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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Preparing for Spring

Signs of Spring!!!

Get it? Signs... 

The Rhubarb is waking from hibernation


Growing in the Greenhouse

Well, my planting calendar has me starting crops in the fields two weeks ago. However, we keep getting snow which melts and turns the fields into mud. I can not prep muddy fields or plant into them. So, all I have that is on schedule is inside the greenhouse. My first round of Brassicas (Broccoli and Kale) can not wait much longer. They are getting too big for their tiny pots. Luckily, we have some good weather coming up and I should be able to plant them out and get some seeds in the ground next week! Here is what is going on inside the Greenhouse..

Red Russian Kale

We are staying above freezing on these COLD nights!!

Poor picture but we had a lovely Full Worm Moon



This day it never got above freezing outside

First round of planting ready to go out

Second round of Kale

The First Tomatoes!!!! These are Black Krim, a favorite from Georgia

 Field Work

 It did thaw and then dry out enough for me to get one pass in with the tiller before it snowed another 6" on Monday. It's a start. Now I have to let it dry out again, do one more pass and then I can start planting.
Tilling in the cover crop on the new field

That's our new hoop house. It's almost done. When it is it will get its own blog post

Meet The Farmer

We tried something new last weekend at some of our Restaurants in DC. It was an event we called Meet The Farmer. The goal was to introduce our customers to the farm. We want them to know that EatWell DC has a farm and tries to source locally and responsibly. EatWell is very proud of the farm and have put a lot of resources into it and wants to show it off. We also wanted to spread the word about our volunteer day coming up March 22nd.

We wanted to feature some farm produce but all I really had to offer was over-wintered Carrots and Wild Onions. The carrots were really sweet and crunchy. This fall I must plant A LOT more carrots to over winter!

Wild Onions and Carrots

Chef Tate at Grillfish made a marinated Carrot Salad with Salmon and they created a
drink with Carrot Juice and Bourbon. It was all delicious

At Commissary I handed out baby carrots and planted tomatoes with kids. Several people said "That's the best carrot I've ever had in my life!" It is a great compliment but the same could be said of any truly fresh, clean and local food if you are comparing it to conventional veggies that have been shipped across the country (or around the world).

Chef Bonk at The Pig made Carrot Cake topped with Goat Cheese and Wild Onion Icing

Puddy Time

Puddy had a lot of company this past week. Tilford came back to visit for a few days...
Mom! He's Touching me!

And then the two of them kidnapped the neighbor's puppy, Moxie. Luckily Moxie's mom was happy to come over and hang out so that the three of them could play.  (But, for real. Puddy and Tilford wandered over to the neighbor's at the farm and came sauntering back, puppy in tow)

Puddy and Moxie running

Cute Puppy!

Puddy in high rope toy fashion

Monday, March 10, 2014

Greenhouse Build

Below is a post all about our brand new Greenhouse. But while I have you, let me tell you about our upcoming Spring Volunteer Day. March 22nd from 9am-1pm the farm will be open to visitors who want to come see how we grow great food that stays local in the DC area. There will be a short tour followed by a few hours of socializing while we work on projects around the farm. We may do some planting, mulching, or weeding. Then we all get to enjoy lunch provided by The Pig!For more info or to RSVP please contact me at I would love to know you are coming so that I can have enough food for everyone. 

The farm is located at:
7528 Glen Albin Rd
La Plata, MD 20646

Now, onto your regularly scheduled Blog...

This winter just won't give up. It has been cold, cold, cold here. 

While the cold may slow us down in some ways it also gives us a chance to concentrate on improvements and upgrades around the farm. Since my last post we finished building the Greenhouse and started construction on the High Tunnel. These structures are made of similar material but serve different purposes. Here are the definitions as they apply to EatWell Natural Farm. Other farms with different needs may use these terms with slightly different meanings.


A heated building used for starting seeds and growing plants that need extra protection from the cold.  Transplants are started here in containers.

High Tunnel (aka Hoop House): 

A large tunnel covered in Poly Film that helps to extend the growing season and protect crops from weather extremes.  Plants are grown directly in the soil.


Our greenhouse is 12'x16'. The arches were bent from chain link fence top rail available at your local home improvement store. We bent them using Johnny's Selected Seeds Quick Hoops pipe bender. We used their Caterpillar Tunnel design as a starting point and made some modifications to make it work for our space.
For starters, the site we chose was on a hill (surprise! The whole farm is a hill) so we had to dig into the hill and build a bit of foundation/retaining wall. For this part we enlisted a local handyman who built a beautiful (if overkill) foundation into which we mounted the arches.

Digging out for the foundation

6x6 lumber stacked into the uphill side and up on the downhill
side to make a level base

Arches in place

Next we drilled into the top board and mounted the arches directly into it, screwing them into place. The outside arches we mounted to the outside of the wood and into the ground using a wider diameter ground post.

We then leveled out the ground inside and buried drainage pipe around the uphill edge and sides of the base.

The next step was to add the  center Purlin which runs across the top of the arches, connecting them all.

Then Lane came out and framed out the end walls and hung the doors.

Re-used Doors from Community Forklift

Framing Complete!

Once the bones are assembled its time to add the skin! Around the arches we secured the Poly with Wiggle Wire. First step is to mount the channel that the wiggle wire will slip into. The channel comes in 8' sections and bends to the shape of the arch as you screw it in with self tapping tech screws.
Wiggle wire fits snuggly into its channel holding the poly in place. 

Our greenhouse will have 2 layers of 6mm 4 year greenhouse film. We will use a pump to inflate the space between the two layers in winter for added insulation.

First layer going on

First layer with wiggle wire installed and edges trimmed

Andrew Attaching the sides of the 2nd layer

Air pump for inflating between the two layers

For the flooring we are using a heavy duty landscape fabric which will block anything from growing, help retain heat because it is black, and let water seep through into the soil.

We also built in a raised bed which we will use for heat loving plants or possibly edible flowers. We'll see what it works best for. Since taking this picture I have decided to widen this bed out a bit.

The next piece of the puzzle was to cover the end walls in plastic and cut out the doors and windows. As of now, the doors are done and functional but the windows will have to wait because we ran out of time.

Done! For now. There are few finishing touches still needed. The windows need to be built and trimmed out but the structure is up and useable. I spent a few days monitoring the temperature extremes before moving he seedlings in.

Andrew and Gayle with the finished greenhouse

Erica and Gayle

The first day we enclosed it was 50 degrees and sunny out. It got up to 110 inside the greenhouse!

Starting to fill it up!

First round of Kale growing up strong

These seedlings spent a little too much time reaching for the grow lights
before getting to move in to the Greenhouse. They have gotten a bit leggy. 

Starting Peppers and Tomatoes already!

Teeny-Tiny Celeriac Seeds in Soil Blocks

Red Sky at Night

Here we are watering our hundreds of babies

Puddy Time

Puddy is always "helping" with projects at work and at home...

Tiling the new bathroom

Helping on the farm builds