June 13th Nella Mae will teach a class on pruning and trellising tomatoes. Pruning and trellising help increase tomato production, plant health, strength and easy of picking.
Nella Mae will go over how to prune tomatoes to maximize production and minimize disease. She will cover the “Florida weave” technique of trellising. She will also answer your questions about growing tomatoes.
The class is 10-11am on Sunday, June 13th at the farm (69361 Antles Lane, Cove, OR.) The cost is $8 per person or $15 per family. The class is free to folks who stay for the weeding party from 11am-noon.
You will take home a handout and materials for trellising.
Nella Mae will be teaching two more classes at the farm on May 8th, 2021. The farm location is 69361 Antles Lane, Cove, Oregon. It is the second driveway on the left on Antles Lane. Look for the farmstand in its new location.
Classes are $8 per person or $14 per family. Cash, check, Venmo (@nellamaesfarm) or CashApp ($nellamaesfarm) are accepted. Weeding Party volunteers can attend a class for free!
10-11:30am: Better Grazing for More Pasture class- Simple rotational grazing methods to avoid over grazing, control weeds, and lengthen your grazing season. This class will help you better graze any species on small to large pastures.
2-3pm: Weed management for the Home Gardener- Different methods for controlling weeds in the garden and weed identification. Bring your questions!
3-4pm- Weeding party. Anyone who joins can attend a class for free.
We’re looking for two Farm Assistants for the 2021 growing season. Please read on for more information.
Feel free to email or call Nella Mae Parks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-910-4098 to discuss position before submitting application. Please do not contact us via text or messenger in regards to this job.
Farm Assistant Positions Now Open
Background: Nella Mae’s Farm is a small vegetable farm growing for local markets. We sell to restaurants, retail outlets, through our on-farm farmstand, and at the La Grande Farmers Market.
Farm Assistants experience first-hand what it takes to manage a diverse small farm through the growing season. The work is physical and mentally engaging. Farm Assistants help with harvest, planting, weeding, irrigation, pruning, trellising, and other production tasks. The work is varied throughout the day, the week, and season. It is a great job for someone who likes to work outside and likes to learn new skills.
We value our employees and appreciate the skills and ideas they bring to the farm. We have a friendly, organized workplace with clear procedures and daily objectives. We have a strong sense of community and teamwork on our farm.
Farm or gardening experience is not required. Interest, curiosity, and a strong work ethic go a long way.
COVID note: We require masks and appropriate distancing until further notice to keep all our employees safe.
Wage: Starting at $13/hour.
Work Schedule: 10-30 hours per week. Schedule is flexible but harvest days are required–Tuesdays and Fridays. Daily schedule is 7am-12pm, lunch, 1pm-3pm.
Job Description: The Farm Assistant will work with a team of other workers under supervision of the farm manager. The Farm Assistant will be involved in daily fieldwork with instruction in pest and disease control, soil health, and irrigation and water management.
Field work: includes field preparation for planting, transplanting, weeding, thinning, pest control.
Greenhouse: seeding, transplanting, watering, trellising and pest control.
Harvesting: Field harvesting, washing, sorting, and packing salad mix and vegetables.
Record keeping: Assisting with planting, harvest, farm activity records.
This position also provides an excellent learning experience for someone who is interested in agriculture, food and running a small business and who enjoys being outside. At the farm we strive to provide learning opportunities for all employees per their interests.
Qualifications: We are looking for a hard-working, self-motivated person who is able to communicate well. The Farm Assistant must be able to work quickly and deftly with their hands. This person must be able follow direction of the farm manager and provide constructive feedback about operations. Attention to detail and adherence to our food safety procedures is critical. Applicants should be ready for physical work and to lift 30lbs regularly. They should also be able to work outside in all weather conditions from rain to heat. We invite a person of any skill level to apply for as long as they are excited to learn and work outside.
How to Apply: Please send the following to farm owner Nella Mae Parks at email@example.com: 1. A cover letter of 1-2 pages explaining your interest in the position and availability; 2. Current resume and; 3. A list of three work references with contact information. Please email as attachments in MS Word or PDF format.
Feel free to email or call Nella Mae Parks at 541-910-4098 to discuss position before submitting application. Please do not contact us via text or messenger in regards to this job.
We have had a mild summer and fall this year on our farm in Cove, Oregon. The usual Labor Day frost didn’t touch us, but now it is the end of September and frost is inevitable–possibly tonight, September 27. Here are some tips on keeping your garden going a little longer this year.
Tip 1: Prioritize
Covering your garden every night and uncovering in the morning is tedious, so first prioritize what you really care about and what you can feasibly protect.
By September at latitude 45 north, no flowers will amount to mature vegetables–there just isn’t enough warmth or daylight left. Zucchini is the exception, but you might be tired of zucchini and glad to see it go anyway.
