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SLO City Farm Blog: March 21 2015–Vernal Equinox

Both harvest and planting continued at City Farm during the last week of Winter, reminding us of the incredible bounty of our Central Coast climate– while the water lasts.

Despite the losses caused by an early March hailstorm, Green Gold Organic Farms continued processing the remainder of their  first crop of premium strawberries for distribution to local restaurants and markets, as well as to Whole Foods and Lassen Markets.

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At the same time, they began their first planting of mini-peppers, which are expected to be ready for market in June.

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City Farm Manager and Educator, Nicki Anderson, seeded thirteen flats of solenacious vegetables (tomatoes and peppers) in greenhouse space donated by a local farmer, promising thousands of starts to be planted by students participating in the City Farm School Project later in the season. This marks the Project’s second stage of expansion from gardening to farming activities.

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[Nicki Anderson photo]

During this week’s Pacific Beach High School’s afternoon class, Nicki demonstrated the proper use of a backpack sprayer.

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Addressing a concern about spreading chemical fertilizer or pesticides,  she explained that they’d be spraying “compost tea,” a highly effective natural fertilizer that provides immediate and long-term nourishment to the beneficial organisms in soil that make for healthy plant growth and disease resistance.

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The row of lettuce now being enriched with the compost tea was deliberately deprived of compost and gypsum during transplanting two weeks earlier to highlight the effects of soil conditioning provided to the adjoining row.

Another composting project was the construction of a three-chamber bin out of free pallets where weeds and harvest waste are recycled for the continuous production of nutrients returned to the soil from which they grew.

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Yet another source of soil conditioning is the third truckload of mushroom compost, donated last week by Marshall Diggins.

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It took little time for the huge pile to be distributed by our study-work crew to prepare newly-tilled garden plots  for replanting.

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And so it went, bed #C4 filled with multicolor Swiss Chard starts, which should be ready for harvest in less than six weeks.

 

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Other garden plantings this week included beets, onions, and beans, as well as a contributed flat of tomatoes getting an early start.

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And then there was the always-necessary hand-weeding, on Thursday enthusiastically assisted by Mr. Marinello, School Principal, and Sonia, the class’s substitute teacher for the day.

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The task of constructing our inexpensive but labor-intensive toolshed was finally completed with the installation of a garden-tool rack to maximize internal space.

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Students who planted carrots in earlier sessions joined others on the farm for the first time to harvest, wash and devour them.

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Also harvested were cauliflower, broccoli and kale not ruined by a plague of aphids, some sugar peas resurrected after most of the bed was destroyed in fall by gophers, many heads of lettuce delivered to the Salvation Army, along with boxes of celery gleaned from uncultivated rows in the neighboring tract.

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Despite the hustle and bustle, a few moments for  quiet contemplation could still be found on a lovely early Spring day.

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The last news of the week came on Saturday, when our first student farmer started paid work mowing the cover crop of oats as an assistant to the Farm Manager.

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[click image for video by Nicki Anderson]

Steven Marx