An Old Cole Single Row Planter Manufactured in Charlotte North Carolina
This post is about using old agricultural equipment such as tractors and ancient planters to deal with modern agricultural needs. There is a current trend to buy bright and shiny, bigger, and newer agricultural equipment. But with a little ingenuity and patience you can clean and reclaim your old farm devices to get the job done on your farm. The picture above shows a single row planter produced by the Cole Company that used to manufacture and distribute in Charlotte North Carolina. This particular planter is from Bayard Iowa and is one that Mike Carter refurbished with some patience and elbow grease to use in a single row planting scheme to plant a three sisters crop mix of corn, beans and sqaush. Mike could have bought a new planter, but decided to get this classic planter up and runner and save some time and money and prevent this vintage device from going to the scrap pile. I asked the owner of Renfrow’s Hardware ( http://www.renfrowhardware.com/) in Matthews, North Carolina if he knew anything about the Cole Company and he said that Renfrow’s used to carry this company for many years before they went out of business.
My friend Jep Whitlock from Lumber River Native Plants (http://www.ncnativeplants.com/) lives on a century farm in Gibson North Carolina and grows traditional/conventional row crops, organic speciality crops, and native plants. Jep and his father in law have used an ancient Massey Ferguson tractor to plant potatoes and four row garlic with their vintage tractor. They have used innovation and ingenuity to design and build some specialty implements that allow them to use their old tractor and cultivator parts to build new components called sweeps that create raised beds and then also mound up soil around the potatoes and garlic.
Check out the pictures associated this blog about old tractors and old planters that still have some life and vitality in them if you are willing to use a little elbow grease to make your old equipment work.
There is a new trend in using high schools, churches, and drug rehabilitation facilities as centers for organic agriculture and horticulture therapy. Many people are realizing the benefits of healthy diets and growing their own food, but now it has become popular for educators and counselors to use gardens as a means to teach people about agroecology and life skills in horticulture. Further, the process of growing food and setting up gardens has become recognized as a means of relating the process of nurturing plants and animals with nurturing the soul. Educators are incorporating gardening into science classes, churches are growing food to feed the poor and teach children about the bounty of God’s gifts, and drug rehab centers are setting up hydroponic and aquaponic systems to produce food for themselves and to teach patients about healthy diet as a means of regaining healthy spirits and mental health. Some great examples of these trends can be seen at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines (http://ucdsm.org/), the St. Gregory Retreat Center (http://www.stgregoryctr.com/), and Hibriten High School (http://sc.caldwellschools.com/education/school/school.php?sectionid=156/). All three of these locations have successfully incorporated gardening into their individual goals for education and spiritual health of the mind and body. Check out the pictures of the gardens at each site.
St. Gregory Aquaponics Tilapia Tanks
St. Gregory Hydroponic Basil
Des Moines Unitarian Church Community Gardens
Church Classes in the Gardens
Raised Beds at Hibriten High School Used for Science Classes
Quaking Bog Botancials donating squash for school gardens
Science Teacher Alex Martin has lead the garden project at Hibriten along with other teachers who help secure grant monies and build the beds
North Carolina had a huge amount of rain in 2013 and now we are having some extended wet days in late April. I am going to be putting out potatoes and cutting fields up for summer and winter squash. Last week I put out sets of cabbage and swiss chard. The NC fields from the coast to the mountains look good for the garlic harvest in mid to late June. My garlic field in Des Moines also looks good. I had a problem with putting out too much straw on top of the garlic and I almost smothered 3/4 of my crop. Luckily I pulled off the straw and now the garlic is booming there as well. I learned from last year’s efforts to wait to start the winter squash until May indoors and just plant in June. My seed and plants put in the ground early to mid May in Iowa did poorly. The soil is actually still to cold for any summer crops in NC for the central and western part of the state.
