News and blog
At this time a year ago it was 70+ degrees, sunny, and spring had sprung! As we write today, it’s cold, snowy, and winter is still all around us. Everyone here at the farm is eagerly waiting the arrival of spring!
We have been fortunate enough to enjoy the warmth and the nice weather inside the greenhouses as we continue to plant our bedding plants and get them ready for your gardens and front porches. But, we would love to get outdoors and start digging in the dirt!
We are in the process of preparing the high-tunnels for our grafted tomato plants. There is no heat in the tunnels, but the plastic keeps them insulated just enough to keep the ground above freezing for the most part. The cold, nighttime temperatures are keeping us from planting in them though. With temps forecasted to get as low as 5 degrees, we will continue to nurture the first set of grafted tomatoes and wait another week to two before getting them in the ground!
There is a small glimpse of spring as the maple trees are being tapped. The harvest of maple syrup has begun and will continue for a bit longer. Days are starting to get longer, and we know that spring has to come one of these days! In the meantime, we continue to prepare for the upcoming season by making sure all equipment is in working order for the day that we can finally get out into the fields!
Continue to check us out on Facebook and Twitter for up to date happenings at the farm!
Happy March! As it keeps snowing outside today, we are ramping up for spring! Unlike the outdoors, inside the greenhouses temperatures are in the mid 80's and it feels as if we are in the tropics. Flowers are beginning to grow, and will be ready for your gardens come the end of April! Will you be ready?
What's Happening Around the Farm:
- Greenhouses are beginning to fill up! We are busy keeping plants watered and fed. Soon enough, flowers will be in full bloom and we will be welcoming the warm weather that comes along with it.
- Planters are being cleaned and prepped for field work to begin as soon as the frost leaves the ground. Last year, we started planting sweet corn on March 25th. With this batch of snow, it doesn't look as if we will be in the fields as early this year.
- Our first planting of grafted tomatoes have been transplanted into bigger pots! Check out our Blog to learn more about why and how we use our grafted tomatoes.
- There are still CSA shares available! Pass along the information to family, friends, and co-workers! It is a great way to get a fresh assortment of fruits and vegetables each week during the summer months!
- We have a few new dropsites added this month! Check out our CSA page to learn more about the program and our dropsites.
- We have many corporate dropsites available! If you are wondering whether or not your building is a drop site, contact us!
Here they are! Our first grafted tomatoes of the season. They've been cut with the sweet fruited "scion" tops cut and connected to a healthy root which delivers lots of vigor beside substantial soil disease resistence which basically eliminates the pesticide load needed to grow tomatoes. You can see the tiny plastic clip needed to hold the two pieces together while "mother nature" does her thing and the two pieces become one. This clip is disguareded naturally by the plant as the stem thickens. Can you imagine this process on the scale of almost 50,000 tomato plants? We almost become more exhausted just thinking of all the care and work, but if we want to grow for you, this process is very necessary.
Upbeat today? Yes, we are! Another few inches of beautiful precipitation in the form of snow without high winds and cold-how could it be any better for the third week of February? We are super busy planting in the greenhouses right now and with these longer, lighter days our seeds and plants are really growing. At noon today, with the sun showing through the clouds, the ambient temperature in the greenhouses had risen to 85 degrees F. without any supplemental heat! Short sleeve t-shirts are the order for this afternoon. We love to grow for you and will keep you updated on the farm with more and more blog updates. In the meantime, check out our Facebook page, as we are busy updating new pictures each week!
Have a great weekend, the last in February by the way, and get outside and watch some natural miracles unfold.
As we enter February, things are in full swing at the farm. By this time next week, Paul will be busy preparing all the greenhouses for the upcoming planting season. Flowers will be arriving shortly thereafter, and the 2013 growing season will be underway.
What goes into prepping the greenhouses? Well, all of the heaters must be tested and in working order before any flowers arrive. The heaters get checked multiple times a day, including a few times a night once the plants arrive to ensure they are functioning. Any time a heater goes out, plants become suseptable to frost. The soil we use to fill pots has arrived, and just before our plants arrive, we will begin filling all of our pots for planting. We can't wait to get back into the greenhouses and feel a bit of the tropical weather!
Farmer Jerry is finishing up seed orders as I write this blog. It has taken him many weeks to compile all of his seed orders in order to ensure that we have farm fresh produce for our customers all season long. Many people have switched over to computers to track crop rotation, yields, and other important information, but the old pen and paper still work for Jerry. His desk may look like a tornado has struck, but he has a system that has worked for many years, so why change?
In addition to seed orders, we have been busy promoting our CSA program for the upcoming season! To do this, we have been visiting local businesses and doing some lunch and learn sessions with employees. This has been a fun way to educate people about what a CSA program is, as well as share how we operate our program. Interested in having Untiedt's come to your business? Let us know!
