Greens

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Spinach and mustard bolted, then cut back, fava beans on right doing well, mullein on far right is thriving

The Gardens are bolting in all this heat. Leafhopper Farm will need to invest in sun shade to keep up with the climbing temperatures in what are tuning into scorcher days. The Pacific Northwest has been know for mild climate; a place where spinach leafs all year, and tomatoes, peppers, and other sun loving plants never fully fruit in the all too brief summer season.

Granted, the heat is an overall plus to growing things, but the extreme shifts into cooler night temperatures, back into 90 degree days, with hot bright sun, has turned much of the leafy green lettuce and mustard into towering stalks of flowering bushes, too bitter for most pallets used to butter lettuce and spinach. Even after topping most of the salad stalks, it was a fight to keep leafy crops from wooding out (putting energy into seeds rather than succulent young leaves). I can see why large scale commercial greenhouses are the direction American agriculture has moved towards to keep our consumer taste for micro greens afloat.

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leafy green lettuce toped, back right left to bolt as comparison, leeks overwintered are now seeding as planned

The wild plants, such as burdock and lamb’s quarters, are ahead of normal maturity with so much added heat, but a lack of watering, unlike the cultivated salad greens, has kept growth to a moderate clip. One dock plant in the green house, which has been thriving under the plant stand, is now monstrous, and was recently bent back out of the way, as its roots suck up all the drippings from the plant stand. If the vulnerable leafy greens we favor are not watered daily during a hot spell, the leaves will wilt and shrivel.

Shade cloth is an immediate answer, and many row croppers are turning to the impermanent hoop houses stretched over each row in a field to be micro managed. This is relatively inexpensive, but relying on highly processed material and continual manual labor in moving and resetting the hoops through each planting secession.

In permaculture, the shade layers are created by mid and upper story canopies. Requiring mass permanent plantings, and layered systems of cooperative growth. This is not such a great plan in a flood plane where most of our local farmers in Western Washington row crop, but it’s a great plan for long term food production here at Leafhopper Farm. Our location in the foot hills, gives us a diverse topography, not a huge flat field. We’re also working with limited acreage, making a more vertical growth plan imperative to maximize space.

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native plant nursery on top of pile, planted beans, corn, and eventual squash in hillside, dock at bottom left is thriving, but not seeding yet

These influences on design are key planning points in making a food production plan that’s right for your land. Leafhopper Farm is not trying to be a micro-greens farm. But it is trying to have a diverse array of edible products and systems implemented on small scale for demonstration and learning. You can first see what it takes to grow micro-greens, then turn around and gaze into a food forest to see why multi layered food systems are the way to really feed people and cultivate abundance.

 

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