Putting a Lawn Mower to Good Use

Courtesy of Christian K, 3 Crows Farm Cranbrook BC

I use a battery powered lawn mower to even out my harvests of arugula, lettuce and mesclun mix, and spinach. I do my initial harvest with a Farmers Friend Quick Greens cutter, but find that my 2nd, 3rd and maybe 4th cut are much improved if I run the mower over the bed to even out the cuttings and help remove the missed leaves. It takes about 30 seconds, and the next cutting comes in with full leaves and no crusty dried leaves to pick out.

When it’s time to clear the bed, I put on a ‘dethatching’ blade and lower the deck to 2″, and it scalps the bed well enough that there is little debris remaining and I can sometimes just use the Johnny Seeds tilther to prep for the next seeding or transplanting.

The mower is tidy, doesn’t foul the neighbouring beds, is light, quick, gas free, relatively
quiet and way less effort. It’s like a poor man’s power harrow – works with a cheap gas mower too if that’s what you’ve got.

SF photo blog lawn mower power harrow


When It Comes To Harvesting, Take Five

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

My post last week on how farming is no different than any other small business prompted a lot of questions on what my secret was to managing it all. It’s no secret and can be learned by anyone through the SPIN online learning series.One of the most important concepts  you’ll to learn is  to take five when it comes to your harvesting protocol. It will ease your stress and may even save your career. This example shows why.

Let’s say you sell at a single Saturday farmer’s market. You are targeting a $1,000 day, which is a SPIN benchmark. At $2.50 per unit, that calls for at least 400 units. Now, would you rather harvest, wash and prep 400 units the day before market, which means working well into the night, and maybe even having to get up before dawn the day of market to finish off? Believe me, this is not fun, and it is a major reason why farmers burn out and give up.

Instead, here’s what happens when you have a commercial cooler and implement SPIN’s five day harvest work week. You can start as early as Monday, harvesting green garlic. On Tuesday you can do red onion, green onion on Wednesday, spinach on Thursday and lettuce and salad mix on  Friday. Your harvest/prep sessions are over by noon each day, so you have plenty of time for other farm tasks. Friday night you can relax so not
only are your veggies fresh for market. So are you.

SF photo Wally relaxing  at concert


Late at Night is Alanna Gurr & The Greatest State‘s latest album, not Wallly’s harvest routine. During farming season he has time to catch local bands at  Vangelis Tavern. Gail makes sure he doesn’t stay out too late though. 

Johnny’s Quick Cut Greens Harvester

Courtesy of Didacus R., Haywood, CA

I remember your critique of the original Johnny’s quick greens harvester.  This one looks better if only for the oscillating cutters and the macrame rope beaters. Still I note while they claim the operator is upright, he actually is hyper extended. Perhaps a telescoping handle like on a rolling suitcase would correct that. Also the skids below it. They look very small. Perhaps bent wood at least 2 inches wide the length of the sides like a sled? Now you would have a super tool!


Johnny’s Quick Cut Greens Harvester

Courtesy of Victoria W., Deluge Farms, Plains, MT
I watched the quick cut greens harvester up close while it was being photographed for the Johnny’s catalog at this past Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns Center. It works incredibly well. They cut an entire bulb crate full of miner’s lettuce in less than a minute. What was left behind was a perfectly flat bed of mowed stems, conducive to even and marketable regrowth. The macrame brush that lifts the greens into the basket was very gentle and did not cause any damage. I can see two minor downsides to the greens harvester: it requires regular sharpening of the serrated blade, and where before I could do
some quality control as I cut greens, by tossing aside damaged leaves, the quick cut harvester will pick up everything you put in its path. Jack Algiere at Stone Barns suggested that when using the quick cut harvester, spend a few extra minutes washing the greens and do your quality control there.

I am seriously considering buying one of these, it’s just the steep price tag that’s keeping it out of reach.

Second Cuts of Greens

Courtesy of Brenda S., Thompson Street Farm, Glastonbury CT
I try and get 3 cuttings from my arugula, depending on how hot it is before clearing the bed. The more you cut the more fibrous the arugula gets. So I try to stay on the more tender side of things. The Chef I work with only accepts first cuttings because they are the tenderest and not as spicy.

I’ve found mustard greens can also handle multiple cuttings but will eventually get really fibrous and bolt in really hot weather. But I did well with it, and I was glad I didn’t have to replant another bed every 14 day plus days.