News and blog

Current happenings on and around the farm!
Posted 7/3/2012 2:20pm by Jenna Untiedt.

While the lack of rain this last week is great for those in the northern part of the state, where heavy rains caused flooding in lakes like Big Sandy;  this drought means those areas will have a chance to dry out, and watch the nearby Mississippi River take on some of the unwanted water.

Out on the farm, we've been busy just trying to keep the plants hydrated. Our irrigation system has been pumping out water nonstop, and unfortunately, has had enough. Last Saturday, one of our pumps gave out and sent a connecting rod through the side of the engine block. Then a six-inch, underground pipe broke creating the need for us to take part in a massive excavation in attempts to restore water flow to these fields.

On the other end of our farming operation, our 13 tower, above ground irrigation system got itself stuck in the mud. It's one thing when one of our trucks get stuck, try to image dislodging the piece of equipment you see below. 

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Isn't it fun to be a farmer?

Another disadvantage of this heat wave it that our tomato and pepper plants lose their flowers when their growing environment reaches 85 degrees and above. These flowers are what attracts bees to pollinate the plants to make fruit. No flower, no fruit.

Yes, in time new flowers will form, but only once it reaches cooler temperatures, and who knows how long that will take. And the other part is, that once these flowers are lost the next round will be less in numbers, meaning less of a harvest for all.

Moments like this make us realize just how fragile our environment really is.

Rain and heat. Both critical to growth, but when out of balance will completely destroy what it has worked to create for so many months.

Meteorologist Paul Douglas pointed to some very educational sources in his recent weather roundup segment in the Star Tribune titled “On Weather”published on June 21.

When considering if climate change was connected to the extreme weather patterns we've been experiencing, one source (PlanetArk.org) stated this, “He pointed to global studies projecting more extreme precipitation and floods as a result of climate change, which is a product of increased emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is emitted by natural and human sources, notably the burning of fossil fuels. 'A threshold may already have been crossed, so that major floods in the Midwest perhaps now should no longer be considered purely natural disasters but instead mixed natural/unnatural disasters,' Saunders said. 'And if emissions keep going up, the forecast is for more extreme storms in the region.'”

A direct quote from Douglas himself says this, “No, you can't prove that any one storm or extreme event was triggered by climate change, but the question is somewhat academic. You may not like it, but the atmosphere floating overhead is warmer than it was 40 years ago. We can debate how much is a "natural cycle" vs. how much is the result of greenhouse gases, but there's no denying that it's getting warmer out there. Basic physics: a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. Our new reality: a warmer, wetter atmosphere is flavoring all weather now, a faint hum of atmospheric-muzak that makes droughts longer, heat waves more intense, and rainfall more extreme than it was for your parents and grandparents. Alarmist? We'll see. Just connecting the dots. 3"+ downpours have doubled since 1961 over the Upper Midwest.”

Reading the article brings me back to the realization that we are so fragile. Untiedt's Vegetable Farm understands our responsibility to feed as many people as possible, yet also can see that the weather patterns are changing – potentially by the actions of the same people we're growing the food for. As a collective whole, we need to consider the results of our actions - although effects may come long after.

We believe in sustainable farming to ensure our land continues to produce long after I'm gone. In hopes that others will follow suit. We can feel the weather patterns fluctuate each season, but continue to bare its burden to bring you the high quality small fruits and vegetables you've come to enjoy.

On the flip side, learning what exactly a crop needs, and being able to control its environment to product optimal results, is the reason our CSA shares started to see Minnesota Grown sweet corn four weeks earlier than normal.

We just have to want to live in harmony with the natural occurrences of the world, and note that when extreme storms hit, we pay attention to how easily everything we've built can be washed away.

Until next time,

Jerry

Tags: Weather
Posted 6/27/2012 2:22pm by Jenna Untiedt.

The Epicurean Delight is the product of many years of trial and experimentation. These years of constant improvements has now yielded a very superior onion in both size and quality. Certainly not a long term storage onion due to its high water contents, which is what makes the onion so sweet, but instead just the right onion for summer grilling. Use as a topping to your favorite hamburger, stir fry, next to zucchini or just alone on the grill with a little olive oil to create the perfect caramelized Epicurean Delight.

These onions are not meant to be stored. Consume these fast. Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm will only harvest these for about the next 4-6 weeks, so get these while they last.

This is Minnesota’s sweetest onion because, besides its high water content, it is grown on rich alluvial soil. The soil is not hard, compact clay, but more of a sandy loam which is an easily worked, warm soil.

Untiedt’s enriches the soil with organic amendments, such as composted manures, straw and leaves. And it is apparent in the sweetness. These onions can truly be eaten like an apple!

