Over the Fence Urban Farm


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Hope for the Future

This is Leo.

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In February, he wrote me this email:

Hi my name is Leo and I’m currently a freshman at Ohio State. I happened to find the Facebook page for Over the Fence Urban Farm, and immediately knew it was something I wanted to support. I’m originally from Hawaii, where through school trips and community service opportunities I was able to go to and help out at multiple local organic farms. I would love to be able to come and help out in your garden. Please email me back with any info regarding ways I can help.

I wrote back and let him know things would get going in March and gave him a rough idea of what days of the week might be good to come around. Low and behold, the first week in March, he got back in touch! He wanted to try to come around before he left for spring break. Things didn’t work out that week, but once he was back in town and completed his midterms, he reached out again. We went back and forth for a month and a half until, yesterday, we connected, just days before he leaves for summer recess.

Leo showed up on time. He was enthusiastic about what we’re doing here – asked questions, shared stories from his own experiences, smiled, helped with the chores, played with the chickens, and took a big bag of greens back to the dorm to make a salad for his friends.

Thank you, Leo. Thank you for reaching out and keeping in touch. Thank you for giving me hope for the future at a time when so many things in our country and around the world seem to be upside down and falling to pieces. Thank you for being a mensch. Have a great break and we’ll see you again in August!

(If you’d  like to read more about young people working on the farm in this post from last summer, “Help from Abroad.”)


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Field Report: Earth Day 2017

Happy Earth Day. Thanks for making this visit to the farm part of your celebrations. It’s cloudy today in Columbus. These photos were taken yesterday afternoon when it was a perfect combination of sunny and cool. The way spring ought to be.

This is a post dedicated to local greens geeks everywhere.

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Napa cabbage. Interesting to see how it is doing up against various companions. Parsley and yarrow seem to be the winners.

Loads and loads of lettuce.

Garlic up front with radish, carrots, peas, and parsley in the back.

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Red Russian Kale and Radicchio. Transplanted to the field in mid-March.

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Radicchio transplanted to high tunnel in February.
Interplanted with fennel, cabbage, mustard, and tomato.

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Overheated winter-sown spinach and transplanted onions.

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Spring planted garlic up front, fall sown in the back.

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Trimming and thinning recycling team.

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Field Report: April 6, 2017

It’s been a busy week and getting busier everyday. Here’s a quick look at what’s been happening on the farm.

Chicken run unwrapped! The girls are very happy to have the air flowing again.

…very happy hens.

The work table and area was emptied and out for spring cleaning.

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Unearthed a mouse corpse in the process.

New CSA member John Grimes helped us move one of the two compost bins. One more to go.

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Spring garlic planting experiment…

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.…with help from Mia Grimes.

Transplated radicchio and kale with new CSA member Benn Vaughn.

I planted a green onion vortex.

 

 

 


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Field Report: March 26, 2017

We’ve had a busy and highly productive couple of weeks around the farm as winter surrenders to spring. We started a farm annex, weathered what we hope was our final arctic blast, and got lots of things growing in the fields.

This season we’ll be growing most of our potatoes and sweet potatoes at the home our friends and long-time CSA supporters, Andrew and Melissa Freuh. They bought a house in August and the yard is a blank canvas. Melissa marked out a 20′ x 60′ plot and we got a crew of friends to help us cover it in cardboard and compost. (We moved 10 yards in under 2.5 hours!) While we would have liked to have done this in the fall to give our lasagna garden some time to cook, we planted Groundhog Daikon Radish Cover Crop seed which should biodrill through the turf for us in the next few weeks.

I picked up ginger root then weighed, cut, cured, and tucked it in bed. Now we wait a few weeks and watch for sprouts. Lots of seedlings – kale, romaine, fennel, radicchio, and cabbage were hardened off and transplanted, once the cold past.

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These onions were seeded in the cold frame. They lifted out effortlessly from the soil and were ready for transplanting to the field. I’m going to reseed the frame and try to stay on a cycle so we can have regular stock of scallions as well as some larger onions.

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Temperatures got high enough that we were able to test the roll-up sides on the high tunnel.

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And finally, we found a nest of baby bunnies under one of the low tunnels as we transitioned from winter plastic to spring row covers. We replaced them once our work was done to allow their mother to continue to visit and nurse them as we decide what to do next. They opened their eyes today. They are super cute which is super scary. I’ve been burned by bunnies a number of times before. The only things saving them right now are their sweet little faces and the fact that their mother didn’t touch a single plant under the tunnel when she nested. A recent read through Tammi Hartung’s The Wildlife Vegetable Gardener is probably also to blame.

