News and blog

Current happenings on and around the farm!
Posted 6/13/2012 2:29pm by Jenna Untiedt.

They say knee high by the Fourth of July, but how does an ear of corn form?

 At Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm we tested out how corn would grow in our high tunnels. Now, that is not directly related to how corn plants pollinate, but keep in mind these photos were shot on June 1, 2012, in Minnesota.

Untiedt’s staff member, Craig Barriball, is shown shoulder high in rows of corn. This is extremely early for this climate. But there are risks incorporated when growing crops in high tunnels, especially when corn relies on wind to pollinate, and the high tunnel works to protect crops from these same winds.


As the corn plant tassels (the golden tops that resemble mop heads), it opens its packets of pollen. At the same time, silky strands become exposed on the lower portion of the plant. The pollen from the top of the plant must reach the silk. In the fields, this is done solely by wind and luck. Once the silk is covered in pollen, each strand will become a kernel of corn, and an ear of corn will start to form.

Now the trick is, you want enough pollen to remain on the tassels to pollinate the second round of silky strands that form after the first ear starts to grow. This second ear of corn faces many obstacles, as the field plant by this point is somewhat undernourished, the pollen supply may be depleted or since second round silks are even lower on the plant than first round, the silk just might not be in the perfect position for the pollen to land.

Have you ever purchased an ear of corn with many kernels missing from its end? That is caused by a depleted pollen supply.

At Untiedt’s, we planted these rows in raised beds with our drip irrigation system, allowing us to supply all plants the nutrients they demand throughout the entire span of their growing period. As for the pollen, the high tunnel walls proved to be a blessing since we are able to decide when to blow the pollen onto the silk by either using an electric backpack blower unit or raising the high tunnel walls to a desired level

Hopefully you’ll be seeing this corn in your CSA shares soon!

Let us know if you have any questions by commenting on the blog, or on our Facebook Page.


Jerry Untiedt

Posted 6/5/2012 2:32pm by Jenna Untiedt.

At Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm we believe in “farming per square-inch”, meaning, we know the Earth’s resources are limited, and we want to produce the most food per acre to feed as many mouths as possible. We practice many techniques to fulfill our farming promise.

For example when planting first year raspberry plants, which look like a barren stick during those first few months, we’ve planted kohlrabi, beets, and kale next to the raspberry plants so that food may be grown on those acres and harvested within the first three months the raspberry plant is acclimating itself to its new growing environment.

Another way is by building a trellis structure for our heirloom tomato plants to grow vertically under our high tunnels. A quick overview can be seen in the photo gallery below:

After typical high tunnel preparation is completed, and our newly grafted tomato plants are in their raised soil beds, we begin building the trellis structure needed to support the tomato plants. When ready for harvest, tomato plants are incredibly heavy – even heavier than our melon crop, so we must build with reinforced beams at each end of the tunnel. The team works efficiently to build these trellises, as there is a crew ready right behind them to prune the tomato plants to get them ready for hanging.

It is important to note the parts of the tomato plant. The yellow flowering area is called a cluster and is where the tomato fruit will grow. Then there is usually a “V” formation of two branches. One branch will be deemed the “leader” and the other will be pruned to stunt growth and only act as sun shade for the fruit cluster. It is essential that your plant has leaves on it to shield from the sun, but too many leaves mean the nutrients are supplied there instead of to the tomatoes. It is also common to see a leafy steam protrude from the middle of the “V” formation. This is called a “sucker” and will be pruned off once it reaches an inch in length.

The leaders that are left to grow will be the main support as the plant grows up the twine. It is imperative that when securing the plant with the black clips, one part of the clip clamps the twine, but at a place where the clamp is secured under a branch of the tomato plant to ensure the twine remains taught. Loose twine or clamping the clip to a fragile part of the plant will inevitably lead to broken plants once more fruit starts to grow.

Growing our tomato crop this way means: 1. None of the plant’s leaves will touch the dirt, which decreases plant disease, 2. It allows for clean rows in between the plants, and 3. It means we are able to produce more food per acres.

Please let us know if you have any questions. You can reach us on the contact form, by leaving a comment, or on Twitter and Facebook.

Until next time, happy growing!


Jerry Untiedt

Posted 5/28/2012 2:34pm by Jenna Untiedt.

This past Thursday we held our first ever Farm Tour. Despite the heavy rains all day long, we had a break in the weather and enjoyed a beautiful evening with a fine farm supper served by Stuart Dallmann, our Chef and food service specialist. The wagon rides around our Montrose Farm proved to be very comfortable and kept everyone out of the puddles. The participants all enjoyed fresh strawberries to taste, viewed the crops we have planted and learned a bit of crop culture, taught by myself and Paul Nelson.

