News and blog
We are excited to say the early planting of our squash crop is about ready to be harvested – in August! These varieties will consist of Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup and Spaghetti. We started this plot ahead of schedule, while weighing the risk of frost, we went for it. The plants were only slightly protected in this open field, but thanks to a mild winter transition into spring these plants were off to the start they needed. Now you can expect to find Minnesota grown squash varieties at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and roadside stands within the next few weeks.
Where will this early harvest lead us? We aren’t quite sure. We know that bees have a hard time pollinating new fruit sets on these plants when it is hot, because a bee’s body is similar to a aircraft. When the air is really hot it is less dense, than when it is cool, so just like the jet, it is harder to gain lift. Therefore the bumblebees stay lower to the ground, and may not quite make it into as many flowers (or deep enough to reach the pollen) as if it were a tad cooler air.
The other challenge of these squash varieties is that they’ve been bred to maintain a denser canopy. Maybe your grandparents grew squash plants, or you can remember the plants sprawling across the entire garden and up the fence. Well, they don’t quite do that anymore. Instead, their leaves shoot straight up and in a central area. What this means is that the bees also can have trouble penetrating this canopy to pollinate the plants when it is hot.
We hope to hold onto this cool down a little longer than the weatherman predicts.
Another area of excitement is the special sweet pepper varieties from Italy are doing quite well. We tried the red, orange, and yellow conical pepper called Belcanto, Oranos, and Xanthi. This trio is said to be superior in flavor compared to bell peppers of the same colors. So look for these at the stands along with a few recipe cards inspiring some great meal ideas. Let us know what you think of them!
Below is a photo gallery of these above products and our heirloom collection. Have you read our Untiedt’s Heirloom variety guide yet? We have it posted on our website. Click here to view the PDF.
We are busy harvesting away! Days go long, and sleep is coveted, but we are very pleased with the outcome of this season so far. Hopefully CSA shareholders, you are also enjoying the crops we’ve delivered. Let us know on our Facebook Page. We love hearing from you.
Check out the photos below from this past Friday of the tomato vines and raspberry canes. Both plants have grown to reach the top of the plastic high tunnel covers at a record time of year.
A few weeks back we explained how we pruned our tomato plants to prompt the leader stem to grow vertically. Well, once that plant reaches the top string we must cut off the meristeam on that leader so the plant knows to stop growing foliage, and to start sending its energy to the fruit clusters. If we happen to miss a few plants you can see that the plant will start to crowd around its neighbor, or the trellis posts for support. This could be detrimental as the fruit clusters grow. Since the branch does not have adequate support, it could snap due to the fruit’s weight. When considering what loss could be experienced, pruning becomes a very high priority, but very labor intensive.
Over in our raspberry high tunnel rows, the floricane (June bearing) variety is done producing fruit, but our primocane (ever-bearing) variety is growing quite rapidly. There are many ripe raspberries on the plant, but we cannot harvest all of them due to the cane overgrowth we’ve experience. In the photos below, Craig shows us how the team had to weave the canes underneath the trellis’ main support wires. Then they had to add a new metal wire to intersect with each of the main ones to pull the two main wires running parallel to one another, closer together to gain access to the row.
Colleen is shown in a part of the tunnel that has not been worked, versus what the row looks like after the team has trellised the canes.
The other big news on the farm is that our mums have been planted! A few weeks later than normal (due to not enough hours in the day), but growing quite well. They’ve just reached about 4 inches in height. To produce the high quality, bushy mum we are known for, this week we had to prune these plants down to about 2 inches. Completed by hand, this initial prune is called “pinching the buds,” and encourages bushiness and a later bloom, so you’ll enjoy your mum’s color later into the season. If we did not do this, than the mum would grow quite tall, and thin, plus bloom in August. We want the flower color to just be coming in as it awaits its purchase come late September.
We hope everyone enjoyed a few cantaloupes this weekend. We are quite excited with their sweet flavor. Some of you may have noticed our black diamond watermelons at market. This variety of melon experienced quite a detrimental blow in supply due to the South being so incredibly hot this past June, but we are happy to say the irrigation in our fields ensured a healthy plant, and sweet fruit.
Please let us know on our Facebook page what your favorite item is. We love hearing from you!
Until next time,
We consider it a success! Not only for the early corn harvest (we harvested corn out of the high tunnels on June 20, 2012 – three weeks earlier than normal), but we feel the high tunnel corn worked because we’ve found a way to work copious amounts of organic matter back into our high tunnel soils.
When farming, one typically wants to rotate a broad leaf crop with a grass every year. Since most of the crops we grow are broad leaf, it is imperative we find a way to cycle through. Now we could also use rye or wheat, but corn plants add a significant amount of biomass when considering tonnage. Think of the plant. The stalk, ears, leaves, tassels – every part can be chopped and worked back in.
