Archive for the ‘Home Gardening’ Category

Extension Food Entrepreneur Workshops

Seats still available for Feb. 22, 25, and 28 Extension home-food entrepreneur

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Entrepreneurs who seek the latest information on preparing and
marketing foods they make at home can get insight at three workshops set for Feb.
22, Feb. 25, and Feb. 28.

The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service will host each workshop. Each will
take place from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and they will be held in Montrose on Feb. 22; in
Hot Springs on Feb. 25; and in Sisseton on Feb. 28. Each workshop costs $15 and the
fee includes materials and lunch.

To take part, call the Extension office in each workshop location's county:

 *   Montrose, McCook County Extension office at 605-425-2342.
 *   Hot Springs, Fall River County Extension office at 605-745-5133.
 *   Sisseton, Roberts County Extension office at 605-698-7627.

The South Dakota Horizons project is sponsoring scholarships for participants who
want to take part but cannot afford the fee. Ask about the scholarship opportunity
when you register.

The workshops are designed for people who plan to sell foods that they have made at
home at local or regional farmers markets in South Dakota. Producers of these foods
must comply with a new South Dakota food-safety law that sets requirements for baked
goods and foods canned or processed in the home. In addition, the workshops will
help home-food producers learn marketing skills that can help them succeed in these
types of business ventures.

Among the speakers is Extension Food Safety Specialist Joan Hegerfeld-Baker. She
said the workshops are a place where  sellers can address any questions they have
about following the rules and regulations related to home-processed food sales.

"This workshop will provide critical food-safety information that producers need to
know beforethey take their products to farmers markets," Hegerfeld-Baker said.
"Extension staff at the workshops can answer their questions and be there to help
themwork through the details. We will provide the information and resources that
anyone canning, baking, or producing food in their home needs in order to meet state

Beyond learning the important aspects of South Dakota food safety standards,
participants will gain sharp insight on market feasibility, promotion, and sales.
Kari Fruechte, Extension Community Development Associate, said that newcomers to
home food preparation and sales can develop connections that can help their
home-businesses succeed.

"These workshops pack in lots of information for entrepreneurs hoping to take their
food products from their home or farm to the marketplace where they can earn extra
income," Fruechte said. "Beyond the rules and regulations, we'll take an in-depth
look at the options of available markets and the ways to best promote their

In addition to Hegerfeld-Baker and Fruechte, Extension Horticulture Specialist Rhoda
Burrows, Extension Leadership and Community Development Specialist Karla Trautman,
and Extension Community Development Educator Darah Melroe will present information
at the events.

Call Hegerfeld-Baker with other questions or to suggest other sites in South Dakota
where this sort of workshop would be beneficial at 605-688-6233.

Local Food Meeting in Vermillion Tonight!

From the press release:

Value Added Agriculture Development Center and Buy Fresh Buy Local are conducting a series of meetings to evaluate the potential for local food distribution. The goal is to establish systems to aggregate, process, package and distribute local foods in South Dakota.

All consumers, producers, famers, businesses, schools and institutions interested in expanding the availability of local foods are invited to attend.

Vermillion’s meeting is tonight, December 13, 2010, 8:00 pm at the Vermillion Public Library, 18 Church Street.

And since I serendipitously happen to be in town on other business, I hope to see you there!

Seeds: Use ’em or Lose ’em

I went through all my old seed packs today–everything from before 2009, and all that seed is going in the compost.

As wet as it has been this year, and as damp as it’s been in my basement, I just don’t trust the germination on anything older than that.  I’ve already had a few problems with low germination this year, and I don’t want to continue that trend into next year.

I do keep seeds in sealed tin boxes with several silica gel packs in each, and I refresh (dry in the oven) the packs every six months or so, but this spring, I pulled out some seed packs, and they felt dampish.

That’s a bad sign.  Cool and dry is the best situation for seeds.  Damp–no matter what the temperature–is bad news.

Considering that I typically have a couple hundred dollars’ worth of seed at any given time (purchased and saved), and I also work on developing a few strains of my own, I can’t afford to have it stored in less-than-favorable conditions.

So, I spent about that much on a 50-pint dehumidifier for my basement, which has been running pretty much non-stop (except for when the bucket’s full) ever since.  It is noticeably drier in the basement, but it was obviously pretty darn damp before because the thing’s set on 50% humidity, and it hasn’t reached that shut-off point.

Ideally, it should be even drier than that–Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed recommends that the total of the combined relative humidity and temperature (in Fahrenheit) should not exceed 100, and I know it’s above 50 degrees in my basement.

If we continue to have damp conditions here, even in the “dry season” of summer (and as I type this, it has started raining again), I will likely start drying down the seeds in bulk silica gel beads and storing them in airtight glass in the big basement freezer, as recommended in Seed to Seed.

