Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Monday, March 14, 2016


Thanks to all those who have attended the Organic Gardening Class.  Here is some information about the subjects we have discussed over the past couple of weeks.  More information will follow to accompany the next few classes.  I appreciate all the community support,  the Vernal Library for allowing us to use the conference room and especially for all of the time and effort Melinda puts into making these wonderful programs happen.  



OUR MISSION STATEMENT:  is to provide individuals  with organically grown vegetables; using accountable stewardship, returning to the earth more than taken, and respecting the value of an honest day’s work.

WHY GROW ORGANICALLY? The use of chemicals in the garden depletes beneficial microbiotic life, breaks down the soil structure, and adds salinity to the soil.  Improvised soil makes crops more vulnerable to disease and insect attack.  By applying organic methods, compost, and working at natures pace, your garden will produce an abundance of health promoting, high yielding, more flavorful vegetables than those produced with conventional method.



If you take care of your soil, the plants will take care of themselves.

       Creating the proper soil conditions requires a little manipulation of the natural soil.

       AERATION---  Plants and soil organisms will suffocate if insufficient air in the root system is unavailable.  Plant roots absorb      oxygen from the air and give off carbon dioxide.  The leaves absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.  Plants must be able to breathe.  Dense or compacted soil does not allow for air flow to the root system causing impaired growth and failure.

       WATER---  The gravitational pull of the water percolates down into the roots.  As it flows downward it is replaced by fresh air from above.  In heavy, dense soil the water does not drain off fast enough and plants can literally drown.  Water vegetation with  an inch of water weekly.  A good way to measure is with a rain gauge or opened tuna fish can placed in the garden.  Not all water flows downward, some remains in the tiny spaces between the soil particles or is captured in humus.  This is the water taken in by the roots to hydrate and transfer minerals to the plants.  A good soil is both well drained and also has the ability to hold capillary water.

        BALANCED NUTRIENTS----  Nutrients  are the source of the plant growth.  They consist of mineral subsistence’s found in the soil.  Plants require a balanced supply of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, and other trace elements.  If a plant has an overall balance of nutrients it will produce good crops.  In deficient amounts, the plants will have poor health, slow growth and crop failure.

       BALANCED P H ----“Potential Hydrogen” (ph) is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity of any substance.   Purchase a test kit at your local garden center.   PH is measured on a scale from 0-14.  Seven is neutral.  Most garden vegetables will grow in a soil PH of 6.0-7.0.  In acidic conditions, plant nutrients are attached tightly to the soil and cannot be absorbed by the roots.  In alkaline soils the nutrients combine through chemical bonds into substances the plants are unable to utilize.

  0   1   2   3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   11  12  13  14
  ACIDIC-  SOUR                                    NEUTRAL -SWEET             ALKALINE -BITTER                                                      

              ASPARAGUS  6.5-7.5                                                                                 
              BEANS  5.2-7.2
              BEETS  5.8-7.3
              CABBAGE  5.8-7.3
              CARROTS  5.8-7.3
              CAULIFLOWER  6.0-7
              CORN  5.2-7.2                             
              CUCUMBERS  5.2-7.2
              LETTUCE  5.8-7.5
              ONIONS  5.8-7.5
              PEAS  5.5 -7.5
              SQUASH  5.2-
              STRAWBERRIES  5.2-6.8  
              TOMATOE  5.5-7.5


                      To improve your soil first determine the ph ratio, the humus content, and the type of soil; clay, sandy, or loam.

       CLAY SOIL-60% clay, 30% silt, 10% sand.
  CLAY LOAM- 35% clay, 35% silt, 30% sand
 LOAM SOIL-10% loam, 50% silt, 40% sand. 
                                        SANDY SOIL-  greater than 50% sand.

  To determine the type of soil in your garden, fill a quart jar 1/3 full of soil.  Add water to fill the jar.  Shake the jar well and let the soil separate into layers.   Good soil will contain equal parts of clay, sand, silt or loam.  This test will help determine what to add to your existing soil.  If it is heavy clay, add sand, compost, and organic matter.   Add compost, humus, and organic matter to sandy soil to help it retain moisture.  COMPOST is beneficial to all soil types.  Compost mitigates both PH extremes.  The higher the organic matter content, the higher the soil quality.  The benefits of organic matter are biological, physical and chemical—it influences microbial populations, it affects the stability of the soil structure, adding air to the soil, breaks up clay, binds together sand particles, and is an important nutrient source.  It  improves drainage, prevents erosion, neutralizes toxins, and creates a healthy soil for worms and fungi.   Compost contains some nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but is especially important for trace elements it adds to the soil.  The humic acids in compost dissolve soil minerals and trace elements  that make them available to the plants.  Compost holds 6 times its own weight and regulates the supply of water to be absorbed by the vegetation.  Fewer nutrients will leach out of the soil if it has adequate organic matter. There are 16 elements known to be essential to plants if they are to grow and re-produce.  They are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, boron, manganese, iron, copper, molybdenum, zinc, and chlorine.  A soil rich in organic matter supplies plants with adequate amounts of the trace minerals.  If a soil is deficient in a mineral, only a small amount it needed to correct proper balance.   By using compost, mineral deficiencies are practically non-existent.                             