We are also looking forward to the upcoming events that we will be at in the coming months. Check out our calendar to see where we will be at!
Have questions for Farmer Jerry or someone at the farm? Let us know!
Until next time, have a great day!
Everyone from Untiedt's is wishing you a Happy 2013! We would like to thank you for subscribing to our Newsletter Updates. Offering a newsletter to our customers is a goal we have had for quite some time, but this is the year it is being implemented! We are excited to share about current happenings at the farm, and keep you up to date with what's currently in season.
January is also a busy time for preparing our greenhouses to start planting in February. Our lead grower, Paul, is out checking to make sure all the heaters are working properly and that they will be ready to make the houses warm for all of our springtime plants to grow big and beautiful. Once February comes, spring is in the air on the Untiedt farm. Walk into a greenhouse and feel like you are in the tropics! Catching a tan is a perk of working in the greenhouse too!
We are busy ordering all of our summertime vegetable seeds too! Always an exciting time deciding what to grow for the season and what experiments to try, as there is at least one of those a year! It is so fun to look through all the seed catalogues and pick out what looks interesting or new. New lettuces will grace our CSA boxes this year as well as some turnips and dried beans.
CSA planning is still in effect here on the farm. We have been busy setting up lunch and learn meetings with many of our corporate sites. It sure is fun getting out of the office and meeting our customers face to face. It’s also a great way to educate people on how we farm and produce our products, sustainably!
Happy 2013! One may think that because there is snow on the ground, there may be less to do on the farm, but that is not the case. Everyone at the farm had a few weeks off for the Holidays, but we are all back to work now, and busy with a list of never ending tasks to prepare for the upcoming season.
Plans for the 2013 growing season are well under way. Flower orders have been placed, seed and plant orders are well on their way to being completed, and greenhouses will soon be prepared so planting can begin! February will be here before we know it and planting season will be in full swing in the greenhouses. Crews are out trimming trees and putting up fences to help with deer issues that we experience each year. Our CSA program for the year is up and running, and the girls are busy getting the word out! Have you signed up yet?
This mild weather we have had is making us think that spring will arrive early like last year, but we will wait to see what Mother Nature has in store for us. We are in definite need of moisture, so we truly wouldn’t be too disappointed with a little more snow this season to help prepare the soils for planting this spring!
All of us here at the farm hope this update finds you well! Again, Happy New Year and we look forward to growing for you this upcoming season!
When one thinks apples, a Minnesotan does not think of August. This season has brought about many unexpected surprises. They have resulted in an early harvest of almost every crop in Minnesota, yet for the apples, it has also caused a damaging blow to supply.
It is true, we are currently harvesting our SweeTango variety with the Zestars already being sold out. But due to the unseasonably warm spring, and hard frost, much of the early apple blossoms died off thus resulting in a limited crop.
The king blossom, the one that produces the bigger fruit, was the one that froze off during last April’s sudden drop in overnight temperatures. This frost took about 70 percent of the crop potential. The secondary blossoms were able to be pollinated, but during a summer hail storm, over half of the remaining fruit clusters were damaged.
This season, we will be able to pick only about 10 percent of what the orchard is capable of producing.
Put aside this despairing news, we are excited to be able to bring you Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Sweet 16s, and Haralsons in the coming weeks
You can see in the photos above that we have planted many Honeycrisp trees that are very short in height. Some farmers are experimenting with these shorter trees, because the apples can all be harvested without the use of a ladder. They are commonly called pedestrian orchards.
We’ve only planted a few rows of these B9 rooted Honeycrisp grafted trees. The next rows over, we’ve planted SweeTango’s grafted with M26 root structures. They’ve been supported with a taller metal pole. Comparatively the B9 root structure is known to be cold hardy as it comes from Russian growing climates. The B9 will yield fruit earlier than the M26 rooted trees, yet requires this permanent eight foot stake to support the tree.
Every spring we prune the trees, meaning we decide which branches should be cut off to encourage new growth and proper tree formation. Remember that fruit doesn’t grow as easily from old wood. New wood encourages new growth.
It also is imperative to position the branches so they grow horizontally, thus we built a trellis structure to support this endeavor. The horizontal branches allow the apples to plump up to a decent eating size and decrease the vigor of the tree thus producing more fruit and less vegetative growth.
We’ve also placed crab apple trees throughout the orchard, as seen in a few of the photos. These are not edible, but the bees sure love them and they are great pollinators for our apple trees.
Our early apples, Zestars, are known for a thin flesh and soft texture. These have already been harvested (well ahead of schedule), and are known to be Minnesota’s first taste of autumn. Our SweeTango tastes like pure apple juice as you bite in, and can be purchased at our Farmer’s Market locations now. The next to come in two weeks will be Honeycrisp and Sweet 16s. These are known for their crunchy texture – a true Minnesota favorite!
Please let us know if you have any apple questions on our Facebook page. We will be sure to get back to you.