 

Tags: Onions
Posted 6/20/2012 2:26pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Raspberries are a delight to consume during Minnesota summers. And, many people have a few plants growing in their backyards even. But what does it take to grow and prune raspberry plants to achieve an extended harvest?

When we spoke about vertical planting a few weeks back, we mentioned planting early harvest crops within the same plot as the newly planted raspberry canes to make sure we're living up to our “farming per square-inch” philosophy.

When planting a new raspberry patch all plants start as a rooted cane, which has no leaves when originally planted and takes up very little room; creating the perfect plot for kale, beets, and kohlrabi to grow next to it. As these crops are harvested, the cane is just forming its first leaves.* But from here they take quite different paths depending on if it is a primocane or floricane raspberry plants.

What are the Differences in Raspberry Plants?

Just like our strawberry plants, there are two varieties of plants. One known as everbearing (primocane), which will produce raspberries from July to fall, if cared for properly, and another variety which will produce a very large crop only once in late summer, and then be done for the season (floricane).

 

In the photo album above it is possible to see two colors of branches on the floricane plants. The bright green canes are the new growth for this season, and will not produce any raspberries until next year. The dark brown canes producing fruit this year will be pruned off in the early spring of next year (before the plant buds). The goal is to leave the healthiest 5 to 6 canes on each crown, and prune away the rest of it. But if you happen to cut down all of the branches on these floricane plants, you will not have any berries to harvest in the next year.

Because the floricane plants listed above produce one harvest in July, we've planted primocane plants on the farm as well so that Untiedt's Vegetable Farm and offer raspberries in your CSA shares and at Market until late fall.

To prune the primocane plant, we cut down all canes and start from ground up. We do not want to retain any canes from the previous season. This encourages the plant to produce one larger crop in late September - well after the floricane plants are done producing.

Both varieties of these plants could grow to over 7 feet tall with the proper trellis. The trellis must work to keep the canes growing upward and outward. Imagine an upside down triangle where the point is sticking into the ground. This “V” like trellis will work to keep branches growing apart to reduce plant disease, and aid in allowing for an easier harvest.

It is also important to prune the “sucker” branches that work to expand the patch. These thin, small canes will fill in the important areas between plant crowns which need to stay clear to allow for proper air flow between the larger, fruit producing canes.

At Untiedt's we constantly care for our plants, and expect quite the harvest this year! Some of these plants are now in their third growing season, and the fruit is incredibly plump, and ruby red.

Expect to see these coming to roadside stands, market, and your CSA shares in the next month.

 

Sincerely,
Jerry Untiedt

*It's important to note that this intercrop planting only occurs when we're planting a new patch, during those first few months when the plant becomes acclimated. Early harvest crops will not be planted next to established raspberry plants in following seasons.

Posted 6/15/2012 2:28pm by Jenna Untiedt.

You can expect to find Untiedt's strawberries, super sweet onions, zucchini (yellow and green varieties), grape tomatoes and red-ripened slicing tomatoes, chub cucumbers, snow peas, garlic scapes, and much more!

Most stands are open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Click here to find the location nearest you.

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Super Sweet Onions will be at the Roadside Stands. Perfect for grilling!

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Here's your time to try out garlic scapes! More mild than mature garlic, and a limited time.

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Future Dill For Canning Season!

Tags: Market
Posted 6/13/2012 2:29pm by Jenna Untiedt.

They say knee high by the Fourth of July, but how does an ear of corn form?

 At Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm we tested out how corn would grow in our high tunnels. Now, that is not directly related to how corn plants pollinate, but keep in mind these photos were shot on June 1, 2012, in Minnesota.

Untiedt’s staff member, Craig Barriball, is shown shoulder high in rows of corn. This is extremely early for this climate. But there are risks incorporated when growing crops in high tunnels, especially when corn relies on wind to pollinate, and the high tunnel works to protect crops from these same winds.

 

As the corn plant tassels (the golden tops that resemble mop heads), it opens its packets of pollen. At the same time, silky strands become exposed on the lower portion of the plant. The pollen from the top of the plant must reach the silk. In the fields, this is done solely by wind and luck. Once the silk is covered in pollen, each strand will become a kernel of corn, and an ear of corn will start to form.

Now the trick is, you want enough pollen to remain on the tassels to pollinate the second round of silky strands that form after the first ear starts to grow. This second ear of corn faces many obstacles, as the field plant by this point is somewhat undernourished, the pollen supply may be depleted or since second round silks are even lower on the plant than first round, the silk just might not be in the perfect position for the pollen to land.

Have you ever purchased an ear of corn with many kernels missing from its end? That is caused by a depleted pollen supply.