I have seen several fields using plastic sheet or woven plastic mulch sheets and it does seem to be the best way to reduce water loss and weeds at the same time. The climate change factor seems to be working differently in the Mid West with later springs and drier summers. I think going with recycled and biodegradable plastic mulch will be great. I hope to get potatoes in the ground this week in the low mountains of Lenoir, NC and then will plant the leftovers at some various places around Charlotte. How much do those plastic mulch machines cost? Laying the drip line at the same time is the way to go and I know that the successful pumpkin patches for Halloween sales in Iowa definitely have drip irrigation but I don’t remember them being on plastic. I think the plastic mulch would only be appropriate around the base of the plants of vining squash as the extended shoots need to root at the nodes to provide strength to the plant.
This season looks to be very promising as we have most of our returning members plus some new people growing this season as well. Philip Cwynar from Pittsburgh has joined our group and has some great hops and grape clones that he will be sharing with the group. Tyler Nethers from Raleigh and his company the Farmery (http://www.thefarmery.com/) will also This year we will also be growing out several varieties of cow peas and green beans from old family strains provided by Jep Whitlock of Lumber River Native Plants (,http://www.ncnativeplants.com/) Scott Woodward, Mark Davidson, and Amy Allen. Amy is also setting up a new seed cooperative in Wilmington and will be adding to this blog soon about her new project and seed strains. It is very exciting to see that we have started collecting local seed strains from the basements and old garden sheds of older family members who no longer garden. So far we have been working with some strains provided by the USDA seed banks and some exotic seeds from a few seed companies but these new additions to the seed cooperative are what really will make this project a success. The ability of our group to acquire and have access to old family strains and material not available on the market will allow us to have greater genetic diversity to use later in adverse weather and insect conditions. If you have been given some of the more rare seeds to grow please take care to pay attention to their needs and follow their growth from planting to harvest so that we have more of the rarest seeds to pass around. I have lost a few strains such as the original Cherokee Green and White Cushaw from the Sac and Fox clan due to poor germination and genetic bottlenecking of the DNA. Remeber to save seeds from as many of your fruits/vegetables as possible and then either save by individual squash or plant and label them. If you submit a collection of seeds back to me try to submit some seeds from each squash fruit or okra plant so that there will be good genetic diversity. If you are planting beans or peas try to plant at least 25-30 seeds of each type so that there will be enough genetic variation in your crop to keep up the diversity.
Greetings gardening folks. This year looks to be a very promising one at the Quaking Bog Botanicals Seed Cooperative. Last season we had about 75% success with most of our growers able to get the seeds sent to them planted and then able to harvest and send some regenerated seeds back. It was a rough year in Idaho with hail storms taking out Eric Aiello’s entire garden and too much rain reducing pollination and causing rot for growers in NC such as Scott Woodward and Alex Martin. In my neck of the woods in Iowa it was a late cold spring and then a long drought. As a result, I had thousands of squash seeds and plants rot in May and then the rest of the plants almost dry up in July and August. One of my three large fields made it and that was because Mike Carter was kind enough to provide ample irrigation to the site. We were able to get a good crop of squash out of the site and will try again this year. A few things I have learned from my own successes and failures last year follow:
Don’t put all your seeds or plants out too early for the summer crops, follow local almanacs and wait an extra week or so for summer planting dates if the ground seems cold and wet. Also, stagger the weeks out that you plant hot summer crops in case of cold snaps or flood events. That way you have some backup seeds to replant the site with.
If you keep putting the same crop in the same place every year and it dies, then you need to move the crops to a different spot. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If your potatoes or garlic are rotting where you have them, maybe the ground is too low and you need to plant on higher ground.
For me and my sites in Iowa the lack of rain was the biggest problem. The soil is great so if the weeds can be kept down the only real problem is water. Many of you already have this figured out at your small backyard sites and are watering regularly. I had trouble last year getting water to all my sites to I will we choosing ground that has water access and using more drip lines this year. This will allow me to till up the weeds and run the drip irrigation at the same time instead of tilling for hours and then spending half the day trying to water. The irrigation lines are expensive but they will be worth it in the end.