Otherwise, I’m going to make a better attempt to grow out what I’m saving and purchasing by the year after I’ve collected or received it, just to be safe.  Anything I can’t use in that second year can be donated to make sure it gets used.

In my paring down, I found a few seeds that were collected as long ago as 2003 (only a couple–some burr oak acorns and prickly poppy seed from Crazy Horse Canyon and the Sand Hills), and some saved seed from 2005 as well.

When I save tomato seed, I tend to save a fairly large quantity of each variety, so quite a few older packs of that got composted.  I had known that a number of varieties were going to need renewing/saving this year, but I will focus first on the ones that might be harder to find in seed catalogs and make use of the freezer for back-up supplies.

Well, I don’t hear the dehumidifier running, so I’d better go check the bucket again.

Persistent Herbicides Lead to Home Garden Troubles

I got a call last week from a gardener whom I really respect.

He is a good steward of the soil and of natural resources, and he shares his knowledge with the community at large–teaching other people how to grow food, how to compost effectively, and about the life of the soil.  When he does research, he really “goes to Earth”–rooting out information and following leads like a terrier after a rodent.

My friend was distressed because he was seeing some problems in his gardens that he had never seen before–starting earlier this spring with the sudden death of tomato plants he started from seed, and continuing with curled, deformed, and mottled leaves on a variety of different crops during this growing season.

Mottling on Bean Leaves

In his research on the problems he was experiencing, he learned about a class of herbicides that has come into broad use for grass pasture because of their effectiveness against Canada thistle (a pernicious weed I am all too familiar with myself).

These herbicides, many of them called aminopyralids, persist in pastures grown for grazing and hay production, and also in the digestive tracts of animals fed grass hay from these pastures.

There is an excellent article (pdf!) by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension on these herbicides that discusses their persistence and the need to communicate with hay buyers and gardeners about their use.

In my friend’s case, discovering a possible source of the problem led him on a path from his damaged crops, to the manure he used, to his friend’s horses, to the pasture owner who sold the hay, to the contractor hired to spray those fields.

Curled and Malformed Leaves on Squash Plants

When the manure from animals fed grass hay from pastures sprayed with these types of herbicides is spread in vegetable gardens, the very kinds of problems my friend is experiencing can result–whether or not that manure was composted before use.  Damage can also result from using contaminated hay, straw, or grass clippings.

One of the most-read articles on my blog is one on Leaf Roll and Curl on Tomatoes and Potatoes.  That post discussed moisture stress issues, and how it can cause leaves of these plants to curl up.

Leaf Curl on Volunteer Tomato

After having seen my friend’s garden, I began to wonder if those searching for a reason for problems in their gardens might be experiencing something quite different–residual effects of herbicides used on the compost, grass, and/or hay they’ve used as mulch of fertilizer in their gardens.

After doing some of my own research, I have learned from County Extension agents that some of the same persistent herbicides are now being marketed toward homeowners for lawn care.  Your county weed board may also be spraying these chemicals on ditch hay–check the source of any compost, manure, hay, grass, or straw you bring into your garden or onto your farm!

The Garden Organic site has more information on this topic and lists of the market names of herbicides, as well as what to do if you suspect that your garden has been contaminated with these chemicals.

In addition, my friend is seeking additional input in his research on aminopyralids, and asked me to share the following statement:

“Dean Spader believes Dow’s ForeFront with its aminopyralid herbicide was the main cause that completely destroyed his young heirloom tomato plants.  If you wish to contact him for more information, you can call him at 605-624-6831.

In case you’re wondering, Dow does not deny that its herbicides have caused problems in gardens and on allotments (in the U.K. at least).  The lesson here is to protect yourself and your (and your neighbor’s) food supply and do your homework on any inputs you use in your garden, on your lawn, and on your farm and fields.

“Planning Your Fall Garden” Today at the Market!

Tonight at the Vermillion Area Farmers Market, Grace Freeman, master gardener, market board member, and vendor, will host an informational session about planning and planting your fall garden.  The session will start at 6:30 under the market tent, and will run for approximately a half hour.

Maybe your summer crops got in late (or not at all!?!), or maybe you’re hankering for an extended season–even post-frost.  Either way, Grace will talk about some of the most popular crops for fall gardens and provide handouts as well!

Don’t miss the market and this great educational session!

Vermillion Area Farmers Market
Thursdays, 3-7pm on the Clay County Fairgrounds
Saturdays, 9-noon downtown in the public plaza

A Tale of Two Tomatoes

I am trying an experiment this year–one variety of tomato; two methods of training.  The variety is called Santorini, and it was passed along to me by the kind folks at Skyfire Garden Seeds out of Kanopolis, Kansas.

The experiment is utterly unscientific, of course–one of the plants is staked up in the home gardens and the other is unstaked and growing on landscape fabric in the field.  That means the soil, light, moisture, and heat conditions are utterly dissimilar.  But the results are still of interest to me.

