Flower Power | August 12, 2016

A few months ago I experimented with soil blocking to see if it would be an effective method for starting our flower seeds. It was extremely successful, and over 1,000 zinnia and celosia seeds germinated quickly.

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With the farm under construction, it was challenging to find a spot for a few flower beds. However, once the seedlings were ready to be planted, I managed to squeeze in a temporary location so that I’d have summer and fall blooms this year. I’m really looking forward to having the farm’s infrastructure in place, and finally having the proper space for our flower fields and farm equipment! I’ve been happily pouring over seed catalogues and placing orders; a few thousand tulip bulbs will soon be heading our way to place in the permanent beds this fall.

Transplant shock in the current beds was minimal (one of the many benefits of soil blocking). We just prepped the beds, laid down the landscape fabric for weed control, and carefully planted the seedlings. They grew quickly, and we’ve just harvested our first blooms.

Here are the plants about a month after transplanting:

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And now the flowers are a butterfly paradise!

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We couldn’t resist gathering some of the flowers and creating a few beautiful arrangements.

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And here are the final results! Such pretty, summery mixes, using only flowers and greenery from our farm:

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A Brief History of the American Chestnut Tree | August 1, 2016

The American chestnut tree has a fascinating history. These beautiful trees once populated over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the early 1900s. Within 40 years, over 30 million acres of chestnut trees were destroyed by the blight.

According to the American Chestnut Foundation, the American chestnut tree was an essential component of the entire eastern US ecosystem. It was a late-flowering, reliable, and productive tree, unaffected by seasonal frosts, and was the single most important food source for a wide variety of wildlife from bears to birds.

More recently, blight-resistant chestnut species have been used in breeding programs in the U.S. to create hybrids with the American chestnut. These blight-resistant hybrid American Chestnut trees have been successfully bearing nuts in orchards across the United States, including North Carolina.

This resurgence of the chestnut tree is exciting, and we are looking forward to our first crop. Our trees are Dunstan chestnut trees, which were actually first crossbred in Greensboro (love having that North Carolina connection!)

The trees on both of our farms are still young, having just been planted this past spring. But all are doing well, and many are already producing the distinctive spiny chestnut “husk”:

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A “Buzz'”worthy Hive Update | July 21, 2016

Our hives are doing beautifully. In fact, they are doing so well that we were able to split one into a new hive, which means that we now have three very active and healthy hives on the farm! Our overall goal is to add two more hives to the apiary each spring until we have 10-20. Hopefully our hives will stay healthy and active, and our farm’s honey bee population will continue to thrive and grow.

Our amazing partner, Bee Downtown, was recently featured in a fantastic Triangle Makers + Doers video. Check it out below (and you’ll even see a cameo of our hives in the very beginning of the video!)

POSTED July 21, 2016 | Bees, Farm
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Soil Blocking | May 24, 2016

As we begin to establish our flower farm, I’ve been researching quite a few different approaches to seed starting, including soil blocking. Although this year we’re only starting around 1,000 plants from seed, in the upcoming years we’ll be growing many more, and I want to make sure I give all those little flowers the best possible start!

In Europe, free-standing blocks of soil, rather than peat pots or seed flats, are almost universally used for starting vegetable and flower seeds. Soil block makers (I bought mine here) are used to form sets of blocks that serve as the container for starting and growing seedlings.

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Not only does this eliminate the expense, waste, and storage issues associated with plastic pots/trays, but seedlings started in soil blocks reestablish themselves more quickly after being transplanted (and with minimal transplant shock) due to increased root surface area and “air-pruning” of the root systems.

This idea of less plastic waste (plus healthier seedlings) really appeals to me, so I decided to give soil blocking a try!

It’s important to start with good soil. You can make your own, or there are several excellent mixes that you can buy. Either way, before starting to form the blocks, make sure you get the soil medium nice and wet…the consistency should be similar to oatmeal.

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Once we had the right consistency, we started to form the blocks. Soil blocking is easy and fun, and both kids had a blast getting dirty and “playing” in the soil!

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Just work the block maker into the soil, really pressing it back and forth until water starts to come up through the top. Once that happens, pick it up and scrape off the excess soil from the bottom (we started off by using a butter knife to get the bottom nice and flat, but quickly decided to just use our hands, which worked just as well).

Then, you set the soil blocker down in a tray, squeeze the lever, and release the blocks. It took one or two tries to get it right, but once we did, we were able to make over 900 soil blocks in just a few hours!

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The soil blocks are formed with a small indentation in the top, making it really easy to just drop the seeds in. For the larger seeds, the kids were able to do that themselves, but for the smaller seeds I used a toothpick.

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All the seedlings seem to be doing really well, and I’ll update soon with more photos. So far, the soil blocking method has really been a success for us!

The Chestnut Orchard | April 18, 2016

Over the past several weekends we have taken advantage of the beautiful North Carolina weather to begin planting our chestnut trees.

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The kids jumped in to help, and nothing makes Chris and I happier than getting both of them outside and involved in the farm work.

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Our well won’t be installed until later this summer, so for now we’re bringing in water and irrigating the trees using the very low-tech (but still highly effective!) “bucket method.” We just drill a small hole in the bottom of the buckets, place near the trees, and let gravity do the rest!

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