Tag Archives: spring time

Berry Beginnings

Posted on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 by Erin M

How to plant strawberries (No words! Just video! And an awesome song! Okay fine. A few words..but hardly any!) :

How to plant strawberries – the detailed version (No cool music…BUT…with cool words and stuff!) : 

Step One: Figure out your field plans and make sure your soil is healthy. These are done depending on what was planted where in previous years, in addition to soil samples/soil health, crop rotations and various other factors. We typically leave four years in between planting strawberries in the same fields because that’s what our crop rotation and arable land allows..but five years would be even better. We only keep the plants in the ground three years – one of which there is no production of fruit. Field plans should be done YEARS in advance of the planting year to ensure that the soil is healthy, rich and the plants will have the best chance at thriving. Different crops leech or add different nutrients from the soil so it’s important to keep track of what is planted both before and after strawberries to keep the soil healthiest and plan accordingly so that your soil has what it needs to grow what you’re planting in it. 

Step Two: Order your plantsDuring the winter we’ll order thousands of strawberry plants from a couple of different strawberry propagators (people who start plants from runners or cuttings)  in Canada. What we order will depend on how many fields we need to plant, what varieties we’re looking to grow and which berries are best suited for our soil, weather conditions, as well as other factors. 

Step Three: Get the fields ready. This is done as soon as the fields begin to dry up enough for the tractors to move around on them easily, and the guys are able to work up the fields and make sure that the soil is broken down and loose so it can be easily planted. We go over it at least a few different times…making sure that it’s worked up and ready to be planted with young new plants.

Step Four: Pick rocks. Rocks are going to be a huge pain if you try to plant with them in there – we pick rocks at least a few times before we start planting as well as after we plant!

Step Five: Monitor the weather. We can’t plant when it’s still really cold out because the small plants can be damaged easily in cold weather…but you don’t want to wait too long either. You ideally want to plant when the weather gets warm, on days that aren’t too warm so that the plants roots aren’t exposed to the sun too long as well as when there is a minimal risk of frost and cold temperatures at night.

Step Six: PLANT PLANT PLANT! We use a planter to help speed up the planting process because we’re planting thousands and thousands of plants each spring. To use our planter effectively we need seven people working in constant harmony. One to drive the tractor making straight rows, four to sit on the back of the planter placing plants into the feeders as they go ground and are placed into the ground and covered up by dirt and two to follow the planter – one for each row that is being planted to ensure that the plants are properly covered with soil and that no plants were missed or fell out.  For us, this process takes days, up to a week to get all of the plants we want to grow into the ground. On a good day where nothing breaks down, is damaged or we don’t run into other typical planting problems we can plant up to 35 000 plants in a (very long!) day of planting. On average though, we usually plant around 20 000-25 000 plants in a day.

Step Seven: Give ’em a drink! As the plants are fed into the ground they’re given a brief watering from the planter because they’ve been without water for so long, but after we’re done planting for the day we still have to set up irrigation pipes in order to give them a good long drink that they haven’t had in a while so that they can soak their roots into the soil and perk up their leaves to a nice healthy green!

…And that’s how it’s done.

Well. The strawberry *planting* anyway.

Those are just the steps to get them into the ground safe and sound. We’ve still got more than another year of work ahead of us before these plants can and will produce any fruit.

Yep. You read that right. More than twelve whole months and LOTS of more hard work before the first sweet and juicy berries are ready…but that’s another story for another time!

Springtime, Field Work, and Rock (& Roll)

Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2013 by Steph N

b2ap3_thumbnail_254f31fd7f.jpgFor any farmer spring is a busy, busy time. There is equipment to get ready, fields to work, animals to care for, fertilizer to order, manure to spread, barns to open up again, and, in some areas, there are even stones to pick. That’s right, picking stones. 

You might never have thought about this as a chore that farmers have to do, but in stony areas of Ontario it is a necessary and essential task. On my farm, especially when I was growing up, a regular family chore each spring was going over our fields and removing stones. We would all head out in our work boots, and warm layers, one person would get lucky and get to drive the tractor that day, and the rest of us would each get a fork to help load the stones into the tractor’s bucket. We would then go over the fields and pick any stone that was big enough to harm our equipment. 