Our next Farm Tour is scheduled for sometime this July.

View some photos below:

And, Wow! Can you believe it? In the last ten days we have had over 11 inches of rain - with more in the forecast! From drought to very, very wet in a little over a month. Most we can do is figure out how to succeed inspite of whatever kind of weather is delivered. In the high tunnels, our crops are as early as they have ever been. Our zucchini and strawberry harvest is already in full swing! You can find these items now for sale at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

Out of the tunnels, the field corn, soybeans, and wheat are all in the ground. On the vegetable side, we still have a long ways to go with the watermelons, muskmelons, pumpkins and squash. We will get these done as the soil begins to dry. On the wild side of things, the Trumpeter Swans have hatched out their young and are seen proudly swimming with their parents on local wetlands. The Crow River is flooding now with the heavy rainfall of late causing some concern for rising water levels in wetlands that harbor the nests of some ground nesting birds such as pheasants. We have seen our first White Tailed Deer fawns this week. So small and beautifully covered with those white polkadots that allow them to become virtually invisible as they lay hidden on the ground in and around our woodlots.
For the coming week, we are hoping to re-start our planting programs which have been placed on hold due to the rain. It's time to begin planting the State Fair sweetcorn and put the wraps on the pumpkin planting season. If all else fails, there will be plenty of new grown grass to mow on our lawns and yours...
Until Next Week,

Posted 5/22/2012 2:36pm by Jenna Untiedt.

We are making terrific strides in the areas of planting and crop care due to the wonderful weather we have been experiencing. All of the field corn planting has been completed and with good luck and no equipment malfunctions, the soybeans will be done also. Our peppers and tomatillos are in and have been watered and seem to be holding their own with the strong surface winds we have had in the field lately. The high tunnels are nearly full, and the growth rates are phenomenal due to the daylight hours present at this point of the growing season. Some of the newly planted tomatoes are growing so rapidly that they have begun to flower over two weeks early, which means we had to move up our bumble bee delivery dates.
This coming week we plan to begin planting our watermelon and muskmelon transplants. This time frame is nearly 7-10 days earlier than normal. We wonder if our harvest dates will be earlier also which would allow us to add a couple of weeks to our harvest season. A very interesting question.
The Minneapolis Farmers Market has really come alive with the spectacular weather and beautiful flowers offered by the plethora of talented and skilled growers selling there. Try to get down there, stop in and say hi, enjoy the sights and smells of spring at the market.
On the wildlife side, the hummingbirds continue to migrate through our area, replenishing their needed nutrients with nectors from our flowers in the greenhouses. They especially enjoy the Lantana and the Fuschias. Paul said on Tuesday he saw more than 100 of these little energy balls feeding on our flower blossoms in our Montrose greenhouses. The Baltimore Orioles are also especially abundant this season with my wife Susan feeding over a bottle a day of grape jelly to our hungry friends. It is not uncommon to have 12-15 orioles on our deck at one time.
As always, we welcome your inputs and question. Please enjoy the season and we look forwards to your visits at the market.


Jerry Untiedt

Posted 5/9/2012 2:41pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Wildlife watching is at its peak right now. The birds continue to return from their winter sojourns with hummingbirds, orioles, rose breasted grosbeaks returning over the last few days.  Last Friday I had the personal pleasure of spending the morning with Rachele Cermak, our very capable photo documentation specialist. We had a little time to move around our farmlands observing our many croplands and the wildlife that inhabit them. Rachele shot some amazing photos of one of the several Bald Eagle nests in our area like the one below:

Eagle's Nest off of Hwy. 55

We also observed several newly hatched broods of Canadian Geese goslings, wild turkeys, Trumpeter swans on their nests, and so much more. Also observed were some of the first returning Monarch butterflies along with several other species of butterflies. This is such an incredible time of the season to be out and about-keep your eyes and ears open and take it all in!
On the growing side of our production, spring planting has been moving along rapidly. Our sweet corn is emerging with vigor, the asparagus continues to yield high quality spears daily, and our high tunnel zuchinni is beginning to blossom - with fruits not far behind. The spring showers have left us with nearly 6 inches of precipitation over the last 5 days which is truly a blessing considering how dry it was just a few short weeks ago. The soils have actually cooled a bit over the last two weeks, but the sunshine hours are continuing to add heat to the ground little by little. The corn and beans are actually germinating in a timely manner with very little damping off - a problem which often occurs in our gardens with damp and cool soils.
The apple orchard seems to be quite a surprise after suffering through two 20 degree low nights a few weeks ago. We actually thought we had lost all of our blossoms, but to our surprise, we are actually seeing these trees bloom with late blossoms we rarely see. Worried about sufficient pollination, we have moved the bee colonies around the orchard to actually occupy spaces directly below the blooming varieties. We also have flown in apple pollen from Washington state and are blowing this pollen onto our flowers in an attempt to produce a few extra apples this season. This technique is very expensive but seems to be working as we are observing some small fruit on very hard to pollinate varieties.