At Untiedt’s, we planted these rows in raised beds with our drip irrigation system, allowing us to supply all plants the nutrients they demand throughout the entire span of their growing period. As for the pollen, the high tunnel walls proved to be a blessing since we are able to decide when to blow the pollen onto the silk by either using an electric backpack blower unit or raising the high tunnel walls to a desired level

Hopefully you’ll be seeing this corn in your CSA shares soon!

Let us know if you have any questions by commenting on the blog, or on our Facebook Page.

Sincerely,

Jerry Untiedt

Posted 6/5/2012 2:32pm by Jenna Untiedt.

At Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm we believe in “farming per square-inch”, meaning, we know the Earth’s resources are limited, and we want to produce the most food per acre to feed as many mouths as possible. We practice many techniques to fulfill our farming promise.

For example when planting first year raspberry plants, which look like a barren stick during those first few months, we’ve planted kohlrabi, beets, and kale next to the raspberry plants so that food may be grown on those acres and harvested within the first three months the raspberry plant is acclimating itself to its new growing environment.

Another way is by building a trellis structure for our heirloom tomato plants to grow vertically under our high tunnels. A quick overview can be seen in the photo gallery below:

After typical high tunnel preparation is completed, and our newly grafted tomato plants are in their raised soil beds, we begin building the trellis structure needed to support the tomato plants. When ready for harvest, tomato plants are incredibly heavy – even heavier than our melon crop, so we must build with reinforced beams at each end of the tunnel. The team works efficiently to build these trellises, as there is a crew ready right behind them to prune the tomato plants to get them ready for hanging.

It is important to note the parts of the tomato plant. The yellow flowering area is called a cluster and is where the tomato fruit will grow. Then there is usually a “V” formation of two branches. One branch will be deemed the “leader” and the other will be pruned to stunt growth and only act as sun shade for the fruit cluster. It is essential that your plant has leaves on it to shield from the sun, but too many leaves mean the nutrients are supplied there instead of to the tomatoes. It is also common to see a leafy steam protrude from the middle of the “V” formation. This is called a “sucker” and will be pruned off once it reaches an inch in length.

The leaders that are left to grow will be the main support as the plant grows up the twine. It is imperative that when securing the plant with the black clips, one part of the clip clamps the twine, but at a place where the clamp is secured under a branch of the tomato plant to ensure the twine remains taught. Loose twine or clamping the clip to a fragile part of the plant will inevitably lead to broken plants once more fruit starts to grow.

Growing our tomato crop this way means: 1. None of the plant’s leaves will touch the dirt, which decreases plant disease, 2. It allows for clean rows in between the plants, and 3. It means we are able to produce more food per acres.

Please let us know if you have any questions. You can reach us on the contact form, by leaving a comment, or on Twitter and Facebook.

Until next time, happy growing!

Sincerely,

Jerry Untiedt

Posted 5/28/2012 2:34pm by Jenna Untiedt.

This past Thursday we held our first ever Farm Tour. Despite the heavy rains all day long, we had a break in the weather and enjoyed a beautiful evening with a fine farm supper served by Stuart Dallmann, our Chef and food service specialist. The wagon rides around our Montrose Farm proved to be very comfortable and kept everyone out of the puddles. The participants all enjoyed fresh strawberries to taste, viewed the crops we have planted and learned a bit of crop culture, taught by myself and Paul Nelson.

Our next Farm Tour is scheduled for sometime this July.

View some photos below:

And, Wow! Can you believe it? In the last ten days we have had over 11 inches of rain - with more in the forecast! From drought to very, very wet in a little over a month. Most we can do is figure out how to succeed inspite of whatever kind of weather is delivered. In the high tunnels, our crops are as early as they have ever been. Our zucchini and strawberry harvest is already in full swing! You can find these items now for sale at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

Out of the tunnels, the field corn, soybeans, and wheat are all in the ground. On the vegetable side, we still have a long ways to go with the watermelons, muskmelons, pumpkins and squash. We will get these done as the soil begins to dry. On the wild side of things, the Trumpeter Swans have hatched out their young and are seen proudly swimming with their parents on local wetlands. The Crow River is flooding now with the heavy rainfall of late causing some concern for rising water levels in wetlands that harbor the nests of some ground nesting birds such as pheasants. We have seen our first White Tailed Deer fawns this week. So small and beautifully covered with those white polkadots that allow them to become virtually invisible as they lay hidden on the ground in and around our woodlots.
 
For the coming week, we are hoping to re-start our planting programs which have been placed on hold due to the rain. It's time to begin planting the State Fair sweetcorn and put the wraps on the pumpkin planting season. If all else fails, there will be plenty of new grown grass to mow on our lawns and yours...
 