Stones can cause big trouble with machinery, especially planters. There are many parts in planters such as disks and springs and packer wheels that can not only break on impact with a stone, but it can cause all the hard work that a farmer did to set his planter just right to come undone. This can lead to many other problems in the field because seed placement in the soil won’t be as accurate. 

Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older and busier, there are some solutions and other options to stone picking. For example, you can buy mechanical stone pickers that can be hooked up to a tractor and driven over a field in order to eliminate some of the labour needed. Another way that farmers have lessened the need for stone picking is through less and shallower tillage. For example, on my farm just like many others, we used to plow the field every year. This was a deep form of tillage and would bring many more stones to the surface resulting in lots of stone picking. Now we use no tillage in our soybeans, and only disc (a shallow form of tillage) for our corn. This means fewer rocks are brought to the surface, less time is spent picking rocks, and we have more time to focus on the many other spring tasks to be done around the farm. 

 

Spring is in the air

Posted on Monday, April 15, 2013 by Justin

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Spring is always a busy time on the farm. It is the time of year when the ground is thawing out, animals spend more time outside and spring planting kicks into high gear.  Many tasks need to be performed in a short period of time.  This includes spreading manure stocks (on livestock farms), tilling the land, planting, spraying and of course on dairy farms, as with every day of the year, the cows need to be milked on a regular routine. 

It is very important during the winter and early spring to be doing maintenance on the equipment. This includes tractors, wagons, planters and seed drills.  A tractor, just like a car, requires service at regular intervals. You need to change the engine oil as this is what keeps the engine lubricated and running smoothly. Just as important is the hydraulic oil which serves two purposes: this includes lubricating the transmission (a series of gears that transmits the engines power to turn the wheels) and is also used to control the equipment that is pulled by the tractor.  These are just two of the major areas where maintenance is very important but there are many others areas just as important to ensure a smooth and less frustrating spring planting.

Cows, pigs, sheep and other forms of livestock are always producing manure.  This manure is an excellent fertilizer to be spread on the fields.  The optimum time to do this is in the spring before planting crops such as corn that require a large amount of nitrogen, which allows for the most amount of the nutrients to be used by the plant.  Farmers are not allowed to spread manure on frozen ground or ground that is covered in snow; this is to minimize the amount of run-off getting into creeks and waterways.   Many farmers will do soil tests as well as manure sample tests to ensure the crop will receive all the required nutrients for optimum growth.  If the manure isn’t able to supply all the nutrients the plant requires, fertilizer many be spread on the soil to optimize the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K).

There are a few different ways to plant crops. One of the oldest methods of tillage is using the moldboard plow to turn the soil in the fall followed by a few passes in the spring with a cultivator or disk before planting the crop, to ensure a flat and even surface.  Many farmers are starting to use no-till planting, with this method no tillage is done in the fall. The farmer will plant directly into the field requiring no tillage.  An advantage to this method is there is less fuel being used because of the reduced number to passes over the field before planting.  There are many other combinations of tillage depending on different soils types and crop to be planted.

Once the crop has been planted it is very important to keep a constant watch on the crops.  One 25 kg bag of seed can cost the farmer upwards of $200. Things that are important to watch include: even germination across the field, pest/weed pressure.  If pests or weeds are spotted it in the field it is important to spray pesticides or herbicide quickly to minimize the crop loss and ensure the crop has optimum growing conditions.

Spring is a very busy time on the farm but a very rewarding time when you see your crops growing in the fields and harvest them in the fall.  Many pieces of farm equipment are larger than your families car so when you’re out on the road and see a tractor pulling a large piece of equipment with a slow moving vehicle sign in the back, slow down, give them space and of course wave to them, farmers love to wave at people.  If you’re driving by a field and see a farmer working take a minute to stop and watch what they are doing to produce the high quality that your family enjoys many times a day.