We truly are interested in your observations, and certainly are looking to learn from your experiences. E-mail us with the latest and we will share these on future blogs. I always say "Two heads are better than one - even if they are cabbage heads".

Good luck and good growing for now....




Posted 5/9/2012 2:38pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Our CSA (Community supported Agriculture) program is growing by leaps and bounds. We are nearing our capacity much sooner than anticipated this season - so if you are considering participating, please signup now.

In connection with this program, we are hosting an Untiedt's Farm Tour on May 24, 2012.

Attend this Wagon Ride Farm Tour if you've ever had questions about our farming techniques, are interested in the CSA but need more information, or would like to learn about high tunnel farming.

There will be a homegrown supper provided from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the wagon ride times are at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Space is Limited! RSVP by contacting Jenna Untiedt directly via

If you want to print off the flyer to share with friends, please download the PDF here.

Tags: Farm Tour
Posted 5/2/2012 2:42pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Wow! Beautiful one and one half inch rain last night with a little more on tap for this evening perhaps. This precipitation really helps the newly planted fields and with the warm sunshine allows the newly planted seeds to really jump out of the ground. Right now, asparagus cutting is almost a daily ritual and the quality is getting better day by day. If it really warms, we actually can have a couple of days where we will cut the asparagus twice in one day.
The high tunnel growth is phenomenal right now with nearly all of the tunnels full. Yesterday, we had to vent several of the tunnels as the temperature actually exceeded 100 deg. F.. We love the heat and believe we will have several of our crops earlier than normal should our warmth continue.
Early this morning as I was checking the rain guage a Trompeter Swan flew directly overhead and nearly scared me to death with his thunderous call - perhaps he was celebrating a beautiful morning as well. The environment is full of sound these days. The frogs are singing, the crickets chirping, and the synphony of song bird orchestra is awe inspiring. We ware keeping our eyes open for the first hummingbird and oriole arrivals. The nector feeders are full and suspended above our deck and the grape jelly for the first orioles is also placed. Won't be long now!
The farmers market is beginning to roll along and our selection of flowers has never been prettier. Food at the deli is wonderful and the early sweetcorn is delicious. Come on down and have brunch with us - we'd love to chat and visit.
Take care and do enjoy these beautiful spring days.

Posted 4/26/2012 2:43pm by Jenna Untiedt.

This week has been a great one for late April. All of these April showers are yielding May flowers and a lot more. The sweet corn is coming up after three or more weeks of shivering in the cool soils, the high tunnels are rapidly increasing our crops growth rates, the asparagus is trying to recover from several hard freezes, and our apple trees are showing us a few secondary blossoms that escaped the cold.
We are toiling day and night right now to seed as much as possible to take advantage of the natural growing season we are experiencing. The earlier planted, the more time the crops have to mature and in theory the more yield the farm will be presented with.  Of course, the risk factor of late killing frosts must be factored in.

Trumpeter Swans, A species that has been reduced to near extinction has found a protected place near Monticello - our fields!

Trumpeter Swans

We are continually watching for new bird arrivals and know the Orioles and Hummingbirds can't be far away. We are hoping with the advanced spring their arrivals will be advanced also. We have several Trumpeter Swans nesting in the areas around the farm and their juvenile offspring are usually resting in fields nearby. The ducks and geese are also incubating their clutches of eggs. Wild Turkey Gobblers are really displaying for their harems of hens, and these hens will also soon begin to set.

I've enclosed a couple of reading suggestions for those rainy spring days. These are not our production philosophies totally, but it's always interesting to see what's out there.

The first is Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolvers

Sustainability is Elusive in Food Chain by James E. McWilliams


We welcome your thoughts in the comments below regarding the above reading materials. Happy Spring!