This seems like a lot of work, and we got a lot of chores accomplished that weren’t sexy enough to make this post, but there is still SO much to do!

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Field Report: 2.21.2017

I have been doing a lot more reading, thinking, and planning for companion planting after hearing Dan Kittredge speak at OEFFA a few weeks back. (Read about the conference and talks in this post on OEFFA Conference 2017.) I’m interplanting things I haven’t mixed up before and looking ahead to what I can add later to long season crops beds I am sowing now. All this in order to create symbiotic relationships between the plants so they are feeding and protecting one another, and the microbes in the soil, better.

I’m also looking at the Farmer’s Almanac’s Garden Calendar for some advice on optimal planting dates.

“The Farmers Almanac Gardening by the Moon Calendar is determined by our age-old formula and applies generally to regions where the climate is favorable. Because the gardening calendar is based on the phase and position of the Moon, it is consistent across all growing zones.”

I’ve been wanting to get a better handle on biodynamics. Using the Farmer’s Almanac in conjunction with a few biodynamic calendars I’ve been consulting seems like a relatively easy way of getting started.

According to the calendar, today was an optimal day for planting root crops so I set some radishes, carrots, and beet seeds out. I added a bit of innoculant to the seed packs, per Kittredge’s suggestion that the minerals in this dust help germinating seeds develop the systems they need to absorb and digest nutrients throughout their lives. Kittredge compared this with the precious colostrum nursing mammals produce for their babies in the first few days of life. Colostrum helps human infants develop healthy gut flora. I want my plants to have healthy guts because I’m sure it’ll mean I’ll have healthier gut too!

Tomorrow is a good day too, so it isn’t too late for you to get busy on your own early-early spring planting plan. Here are a few scenes from the field this afternoon to get you planting your own fertile ground.

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Arugula.

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Winter Density & Bloomsdale.

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Red and Green Giant Mustard with Radicchio.

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Bloomsdale Spinach.

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Unidentified Red Leaf Lettuce, Raddichio, and Sassy Salad Mix.

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Vitamin Greens.

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Soil is starting to look REALLY good. Hard to believe this was compacted clay three years ago.

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Felt a little guilty moving these cilantro seedlings but they were in the high tunnel only temporarily and suffering because they were planted over a spot that had been compacted, wood-chipped lined paths.Hoping to see their leaf color and vigor improve in the field.

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Fall planted Red Russian Kale and Red Giant Mustard with January sown spinach coming in between. Under a low tunnel.

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All three kids ate a raw salad tonight! Green and Red Giant Mustard, Tatoi, Spinach, Winter Density Lettuce, Red Russian Kale, Mizuna, Vitamin Greens

 

 

 

 


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Tunnel Visions

Thanks to a grant from the National Resources Conservation Service High Tunnel Initiative program we are building a high tunnel to expand our season extension practices. The kit has been hanging out in the garage waiting for the sweet potatoes to come out of the ground. Now that they have, the location for the tunnel has been sited, posts planting, and hoops installed. Stay tuned for more updates on the progress.

Thanks, as always, to The Spurgeon General for his building assistance.
  


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Tomatoes Growing Up One Vine

People sometimes look sideways at our tomato vines. We grow them up strings tied about 6 feet up from the ground, prune them down to a single fruiting vine, and they grow to be about 10-15 feet long by October. We fit around 20 plants in a 25 foot row. This practice was the result of reading Fell’s Vertical Gardening and watching a pruning tutorial on YouTube. (It’s linked in this post from a few years ago: “Tomato Fingers.”)

This year I’m trying to train more of our CSA folks to prune the plants. This is something I like to do myself both because I enjoy it and because it is somewhat exacting work. But I need to teach others what I’ve learned the past few years and I need to let go so I can get away from the farm from time to time! Pruning must be done at least once a week.

The hardest part for people to watch and understand is when I cut the suckers, some with stems 3/4 of an inch wide with flowers. They shouldn’t ever get this big but sometimes I miss one when they are young. I see the potential for fruit on those vines too, but I know from experience that it is easier for the plants to breathe, and for me to harvest their produce, when they are cut back.

People always ask whether the plants make as much fruit as they would if I let them grow out. I don’t have a scientific answer but have always assumed that since they are directing their growth in fewer directions the yield is concentrated to those areas and does better than spreading itself out. I still don’t have hard numbers to share- I’m a qualitative researcher afterall – but as the fruit sets this season, I do believe the proof is in these pictures. (top to bottom: Marbonne, Amish Paste, Sun Gold)

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