Farming is all about weighing risk and minimizing it. There is absolutely no way to be a farmer and not feel the effects of nature. There are so many variables working every second that contribute to the success or failure of our crops.
Over the last 40 years we’ve researched what works within our growing climate, high tunnel operation and our specific soil type. We’ve come to learn about many natural soil amendments, and ways to make the most of the excess our farm produces by starting our compost program so many years ago.
I truly believe each season that we are better educated and more aware of what is possible. We document every lesson learned. So when it’s time to buy seeds, the discussion can be had “what’s new and exciting,” but we can also know that the venture crop variety could possibly work at our farm because of our seasonal records, and growing methods.
The sweet Italian pepper we tried to grow this year, is a perfect example. This seed is very expensive to buy, and is considered “risky”. Many people will not devote much land to the crop since it is expensive to grow with low return compared to others. But we want to offer our customers variety, and the best small fruits and vegetables available in Minnesota.
You can see from the photo album below this experience has turned out some beautiful peppers, but there has been much at risk as well.
The peppers in the photo gallery have been grown in our high tunnels. We have another portion growing out in the field, but we’ve combated many issues with that plot.
First, it is very difficult to shade these plants in the open field. There are cloths one can buy, but with wind and stormy conditions they don’t hold up for too long. As a result, many of the plants experienced sun scald on their fruits.
Second was that many of the plants experienced blossom end rot on their first sets of fruit, which is a sign of calcium deficiency.
We feed our plants the nutrients they need through drip tape irrigation. One of those nutrients is calcium. Well, similar to how your shower head or kitchen faucet clogs due to calcium build up, our drip tape can experience this as well, and did in this field.
Once we realized the drip tape was no longer irrigating the field properly, we had two options. Weigh the risk of sending a vinegar solution through the lines to unclog them, which could result in a lower pH level in the soil, potentially harming the plant. Or, leave it as is, and hope the rain will be sufficient.
After weighing the pros and cons, we’ve left the drip tape alone, and pulled off the first fruit sets to allow the plant to focus on its next cluster. We have learned a lot from this experimental variety, and are excited to bring you the sweet Italian peppers harvested from our high tunnels. Look for them at the Farmers’ Market soon.
Let us know if you have any questions on our Facebook Page.
Until next time,
Our Minnesota grown black diamond seedless watermelon will be at our roadside stands soon. This variety of melon took a heavy blow down south due to the extreme weather this season. The heat killed off many fields in Georgia, Indiana, and Arkansas, and supply was hard to come by. Luckily, we are ready to harvest!
On the Farm this last week the question was raised – Why is there a small green one next to the black diamond? Well, seedless watermelons cannot self pollinate. So, you need to plant a variety next to it that will act as a pollinator. These small green ones are not really edible, but have a dramatically different rind color – essential when harvesting to tell the two apart. Planted near to each other, they complete the combination needed to produce the sweet seedless Black Diamond you all have grown to love.
Fall Raspberries are now being harvested. You can see in the photo gallery below that the canes have grown so high, they’re pushing their way through the high tunnel plastic, which is nearly 15 feet into the air.
We are also harvesting strawberries, but many plants are producing smaller then normal berries because of the heat.
In the photos you can see the difference between the one year old plants and two year old plants. The two year old ones have straw on top of them. Their berries are smaller because it has been too hot, and they will fill out once it cools down a bit. The one-year-old plants did not have enough nutrients stored in their crown before the fruit started to be able to feed the cluster. And since their root structure was immature, it was not established enough to absorb the nutrients we are attempting to feed these plants through their drip tape. Can you only imagine filling up a box with berries this small? Remember though, the sweetness is still fantastic, large and small, with the smaller berries sometimes exceeding the sweetness of the larger.
Most of our onions have been pulled and are drying in the tunnels. And our field of Italian sweet peppers is looking great!
Despite popular belief there is basically no difference between cantaloupe and muskmelon. Most people identify muskmelon as having ribbed rinds, and having a softer flesh. The name muskmelon was taken from the word mush because of their soft, mushy texture. Personally I just want to eat something that is sweet, and not dried out or woody. These field grown cantaloupe are just as sweet as the ones we grew in the high tunnels, and will be coming to market soon.
We are also very excited to be offering squash in August. We will be publishing a guide on summertime squash grilling, and what the differences are in each variety.
Squash types, which will be available soon are listed below, as well as what one should look for to know when the squash is ripe:
Acorn – Dry and very hard stem with bright orange blaze where the fruit made contact with the ground
Buttercup - Bright orange blaze on the bottom
Butternut – Should be free of green lines, dry stem, and wonderful light golden color
Spaghetti – Deep yellow rind and dead hard stem
Let us know on Facebook if you have any questions about the vegetables we grow. We love educating people on the healthy benefits and differences in crop production.
Until next time,