The photos below show Craig chopping the high tunnel corn so that we add this plow down material back in to the soil to provide for a healthy plant rotation. We expect to be rotating corn through various tunnels in the next seasons.
Great news this week! We’ve started our cantaloupe production, and these fruit are exceptionally sweet!! Expect to find these in your CSA box or at our roadside stands in the coming week. View the photo gallery below for a full photographic recap of the plant stages on the farm:
Our sweet corn harvest continues! But due to the very heavy rains earlier this spring, and the very hot weather - our ear size is quite variable. But don’t let a small ear or an oversized one fool you! Customers (and we agree) have been saying the flavor seem to be sweeter than ever. I will be enjoying some of these ears with a side of a BLT sandwich tonight, so ask me at Market this weekend how sweet these ears really are!
The underground irrigation pipe that exploded last week due to high use and too much pressure, has been repaired. The photos below show how big the area was which was effected. We also ran a new line to water some areas of our fields more efficiently. But, another one of our major irrigation motors went down again this week; this time due to a mouse shorting out the 100 horsepower engine.
View the photos below for the shots related to the flower blossoms on our pepper plants being aborted due to the extreme heat wave we’ve experienced. As a defense mechanism, when the plant needs to save resources, the plant will send its energy to protect the fruit it is currently growing instead of starting new fruit.
We don’t know the full extent of damage this heat has done, but we do know each one of those fallen blossoms is a fruit we will not be harvesting. But these are the trials a farmer faces, and we bare the burden to bring you the best produce possible.
Take special note of the last of the photos are of the asparagus that we’ve let go to its fern stage. It is important to allow your asparagus plants to build up the carbohydrate level in its root structure so the plant remains strong enough to make it through a Minnesota winter. This also allows for the plant to produce a large crop next spring. You can see in the photos how the rows look when we let the asparagus shoots turn into ferns instead of cutting them.
While the lack of rain this last week is great for those in the northern part of the state, where heavy rains caused flooding in lakes like Big Sandy; this drought means those areas will have a chance to dry out, and watch the nearby Mississippi River take on some of the unwanted water.
Out on the farm, we've been busy just trying to keep the plants hydrated. Our irrigation system has been pumping out water nonstop, and unfortunately, has had enough. Last Saturday, one of our pumps gave out and sent a connecting rod through the side of the engine block. Then a six-inch, underground pipe broke creating the need for us to take part in a massive excavation in attempts to restore water flow to these fields.
On the other end of our farming operation, our 13 tower, above ground irrigation system got itself stuck in the mud. It's one thing when one of our trucks get stuck, try to image dislodging the piece of equipment you see below.
Isn't it fun to be a farmer?
Another disadvantage of this heat wave it that our tomato and pepper plants lose their flowers when their growing environment reaches 85 degrees and above. These flowers are what attracts bees to pollinate the plants to make fruit. No flower, no fruit.
Yes, in time new flowers will form, but only once it reaches cooler temperatures, and who knows how long that will take. And the other part is, that once these flowers are lost the next round will be less in numbers, meaning less of a harvest for all.
Moments like this make us realize just how fragile our environment really is.
Rain and heat. Both critical to growth, but when out of balance will completely destroy what it has worked to create for so many months.
Meteorologist Paul Douglas pointed to some very educational sources in his recent weather roundup segment in the Star Tribune titled “On Weather”published on June 21.
When considering if climate change was connected to the extreme weather patterns we've been experiencing, one source (PlanetArk.org) stated this, “He pointed to global studies projecting more extreme precipitation and floods as a result of climate change, which is a product of increased emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is emitted by natural and human sources, notably the burning of fossil fuels. 'A threshold may already have been crossed, so that major floods in the Midwest perhaps now should no longer be considered purely natural disasters but instead mixed natural/unnatural disasters,' Saunders said. 'And if emissions keep going up, the forecast is for more extreme storms in the region.'”
A direct quote from Douglas himself says this, “No, you can't prove that any one storm or extreme event was triggered by climate change, but the question is somewhat academic. You may not like it, but the atmosphere floating overhead is warmer than it was 40 years ago. We can debate how much is a "natural cycle" vs. how much is the result of greenhouse gases, but there's no denying that it's getting warmer out there. Basic physics: a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. Our new reality: a warmer, wetter atmosphere is flavoring all weather now, a faint hum of atmospheric-muzak that makes droughts longer, heat waves more intense, and rainfall more extreme than it was for your parents and grandparents. Alarmist? We'll see. Just connecting the dots. 3"+ downpours have doubled since 1961 over the Upper Midwest.”
