alliums ameraucana Anthony Bourdain aphids Appleseed Permaculture aquaponics arthritis artichokes Asian Vegetables aussie basil baby chicks baby turnips bearss lime bee keeping beet greens beneficial insects benner tree farm Biochar Bitter Melon blight blooming hill farm boothby blonde cucumber brix broccoli brussels sprouts cabbage cabbage hill farm camp hill farm cancer caraflex celeriac chicken coop chickens children chinese tamale chives cilantro cilantro root coconut cold frames collard greens Compost coriander corn crop rotation cruciferous crucifers cucumber Dan Barber dan kittredge Dave Llewellyn detox dirty dozen dragon fruit Dutch white clover dwarf citrus eggplant Elderberries factory farms farm to table farmer's market farmers markets Fava beans ffarm to table fish oil flea beetle flowers food allergies food combining food miles founding farmers four wind growers Fred Kirschenmann french bulldog G6pd deficiency garlic garlic festival garlic scapes geese Glynwood grass-fed beef Great Outdoors Listening Tour green tomatoes greenhouse growing indoors Hanalei Hemlock Hill Farm heritage turkey heritage USA hudson valley farms hurricane Irene hyssop iced tea infections influenza Insect control isothiocyanates joan gussow jolie lampkin joong kaffir lime kale Kauai kohlrabi korean licorice mint Ladybugs late blight leeks lettuces local food locust tree maine avenue fish market menhaden meyer lemon mycelia mycorrhizal natural fertilizers nectary nightshades No Reservations Nurse cropping nutrient density okra organic Baby food organic christmas tree Organic Pest Control Parsley Paul tappenden peas Permaculture pesticides pesto petite watermelon plant sap pH plymouth barred rock pole beans potatoes preserving food purple basil qunice Radish Greens rainbeau ridge farm raised beds rampicante raw food real food campaign red hook Rockland Farm Alliance ronnybrook farm row covers salt-preserved duck eggs sambucus nigra seed saving seedlings Sheet mulching small space soil analysis soil blocks soil conductivity sorrel Squash Vine Borer star fruit sugar snap peas sustainability sustainable fishing Swiss Chard tabbouleh TEDx Manhattan terracing three sisters tomato sauce tomatoes trellis trovita orange turkana farms Tuttle Farm urban zen volt white clover winter harvest Winter Squash Young Farmers Conference
Indispensable Books and Resources
  • Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    by Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    by Eliot Coleman
  • The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    by Gary F. Zimmer
  • The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    by Barbara Damrosch
  • 1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    Organic Insect Control
  • Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.

    The best farming and growing magazine money can buy!

  • Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks
    Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks

    2" Soil Blocker

  • Mini Soil Blocker
    Mini Soil Blocker
  • New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    by Emily Brooks
  • What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    by Tasneem Bhatia, Editors of Prevention

 

 

 

 

« Remedy for the Heat: Hyssop, Mint and Cucumber Iced Tea | Main | The Raw Food Detox: Transitioning Back With A Renewed Perspective On Food »
Saturday
Jun262010

Nutrient Dense Foods: Transplanting and Ensuring Prolific Yields Part 3 of 6

Fennel and Caraflex CabbageSo it’s midsummer, the time around summer solstice, where most of us have planted our summer crops and we’re eagerly awaiting the first tastes of summer: tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and eggplant.  For us here, we’ve been enjoying beets, broccoli, beans, herbs, peas, carrots, fennel, fava beans and kale for some time now but our eyes are on the prize: our fruit laden tomato plants.  After growing, freezing, and canning our own tomatoes we vowed never to eat a tomato out of season and it’s been 6 months now since our last fresh tomato.  Sungolds are the first of our tomatoes starting to ripen and we hover around that plant dreaming of meals where we can showcase these little orange jewels.  But there’s a bit of fear lurking around every time we check on our tomatoes.  It’s a little PTSD from last year’s blight epidemic in the northeast.  I remember the day: July 11th, 2009.  We had the most healthy looking fruit-full tomato plants and the heirlooms with their gigantic beauties were starting their transition from green to yellow and red.  We knew we’d have many hundreds of pounds of tomatoes that we’d hope to bring to the market.  And then it struck, signs of blight in one area of the farm quickly took down 100 of our 120 tomato plants.  We frantically pruned, sprayed the plants with biodynamic equisetum prep, used anything in our means necessary, except fungicides of course, to keep the plants alive and hope that the weather would turn hot and dry which it never did.  Thankfully, we had a great biodiversity of other fruits and we learned to be happy with the 240 lbs we were able to salvage.
Plum Regal Tomato Plants Loaded and Dreams of Marinara Dance in Charlie's Head
This time it’s different.  We have 44 tomato plants instead of the 120 we planted last year.  It is recommended that you do not plant on blight-infested areas for 3 years but since we have such a small operation, that wouldn’t be possible for us.  We decided to limit our tomatoes in the main growing area that was affected and use only highly blight resistant tomatoes like Mountain Magic and Plum Regal and we’d grow our non-resistant heirlooms in the greenhouse and in a small area that was not affected last year.  But it’s also different this time because we're using nutrient dense techniques to increase soil nutrients through drenches and foliar sprays to ensure that the plant is strong enough to resist disease.  This is an absolute corollary to ensuring human health by preventative measures like proper nutrition, exercise and stress management and ultimately a strong immune system to resist diseases like cancer.