     There are many ways to make compost, however this is a simple method.   By weight, use 1/3 dry vegetation, 1/3 green vegetation (includes manure) and kitchen scraps, and 1/3 soil.  However if your soil is heavy clay, use less.   Also add some finished compost to help get the pile started.   Begin by piling sticks or corn cobs on the ground, this allows air to circulate under the pile.  Add items in this order, dry ingredients, green ingredients and cover with a layer of soil.
  Sprinkle every layer with water so the pile is moist throughout.   Repeat until the desired height is achieved.  Make a small dent in the top for water.  Keep the pile evenly moist, but not excessively wet.  Let the pile heat up, when it begins to cool after several weeks, turn the pile.  If you have room, shovel the top, lesser decomposed matter to the ground adjacent to the old pile.  Continue transferring (turning) the pile.  This will bring the larger particles into the center for better contact with the microbes that breaks down the vegetation into humus.
      Use SHEET COMPOSTING for large areas.  Place Greens (grass, weeds, cover crops etc.) on top of soil, add a couple inches of well rotted manure over the greens.  Cover with 4 inches of old hay, leaves, or straw.  Keep evenly moist.  Let break down for
 several  months and till into the soil.  My suggestion is to apply this method to your garden in the fall and let break down over the winter.  Till into the soil before planting in the spring.
         FarmHer JILL MAKING COMPOST using the 3 bin rotation method

           Compost supplies the THREE most important nutrients,

      and important trace minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, boron, copper and zinc.
         NPK= N- nitrogen     P- phosphorous     K- potassium
 Nitrogen- promotes healthy leaf and plant growth,
 Nitrogen sources-    animal manure, green cover crops, compost, cotton seed meal, dried blood,
 feathers,  bone meal, fish
 Nitrogen deficiency- yellowish  leaves, small leaves, too much nitrogen promotes leaf growth
 without fruiting, develops     tissues that are weak, weak stems, more susceptible to frost and wind damage
      Phosphorous- promotes root growth, blooming and fruit production,
 Phosphorous- compost, rock phosphate, cotton seed meal,  dried poultry and goat manure, fish, ashes, wool waste
Phosphorous deficiency-  a red/purple discoloration of the stems, leaf veins, and leaves
    Potassium- helps plants resist disease.
      Potassium- (potash)- wood ashes, granite dust, fresh grass clippings,  dried goat & sheep manure, alfalfa, wool wastes Potassium deficiency-  poor yield, yellow streaks or spots in leaves, leaf edges become dry and scorched, poorly developed root system.

To help retain moisture, a thick layer of mulch is spread over areas of the garden.
Apply mulch around seedlings after they have grown several inches this prevent fungal dampening off.  I usually weed between the plants, leaving the weeds as a green, nitrogen layer before covering with straw or hay.

A picture of grass clippings from my lawn.  I do not use synthetic fertilizers or chemical sprays on the lawn so I can apply the mulch in the garden directly after mowing.

Tree leaves add carbon compounds to your soil.  I gather leaves in the fall and place in a big black garbage bags.  Adding a little water and shaking each bag to incorporate the moisture throughout I tie them tightly closed and stack them in an out of the way place until spring.  The resulting "Leaf Mold" is applied to the gardens in the spring and tilled under.

  A thick layer of mulch insulates the soil, keeping the temperature even, aiding in the growth of plant roots.  It provides food and habitat for earthworms and burrowing insects, whose tunnels loosen and aerate the soil.  Mulch applied to soil in spring or early summer can be tilled under in the fall, thus enriching the garden soil.   Mulch keeps vegetables that sprawl on the ground; tomatoes, cucumbers squash, melons, from mildew or decay.  Many items can be used
 as a protective mulch, hay, straw, leaves, un-sprayed grass clippings, corn husks, shredded corn  stalks, peat moss, pine needles, sawdust, weeds, native grasses, wood chips or bark.  Transplanted vegetables can be mulched soon after the plants are set. 

