Jumpstart an Herb Business on 1,200 Sq. Ft.

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Market Garden, Pleasantdale SK

A SPIN member just joined the online support group looking to fast track some fresh herb sales. He wrote:

“Hello All. I plan to combine the sale of herbs only at two or three of my local farmers markets along with Pre-Packaged Nuts/ Seeds and Spices. My hope is to promote the sales of the nut and seed business with the fresh herb offerings. I have had success growing basil, chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender on a small scale over the past three seasons and am ready to commit approximately x 1200 sq ft of garden space to this effort. Any feedback on what to focus on in order to maximize my effort would be greatly appreciated. I am a one man show, growing in Northeast PA. Zone 6a. Thanks in advance.”

Herbs are a great addition to diversify or compliment a product line,especially for solo operators because they are easy to plant, harvest and prep. Cilantro, dill,and parsley are good bets. You can get 2 -3 cuts of cilantro before it goes to seed. So you will need several staggered plantings to take you through the season. You can get even more cuts from baby/green dill, but again, you need staggered plantings. Parsley is all season, so there is no need for staggered plantings.

SF photo blog herb dill cilantro

Plant cilantro and dill with tight spacings using an Earthway seeder in 4 – 5 row standard beds, using the chard plate. Use transplants for parsley.

You should target units of production on the 100 to 200 bunches in total of the three herbs on a weekly basis. If you have a 20 marketing week period, you’ll produce 2,000 to 4,000 bunches. At $2.00 per bunch, you can target revenue of $4K to $8K.

Herbs are very high value, are always in demand at market and their fragrance adds a sensual dimension to your stand. So if you have some unused space next to the barbie, or can rig up some containers on a patio, you can make profitable use of it by growing the useful plants.

SF photo blog herb parsely in tubs cropped



SPIN Apprenticeship Lesson: Making A Bed with a Rototiller

Courtesy of Bryon, Saskatoon SK

I am now starting to appreciate the phrase repeated by so many experienced farmers about the need to get your hands in the dirt. It has been very exciting these past few days, as I’m being exposed to more aspects of the occupation. The one I want to talk about in particular is operating a rototiller, and how to use it for bed prep.
SF photo Bryon 1
I loved being being able to physically experience what it’s like to implement this basic SPIN concept, preparing a bed. Doing and seeing what’s necessary to divide a segment into beds was really helpful. One thing that Wally stressed to me was that using strings and other cumbersome set ups are simply not worth the time and effort. Extra care must go into the first lines made in bed prep, though, to ensure uniformity.
SF photo Bryon 2
It was great to get a feel for the workings/mobility of a rototiller. We were using a 5hp briggs and Stratton BCS 710 with an 18 inch tiller implement. Wally has recommended I purchase a larger model with 8 hp and variable work speeds. I have done some initial sourcing for a BCS 722 and will hopefully find one locally on my trip to Ontario. I will update the situation on here as details arise.
SF photo Bryon 3
First we went through an area preparation, tilling the leftover vegetation into the ground. Two passes over the area was good. It was done in quite a small area, 250 sq feet so I got practice with tiller mobility.

Next we marked the edge of the far bed by pushing an Earthway seeder without seeds. This was the first line in the area, and it’s worth taking your time to make this one very straight. This initial line acts as the quide for your tiller and therefore determines the rest of your beds.
SF photo Bryon 4

By the fifth bed I felt quite a bit more comfortable and confident with the machine. The beds after being rototilled have a valley in the middle. Wally impressed me with a little trick of using a flipped over garden rake and dragging it lightly across the surface to flatten it.

I am more excited now to find my own rototiller and start putting it to work!

Mid-summer Planting for Continuous Production

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

This is my segment-size (1,000 sq.ft.) peri-urban plot last week. After helping me harvest bunching onions, my second year intern, Samantha Benesh, planted beets and golden beets. The Earthway did a good job, and she has had no trouble mastering it. The beets are now up, and I hope to be able to harvest by mid to late September as baby beets.

SPIN Photo mid summer plantings

Some of my other mid-summer plantings include cilantro, dill and spinach (planted with chard plate). These will carry me through the fall marketing period. Early October could have snow on the ground, which makes Zone 3 challenging. But I market right through the winter with storage crops and micro greens production. Guide 16 on four season marketing shows how.


Earthway Plates Don’t Always Work as Labeled

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

You’ll find that the Earthway plates don’t always work as labeled. Here’s what I have found:

1) The radish plate works for radish, beans and peas

2) The carrot plate works for carrots. A single pass will give you larger sized carrots. Double pass,meaning you make one pass, then another, over the same furrow, will give you small to mid-size carrots.

3) The lettuce plate works for lettuce. You can use single, double, or even triple passes, depending on what your lettuce strategy is.

4) The beet/chard plate works for cilantro, dill and spinach.

5) The spinach/radish plate works for leaf lettuce, radish, baby carrots, arugula, mustard, mizuna, turnips.

SPIN photo seeder c

Tips for Using the Earthway Seeder

Courtesy of Michael K. , Good Fortune Farm, Brandywine MD
If you are having trouble using the Earthway, here are a few tips.

1. Try spraying the interior where the plate rides, and back of plates, with spray wax like pledge, let dry and and polish.
2. The Earthway instructions suggest soaking the plates in a soapy solution and letting it dry.
3. Try different seed varieties to see which work best. For example spinach and beet  seeds vary by 2X in diameter so different varieties will work differently with each plate. Round smooth pea seeds sometimes work better then wrinkled types.
4. Keep the interior as clean as possible. Little bits of dust get behind the plate and cause problems. I use an air compressor to blow out the seeder before use if it looks dirty.
5. I purchased a small vacuum like a dust buster to help remove the seeds.
6. Watch out for spiders building nests in the seed shoot, they seem to like that place and it is tricky to clean out. A weed whacker line works OK or maybe one of those as seen on TV drain snakes.
7. Earthway sells a few other plates for different varieties about $5 each. The popcorn plate works great for okra and some similar sized seeds. The cucumber plate works nicely. They also sell a heavy cabbage or turnip plate. I find it plants too heavy, but it may work for some farmers. Lima bean plate is very size sensitive.
8. Tilt the seeder to the right when seeding it helps to keep the seeds in the plate cups.
9. Alter your pace, sometimes the speed that you push it changes the way the seed react in the seeder.
10. Store it upside down or covered to keep the seed chamber clean.

DDG3 photo 16