Saturday, July 21, 2012

Somebody Please Send Us Some Rain!

So it has been nearly three weeks since we got a decent amount of rain in the run of a day. Andrea lent us a sprinkler from facilities a few weeks back which gives us range of about 5-6 rows which is nice, but we've got three very large fields to keep watered, and only one hose which we have to lug between the them. We're just watching the forecast, and like farms across the continent, we're hoping every day for some rain.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tomato Transplants From Anderson's Greenhouse

 Today, Sydney and I picked up the mail truck to drive to Anderson's Greenhouse in Sackville, who kindly gave us 54 dozen tomato transplants for the farm. There is a huge variety, but they weren't going to be sold and are getting too big for their trays so we were happy to take them off their hands. We'll be planting these in Mozambique throughout the week, so hopefully the sun and their size won't effect the transplanting. We've included a photo of the tomatoes outside our shed (at least 15 varieties) and another of some of them that are already fruiting. The basil we ordered from them has turned out fantastic so we have really high hopes for these tomatoes.

Thanks Anderson's!

First Harvest!

Hooray! We have our first sale! We harvested 3 lbs of basil today and brought it to Chef Tom who's going to be making it into some pesto that he'll be freezing for mealhall. We've picked off all of the flowers from the basil so they keep growing and the watering we're doing is just enough so it keeps coming back. It's looking like we're going to be able to profit from the basil transplants we bought back in May. We'll most likely be harvesting the same amount (or more) every week until the summer is over.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lettuce, lettuce, and more lettuce! (and pak choi)

Through deductive reasoning, we've realized through the slow maturity of our lettuce plants that there is some nutrient deficiency in our soil, but have no fear, we're still going to have a healthy variety of lettuce (just maybe a bit later than we expected). We've got 4 varieties in total, including a mesclun mix, some romaine, some pak choi, and  tango. The mesclun and tango were some of our first planted varieties, and the pak choi we weren't able to get the germination success rate we wanted. The romaine's we've done in two waves in transplants, which should be ready to plant the weeks of the 16th and the 23rd. Aside from our radish planting, transplanting our romaine heads will be the last planting we have. 

Harvesting of lettuce should be just around the corner as well. The mesclun mix can be cut and will continue to grow, while the pakchoi, romaine and the tango will have to be harvested entirely. The tango and mesclun mixes we have are just small ones designed to supply meal hall for conferences, and we have a bigger planting of each scheduled for later this month which should be ready in time for the students to be back.

Our first wave of romaine transplants, well on their way! 

The mesclun mix looks like it is about to take off! 

The tango is a bit behind schedule but should be reaching maturity in a few weeks! 

although we didn't have the best seed success rates with the pak choi, the ones we did manage to grow look healthy and hearty

Remember, we are always looking for visitors to come to the farm! If you'd like to visit and have a tour or lend a hand, e-mail

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Do you recognize these bugs?

So we have some unexpected visitors in Iran where our squash, cucumber and pumpkins are growing. The two bugs above are eating the leaves of our seedlings (along with flea beetles) and their larvae are devouring the root systems of the seedlings and feeding off the manure. We dug out a lot of the maggots and rotted manure before replanting and are spraying the seedlings with an organic soap insect repellent, but any advice anyone has on how to deal with these two, or if you even know what they are, we'd love to hear from you in the comment section! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Flame-weeder and Cucumber Seedlings!

Michelle came to spend the day at the farm and we were overwhelmed with excitement to see how many weeds had grown in Mozambique since Friday....only kidding of course. We had four beds to prep for the peas which were going to be planted along with the final planting of our pak choi! After a good hoe, it was time to whip out our trusted flame-weeder which, as we've said before, is a mini flame-thrower that toasts anything in sight. Aside from the handful of ladybug casualties, it is the most fun activity we get to do at the farm! Here's a photo of Sydney starting to roast as Michelle hoes the other beds

 Here is a a before photo of the beds we did yesterday and next to them are the four that we planned on doing today (Notice all those weeds!)
 And here's the after photo of those four rows. Although its taken from a couple beds down from the last photo, you can see how the flame-weeder leaves us with a fresh bed for the seeds that helps to give them a head start against the weeds.
 On another exciting note, our tomato transplants are finally mature enough to go into the ground, so we'll be planting them on Wednesday when Michelle comes to visit again for the day. The photo shows two of the three varieties we have (Scotia and tiny tim) We also checked up on our cucumber see if the seeds had been eaten by those blasted crows and we were excited to see that some of them had started to sprout! It hasn't even been a week and already they are starting to crack the surface! Hooray!
And here is a staged photo of me that we took after we'd planted the first 1.5 rows of peas today. Boy do I look excited. We've still got another 1.5 beds of bush peas to do tomorrow along with the last planting of the pak choi.

