Tiny farming: herbs

Spearmint and the other herbs

Spearmint

The fall season that wouldn’t quit has more or less come to an end. For the last few days, overnight temperatures plunged well below zero, we’ve had hard frosts and some snow, but the ground is far from frozen, and there are apparently warm days ahead (for more tilling, planting additional garlic, harvesting the last of the carrots and beets)! In the herb garden, there’s not much to do, except bring in the rosemary. Flat leaf parsley is in fine shape, doing better than the curly stuff. Sage seems indestructible, thyme and oregano are largely toast above ground, while the tarragon starters seem to be fine—I’ll put them all under a couple of layers of row cover, although the sage, oregano and thyme have come back no problem for the last two years after overwintering right out in the open. Some of the peppermint was killed off, although the roots may be okay. Apart from a few cold-burned leaves, the spearmint, in the picture, is right as rain… More »

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Return to Jerusalem artichoke

First-season Jerusalem artichoke

Various garden experiments are going on here and there. The new oats and fall rye green manure cover crops are doing well. There are five or six tarragon starters, three divisions from a potted lovage, coriander seed dried on the standing plants… Several varieties of hot peppers have to be given a final performance check. And so on. One I keep noticing and promptly forgetting again is the Jerusalem artichoke, planted so long ago. They’re definitely tough. The fuzzy-textured leaves seem rather delicate and wilt alarmingly without water, but they’ve survived with little weeding and maybe one watering all season, and they’re looking happy now.

Jerusalem artichoke line-up

Another unusual characteristic, compared to almost all of the other veggies and herbs, is how un-uniform they are, at least in this first year, with plants of all heights, ranging from around a foot to over three feet (30-90+ cm). There’s not much variation in leaf size, simply in…height. Well, JA’s supposed to be prolific—we’ll soon see when I check in on the gnarly tubers down below…!

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Chives-level view

Chives-level view

Chives are great. Usually considered a herb, and like many other herbs, chives are extremely low maintenance, compact, prolific, and never fail to please the senses. Cut them and they come back quick. What more could you ask for in the busy veggie garden?! The herbs section this year is serving mainly as a nursery for new crops (tarragon, lovage, a new variety of rosemary) and perennial holding spot, all for future herb production. It would be great to harvest a nice selection every week, but you also need enough of a market to justify the time spent snipping and bundling, and once you start, you have to keep it up: consistency generates word of mouth! And it turns out that most of the 50+ shareholders are picking up off-farm (mainly at the farmers’ market), else they could help themselves. So full tilt herb production is waiting on other things to move ahead. Meanwhile, no waste. Chives, along with curly and flat-leaf parsley, are occasionally making it into CSA shares. And there’s always…personal use!

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Last of the Milkhouse seedlings

Last of the Milkhouse seedlings

Spearmint, peppermint and some replacement rosemary are all that’s left in—right outside—the Extended Milkhouse. Most of the spring seedlings are in the ground (a few are still in the greenhouse), and it’s time to transform the Milkhouse set-up from seed starting to overnight harvest storage and a place to take a break from extreme weather.

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More people in the field…

At work with herbs

At work transplanting really tiny basil in the still-to-be-shaped-up herb patch, Andrea is doing her very first day of tiny farm gardening. It all worked out very well! After nearly a month of working with Conall, the all-new organic grower, almost every day, and having several other people out for a few part-time hours, it’s a different season for me compared to the previous four. Not less work (we’re planting way more than ever before), but the energy is different. Before, largely working alone, it was more of an against the odds thing as I faced the fairly massive task of each season’s start-up. I liked that solo mission adrenaline and challenge. Now, it’s more of a people puzzle, as this season’s small crew assembles. By the time it comes to more substantial harvests in three or four weeks, I’ll be totally reliant on teamwork to get it all done. No going back: it’s like, Tiny Farm II: People in the Field. :)

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Herbs…

Herbs...

Picked up some herb seedlings from local growers at the farmers’ market yesterday. From the bottom left: peppermint, lovage, spearmint, rosemary (started here from cuttings), and tarragon (peeking in from the corner). I generally grow everything possible from seed, so the ones from the market are a bit of an instant treat. I’ll buy a couple of seedlings and multiply them myself to production quantities, which in this case means next year, at least, for the lovage and tarragon. Last frost date was May 18, the 15-day forecast is well above zero C, so it’s now time to get all of the seedlings in. It’s also time to direct seed the flowers. Lots to do…

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