                                STARTING SEEDS INDOORS

        CROP               WEEKS BEFORE
                                   SETTING OUT 
ONIONS, LEEKS                      10-12
CELERY                                    8-10
TOMATOES                              6-8
EGGPLANTS                            6-8
PEPPERS                                   4-6
CABBAGE                                4-6
CAULIFLOWER                       4-6
BROCCOLI                               4-6
HEAD LETTUCE                      3-4
MELONS, SQUASH &             3-4

The spaghetti squash plants in the left hand, bottom corner of the photo were purchased from a garden center and planted out two weeks before the squash seeds were planted (back-ground).  I have found over the years that vining (cukes, melons, squash) crops do not transplant well and that seeding crops when the soil is sufficiently warm gives better result.
Gather containers to plant your seeds in. Poke holes in the bottom of the container.   Fill with moist soil.  I recommend using 1/2 purchased organic potting soil and 1/2 of your garden dirt.   Plant 2-3 seeds per pot. Place plastic wrap over containers to help keep them moist.  Setting them in a tray and placing on your refrigerator generates heat from the bottom for better germination.  When seed have sprouted and grown an inch, cut off the weakest sprouts, leaving one per container.    Place seedlings in a sunny south window, turning daily to prevent legginess.  When raising tomatoes or peppers, I plant a group of seeds into a container(see photo).  When seedlings are about 3 inches tall they are transplanted into a larger separate container and moved into the sun room to await planting.


Do not transplant cole or vine crops before setting out in the garden.  They do not transplant well so plant them in individual containers.  A good recyclable pot is made from newspaper, paper eggs cartons, or paper toilet paper rolls.
Be sure to harden off plants before setting them in the garden.  It takes about a week.  Put them outdoors in the shade for a few hours on a mild day, and leave them longer the next day.  On day 3 move them into the sunlight for half the day, shade for the other half.  Bring them in at night.  On the 5th day leave them in the sun most of the day and leave out at night (if there is not a threat of frost).  By the next day, leave them in the sun all day and out at night.  Don’t forget to water several times a day!  It only takes a short time for the plants to burn and dry out.


        The “True Farm”, in bio-dynamic terms, means a farm that works as a single organism supporting itself in all functions.  Livestock is based upon the availability of land for crops, feed, and pasture.  Their composted manures should be of sufficient quantity to fertilize the soil, which incorporates microbes, minerals, nutrients, and other life giving elements.  The relationship of the ecosystem, the planetary influences upon plant life, and the balance of insects above and below the soil are the basic fundamentals of a bio-dynamic farm.


INCREASING LIGHT--   WAXING-- The period from a New Moon to the Full Moon is best for planting vegetables that provide their yield above ground.

DECREASING LIGHT—WANING-- The period from a Full Moon to the New Moon is best for planting vegetables that produce a root crop. 

FIRST QUARTER—the period between a New Moon and the Half-Full Moon is best for planting leafy vegetables and plants that produce their seed OUTSIDE the plant.  Lettuce, spinach, cabbage, celery, asparagus, etc.

SECOND QUARTER--  The period between the Half-Moon and the Full Moon is best for planting vegetables that produce seeds within the fruit.  Beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peas, peppers, melons, and tomatoes.

THIRD QUARTER--  The period from the Full Moon to the Half-Moon is best for planting biennials, perennials, bulbs, and root crops.  Crops that winter over and produce the following year, i.e. fruit trees.  This is the best time to TRANSPLANT vegetables since the root growth is active.  Plant seeds of onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, rhubarb, and berries.

FORTH QUARTER—The period from the Half-Full Moon to the New Moon.  This period is dry and barren.  Cultivate, pull weeds, destroy pests and turn under sod.



                                CROP ROTATION

A general rule of thumb is not to plant the same crop, or family of crops in the same area for 3 years.
Heavy feeders, crops that use up great quantities of nitrogen and nutrients should be followed by crops that give back to the soil; nitrogen fixing plants, and plants with deep root systems, that bring up nutrients from deep in the soil.  Root crops are light feeders allowing the soil to rest.  Replenish the soil with manure and compost yearly.

Artichoke, Jerusalem                    Lima Beans                                Beets
Artichoke, regular                        Pole or Bush Beans                     Carrots
Broccoli                                      Peas                                           Garlic
Brussels Sprouts                         Alfalfa                                        Horseradish
Cabbage                                      Vetch                                         Kohlrabi
Celery                                         Clover                                       Leeks
Chard                                                                                           Onions
Collards                                                                                        Parsnips
Corn                                                                                             Potatoes
Cucumbers                                                                                    Radishes
Kale                                                                                              Rutabagas
Lettuce                                                                                          Salsify
Melons                                                                                          Turnips
Summer Squash
Winter Squash

Green manure crops are cultivated with the purpose of tilling back into the soil before they mature and go to seed.  Legumes include peas, beans, alfalfa, and clovers.  These plants help fix nitrogen in the soil by drawing it into the roots from the air and holding it in nodules in their root systems.  Their deep root growth taps soil minerals and nutrients and brings them to the surface.  Some cover crops add as much as 150 pounds of nitrogen to garden soil per acre.  That is equivalent to 5 tons of manure.   Non legumes, mostly grasses such as rye, barley, buckwheat, millet, sudangrass and wheat, are planted in the fall and plowed under in the spring.  They prevent leaching of the soil nutrients from winter storms and spring rain runoff.


