Monday, March 24, 2008

Update from Michelle Lofthouse in Monrovia!
Good evening, Growers!
I've had a few requests from curious growers about Michelle Lofthouse, winner of last year's weigh-off, and how she prepares her patch. So, without further ado, here's Michelle's patch dispatch from this afternoon:
"Hi Stuart!
It was great hearing from you as well. I think the Patch Tour and Full Moon Party sounds great! Let me know if you would be interested in using Autumnleaf Farm as the place where the eats are!I apologize for not being more computer savy but I wasn't sure how to email pics, etc. to your blog so if it's ok I'll send along my patch update and photos right here....So far this season I've been able to add roughly 12 yards of composted horse manure to the 26X48 foot patch area. I have just enough room here to grow two giant pumpkin plants giving each one just over 600 sq feet of growing space. There are two horses on the property and I make all of my compost from their manure. It was aged over a period of months before it was added to the patch. Because of the high amount of salts in horse manure I added 23 bags of Gypsum before tilling in the compost. Gypsum also has a high calcium content which benefits the pumpkin with stronger walls.Right now a cover crop consisting of Peaceful Valley's "Organic Soil Builder", Austrian Winter Peas and Annual Rye Grass Seed is just emerging. After about a month of growing the cover crop I will till that in as green manure and then cover the entire patch with plastic to 'solar fumigate' the top few inches of the soil which helps to eliminate harmfull pathogens. This has made a huge difference in the health of the plants. A few seasons ago I had a problem with Mosaic Virus which is very difficult to get rid of and after using this method I haven't seen any evidence of it since. Here are some pictures of my good friend, Tony, operating my new tractor with a rototiller on the back that has three speeds. I had used a 5hp Craftsman rear-tine tiller up until now and that was quite a chore in an area this size. Also pictured are the bags of gypsum waiting to be spread. Incidentally I placed two telescoping sprinklers about 15 feet apart to water the cover crop. I will probably put these back after the final till and use them for my principal watering source. They not only water but provide overhead cooling for the plants for when the temperatures get into the nineties and above."
So there you have it!
More on details on The Patch Tour and Full Moon Party later. But, please save the date: Saturday, August 16th!
Have a great evening,