If you're reading this and around Sackville and bored during this week, send us an e-mail at We'll be planting romaine, pumpkin, beets, pak choi, peas and tomatoes this week and would love to have you visit us!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weeds, weeds and more weeds!

This is what we're up against! The second half of Mozambique has started to get a bit out of control when it comes to weeds. Today we planted the second planting of romaine lettuce directly, and the rest of the day was spent hoeing our grassiest section. The flame weeder ran out of fuel so all we could use was our own bodies for this one. It is going to be a lot of work prepping these beds now that the grass and other weeds have started to grow, but we've got a handle on it thus far. Michelle is going to be joining us on Monday, so we'll be sure to put her to work helping us weed!

As we were leaving we noticed the crows were eating our cucumber seed. If they didn't get washed away in this rain, we're worried that the birds are going to be eating them. For those of you reading this post, what has been your most effective tactic for dealing with crows and other birds? we'd love to hear your ideas in the comment section!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Everything is sprouting!

Yesterday we managed to have a very productive day despite being exhausted from our early start the day before. The field looks good (see the photo below) and now besides weeding the mounds and keeping them watered, Iran should be relatively easy maintenance. John used last night to fertilize the corn in Colombia, and he's prepared a few more beds where he wants to plant some turnip that we'll consider chemically treated.
We spent yesterday planting the extra carrot seed and tomato seed in Colombia since we had the extra space and the extra seed, although our expectations for these are low and probably won't be a top priority. We also got our second planting of pak choi in and watered Iran. 

The whole farm is looking great and aside from the things we've planted in the last few days, everything seems to have sprouted! The onions and squash look great, and some of the squash already are growing their true leaves. 

Today we used the carrot seed from last year and finished all the carrots we'll be planting this summer. We also have a sprinkler finally which means we can set it up and still be productive while watering at the same time! The rest of today was spent hand weeding Mozambique. Some of the broccoli are looking great having developed their true leaves.

This bug landed on Erik's head so we took a photo! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hot and Sunny Days

Most of our friends love the sun because they are working inside most of the day, but with this sun-streak we're in and the forecast calling for more, we're getting a little tired of it considering we have to water the fields to keep the veggies from dying! We were in Saturday and Sunday to water the fields to make sure that they were getting enough to drink. The peppers and the basil especially are not enjoying the heat, so we have to keep checking them for wilting.
We had 3 drills of corn planting in Colombia first thing in the morning, but just as we were going to do the second 3 drills, the wheel on our wheelbarrow blew out yesterday which put a damper on our planting dreams for the day. We instead spent the day watering and weeding Mozambique. We also planted what was left of our broccoli seed where we planted broc #1 since a lot of the seed were probably washed away or rotted during the week of rain we had and only about 20 seedlings sprouted. 

Today, still hot and sunny, was spent finishing planting the corn now that our wheelbarrow had been fixed. While Sydney watered Colombia, I prepared and planted the 5 rows of cucumber mounds in Iran (Syd joined later). The end of the day was reserved for more mulching. Now if only we can get some rain! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Flame Weeder is Here!

A big thanks to Lucia over at ACORN for helping us pick this one out! It arrived yesterday and we're using today to finally test it out. Yesterday we finally had a bit of rain which was nice and we were able to put in 1.5 rows of yaya carrots before running out of seed. The 40 blocks of straw we got covered about 50% of Iran so we're going to have to get a second order to finish. The mulch is going around the squash and cucumber mounds to control weeds which will help a lot with harvesting. Also, next year, it will be a great set of nutrients for the soil. Michelle ordered us some sunflowers which we've planted all over the property in hopes of sprucing the place up a bit. We also used yesterday to borrow the mail truck and move our tomatoes up from Cuthbertson and to buy some potting soil so we can do our romaine lettuces as transplants.