Until Next Week,
 
Jerry

Posted 5/22/2012 2:36pm by Jenna Untiedt.

We are making terrific strides in the areas of planting and crop care due to the wonderful weather we have been experiencing. All of the field corn planting has been completed and with good luck and no equipment malfunctions, the soybeans will be done also. Our peppers and tomatillos are in and have been watered and seem to be holding their own with the strong surface winds we have had in the field lately. The high tunnels are nearly full, and the growth rates are phenomenal due to the daylight hours present at this point of the growing season. Some of the newly planted tomatoes are growing so rapidly that they have begun to flower over two weeks early, which means we had to move up our bumble bee delivery dates.
 
This coming week we plan to begin planting our watermelon and muskmelon transplants. This time frame is nearly 7-10 days earlier than normal. We wonder if our harvest dates will be earlier also which would allow us to add a couple of weeks to our harvest season. A very interesting question.
 
The Minneapolis Farmers Market has really come alive with the spectacular weather and beautiful flowers offered by the plethora of talented and skilled growers selling there. Try to get down there, stop in and say hi, enjoy the sights and smells of spring at the market.
 
On the wildlife side, the hummingbirds continue to migrate through our area, replenishing their needed nutrients with nectors from our flowers in the greenhouses. They especially enjoy the Lantana and the Fuschias. Paul said on Tuesday he saw more than 100 of these little energy balls feeding on our flower blossoms in our Montrose greenhouses. The Baltimore Orioles are also especially abundant this season with my wife Susan feeding over a bottle a day of grape jelly to our hungry friends. It is not uncommon to have 12-15 orioles on our deck at one time.
 
As always, we welcome your inputs and question. Please enjoy the season and we look forwards to your visits at the market.

Sincerely,

Jerry Untiedt

Posted 5/9/2012 2:41pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Wildlife watching is at its peak right now. The birds continue to return from their winter sojourns with hummingbirds, orioles, rose breasted grosbeaks returning over the last few days.  Last Friday I had the personal pleasure of spending the morning with Rachele Cermak, our very capable photo documentation specialist. We had a little time to move around our farmlands observing our many croplands and the wildlife that inhabit them. Rachele shot some amazing photos of one of the several Bald Eagle nests in our area like the one below:

Eagle's Nest off of Hwy. 55

We also observed several newly hatched broods of Canadian Geese goslings, wild turkeys, Trumpeter swans on their nests, and so much more. Also observed were some of the first returning Monarch butterflies along with several other species of butterflies. This is such an incredible time of the season to be out and about-keep your eyes and ears open and take it all in!
 
On the growing side of our production, spring planting has been moving along rapidly. Our sweet corn is emerging with vigor, the asparagus continues to yield high quality spears daily, and our high tunnel zuchinni is beginning to blossom - with fruits not far behind. The spring showers have left us with nearly 6 inches of precipitation over the last 5 days which is truly a blessing considering how dry it was just a few short weeks ago. The soils have actually cooled a bit over the last two weeks, but the sunshine hours are continuing to add heat to the ground little by little. The corn and beans are actually germinating in a timely manner with very little damping off - a problem which often occurs in our gardens with damp and cool soils.
 
The apple orchard seems to be quite a surprise after suffering through two 20 degree low nights a few weeks ago. We actually thought we had lost all of our blossoms, but to our surprise, we are actually seeing these trees bloom with late blossoms we rarely see. Worried about sufficient pollination, we have moved the bee colonies around the orchard to actually occupy spaces directly below the blooming varieties. We also have flown in apple pollen from Washington state and are blowing this pollen onto our flowers in an attempt to produce a few extra apples this season. This technique is very expensive but seems to be working as we are observing some small fruit on very hard to pollinate varieties.

We truly are interested in your observations, and certainly are looking to learn from your experiences. E-mail us with the latest and we will share these on future blogs. I always say "Two heads are better than one - even if they are cabbage heads".

Good luck and good growing for now....

 

 

 

Posted 5/9/2012 2:38pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Our CSA (Community supported Agriculture) program is growing by leaps and bounds. We are nearing our capacity much sooner than anticipated this season - so if you are considering participating, please signup now.

In connection with this program, we are hosting an Untiedt's Farm Tour on May 24, 2012.

Attend this Wagon Ride Farm Tour if you've ever had questions about our farming techniques, are interested in the CSA but need more information, or would like to learn about high tunnel farming.

There will be a homegrown supper provided from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the wagon ride times are at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Space is Limited! RSVP by contacting Jenna Untiedt directly via jenna@UntiedtsWeGrowForYou.com.

If you want to print off the flyer to share with friends, please download the PDF here.

Tags: Farm Tour