Just an FYI that the Manassas Farmer’s Market is still on today, despite the rain! We’re here until 1pm. Hope to see you!
If you’ve seen our grow room video (and didn’t fall asleep), you may have heard about our efforts to produce a line of herb pots. This is something we’ve been working on since maybe December 2019. The progress has been slow, though we also haven’t been spending every waking moment consumed by this, either. Initially, we had been trying to grow basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill in 3.33″ x 3.33″ pots. The consistent results were that we had semi-decent germination and initial growth, but after about a month, the plants would start to yellow and go downhill from there.
We eventually started adding an organic 2-2-2 fertilizer, but the dosage was much lower than what the bottle recommended (we did that on purpose). This appeared to improve things a little, but not enough to where we’d feel comfortable selling the plants. We also changed the soil we had been using to one with more vermiculite, which tends to provide better drainage, more aeration, etc. This also seems to have helped a little.
In July, we changed our approach a bit. We decided to focus only on basil… let’s work on that, get that to where we want it, and then maybe we can add back in other herb varieties. And so then we started an experiment. (This may be the first of a series of experiments.) We started 9 pots of basil, and then varied the amount of water as well as the amount of fertilizer across the pots. The above 3×3 grid illustrates. For the three rows of pots, we varied the water from 1 tablespoon per day, to 1.5 tbsp / day, to 2 tbsp / day. And then for the columns, we varied the fertilizer dosage from an interval of 1 week, to 2 weeks, to 3 weeks (using the full recommended dosage each time).
The photo above was taken about a week ago and shows the plants at about 3 weeks old. Already, we can start to see some interesting differences. The watering sweet spot seems to be around 1.5 – 2 tbsp water per day, and the 1 week fertilizer interval looks to be the leader. It will be interesting to see how well they do going forward, and we’ll likely come up with additional ideas to test to see if we can further dial in our process to produce a better basil offering.
We’re gearing up for the 8/29 market, though current forecast hints at “heavy rainfall” at some point in the day. Hopefully that holds off until the afternoon, but we’ll get what we get. Plenty of microgreens on the way for Saturday, and Elissa’s been harvesting salad mix and tomatoes from the garden. Hopefully a limited batch of eggs for Saturday, as well. Hope to see you there!
Since the market “reopened” at the end of May, it’s just been a matter of turning the crank week after week. Sales have been going really well. We’ve been steadily increasing quantities of microgreens that we bring each week… when a given plant variety sells out, we up that quantity by one tray for the next grow cycle. Our newest variety this season is Swiss chard… a rainbow mix of stem colors. (We also grow the same chard in the garden for our bagged salad mix.)
Eggs are still selling out every week… we have had zero backlog since the pandemic really kicked in back in March. We’re just holding everything steady there… no plans to increase our flock size or otherwise scale up anytime soon. So far, per our experience, once you’ve covered the cost of feed and other recurring needs, the egg layer “enterprise” has had a fairly thin financial margin. Obviously, it’s certainly nice to get the great feedback we’ve gotten with the eggs, and how can you complain when you sell out every week! But anyway, the forward plan with eggs is just steady as she goes.
We’re still bringing salad mix every week, though the summer heat has set us back some. We had, I believe, six batches of salad mix starts in our grow room that failed to launch a month or two ago… and we’re feeling the pain of that now as the beds we planted earlier in the spring are more or less done. We have some additional beds coming online now. Hopefully the salad mix production will pickup as we approach fall.
Tomatoes have been ramping up the past few weeks. We started 50 tomato plants in the grow room in mid-April, and then planted them in the garden in May. About 30 of those plants are semi-protected in a makeshift greenhouse, and the remainder are out in the garden. All are indeterminate cherries, and we train them up a string and prune as they grow. Some tomato varieties will split open if they get too much water, and we’re noticing that the unprotected ones in the garden have a higher percentage of splits vs. the ones in the greenhouse. We’re hoping that we can do more greenhouse production next year to have better control over the irrigation, etc.
The first batch of peanuts looks just about ready to harvest. I want to pull a plant out of the ground in the next few days to see how we’re looking. I’m hoping we can start bringing peanuts to the market in the next week or two or three… we’ll keep you posted.
As always, we’re grateful for all the support from customers new and old, and we look forward to seeing everyone each week. Feel free to share any feedback with us (good or bad) at any point… we’re always looking for ways to improve. We may do another YouTube video here in a couple weeks (try to remain calm!) Thanks so much, and hope to see you Saturday!