Reading the article brings me back to the realization that we are so fragile. Untiedt's Vegetable Farm understands our responsibility to feed as many people as possible, yet also can see that the weather patterns are changing – potentially by the actions of the same people we're growing the food for. As a collective whole, we need to consider the results of our actions - although effects may come long after.
We believe in sustainable farming to ensure our land continues to produce long after I'm gone. In hopes that others will follow suit. We can feel the weather patterns fluctuate each season, but continue to bare its burden to bring you the high quality small fruits and vegetables you've come to enjoy.
On the flip side, learning what exactly a crop needs, and being able to control its environment to product optimal results, is the reason our CSA shares started to see Minnesota Grown sweet corn four weeks earlier than normal.
We just have to want to live in harmony with the natural occurrences of the world, and note that when extreme storms hit, we pay attention to how easily everything we've built can be washed away.
Until next time,
The Epicurean Delight is the product of many years of trial and experimentation. These years of constant improvements has now yielded a very superior onion in both size and quality. Certainly not a long term storage onion due to its high water contents, which is what makes the onion so sweet, but instead just the right onion for summer grilling. Use as a topping to your favorite hamburger, stir fry, next to zucchini or just alone on the grill with a little olive oil to create the perfect caramelized Epicurean Delight.
These onions are not meant to be stored. Consume these fast. Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm will only harvest these for about the next 4-6 weeks, so get these while they last.
This is Minnesota’s sweetest onion because, besides its high water content, it is grown on rich alluvial soil. The soil is not hard, compact clay, but more of a sandy loam which is an easily worked, warm soil.
Untiedt’s enriches the soil with organic amendments, such as composted manures, straw and leaves. And it is apparent in the sweetness. These onions can truly be eaten like an apple!
Raspberries are a delight to consume during Minnesota summers. And, many people have a few plants growing in their backyards even. But what does it take to grow and prune raspberry plants to achieve an extended harvest?
When we spoke about vertical planting a few weeks back, we mentioned planting early harvest crops within the same plot as the newly planted raspberry canes to make sure we're living up to our “farming per square-inch” philosophy.
When planting a new raspberry patch all plants start as a rooted cane, which has no leaves when originally planted and takes up very little room; creating the perfect plot for kale, beets, and kohlrabi to grow next to it. As these crops are harvested, the cane is just forming its first leaves.* But from here they take quite different paths depending on if it is a primocane or floricane raspberry plants.
What are the Differences in Raspberry Plants?
Just like our strawberry plants, there are two varieties of plants. One known as everbearing (primocane), which will produce raspberries from July to fall, if cared for properly, and another variety which will produce a very large crop only once in late summer, and then be done for the season (floricane).
In the photo album above it is possible to see two colors of branches on the floricane plants. The bright green canes are the new growth for this season, and will not produce any raspberries until next year. The dark brown canes producing fruit this year will be pruned off in the early spring of next year (before the plant buds). The goal is to leave the healthiest 5 to 6 canes on each crown, and prune away the rest of it. But if you happen to cut down all of the branches on these floricane plants, you will not have any berries to harvest in the next year.
Because the floricane plants listed above produce one harvest in July, we've planted primocane plants on the farm as well so that Untiedt's Vegetable Farm and offer raspberries in your CSA shares and at Market until late fall.
To prune the primocane plant, we cut down all canes and start from ground up. We do not want to retain any canes from the previous season. This encourages the plant to produce one larger crop in late September - well after the floricane plants are done producing.
Both varieties of these plants could grow to over 7 feet tall with the proper trellis. The trellis must work to keep the canes growing upward and outward. Imagine an upside down triangle where the point is sticking into the ground. This “V” like trellis will work to keep branches growing apart to reduce plant disease, and aid in allowing for an easier harvest.
It is also important to prune the “sucker” branches that work to expand the patch. These thin, small canes will fill in the important areas between plant crowns which need to stay clear to allow for proper air flow between the larger, fruit producing canes.
At Untiedt's we constantly care for our plants, and expect quite the harvest this year! Some of these plants are now in their third growing season, and the fruit is incredibly plump, and ruby red.
Expect to see these coming to roadside stands, market, and your CSA shares in the next month.
*It's important to note that this intercrop planting only occurs when we're planting a new patch, during those first few months when the plant becomes acclimated. Early harvest crops will not be planted next to established raspberry plants in following seasons.
You can expect to find Untiedt's strawberries, super sweet onions, zucchini (yellow and green varieties), grape tomatoes and red-ripened slicing tomatoes, chub cucumbers, snow peas, garlic scapes, and much more!
Most stands are open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Click here to find the location nearest you.
Super Sweet Onions will be at the Roadside Stands. Perfect for grilling!
Here's your time to try out garlic scapes! More mild than mature garlic, and a limited time.
Future Dill For Canning Season!
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.
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!