Remember to crop rotate and move around the crops that get the most bugs and disease such as garlic, onions, squash and potatoes. Burn old crop residues instead of just composting them to discourage eggs from overwintering.
Don’t get discouraged if the rains make your tomatoes rot or if hail kills most of your garden. If this happens try to get some quick crops of beans or greens in the ground as soon as possible to make up for the loss of squash, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
And remember that hard work and positive energy make the garden grow. Even if you lose a major part of your crops try to stay positive and learn from your lessons to be able to avoid total loss from rain deluges or hail and wind events.
Today was a good day to plant heirloom Garlic in Happy Valley, Lenoir. My friend Alex Martin has a nice organic farm with several creeks, wetlands, old barns, big blueberry bushes, and a young orchard. We do what we can with the limited time we have. This varies from month to month and season to season. We got the garlic in about 3 months late but i am more concerned with keeping our gernplasm to grow for next fall rather than worry about a harvest this season. We had about 10 varieties of leeks and garlic but we are down to 6 or 7. Today was great weather in the foothills so we decided to see what we could salvage from years of organic production and experimentaitin.
we double dug and planted Lumbee Leeks, Elephant Garlic, and Georgia Crystal. Italian Lorenz and Extra Select will go in soon. Usually they go in around October to get good set of roots and some green leves out of the mulch before it gets too cold but we were too busy to make it happen until today. All our material is heirloom and some of it is not even commercially available so we are trying to keep it going. I notice alot of decline in the Elephant Galic and Lumbee Leeks. Both are true leeks and not a garlic variety. Any ideas on why the Organic Elephant Garlic has languished from a robust ten disease free pounds to one slickly pound? I am finding blue mold, onion/garlic maggots, and some strange slimy brown mold areas that seem to be independent of blue mold or maggots. Should the elephant garlic be pulled a few weeks sooner? Maybe it it ready earlier? Is that soil too wet? Any suggestions as to why the garlic and especially the Elephant Garlic is sick I need answers. All of Quaking Bog Botanicals is organic and we mulch and crop rotate so I am wondering why my soil is harboring pests? Any takers or comments?
This season has enabled me to produce and cook a ton of seasonal produce. I found easier production and handling with storage crops such as carrots, potatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, dry beans, and winter squash. Depulping winter squash for cooking is easy and then I bake the skin and flesh at 350 Degrees for about an hour. It is always nice to have a mix of organic carrot varieties and some separate rows for parsnips to grow. They grow slow and are good to start harvesting for Thanksgiving soups and stews. Lately I have discovered the joys of the alternative starch Jerusalem aritchoke, Sunchoke, or Henlianthus tuberosus. This native domesticate make great starchy roots that store in the ground and you can dig as needed. They are great lightly baised in garlic or butter, or just raw with salt. Garlic has been a pleasure of mine for many years and it has been a curious crop for trial and error. There are many hard neck and soft neck garlics, and certain ones do well in certain parts of the country. I have also watched long term fungus hurt certain fields and leave other fields alone. I always get a great organic harvest but the varieties that do the best may change each year. I had great success with Rose Finn and Peruvian Purple potatoes in Des Moines. I grew them organically with side dressing of sheet compost and no insect predation of the leaves or the potatoes. There is some great soil in Iowa if you take care of it. The purple potatoes are great in coconut curries or used as baby potatoes, or home fries. Probably one of the most important crops that I identified as being worthy of eating and growing has been the Long Island Cheese Squash. This cucurbita maxima keep well and the dense flesh makes a fantastic soup, Feel free to email me and tell me what kind of vegetables you have grown and enjoyed eating with friends. I am always open to blog topics and electronically meeting other vegetable, forage crop, or animal.gardeners, farmers, and producers. I want to introduce a few small animals into my vegetable rotation and see how that goes. Any ideas pr suggestions?