                            LAMBS QUARTER (ABOVE)

is one of my favorite cover crops to use.  This weed has long tap roots that draw nutrients up to the soil surface.  The large root system breaks down in the soil adding humus, organic matter to the soil.  The weeds grow early in the spring and are tilled under before planting crops.  They are also editable, high in vitamins, especially vitamin C.

Old beans, pinto, black, etc. rotated out from your food storage make an excellent nitrogen fixing cover crop.  Sow thickly and till under when the plants are about 8 to 10 inches tall.

                         ROTATION BASICS

The practise of crop rotation requires that vegetable crops in the same family not be planted in the same place every year.  Typically you should avoid planting in the same spot for at least 3 years.  An easy way to rotate is to divide your garden into 4 equal quarters and rotate plantings in a clockwise direction.  An 8 year rotation suggested by Eliot Coleman is as follows:  potatoes after sweet corn; sweet corn after cabbage; cabbage after peas; peas after tomatoes; tomatoes after beans; beans after root crops; root crops after squashes; and squashes after potatoes.
  Use animals as part of your crop rotation.  Rotate animals into patches of spent vegetables in the fall.  (Never into  places where you have grown members of the nightshade family).  In the early spring, till manure and hay into the soil.  Wait 60 days before planting.  Use this method with rabbits, sheep, and goats.  If you are using other animal manures, let them compost for a year before using on the gardens.
                HERBS IN THE GARDEN  


MULLEIN can be found growing in disturbed soil along road sides, in vacant lots, and mountainous regions.  Make a tea for cough and congestion with the dried leaves.  Steep the tiny yellow flowers in olive oil for several weeks, strain and use for ear-aches.


     Make a salve from this herb that will heal wounds.  Add leaves to a good organic olive oil and let simmer for several hours.  Strain, repeat.  Add enough beeswax to make a thick creamy salve.   For more info,      recipes, and uses for this herb, look under the “Comfrey” tag. 

  Click here for more information

ELDERBERRY-- grow this bush for its high antioxidant activity,
 to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, it helps cure colds, coughs, flu, viral infections, and tonsillitis. I collect the ripe berries in the late summer, spreading them out to dry on an old window screen.  When completely dry, store in a dark glass jar.  I make a tea by combining the berries with dried rose hips at the first sign of a cold or flu. Elderberries contain vitamins A&B and large amounts of vitamin C. 

 SAGE--“Why should a man die when he has sage in his garden?”  a saying since the middle ages.  Use in cooking and as a beneficial tea.  Add to home-made breads and cheese.  Batter and deep fry large leaves as a tasty appetizer.  Simply harvest, tie in bundles with a rubber band, and hang to dry.  When dry, store in a cool, dark place.

DILL—Dill water is used to comfort children with colic systems, its
       name comes from the Old Norse word “dilla” which means “to lull”.
      Dill is a pungent, culinary herb.  Use the fresh leaves in salads, fish
      dishes, add dill seeds to pickles, potato dishes, stews, and bread.  To
      harvest leaves cut when about 6 inches tall and feathery, bundle and
      hang or lay flat on a screen to dry.  Crumble and store in airtight
      container.  To harvest seeds, bundle stems and place a paper bag
      over the heads.  Hang upside down until dry. Remove seeds.
      Sift in a strong breeze to remove chaff.


      35 degrees- spinach, lettuce, onion, parsnip
40 degrees- beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chard,  garlic, parsley, pea ,radish,
50 degrees-asparagus, corn
60 degrees-beans, cucumber, eggplant, musk melons, pepper, pumpkin, squash, watermelon

Satisfactory Plant Growing Temperatures


     30 degreesAsparagus. Rhubarb
40-65 degrees- beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, collard, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, radish, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, turnip
45-75 degrees-artichoke, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, endive Florence fennel, lettuce, mustard, parsley, pea, potato
45-85 degrees-  chicory, chives, garlic, leeks, onion, salsify, shallots

     60-90 degrees-  beans, lima beans, corn, cucumber, musk melon, new Zealand spinach, pumpkin, squash,

65-100 degrees-eggplant, hot pepper, okra, sweet potato, tomato, watermelon



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