fresh from the garden

fresh from the garden


Welcome to the ramblings of a fifty-something suburban "farmer"

Hoping that if you should stumble upon this blog my daily musings might bring a little smile to your day.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

hydroponic potatoes in a barrel WOW!!

In an effort to cheat mother nature and get as much of a head start as possible on this growing season I decided to try growing hydroponic potatoes. I'd read that they are doing it in Vietnam with good success. The thing is they are doing it more traditionally in rows similar to raised beds but soilless w/ coir and nutrient solution ie. hydroponically. I've grown potatoes in a barrel with mixed results but I had an idea. The lighter the media I grew in the larger and more prolific the yield ,SO coir should be AMAZING (I Hope). So far the results are quite promising as the plants have grown 30 inches Since 03/09 and are already starting to throw some flowers. .The procedure is as follows:
One 55 gal food grade barrel w/  16 -5/16 holes in the bottom and 6 around the edge (about ¾ “ up on the side) sitting in a  Barrel cover w/ 2 inch lip (think of it as a coaster or plant dish) .Six inches of coconut coir in the bottom. Start 8 seed potato pieces . when they are about 8 inches high place them on the six inches of coir already in the barrel . Pile moist coir around them until only about 2 inches sticks out .As the plants grow continue to add coir until the barrel is full of coir. The plants will grow up and eventually stick out of the barrel by up to 2 feet . If you add nutrient solution (ph 5.9 EC 2) to the bottom in the plant dish it will wick up . It’s a good idea to top water when you add more coir so that the coir will settle a bit . The potatoes will flower (either white or purple flowers) These will contain potato seeds (not to be confused with seed potatoes). When the plants die back it’s time to knock over the barrel and harvest up to 100 pounds of potatoes . Not bad for four square feet.
  I plan on doing this with numerous barrels using 4 different varieties of fingerling potatoes as well as Yukon Golds and more Kennebec and Katadin Maine potatoes . If this process works one could potentially grow a ton of potatoes in less than 100 square feet. That's pretty amazing! I've heard of people stacking tires to do the same thing WARNING!!!!tires leach toxic chemicals. Isn't the idea to clean up our food sources ? I'll add more pix and updateas they grow. Any questions or comments would be welcomed .Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Incredible Perpetual Corn Machine