Posted 4/18/2012 2:45pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Many thanks to all of you wonderful blog followers for your prayers, thoughts and kind notes.  The rains have arrived and thoroughly wetted our thirsty fields.  Over the weekend we received between 1 and 1.5 inches of slow beautiful rain followed by another half inch with lightening (yielding natural nitrogen) Tuesday evening.  Already the grass and newly emerging wheat and oats are greener.  The storms that passed through our area Sunday evening were scary, to say the least, but they basically left us unscathed for damage.  The heavy freezes of last week appear to have taken a heavy toll on our asparagus and apple crops for this season, but we are continuing to monitor the situation and will do all within our power to manage it the best we can.

We are continuing a very aggressive program of high tunnel planting with loads of new dayneutral strawberries being planted as well as asparagus and even a few vine crops.  Our vigilance continues everyday to protect these sensitive crops from freezing through the use of frost covers (a labor intensive but necessary management program).  We continue to prepare our other outside production areas with heavy loads of rock picking (where do they all come from?), measuring for future tree and wind shelter belts, and getting ready to install more irrigation on fields lacking heavy water retaining soils to bring a crop to fruition should it get too dry.

The birds continue to return on a schedule somewhat earlier than the last few seasons.  Monday, the white pelicans returned.  The loons are again greeting us with their calls each morning and the tree swallows are also back on the farm.  Rooster pheasants continue to defend their territories and the local wild turkey gobblers are displaying their beautiful fanned tails and bright heads for their harems.  There truly are new sounds, sights and smells to enjoy everyday!  Our agricultural lifestyle is wonderful!

Megan says we still have a few CSA shares available, should you be interested.  I truly believe this program offers one of the best and most satisfying CSAs in the Twin City area!

That's about it for this week's update.  Should you be interested, I will be doing another radio interview with Susan Berkson this Saturday on AM 950 at 8:00am, talking about farm progress.  If any of you have any questions or observations to share or present, please communicate with us!  We love to hear from you!

Until next week, I wish you all great gardening and farming!

Farmer Jerry

Tags: Weather
Posted 4/11/2012 2:47pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Normally, the idiom "trick or treat" is a fall phrase occuring near the end of October.  However, my feeling is that for 2012 it fits appropriately into our weather phenomena that we are currently experiencing.  We received the treat in March and early April with 30 some days without freezing temperatures.  Recently the trick has arrived with cruel and damaging temperatures arriving, featuring temperatures as low as 20 degrees the morning of April 10.  This weather has sent us scrambling to protect all that we could protect from frost and watching other crops succumb to the cold.  I will elaborate:

In our tunnels, we have taken some risk with early tomatoes, onions, peas and other crops.  Using copious amounts of labor and thousands of square feet of frost protecting cloth (sometimes two layers) we have so far been able to save most of what we have planted.  However, our outside plantings have not faired as well.  Among the crops taking a beating is our asparagus which seems to be growing a few inches everyday, but freezing off at night.  The problem here is that an asparagus crown, which is located deep below the soil surface, has many buds, each capable of generating an asparagus spear for us to harvest and enjoy.  The sad part being that we are using up these buds with our heavy freezes thus diminishing the potential yield significantly on a per season basis.  Sad, but true, we have lost a relatively significant percentage of our crop to these freezes.  Thankfully we do have quite a few acres so our CSA customers and stands should have an adequate supply.

Frost Bitten Asparagus, This is what asparagus spears look like after the frost hits them. We remove all of these buds because if left to grow, would tasty woody and unpleasant.

Also of concern are our apple blossoms which have been subjected to some very cold night time temperatures.  We really don't know the amount of damage yet, but damage there is. 

Our early sweet corn has also been frozen off a couple of times, but thankfully the growing point remains comfortably below ground level.  The only problem is that the stress contributes to lower vigor and a less than stellar crop.

Since this spring is so a-typical, we really won't know the full effects for a couple of months.  Oh, how much we have to learn!

The flowers in the greenhouses seem to enjoy the cool nights, protected by propane furnaces, and are really flourishing with the bright sunny days, protected in their homes from the cold winds.

In the fields we continue our regime of soil preparations for seeding, being very cautious not to overwork the already dry soils.  We will be ready to begin corn planting by the 20th of April and hopefully will have had some rain by them.  We continue to seed grasses and alfalfa in erosion prone areas hoping to avoid any "gully creating" deluges of rain.  A few April showers would be just fine.

On behalf of Megan and the crew here on the farm we want to urge you all to consider signing up for our CSA program and wish to extend our sincere thank you to those of you that have again joined the program!

Until Next Week,

Farmer Jerry

Tags: Weather