We took part in the 3rd series of ND growing with Dan Kittredge at Udderly Wool Acres in Glastonbury CT.  This time it was packed with extremely practical information and field demonstrations.  We were ready to get out of the classroom and get our hands dirty.

Dan measures the electrical conductivity of the soil

 

 

 

 

 

Electrical Conductivity

For crops to have access to nutrients needed for optimal growth the soil needs to have the proper electrical charge.  For high brix fruit you need sufficient energy in the soil.  You can measure the soil conductivity with a meter and this is helpful to discern whether or not there is an imbalance in the soil that needs to be addressed.  This is done weekly throughout the season (ideally in the early AM) but it’s most important to do this at transplant time.  Have you ever transplanted something and it sat there for eternity without growing?  I have and it drives me crazy.  If there is low conductivity, it’s a good indicator that there is insufficient nutrition for crops.  You want to see a level of 200 in the spring and 600 when the plant is filled with fruit.  Looking back at last years blight epidemic, there was much less sun which meant less photosynthesis, less sugar feeding the biological life in the soil, and further the constant rain leeched out the soil electrolytes. The high water table then decreased oxygen which asphyxiated the soil biology.  Dan tested his parents (prominent NOFA farmers) soil last year and it showed a conductivity reading of 40-50 in the area of tomatoes.  He did a broad spectrum nutrient drench (minerals, electrolytes, molasses) and the tomatoes survived!  With every transplant we do now, we add a "transplant drench" by the Nutrient Density Supply Company which is a combination of mycorrhizal fungi and microbes, seaweed extracts, minerals and enzymes

 

Brix Measurements in Plant Sap

In the previous posts on ND growing, brix was a measurement used in discerning how nutrient dense a food was before consumption.   I was referring to the final carrot or fruit, but the sap of the plant's leaves and its brix can be used to determine whether or not the plant is taking up nutrients from the soil and if it is in general a genetically strong plant.  For example, when I was growing eggplant seedlings indoors this spring I noticed that one plant out of 20 sitting in a try was infested with aphids.  None of the other plants were touched which led me to throw out the plant because I knew it was weak perhaps to some genetic variability.  Ideally this should be done before fruit sets and levels should not be below 12.  Early morning is the best time to test and keep a consistent area to test on the plant to minimize experimental factors i.e. the 4th newest full size leaf.  If the measurement is under 12 then it indicates that your plant is stressed in some way and needs your help.

 Squeezing plant leaf sap with a vice onto a refractometer

Beyond this, one can measure the pH of the plant (not the soil, which is typically done) which helps to discern mineral imbalances without having to send off a soil sample for testing.

 

Farm and Garden Maintenance

Though this may all seem time consuming for the average gardener, it's even more so for the farmer with a larger acreage and even less time.  However, if measurements are made 15 minutes once a week, it's a way to ensure minimal disease (remember insects do not choose to eat strong plants only weak ones), maximum crop yields, and a superior vegetable or fruit in nutrition and in shelf life.  On our microfarm, it can also be quite time consuming as each raised bed has to be treated like a seperate "field'. After the transplant solution, weekly to bi-weekly nutrient drenches to the soil and foliar sprays depending on measurements are done throughout the season.  Foliar sprays are another way to provide plants with nutrition other than through their roots.  Like skin, they absorb nutrition from their leaves as well and the best time to do foliars are at 5 AM or 7 PM (when the birds are out singing).  This way of growning is beyond organic growing.  Though this method of growing is more costly and time intensive to the farmers the viabiliity of seeing ND produce in markets can only be brought there by consumer demand just as the organic food movement did decades ago, it's an important area to explore.  ND food will likely cost more but it's worth it.  It helps when consumers understand the work that goes into their food.  The best way to understand this is to grow your own food, join a CSA and actually get out into the fields and work!  Only then can one really understand and fully appreciate what it takes to bring food to the table.

Farmers doing a nutrient drench in the fields

Reader Comments (4)

Excellent tips - Sounds like I have some work to do....I just got a catalog from "Spray-N-Grow" -- have you seen these foliar sprays? Tried any of them? They also have some organic fungicides I thought I might try.

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

We've been only using the Nutrient Density Supply company products that are in accordance to organic regulations. Another way to think about preventing disease is not to give the plant a prophylactic treatment like a fungicide but to increase its strength by making minerals and natural growth hormones i.e. seaweed extracts available to the plant. It's akin to holistic medical treatment focusing on true prevention rather than conventional medical treatment where you get a prescription once there's disease in place. Just heard that blight was spotted in CT in PA!! Luckily you didn't have it last year and the weather seems to be cooperating. Good luck and love to come by and see your garden!

June 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterPam

Love the blog. Well done.

Found you by researching Nutrient Dense Food. I want to read more, but am only finding parts 1-3. Am I missing something or are parts 4-6 on the to do list?

Thanks--Paul in W. Mass.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Green

Hi Paul - thanks for reading our blog. Yes, parts 3-6 are on the to do list but we are also re-doing the course with Dan at Real Food Campaign at a closer location starting in December so parts 4-6 will eventually come. Stay tuned!

November 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterPam

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>