Not all your crops need frost protection.
Anything in the Brassica family–kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage–will make it. Lettuce and other leafy greens are also cold tolerant. Root vegetables are protected by stable ground heat. In my family, we dig carrots for Christmas dinner.
Many folks like to leave root crops in the ground and cover with straw for extra insulation. I tried this and even covered the straw with plastic. The mice ate 300 feet of carrots and were happy for their warm, dry home. I prefer to leave them in the ground without creating a mouse house, and have had no trouble with them freezing, especially once the snow falls and insulates them.
Crops that need protection.
Protect tomatoes, peppers, basil, flowers and any very young seedlings you planted for your fall garden. Remember–basil can die at 35 degrees or lower, so it needs extra protection.
If you bravely planted Dalias, rosemary or other crops that are marginally successful in my zone 5b, you need to come up with a plan to protect them over the winter.
And don’t forget about your potted plants. Above ground their roots will freeze, so bring them inside or dig a hole and put the pot in the ground.
Tip 2: Quicken Ripening
Our most beloved plants didn’t evolve in the northwest. They come from Mexico or Italy–Mediterranean climates. Give your plants more clues that it is time to ripen.
Your indeterminate tomatoes are probably flowering like there’s no tomorrow, but it is time to tell them the end is nigh. Hack off any flowering parts of the tomato. Pinch any flowers from peppers and keep the basil flowers pinched too. Cut way back on water so plants are “shocked” into ripening. Tomatoes need water 0-1 times per week at this point in the season.
If what you’re trying to ripen is flower seeds to save, cut off the water all together.
Tip 3: Watch the Weather
Every morning and late afternoon, I check the weather forecast. I want to know the nighttime low and weather the skies will be cloudy or clear. I don’t ready the NOAA forecast or anything fancy. User friendly weather sites for non-weather nerds are fine.
Frost is most likely to form on your garden if the nighttime low is near 32F and the skies are clear. Cloudy skies trap more heat and result in warmer nights. A weather forecast of a low of 35F and cloudy skies doesn’t alarm me as much as a forecast of 38F and clear skies. However, I always cover if the forecast is below 40F because I just sleep better.
Tip 4: Cover Up
Once you’ve prioritized which and how many plants you want to save, find covers you can use to keep frost off your plants at night. The idea with covering is to physically block dew from settling on your plants, freezing, bursting plant cells, and killing vegetative matter. The frost you can protect against is basically frozen dew.
Often the lowest temperatures will come after wind blows a storm through in the night. Your coverings must be able to withstand nightime breezes so you don’t have to get up at 3am to fix them.
What You Need
LIGHT WEIGHT, DRY coverings
Tarps or plastic sheeting
Remay, bedsheets or fabric
Weights or straps to keep covers in place.
Jugs or buckets of water
Boards or rocks
Bungees or ropes criss-crossed over covers
Testing out your frost protection system ahead of time is key. While their not pretty, I leave my coverings and weights right next to where they will be used so I can easily cover if the forecast unexpectedly changes.
uncover your plants & Keep covers dry
Especially if you use clear plastic, you can burn your plants up during the day if you leave the covers on. If you leave the covers on, the plants will get less light to ripen fruits. Also, keep the covers dry during the day. If you put wet covers on your plants, the covers themselves could freeze and freeze your plants.
Tip 5: Melt Frost with Water
If the nighttime lows are forecasted to dip near 32F just before sunrise or you forgot to cover up, you can opt for spraying frost (frozen dew) off of plants before it has the chance to freeze plant cells.
In order to effectively melt the frost off and save your plants, you MUST spray it off BEFORE sunrise and continue to spray it off until AFTER sunrise.
The coldest temperatures occur after sunrise. Temperatures continue to drop until the sun is able to overcome the cooling of the earth. If you spray frost once but the temepratures are still below freezing, the water you added to your plants will freeze again. You have to use continuous water to keep the plants warmer and frost from forming. If sunlight hits tender vegetation with frost on it, it will blacken and die.
You can set up sprinklers around your garden and turn the sprinklers on in the morning or set them up on a timer to start before sunrise for frost protection. Just remember to drain your hoses every night so they are ready to use in the morning and not frozen themselves.
Tip 6: Observe Your Backyard Weather
Weather forecasts are general for your area, not specific to your garden. I have learned through the years that the forecast at my house is generally warmer by 5-9 degrees. That is to say if the forecast in Cove, Oregon is a low of 40F, it will be between 31-35F at our garden and may freeze. The forecast is perfectly accurate a quarter mile away at my friends’ house.
