Updated: Jul 30
Plants Get Help From Kelp
Why are we writing about seafood when we are farming in Minnesota?
The truth is that a using a fertilizer made from kelp (seaweed) is one of the best ways to nurture our garden plants. You see, we don’t use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. So how do we battle the insects and funguses that can damage our crops.
Our strategy is to strengthen our plants with natural fertilizers that provide the plant with key nutrients so they can fight off any pests or disease.
Even though we amended our garden’s soil with compost this spring, we also provide a “boost” to our plants by spraying them with a nutritional supplement. Humans can take daily vitamins to boost their health, and we use a kelp-based spray to make up for any deficiency in their diets and strengthen our plants’ natural defenses.
What many people don’t realize is that plant bodies are pretty complex. As they grow, plants need a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, complex amino acids and protein chains. If the soil doesn’t have them, the plants become weakened and then susceptible to diseases and insect attacks.
While many big farms use the basic macro-nutrient fertilizer (focused on massive amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), we provide a diet of micro-nutrients to address any soil deficiency. Kelp offers as many as 70 different trace minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and plant hormones that are essential in daily plant growth [Go here if you want a full list of what kelp offers: http://cdn.arbico-organics.com/downloads/maxicrop-kelp-analysis.pdf]
Amazingly, it doesn’t take much to make a big difference! Often the soil lacks only microscopic amounts (we are talking about only a few parts-per-million) of a particular nutrient. So we mix one cup of liquidized kelp into 5-gallons of water and use a backpack spraying unit to distribute a fine mist on the plant leaves. This process is very cost-effective, and sometimes you can see a marked difference in the plants in just a few hours!
It also might be a surprise to you that plant leaves are actually better at absorbing nutrients than the roots. So when we spray them with the kelp-based fertilizer, it is like giving the plant a “superfood buffet” and it takes what it wants and needs. You don’t need to soak the plant or irrigate the entire field. And because it is completely organic, it can be applied to any type of soil or plant without any waste by-products or harmful chemicals. Just 15-20 gallons covers an acre or more. And all the plants are helped.
Better farming strategies. Better food. Better health.
Cool Farm Factoid
There are more living organisms in one teaspoon of soil than there are humans on the entire planet.
One teaspoon of soil has over seven and a half-billion living forms in it. Scientists have only identified 15 percent of them -- which shows just how complex the interaction of a plant or tree root with the nutrients in the soil’s microbiome.
Because of that, we try not to assume we know everything about what a plant needs. Sure, science has shed a lot of light on plant nutrition and given us a lot of useful knowledge, but there is still a lot of mystery. We want to leave room for the plants to grow in their own mysterious ways too.
Yummy Stuff In The Field
The celery is coming in. Now, if you are only familiar with the mass-produced celery available at most grocery stores, you might be pleasantly surprised. What we grow should tastes pretty different. Ours will have a lot more flavor and nutrition. That’s because our organic methods provide a richer bed of soil in our garden. Our better soil means our vegetables are naturally more nutritious – and more nutrition translates into more flavor. In fact, when you taste something with a richer flavor (not just sugary sweet), your tongue is telling you that it has the good vitamins and minerals your body craves – and your brain says “yum!”
Fennel is also coming in nicely. What is fennel? Fennel is actually a member of the carrot family (though it’s not a root vegetable). Its long stalks weave together to form a thick, crisp above-ground bulb. At the tip of the stalks are light, feathery leaves that resemble dill. Fennel also produces small yellow flowers among the leaves.
Even though every part of it is edible (raw or cooked) -- from the bulb to the flowers -- recipes most often call for the bulb. When raw, it has a crisp texture almost like celery with a fresh licorice flavor. Simply caramelize it for a sweeter flavor and tender, melt-in-your mouth texture.
And (maybe best of all) it has all sorts of health benefits too! It’s low in calories, but high in nutrients like dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, to name a few.
Our tomatoes are also starting to ripen, and soon there will be enough to include them in our deliveries. Up to this point, the weather hasn’t been favorable to our tomatoes. We’ve had some cold nights which is not good for them. They like the hot, tropical kind of weather to ripen.
Here's a picture of some of the things we've been harvesting recently including Fennel and Celery!
Where’s The Beef -- Where's The Freezer?
We have grass-fed ground beef back in the freezer. We recently picked it up from our butcher. In the months ahead, one issue that could impact us is lack of freezer space. Right now we have enough freezer space, but the recent economic slowdown caused by COVID, has made it difficult to find new freezers!
We have been in contact with a local appliance provider but at this point the earliest he can get one is in December! In fact, there are hardly any large available freezers in our entire region (and the backlog at this point could be 18 months!).
Thankfully, our freezer is big enough to hold our current stock. But later in the season as more things come back from the butcher things might get tight....
Our four daughters just enjoyed a week of swimming lessons. It is also “birthday season” for our family. From May through early August, five of us have birthdays – so there is plenty of celebrating. In the midst of all the hard work and busyness, it is nice to interject some joy and thankfulness that surrounds these special family events.
Speaking of family events, we are all looking ahead to our family vacation in early August.
This will be the first time we will be away over a full harvest cycle. In past years, we have only vacationed in-between our weekly harvest/delivery days, making sure we were home to help (those days are the busiest and most important day each week).
Can the rest of the staff get everything done without us? We will soon find out!
We liken this to how it must feel for parents who leave the kids at home without a babysitter for the first time. We are pretty confident that everything will go well, and if so, it will be a big advance of the farm.
We sure the rest of the farm team can get everything done … right?
Many of you might remember Thomas Gibson. He has been a field worker here for the last two summers and he is back for a visit – and this time he brought his father! We are glad to have them here even if it is only for a while.
But that makes for big dinners each evening. Most of this week we have crammed a dozen people around our table (glad we have bench seating!). It’s a crowd – but it is good to remember that it means we have a loving community of co-workers who are laboring with us.