperature. )  Jean-Paul Courtens , Roxbury Farm Under the Information for Farmers tab you’ll find great stuff.
  81. 81. Resources - Slideshows  Many of my presentations are available at . Search for Pam Dawling. You’ll find  Crop Rotations  Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables  Fall Vegetable Production  Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests  Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production  Spring and Summer Hoophouses  Fall and Winter Hoophouses  Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers  Mark Cain Planning for Your CSA: (search for Crop Planning)  Planning the Planting of Cover Crops and Cash Crops, Daniel Parson SSAWG 2012  Cover Crop Innovation by Joel B Gruver  Cover crops for vegetable cropping systems, Joel Gruver,  Finding the best fit: cover crops in organic farming systems. Joel Gruver, Some overlap with previous slideshow.  Farm Planning for a Full Market Season Tom Peterson, Appalachian Farmers Market Association and Appalachian Sustainable Development farm-planning-for-a-full-market-season.pdf  Cultural Practices And Cultivar Selections for Commercial Vegetable Growers. Brad Burgefurd, Wide scope.
  82. 82. Resources - Books  The Market Gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier, New Society Publishers  The Complete Know and Grow Vegetables, J K A Bleasdale, P J Salter et al.  Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers, Maynard and Hochmuth  The New Seed Starter’s Handbook, Nancy Bubel, Rodale Books  The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, Chelsea Green  Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to Market, Vern Grubinger,  The New Organic Grower, Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green  Extending the Season: Six Strategies for Improving Cash Flow Year-Round on the Market Farm a free e- book for online subscribers to Growing for Market magazine  Sharing the Harvest, Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En  Gardening When it Counts, Steve Solomon  Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth, Cindy Conner, New Society Publishers, (worksheet based). DVD/CD set Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan  Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, Daniel Brisebois and Frédéric Thériault (Canadian Organic Growers  Nature and Properties of Soils, fourteenth edition, Nyle Brady and Ray Weil  Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Cranshaw  Managing Weeds on your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies. Charles Mohler and Antonio DiTommaso. SARE. In prep.(not yet published)  SARE Crop Rotations on Organic Farms, A Planning Manual, Charles Mohler and Sue Ellen Johnson, editors.
  83. 83. Resources - Planning  The Twin Oaks Harvest Calendar by Starting Date and by Crop are available as pdfs on my website  AgSquared online planning software:  COG-Pro record-keeping software for Certified Organic Farms:  Free open-source database crop planning software  Mother Earth News interactive Vegetable Garden Planner, free for 30 days:  Target Harvest Date Calculator: (Excel spreadsheet) InteractiveTools.aspx  Growing Small Farms: click Farmer Resources, Farm Planning and Recordkeeping to download Joel Gruver’s spreadsheets.  Mark Cain under the CSA tab, you can download their Harvest Schedule. Notebook-based system.
  84. 84. Resources – Detailed Planning  Tables of likely crop yields  two charts, one of organic crops from The Owner-Built Homestead by Ken & Barbara Kern, one from California.  Determining Prices for CSA Share Boxes Iowa State U  New England Vegetable Management Guide Crop Budgets  Clif Slade’s 43560 Project: Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter  USDA annual vegetable consumption  John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables has charts: Pounds Consumed per Year by the Average Person in the US and Average US Yield in Pounds per 100 Square Feet.  The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the UC Santa Cruz Crop Plan for a Hundred-Member CSA, for a range of 36 crops in its Unit 4.5 CSA Crop Planning: or directly at  Jean-Paul Courtens , Roxbury Farm Information for Farmers tab, 100 Member CSA Plan, including a Weekly Share Plan, Greenhouse Schedule, and Field Planting and Seeding Schedule (with charts of possible crop yields). Courtens is also willing to send you their 1,100-member schedule.
  85. 85. Sustainable Farming Practices ©Pam Dawling 2016, Twin Oaks Community, Virginia Author of Sustainable Market Farming