I have an indoor/outdoor thermometer and I keep mental track of the afternoon forecasted low versus the actual low at our house. Make sure you mount the outdoor thermometer near the ground where it is colder. Over the years, observation has allowed me to make the 39 degree rule–I will cover if the forecast is 39 or below. This rule just makes it easier to decide when to go to the enormous trouble of covering the farm.
I hope you are able to keep your gardens going through the nighttime temperature dips.
August is usually a time when the mowing, weed eating, weeding and other garden chores ebb and the harvest peaks. A few yellow leaves off the cottonwoods are starting to fly, and the nights have that edge-of-fall chill. It may feel like harvest and canning time, but it is also time to start planting for fall and winter crops. Just think of this–for many years my dad and I have had the tradition of digging carrots for Christmas dinner. Wouldn’t you like to be eating the sweetest, brightest carrots too? If so, now is the time to plant.
The Planting Season is the Whole Season
One of the biggest differences between a typical home garden and a market farm like mine is the frequency of planting. To extend the season, home gardeners can simply plant 1. small amounts, 2. more often, and 3. longer into the season.
As a market farmer, I start planting in the greenhouse in February. If it is dry enough, in April I start planting the February starts and seeds outside and in the hoop house. I consider my planting season weekly or bi-weekly from April through mid-September in my 6b hardiness zone.
Home gardeners will have less space than I have on the farm, but the concept is the same. Plant partial rows or plots weekly or bi-weekly throughout the season. Each week you can use a small hoe or hand hoe to prepare a small spot for a few feet of lettuce, beets or scallions. Spend 10 minutes planting a small space rather than putting in 20 feet of radishes. You cannot eat that many. I know the temptation once seeds get into your hand to plant until the packet is empty, but hold back!
How I Plant Season Long
As soon as one crop is pulled out of the ground, I prepare the soil for the next. I plan ahead and cut water to crops that I know only have one more picking so that I can harvest, pull, till and plant right away. I want the soil to dry out so I can till or hoe it into a proper seed bed. Make sure you remember to baby your seeds along with ample water (even if it is hand watering) through germination and into the true leave stage before you forget about them and treat them like the mature plants.
Pick the right varieties
If you want to expand your planting season, you need to buy the right seed. For spring you need “cold hardy” varieties. For spring you need “main crop” varieties or those that don’t seem too picky about heat or cold. For summer you need “heat tolerant” or “slow-bolting” varieties. In the fall, you return to your spring varieties. For winter you look for “overwintering” varieties or cold tolerant crops that have 120 or more days to maturity. Also, anything called “Russian” is a good indicator it is cold hardy.
If you buy your seed from companies with good seed descriptions, you will be better off. I like Johnny’s Select Seed for the very specific growing information and High Mowing and Baker Creek Heirlooms for the variety.
Use row cover & plastic
Row cover (aka cloche or remay) is a wonderful way to protect your fall and overwinter crops from cold and pests. I use Agribon 30 weight because it is the most durable. You can make hoops from number 9 fencing wire or 1 inch schedule 40 PVC thick wall pipe (don’t buy thin walled PVC.) You can make short “feet” and pound them into the ground and bend your PVC hoops over them. If you leave your row cover on all season, make sure to cover with clear plastic too. The weight of snow will damage your row cover.
Many folks use straw to protect the roots of crops they overwinter such as carrots. Some folks cover the straw with plastic too. I tried this on a 60×60 bed and made a perfectly warm, dry mouse house. They ate all my carrots. Now I just leave my carrots uncovered in the wilds of winter and they do just fine.
Crops for fall
Think about fall crops as those you eat the leaves or roots of as a guide. No tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers or basil. Think about eating things from norther latitudes, not from the Mediterranean or Mexico.
You can plant any of these crops now (mid-August) in zone 6b, but you can use the Johnny’s Selected Seed fall-harvest planting calculator to get more precise. The calculator is based on the last day of 10 hours of daylight at your latitude. In Cove, Oregon on the 45th parallel north, it is November 4th. Count backwards from there for planting dates by crop.
Here is my fall planting plan for our latitude and based on November 4th. Keep in mind, these are possible crops for each date–you don’t have to plant everything every week. One thing not on my list here are radishes. They can be planted pretty much any time after the heat abates.
As I mentioned, carrots are great for overwintering. Look for “storage” or “overwintering” varieties like Johnny’s Bolero or Napoli. I had great luck with Bolero.
Other crops that are fun to try overwintering are kale, chard, broccoli, greens like mache & Claytonia, leeks, parsnips, and onions. Remember to pick the right variety and get all the info for best planting dates and practices. I really recommend overwintering chard.
Seeds that spring up
At the end of the season, I generally throw out a lot of pea, dill, and cilantro seed. It overwinters in the ground and comes up very early in the spring when conditions are right. It you can eat the pea shoots and young herbs in delightful spring meals you will appreciate after a long winter.