Our winter squash isn't looking so hot, we're thinking because of that week of rain either rotted or washed away all of our seed. We decided to use yesterday to replant the mounds as only 15% of them had developed seedlings from the 8 seeds we planted per mound.

Today we got to use the flame weeder on Mozambique and Iran since it was such a nice day. We've gotta say, that this is the most exciting part of this job. The flame weeder is essentially a mini blow torch that roasts any weeds or seeds in the soil, which is great just before planting a new crop, which in this case was right before our broccoli. In other exciting news, we have turnip seedlings, and lots of them!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Erik Flying Solo

It's the third hot and sunny day in a row and Sydney had a calculus exam leaving me all alone for the day. On my way to work I found a baby chickadee about 50 meters from the farm, and figured I'd take him under my wing. He spent the morning in the little home I set up for him but eventually worked up the courage to flew away in a gust of wind. His name was Pepe, and we're hoping he's still out there going strong.
The majority of the day was devoted to mulching Iran, although I only laid down 15 of the 40 blocks we had. Then I got the 400 basil plants into Colombia in the beds Sydney and I had planted yesterday. It took most of the afternoon, but they're all in. Since it was so hot today, when Sydney showed up at the end of the day, we decided to water some of Mozambique, except it started to rain. Here's a photo of the basil all planted!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If we have nothing else....

...we'll have onions! 

These last two days we've spent giving some attention to our onions which are coming along quite nicely. The black plastic has been laid down in preparation for the basil plants and tomato transplants. We also spent today weeding Iran to get ready for our mulch which should be coming tomorrow. Today we also got the first planting of our Pak Choi in, which is the first of three. Overall a very productive day! We did have to spend a lot of time watering the fields, and lugging those hoses around takes a lot of energy. We're working on getting a sprinkler, but has anyone had any other success watering a while field with just a single hose? Any ideas would be fantastic, just put them in the comment section! 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

14th and 15th Update! Nice Weather Finally!

We got some good weather finally. With the cold temperature and the rain, we couldn't get out to the farm on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Sunny weather on Thursday and Friday however, gave us a bit of time to get some work done. The tomato seedlings at Cuthbertson are on their way, although it looks as though about 60% are going to make it. The rest of the two days were spent weeding, going to Anderson's greenhouse to pick up our basil transplants and jalapeño plants that Michelle ordered for us, and working on our herb garden. We're still waiting to get some more drills put into Colombia so that we can lay down the black plastic and get the basil into the ground. Sydney and I also bought some giant pumpkin seeds while we there and we've turned it into a competition to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin during the summer. Some photos below!

Before making some changes to the herb garden

 After weeding and mulching! 
Sydney checking up on our jalapeño transplants. They started to wilt a bit, but we attributed it to a bit of transplant shock and they're doing fine. Anyone ever have any luck with jalapeños in Sackville? What did you do to make them survive?  
Erik with our basil plants which are loving the sunshine. They're very healthy and are more than ready to be transplanted as soon as we get those drills in! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Farm Animals

This week's weather is looking pretty terrible and wet. That being said, we did get out a little bit to do some work on the farm. When we're on the farm, we've been able to snap a bunch of photos of some animals and insects. We've gotten to the point where we are so lonely that we've actually named a few. The best reaction thus far has been when Sydney accidentally touched a slug and screamed as though she has just cut her own hand off. The other things we've seen thus far are below!
A spotted salamander under an old damp potato bag

The largest worm we have ever seen. Probably the circumference of a dime

This is Leroy the crow. He waits on a nearby dead tree for us to show up every morning and then spends the day flying around the farm getting bullied by some of the local sparrows. 

This spider landed on Erik's head. Anyone have any idea what type it is?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tomatoes and Peppers

Our tomato seedlings are well on their way. We are keeping them in a green house, although not the type you'd expect. Since we don't have a real greenhouse we have to keep our seedlings in Cuthbertson house, a vacant residence on campus to keep the seedlings from being exposed to colder temperatures overnight. We put them outside during nice days so that they can get a little bit more direct exposure to the sun which sometimes feels like we're taking our pets for a walk. Yesterday we also added a 200 green pepper plants to the group which we are holding off on planting until we can get some black plastic covering to insulate them this summer. We're hoping those tomatoes can grow a bit more so we can get them into the farm soon, although the forecast for next week is calling for a lot of rain. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Big Planting Day

