Over the Fence Urban Farm


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Field report: 2.16.17

The sun was shining bright in Columbus, Ohio today. The temperature only got to about 38°F, but it I had a purpose to be outside, down on the ground, with my hands in the soil. And I was glad for that.

I transplanted onions I started inside and moved around field sown spinach seedlings so they were more evenly distributed.

This is the last night forecasted to go below freezing for the foreseeable future. While it seems awfully weird, we’re going to take advantage of it. Hope this inspires you to do the same.

 

 


Inside the high tunnel.


Spinach sown in high tunnel November 5.


Winter density lettuce transplanted in January, Radicchio transplanted 2.15, Mizuna sown in November, Sassy salad mix sown in January.


Tatsoi, Kale, Chard transplanted in October. Pac Choi transplanted early February.

 

 

 

 


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Farm Fresh Start

New Year’s is all about fresh starts. For lots of people this means cleaning up what they eat. Following that tradition, Over the Fence held our first winter harvest salad party today.

After a short, finger-numbing time in the field, we shared a quick bite to eat with some of our most intrepid CSA members. We even sent them home with some goodie bags to keep them on the path to a healthy new year. Hope you find ways to be clean and green in twenty-sixteen!

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Death (and Rebirth) by Cold Frame Solar Oven

(This post is dedicated to our friends Tim Chavez and Suzanne Csejtey, local masters of solar power.)

I guess I didn’t really check the forecast all that well yesterday morning because I decided to leave our cold frame closed to benefit some seeds I had set to germinate. I wasn’t thinking at all about the sprouts and greens already growing in there. When the temperatures approached 80 degrees, everything baked.

From the overwintered mustard:

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To the new sweet pea seedlings.

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At first I was really pissed at myself for making such an amateur mistake. But then I sat back and looked at what was in the soil and thought about what could be.

Using the cold frame as a seedbed, not just a tool for growing plants when it’s cold, is a concept I picked up from Eliot Coleman and it works. It’s so much easier to keep a 2 x 4′ bed damp for germination than a 27 foot row. And the seedlings are able to stretch out form the start in the ground as opposed to in a plastic cell. (The space under our grow lights is presently overrun with tomato plants so that’s not an option anyway!)

So, I ripped out everything that was left growing – the aforementioned mustards and some lettuces that had been growing in the basement this winter which I moved out to the frame a month ago but were so root-bound they would never amount to much more than they already were, and made a giant harvest salad.

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I added some of the potting soil mix I picked up at the Columbus Agrarian Society and am now using instead of the totally unsustainable coir I was using for seedlings (turns out it is made in Holland from coconut husks grown in Singapore!) and now we’re’m ready to start over again. Spring is all about new beginnings, afterall!


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Winter Carrots

Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch write a lot about winter carrots. Before last year I NEVER had any luck growing carrots so when I first read his descriptions, I was just plain jealous. And hopeless. Would I have to drive to his farm in Maine for the experience of eating a winter carrot harvest?

This summer we grew a good crop of carrots. They weren’t all perfect (see our post on Fruita Feia), but we kept on trying. Planting carrot seed late into the summer and early fall as summer beds died off. And I’m so glad we did! After a few hard frosts, I  can honestly say I have eaten the BEST carrots of my life. Extra sweet and super crispy. Like NOTHING you’ll find in the store.

Next year I hope to have a continuous supply.


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Eating From the Garden, All Year Round

We haven’t been posting much lately, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. While there isn’t much to do outside, these cold dark days beckon us to the kitchen to bake cookies and simmer soups.

Here are a few of our favorite things.

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Baked sweet potato fries with bulgar salad featuring our mustard greens and delicata squash. (12/23)

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Cream of butternut squash soup with roasted radicchio. (12/14)

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Foundation for a salad we brought to a holiday potluck – spinach, radicchio, and kale. (12/6)

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When we harvested the garlic scapes in July, we made a few pounds of compound butter, some of which we froze with the holidays in mind. (I don’t know how to take a great picture of butter, but these biscuits from Christmas dinner made a great vehicle for eating ours.)

Hoping to continue eating from our own backyard and basement as much as possible in 2015!


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Winter Harvest Report

Officially, it’s only been winter for 8 days, but it’s felt like winter around here for at least a month.

We last reported from the field November 11th, seven weeks ago, which is a pretty long time in the life of a plant. Especially at this time of year with overnight highs as low as 10 and as high as 50.

So, what does it look like out there now?

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Pretty brown from a distance. But up close, and under that plastic caterpillar, also known as a “low tunnel”. . .

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It’s wet, warm, and things are still growing. This must be what it feels like inside a terrarium. We haven’t watered since September.

The arugula and chard have died back, the spinach has slowed to nearly nothing, the kale, mustard, scallions are slow and small but still producing. The tatsoi is still remarkably happy and wins, hands down, the prize for best cold climate producer.

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The  carrots are sweet, crisp, and beautiful. Cora and I dug some up for Christmas dinner. (I used the most crooked fruta feia we found to make a soufflé – saving the long slender roots for raw snacking – and it was delicious.)

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One really incredible surprise has been the herbs. Oregano and parsley are still doing well, and cilantro is still standing if looking a bit puckered.

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It’s about time to get planning for the 2015 season in earnest. These experimental beds will certainly play a role.


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Update from Our Fall Laboratory

One of our goals at Over the Fence is to find ways to produce fresh food throughout the year. To this end, we consulted the first name in North American season extension, Eliot Coleman. After traveling to Europe to research year-round crop production and conducting experiments on his own land in Maine, he developed a variety of techniques for covering crops, overwintering seedbeds, and winter harvesting. Anytime you speak with someone who is trying harness Mother Nature’s more subtle powers, you’re likely to hear his name. We’d love to visit his aptly named Four Season Farm. Someday… In the meantime, we’ve seem some of his ideas in action around Columbus at Swainway Urban Farm, Harmonious Homestead, and Peace, Love, and Freedom Farm.

After reading as much of Coleman as we could get our hands on, we purchased 20 – 10 foot lengths of 1/2″ EMT and borrowed a bending tool to make our first low tunnel hoops last winter. You can read about that process here. We experimented with them a bit in the spring for an early harvest, but didn’t have much luck. We needed to start earlier, producing a fall garden that could evolve over-winter. This year we were ready.

In late August, we got a variety of cold-hardy seeds into the ground and sprouting – kale, arugula, swiss chard, spinach, scallions, beets, carrots, tatsoi, and a variety of mustards. We tried corn salad, or mache, a Coleman favorite for winter harvest but after two rounds of planting saw no germination and gave up. For now. By September we had two full rows of greens going just as strong as we had in the spring. We’re eating from them everyday, occasionally sharing with CSA friends though at this point we are selfishly relishing the fruits of our experiment.

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A mid-Octover harvest.

Last week, in anticipation of our first overnight frost, we covered the beds with our low tunnel hoops and 6-mil greenhouse plastic. The plastic is secured with clamps and, for the time being, held down on the ground with burlap coffee sacks. Something a bit heavier will likely be in order as it gets colder and windier.

A corner of the tunnel. Note the moisture dripping down the sides!

A corner of the tunnel. Note the moisture dripping down the sides!

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Outside

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Inside

A quick temperature experiment showed that on a partly sunny day in the mid-forties, inside the tunnel was just above sixty. Yesterday was unseasonably warm, in the low sixties. We didn’t measure the temperature inside the hoop, but it felt warm and smelled of rich, damp earth. A true joy to behold in early November.

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It’s like the tropics in here!

Hope to keep these going at least through our Thanksgiving feast! We’ll let you know how it goes.