Santorini in the field

I only ended up with only two plants of this variety from my tomato-starting this spring, and one ended up fitting at the end of a row in the field–the other was destined to be the singular tomato plant I grow in the home gardens (you know, besides all those volunteers I keep hoeing down).

The one in the field is healthy and bushy and starting to sprawl.  There are flower clusters, but no real fruit formation yet.  The possible issue I see with the field-grown plant is that the weight of the vines coming out of the main stem may cause some breakage–I’ve seen that in one or two of the other field-grown tomato varieties already–mostly the thick-stemmed slicing varieties so far.

I’ve got a little over eighty tomato plants in the field this year–I usually shoot for one hundred plants, but with all of the other crops I’ve got out there (something like 35-40 at last count), I decided that the number of tomato plants I could reasonably fit in the space I had allotted would be enough.  I wasn’t going to tear my hair out about it.

That said, it’s kind of nice to have just one tomato plant at home.  It allows me to keep a closer eye on it–to really pay attention and see what kind of a harvest I can get.  It also allows me to prune it in the fashion that many greenhouse and hoophouse growers do.

Santorini at home

I tend to have way too many tomato plants in the field to prune and stake them methodically, as I am doing with this one.  Instead, I end up lashing their bounteous limbs to vertical trellises (that restricts airflow a bit, which can lead to disease issues) or letting them sprawl on their mulch bed.

I’ll admit I like the sprawl–I like things a little bit wild and uncontained.  Only the cherry tomatoes are being lashed to trellises this year because they’re easier to pick that way.

I like my back too much to crawl along the ground picking hundreds of tiny tomatoes–and with an indeterminate cherry tomato plant, hacking off a few renegade vines doesn’t cut into overall production noticeably.

The home-planted Santorini is pruned to two vines–many greenhouse growers prune to just one vine and wrap twine around the stem to secure the plant to the rafters as it grows (cage-free tomatoes!), but I wanted a little extra foliage to keep sunscald to a minimum–seeing that there’s no plastic “roof” to filter the light.

Pruning the extra vines

See that shoot coming out of the joint between the main vine (stem) and the leaf-stem?  Right between them?  Those are the ones that are pinched out–they will make another vine.

You should only do this kind of pruning with indeterminate tomato varieties–the determinate or “bush” varieties will grow only to their genetically pre-determined size, stop, and then ripen their fruit in a relatively short span of time. You don’t want to prune them because you’ll get fewer fruits.

The indeterminate varieties will just keep growing and forming more vines, more foliage, more flower clusters and fruit until frost or disease kills them.  If you prune them, they’ll put more energy into growing the vine or vines they have left.  That’s going to end up being the problem with my home-staked Santorini plant.

It’s almost to the top of the four-foot cage, so I’m going to have to lash another cage to the top of this one and then figure out how to buttress the whole thing, so it doesn’t fall over.

It’s only July, and this plant is growing an inch or more a day.  We have close to three more months of prime tomato-growing weather–I’m beginning to look at the roof to see if there’s a way to lash the vines to the gutter.  Then I’ll need a ladder to pinch out the extra vines.

And this is the reason greenhouse growers use twine to wrap their indeterminate plants–when their tomatoes get too tall to manage, they can loosen the twine from the rafters and coil the bottom of the stem on the ground–effectively shortening the vine for picking and pruning purposes.

I might be able to figure out a way to remove the cage and rethink my strategy at this point, but it is, after all, an experiment–I can just let it grow beyond the top and flop down the sides if I want to.  Or lash it to the roof and let the extra vines come as they will.  Or I can hack off the top and force it to ripen what fruit it has formed.

In any case, it’ll be worthwhile to measure the timing of fruit formation and ripening, and the amount of fruit each plant forms.  Comparing which one ends up being a better producer and/or more disease resistant might give me some ideas about what to do with future plantings, and that’s the whole point.

Well, that–and the eating!

Vermillion Area Farmers Market offering Produce Partnership Opportunity for Home Gardeners

Do you have some extra produce in your garden? Want to make a few extra dollars?

The Vermillion Area Farmer’s Market is making it easier (and cheaper!) for you to sell your produce at the farmers’ market. Because of a shortage of early season produce due to flooding in many of our regular producers’ fields, we are providing home gardeners the opportunity to partner with up to 3 other home gardeners at a single booth.

Simply find some other people with extra produce and bring it all to the market, with a table and chair(s), on Thursday or Saturday. It really is that easy!

We charge $10 per booth per day ($2.50 each for a 4-person booth). We also need a signed contract from each seller (attached). See the market manager to pay and turn in your sign contracts.

If you don’t know anyone to partner with, send an email for help: drschweinle(AT)hotmail(DOT)com.

Vermillion Area Farmers Market:

Thursdays 3:00-7:00 on the corner of High and Cherry Streets

Saturdays 9:00-12:00 on the corner of Market and Main Streets

Show up a few minutes early to set up.