Let me first qualify this by saying there are no magical powers to this system .I also REALLY hate buying produce that has been picked unripe and shipped thousands of miles for me to pay top dollar for inferior nutrition and flavor. So I'm always looking to  try new ideas (it's also part of my job). I just had an idea to match together a early dwarf bicolor corn (63 days /9weeks) with our Farmtek microdutch  hydroponic systems (with some modifications) . This same idea could be probably also be accomplished w/ soil grown 5 gallon pails or grow bags. I'm trying that also as a way to have corn for my farmers market before Memorial day. This is my first run at this idea and I will keep you all abreast of it's weekly progress. Conceptually it seems sound ,we'll see if it plays out in reality. So here goes .
The seeds:
I'm starting out with two different varieties .
    Thumbing through the large pile of seed catalogs I got this  year I found a variety from Burpee called On Deck. It's an early 63 day bicolor sweet corn that has been bred for growing "on your Deck". It's only supposed to get 4 1/2 to 5 feet tall  and produce 2-3 ears per stalk. The biggest drawback are that it is a hybrid (no seed saving) and the cost $6.95 per packet of about 60 seeds.
My other candidate is another early dwarf bicolor hybrid from Territorial seed company called Quicky . The main difference here being I got 1/2 pound of seed for $10.25. The other difference is germination. Quicky has nearly 100% germination vs. the "on deck " has only about 80%. plan on writing burpee about this. I tried soaking and not soaking , soaking was worse got about 20%.
The Equipment:
   I'm using a Farmtek microdutch  dutch bucket system . For the hobbyist I think it's a great little system that produces a good amount of High quality vegetables in an extremely small footprint.So far I 've grown cherry tomatoes ,Slicing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini squash and cabbage we have trials in line for bush beans and Broccoli. The only modification is  that I went with six buckets vs. the four it normally comes with. This Mod is what should give us the ability to  harvest 1 bucket per week forever (alright maybe not forever but you know what I mean). we are testing a plant based organic OMRI listed fertilizer designed for hydroponics  that has performed well in our initial trials w/ peppers and cukes  If it works then I will release the name .  Now I know some of you are saying OMG you're using plastic to grow food ,the petroleum The chemicals . I understand your point but also look at how much petroleum would be used to transport my corn across country EVERY week and How much water is needed to get it to grow as well as the equipment to harvest it. This system uses about 15% of the water that soil growing would and also doesn't deplete the soil.
The process:
  when you think of the perpetual corn machine think of a gattling gun.
 it takes 9 weeks for this corn to mature.
Week 1 plant the seed into a rock wool cube
Week 2 check progress as seed should germinate then repeat week 1
week 3 check progress and repeat week 1
Week 4 plant the first plants into the system then repeat week 1
Week 5 Plant the second plants into the system then repeat wk1
Week6 Plant the third plants in to system and repeat wk1
Week 7 plant the fourth plants into the system and repeat wk 1
Week 8plant the fifth plants into the system and repeat wk 1
Week 9 plant the sixth plants into the system and repeat wk 1
Week 10 Harvest the first bucket ,clean, replace  and  plant the seventh  plants into the system and repeat wk 1
and so on and so on and so on.
 I've noticed that in growing small corn patches pollination can be a real challenge .it seems that the tassels are dried and empty by the time the silk comes out resulting in partial or incomplete ears . My theory is that since these plants are only 1 week apart that there should never be a shortage of fresh pollen . And yes I am talking about almost 50 plants in a 30x36 space while that can't work with soil it can with hydroponics because there is always plenty of nutrients for every plant as the system pumps fresh nutrients for 2 minutes every two hours.
 So we'll see. I think it looks very promising. Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Well now that's it's official that Heather Jo Flores will be joining us for Friday and Saturday July 17&18 , it's time to start laying out the program and get some details. At this time these are tentative ideas .Feel free to comment with your thoughts.
 Friday 07/17 6pm-9pm seed swap at the Wilbraham Public Library followed by Intro to Food Not Lawns Featuring Heather Jo Flores
Saturday 07/18
  9-1 Intro to Suburban Permaculture /guerilla Food not lawns (hiding crops in plain sight so your neighbors don't even know you're doing it.)
1-2 Light lunch will be served (fresh Suburban Artisan  salad w/ Organic bread and Local Organic grass fed Raw milk Cheese ,Quinoa salad  and fruit  and we'll be doing another seed swap .
  2-5 pm I'll be leading the group in a discussion about "Second Spring " getting ready for fall and winter crops. Participants will take home over 100 seedlings to get a head start on their own Second Spring plantings.
      The Friday session will be free of charge but a donation of nonperishable food items for the Edge food pantry to help those who are hungry  will be accepted .
      Both sessions on Saturday will  total $99.00. Work study will be available. Come and work on the farm for 6 hours (Doesn't have to be all at once we'll have at least 4 work days)  learn some things (probably take home some fresh veggies ) make new friends and save the $99.00. Bit coin will be accepted and barter considered.

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Official I'm very excited to announce that Suburban Artisan Farm will be welcoming Heather Jo Flores for a 2 day (OK 1.5 day) workshop on july 17 &18 in Wilbraham, MA . More details soon @

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let's try this one more time.

 Spring is here (at least that's what the calendar says) the crocuses are still gonna need a snowblower at my house this year. But they will arrive eventually and with it another season of Woodchuck and chipmunk feeding AKA suburban gardening so let's try this one more time. Over the last year I have gotten a taste of what many people call  a normal job . I work in an office type setting (50 + hours a week with at least some time behind a desk )even though I run 2 30x72 foot grow rooms I feel it's kind of like an office job. This is my first foray into this world and I am grateful to have a pretty good paying job doing something I consider to be my life's work . That being said I still crave soil under my nails , the aroma of freshly dug soil and real sunshine on my face. As more outside activity that will bring some sweat along with it  (hopefully) begins to melt  away some of the fifteen pounds I put on this winter I will truly be back in my element amongst the rows and beds of my farmden (to big to be a garden too small to be a farm).As the cellar grow room begins to fill with more flats of hopeful candidates for this years plots and plant sale my mind races to think of what I wanted to grow last year and the new crops and methods I wanted to try this year and of course more seeds. Funny  how each year when I get the new catalogs I get a little giddy flipping through the pages mentally plotting where this new variety would fit perfectly between the beans and the tomatoes. My wife tells me it's my new addiction just because I went to Baker creek on new years eve and bought 200 packets of seed and still drool over the pretty pictures from territorial or johnnys. So what if I still have all those left from last year. Fortunately none of you feels any of this so it probably sounds crazy but I warned you I'm a little nuts.