It was a nice overcast day so we figured we'd get some planting done while the weather was nice. We finished of planting all of the winter squash in Iran (Front field). Mounds are best for nutrient and water retention as well as for helping controlling the growth of the plants. Iran will also be where we plant our cucumber and pumpkin so we dug the mounds today even though planting won't be for a few weeks as a means of helping with weed control. Wheeling the fertilizer down was a challenge as we had a very flat tire on our wheelbarrow. 
 We also planted some things in Mozambique today. In two drills we planted roughly equal parts Arcadia and Gypsy broccoli and some cauliflower, the last of which was a bit of an experiment. Here is a picture of Sydney working in some of our crabmeal which we got today and can now incorporate into the rest of the field. The final photo is Erik's attempt at being the crab on the bad of crabmeal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rainy Days!

So the forecast is not looking fun for all the planting we were hoping to get done this week. We have our map done of where things are going to be going and Sydney has drawn up the planting schedule. Looks like tomorrow will be a wet day of planting squash in the Iran field and preparing the soil for the broccoli and cauliflower. In other news, we got our crabmeal which we'll be applying within the next couple of days! Hooray!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Herb Garden!

To our surprise, we discovered that the herb garden from last year is still going strong. Oregano, thyme, sage, and chives are all looking healthy. As perennials, these plants will come up every year as long as we are careful not to over-harvest them.

This is Erik's attempt at an artsy photo of the chives. More artsy photo attempts to come.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Planting Onions

Today we did our first planting of yellow onions, after cleaning out the shed and getting our water hooked up. We prepared the beds by applying pelletized chicken manure and raking it into the ground. After five hours of scooching our butts along the ground as we planted, we finished 2.5 beds of onions!

Forecast for the next two days isn't looking too promising, so we'll wait and see if we can get out again tomorrow for more planting, or if we are delayed by rain.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fields are Ready

The fields are finally ready for planting! There are three main sections of field that we will be planting this summer: 2 acres of potatoes (Gold Rush, Superior, Norland), a half acre of Cucurbitaceae (winter squash, pumpkin, cucumber), and an acre of mixed vegetables. This is a bit later in the season than most farms would be ready, as it took a while to coordinate access to equipment. But we are happy to finally have the opportunity to get our hands dirty!

Half Acre (nickname - Iran):

 Full Acre (nickname - Mozambique):

Two Acres (nickname - Colombia): 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tomato Seedlings

Today the tomato seedlings were planted. Varieties were Scotia, Golden Cherry, Tiny Tim, and Black Cherry. Since we lack greenhouse access, the 30 tomato trays are currently in the windows of Cuthbertson House. They were planted a little behind schedule, but we are hoping that the transplants will be big enough to be planted by mid June. Good thing the forecast is for sun!

Here are the trays in Cuthbertson:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who's Who

Michelle Strain Michelle Strain - Director, Administrative Services. The brains behind the operation, Michelle oversees the Farm and its relationship with Dining Services. She has extensive gardening experience and knows how to grow a vegetable or two. Her main goal this summer is to convince Chef Tom that vegetables are good for him... and that kale can be delicious! Please send your favorite kale recipe to to help us out!

John Killoran - Farm Manager. John grew up on a potato farm and has many years experience working in agriculture. This is John's second summer managing the farm. He and his wife are the Dons of Hunton House. He is eager to improve the yield and productivity of the farm this season.

Sydney Bliss - Senior Farmer. From Sackville, Sydney is currently in the second year of her Biology degree at MTA. She has two summers of experience growing mixed vegetables as a founding member of the CSA Dave's Produce Packs in Hampton, NB. She is excited this year to join the MTA Farm and contribute to its success.

Erik Fraser - Junior Farmer. Originally from Halifax, Erik recently graduated with Honours in Environmental Studies from MTA. Although he has little farming experience, he has been involved with the Sackville Community Garden for many years and is eager to make the transition into larger scale farming. Erik has broken his nose three times and hopes that this year will not bring a fourth break.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Welcome to the MTA Farm blog! This blog will follow the happenings of the MTA farm throughout the summer and fall growing seasons, as we grow a variety of mixed vegetables to be used by the MTA dining services. We will be posting updates on what's happening at the farm, photos, and great opportunities to come out and visit or volunteer.