Sunday, October 18, 2009

First Frost, New Life!

We just had our first frost last night. October 17. Whew, am I glad I closed up the greenhouse and put some row cover on the flats of lettuce we started out there. We were gone all day and the sun was out which was perfect and helped our seeds germinate in the ground that we had planted in there a few days ago. Most of the beds are germinating!! Yay!
We are planting our greenhouse two different ways. We direct seed about half of it, which means we put the seeds directly into the ground using an earthway seeder. The earthway seeder is a wonderful invention that can be adjusted to plant different seeds and make sure you get them evenly spaced.
The rest of the greenhouse will be planted with lettuce plants that we start in seed flats. We have about 16-20 flats full of plants that will need to be planted into the greenhouse at some point in the next few weeks.
The seeds that we have started were purchased mostly through johnny's seeds-- They have an awesome catalog and website with predominately organic-minded gardening products. We love them. We also have used Baker Creek seeds-- Baker Creek is located in Mansfield, MO, which is also the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie). Baker Creek has several festivals each year and have created a pioneer village with demonstrations, rare livestock, and a sliding scale (pay what you can) restuarant. They have a great and gorgeous catalog and website as well, and specialize in heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are those that have been grown for many years and collected and passed down through generations. They are not hybrid seeds that are bred specifically for certain traits. Hybrid seeds cannot be collected by the home gardener because you never know what you will get. Heirloom seeds help to preserve the genetic diversity that is being lost in our seed system. Also, you can collect the seeds yourself with a little studying and know-how.
Another seed company that we love is fedco. We haven't bought from them in recent years because you need to really be on the ball and order early. They used to stop taking orders after some certain date in the spring and we were always slackers and couldn't get our order together soon enough. Fedco is located in Maine and has many different people grow seeds for them, on large and small scale. They now have a website that you can order on and it looks like you might be able to order year round? I will have to look into them again. They were strictly catalog only when we were ordering from them, so they might be easier for us to order from these days. Their website is:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Finally found my sweet potatoes!

I just got in from digging my sweet potatoes. They were buried under the weeds, and I confess, I neglect my sweet potatoes every year. They are hardy plants and vigorous growers and tend to need to be weeded in the height of the summer months when the weeds are at their best (or worst). They are a pain to weed, you have to move the plants around, weed and then move them back again. I weeded them once or twice at the beginning of the summer. I peeked at them a month ago and thought that I better let them grow a little longer, since they were carrot size. With all this rain we got...they sure did grow! I started digging them up and wow was it a muddy mess. They were easy to pull out of the ground and the kids had fun finding some worm friends.

This was the first time we have grown this variety of sweet potatoes, they are called "Panama Reds". Usually we grow "Bouregards", but couldn't find any this year, so we went with what they had at the local garden center. They have a beautiful deep red skin and the insides are a nice orange/red color.

Well, I think all the outside garden is officially ready to turn in for the fall. I found some winter squashes hiding in the spent corn stalks and had already picked our butternut squash a month ago, which was probably a month too soon.

We have set our sights on the greenhouse for the last month. We started some flats lettuce, pac choi, broccoli, and kale. We also direct seeded some beds of lettuce and arugula. We are a couple of weeks ahead of where we were last year. Hopefully we will be harvesting lettuce sooner than we did last year, too. Last year we harvested lettuce in the beginning of December....if the sun would stay out we might beat that date.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

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Tomatoes in the hoop house, Summer 2008.
Sunflowers and other Summer Flowers 2005.

Greens in the Greenhouse Winter 2008.
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Pictures from the farm over the years

Clayton Farmer's Market 2005
Jack and Dan~Our First Team of Percheron's, they were gentle but a bit unpredictable...they have been traded to another farmer.

Izzy and her and Daddy's apple trees 2007.
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And We're Off!

I signed up for this blog back in the Spring of 2009 and intended to use it as a way to keep track of what we were growing and harvesting as well as serve as an infromational source for local farmers and organic gardening supporters.

A bit about us...

We have owned and operated Sweetleaf Farm in some form or fashion for ten years. We first started in Iuka, IL on Andy's parents land and rented a house down the road. We were ambitious, naive, and broke. We planned on growing organic vegetables and selling them at area farmer's markets, but unfortunately we were a bit ahead of the curve. St. Louis was just over an hour away, but seemed like way to far to go with the goods. So I pursued my education degree and Andy decided to get into graduate school for horticulture.

While in Missouri, pursuing our Master's degrees, we morphed Sweetleaf Organic Farm into a much smaller greens and flowers operation on a small rented farm. We even got serious and joined the ASCFG (Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers) and went to some fun and extremely informative conferences. Well worth the money to join that great organization!

By 2002, we were selling the Root Cellar in Columbia and at the Columbia Farmer's Market as well as to local florists. We had also become close friends in a short period of time with Kimberly and Walker, and Bryce and Jenny....

Perfect timing, as we decided to move when we graduated in 2003. I got a teaching job, we bought our very own small farm, and Andy farmed (with horses, still no tractor) full time. We moved about 90 miles from Columbia and continued to sell at the Farmer's Market and to the florists. About two years of commuting back and forth to Columbia was enough and we set our sites on selling in the St. Louis Area. For several years, Andy grew cut flowers and sold at Clayton Farmer's Market and to the St. Louis Area florists that were bequethed to us by our friend, Mimo Davis who retired from the business.

Well, here we are...ten years later and we have reorganized yet again. We have a 30 ft x90 ft hoop house that is unheated, that we have grown flowers, greens, and tomatoes in for the past 6 years. This fall we are once again growing greens, but will try and fill it up to capacity. In years past, half of the greenhouse was nearly unusable because it took on too much water and essentially flooded the plants. We had a local fellow move some dirt around with his fancy machinery and reroute the water, so it no longer takes on too much water.

Keep your fingers crossed, since we are hoping to make it worthwhile to pay someone to pick and weed for us. I will make the weekly or biweekly trip with the kids to Columbia and drop off the greens at the Root Cellar for them to use there or at the new Broadway Brewery. We will by no means get rich, but could provide someone with some walking money and make a little cash ourselves. We don't have the time to grow like we have in the past. We are both working more than full time already and have two small children. We can't imagine not going through a season without something growing. It also seems like such a waste to not plant anything into our greenhouse.