It was a somewhat quiet week on the farm last week. The Sustainable Farming and Food Systems students are done with their Summer Internship, although we had a couple of students who came out because they missed the farm so much :)! I even took a long weekend to enjoy a camping trip with my family. And even though taking a 3.5 year old on her first camping trip is exhausting, it was a much needed break from the grind of a farm season. We still have our youth workers through the end of this week, so we plugged away at as many projects as we could get through. We took a break from a lot of the ongoing hand weeding and focused some of our energy on some lingering housekeeping. The barn and classroom got a great cleaning and we got mostly caught up on a project that is usually done in the late fall, sanitizing our seedling trays. “Why do we sanitize our trays?” I’m glad that you asked. Even though our plants don’t spend a lot of time in their trays, we want to make sure that we aren’t harboring any diseases that may linger into the next season. It’s not the most glamorous job but it’s an important one. Another glamour-free job that we started to tackle last week was moving rocks. The joke around hear (any many of my friends) is that the best crop on the farm are rocks. Some of the rocks in our fields (ok, most of them), make transplanting, direct seeding, weeding and even harvesting a real pain. We move them out of the fields into big piles at the end of our beds, always thinking that we’ll get to moving them. Well, that usually doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. This past week we moved about 2-3 tons into our massive rock pile. My estimates is that we’ve pulled about 20 tons of rocks out of our fields since we started farming this land. So, if you were looking for some rocks for a project around the house, just let me know:)
Praying Mantis Student Video Post by Jake This video of a praying mantis was captured by Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Student Jake at the TC3 Farm. Jake describes some of the characteristics of this fascinating beneficial insect, and the video captures some of it’s interesting behaviors. Problems viewing the video? Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JkJnL_ssdA&feature=youtu.be Please follow and … Read more
A Plant Identification Tour of the TC3 Farm – Learning Common “Weeds” – Student Post by Make
Today’s post is a plant identification tour of the TC3 Farm. All the species we will discuss today are potentially “weeds” on the farm. But what is a weed? A weed is simply a plant that is growing where it is not wanted (even a single tomato plant growing in a field of squash can be identified as a weed). The plants being discussed here are all things that grow on the TC3 Farm and can sometimes be found where we don’t want them. Gardeners and farmers alike know all too well the main problem with weeds: competition with their cultivated crops which reduces yields.
Here are some things to think about as you learn to identify your weeds. There are other attributes weeds possess that often get ignored. Weeds can be used for sustenance as mentioned in an earlier post (http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2017/06/19/harvesting-wild-plants-at-the-tc3-farm/). Weeds can be medicinal and are used in traditional medicine. Specific weeds under certain conditions can be used productively in a sustainable manner to properly manage your soil and environment (add organic matter, habitat for beneficial insects, encourage healthy soil biota). Other weeds need to be suppressed because they can harbor certain pests and ultimately leave you open to crop failures.
The first weed in our plant identification tour is known by the common name Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense). It is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshade family. All parts of the plant are toxic to human health when ingested and can lead to death (its fruit which can resemble tomatoes are the most toxic). The most identifiable characteristic are its spines on the stem and underside of its larger leaves. Each fruit contains around 60 seeds. It flowers throughout the summer, from April to October. The plant can spread through seed and rhizomes (sexually and vegetatively). This plant can harbor and sustain Colorado Potato Beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), Eggplant Flea Beetle (Epitrix fuscula), and Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) just to mention a few. Leaving the Horsenettle unchecked can lead to lower crop yields for Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Eggplants. Hint: The plant should be removed preferably with gloves as to avoid the stinging spines which can become embedded in your skin.
Pollinators on the TC3 Farm – Student Post by Kateri
Hi all! It is the time of year on the TC3 Farm when flowers are appearing all around us! Tomato plants are flowering and fruiting, wildflowers are filling up the wild areas around our worked fields with color, and the squash plants need their white row covers to be pulled so that pollinating insects can visit their beautiful yellow flowers. All of these things make this a good time to share with our readers about these important friends of ours, the pollinators.
No doubt you have been hearing about bees in the news lately-and with good reason! The populations of these superior pollinators are on the decline-even in Upstate New York. But what do pollinators do for farms? Farmers rely on pollinators like bees to fertilize their flowering crops. Fertilization, occurs by way of the transfer of pollen (male gametes)-found in the plant’s flower and produced by the male part of the plant found there- to the ovule, the female part of the plant also found in the flower. This process must take place in order for the farmer to obtain the fruits of his labor (pun intended!). It is important to clarify that bees are not nature’s only pollinators. Butterflies, moths, and other insects also enable the fertilization of crops by spreading pollen, though not as much as bees. The incredibly designed hairs that cover the bodies of bees and easily pick up pollen as they buzz in flowers, make bees pollinators of extreme importance, and not just to farmers, but to anyone who eats most edible plants!
Happy 4th of July!
I’m not exactly sure what happened to June but here we are. Things are rocking and rolling on the farm; transplanting, weeding and harvesting. This past week, we started planting our fall brassicas. It never ceases to amaze me that we plant our fall broccoli and cabbage before we start harvesting our spring plantings. We continued our weekly maintenance of our hoophouse and greenhouse tomatoes. The signs of summer are here because fruits are starting to form on the plants.
Tomato Time – Student Post By Cody – Week of July 26th, 2017
Hey all! It is that time a year again to get excited about all the delicious varieties of tomatoes being sown at the TC3 Farm. With over two dozen heirloom, cherry and hybrid tomato varieties on the Farm, it is a mighty challenge to tame those taste buds as all the young seedlings are transplanted. The TC3 Farm grows both field and greenhouse/ hoop house tomatoes. Crop rotation best practices are followed in determining where the tomatoes will be grown both in the field and indoors. This week the farm team transplanted a variety of tomatoes in the greenhouse and hoop house. In this post, I will describe the techniques in preparing and setting up a greenhouse for tomato cultivation and some tips for having a successful and healthy growing season.
At this point you may be wondering why the TC3 Farm grows so many different varieties of tomatoes. I believe the unequivocal answer is that crop diversity is a key attribute to a successful and healthy farm operation. One might also be asking if there is an advantage to growing tomatoes in a greenhouse. I believe there are many advantages for the use of a greenhouse, especially in a relatively short northeast growing season. The first advantage is that a greenhouse can extend the growing season, and this is especially important for tomatoes which are a high value crop. Secondly, a greenhouse provides for temperature, precipitation and air flow control. This is crucial for tomatoes as it reduces the chances for fungal and oomycete diseases such as early blight and late blight which can devastate plants in the nightshade family. Proper crop rotation planning can reduce blight and pest problems during the growing season.