Another Update

I will be starting my masters work at Kansas State soon, so look for updates on tomatoes beginning this summer!

Until then, I’m working at the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, so woody plants have been keeping me quite busy. I haven’t put grafted vegetables behind me, however. 

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Updates

It’s been a while since I posted, mostly because I have been finishing up my degree in Horticulture from the University of Nebraska. Also, for the past year, I’ve been working for the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, so I’ve had to take a hiatus from the farming operation. I intend on restarting soon, though! My next step will be grad school at K-State in 2013, to study tomato grafting with Dr. Cary Rivard.

Grafted Tomato Plants

If you’re interested in grafted tomato plants (and you should be!), you should check out The Grafted Garden. It’s where I will be posting information on my grafting experiences, and where you can get more information about the procedures. Also, coming soon, you can buy grafted plants!

More about Armbrust Farms, and the site

When I started this website, I intended it to be a regularly updated blog about the farm. That never really got rolling, mostly due to the farm (and life) keeping me a lot busier than I expected. So anyone who’s visiting the site probably gets the impression that it’s not very current — because it isn’t.

From now on, there will be a few updates, but not as a true blog. More of just information about Armbrust Farms, what we sell, where we sell it, and so on.

So, for now, here’s some information on that: I sell at the Omaha Farmers Market in the Old Market on Saturday mornings from 8 to 12:30, and at the Florence Mill Farmers Market (North 30th and I-680, by the Mormon Bridge) on Sundays from 11 to 3.

I grow essentially all of my produce without spraying pesticides, and I pull or hoe weeds rather than spraying them. It’s not certified organic, but it’s virtually that way.

My products range from sweet corn to onions, beets to tomatoes, pumpkins to cantaloupe, gourds to zucchini. I grow over 50 varieties in a given season, and I also grow ornamental potted plants and perennial flowers such as asiatic lilies and heirloom hollyhocks.

If you’re interested in any of my products, please get in touch with me or come see me at the market!

The Season Starts

With the temperatures warming up (both air temps and soil temps), it’s been high time to get out into the field and get things started.

On Easter Sunday, after spending the afternoon with my family, I hopped in the tractor and ran the field cultivator across the garden. Man, that soil looked beautiful.

Last weekend, I put up three-foot-high chicken wire around the perimeter of the field to exclude rabbits and deter other animals (raccoons, etc.).

I also planted five 70′ rows of onions (Candy, Mars, Copra varieties) and four 70′ rows of leeks (King Richard variety) that are coming along quite nicely.

I decided to change the type of irrigation system that I use, and have moved to a commercial-style dripline system, using Roberts Ro-Drip tape. So far, I’m very happy with it. I’m getting very good, very even flow on multiple runs of driptape from one header line. I also like the ability to individually shut off each line of driptape from the header line. I’m still running the irrigation system on a timer, which allows for regular watering when I’m not available to be at the field — like when I’m in class.

I also built a trellis system for my tomatoes and laid down driptape and black plastic mulch film. This should allow me to have higher quality tomatoes with less weed competition and earlier transplanting due to warmer soil temps under the black plastic mulch film.

Finally, yesterday I planted dual 60′ rows of gladiolus and built a support trellis grid above them to support the flowers when they bloom.

I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks, when I can really get things going outside. The Omaha Old Market Farmers Market begins in two weeks, and I’ll have some large chemical-free heirloom tomato plants in 6″ coir pots for sale. These are looking really good, and should give customers a head start on their home garden growth of tomatoes!

New Project: Grafted Heirloom Tomatoes

'Pruden's Purple' seedlings

As a horticulture major (at Nebraska), I’ve recently become very interested in grafting. I’m familiar with several types of woody grafting such as cleft, side-veneer, chip-budding and so on, but the field of herbaceous grafting is new to me.

Not any longer.

I’ve started a project that I intend to follow throughout the growing season, and it involves tomato grafting.

Tomato grafting has long been used in the commercial hydroponic or greenhouse tomato production field, and usually involves grafting a desired variety (scion) to a vigorous rootstock. This allows for increased production and quality in a greenhouse setting.

But what about taking some of the positives of that rootstock, such as vigor, disease-resistance, production, etc… and re-directing it into an heirloom variety instead of a commercial variety? This isn’t a novel idea that I dreamt up, of course, but it something that has been taking hold with a few growers around the country.

So, I decided to try it for myself. I ordered several different heirloom varieties from Johnny’s Seeds, a few interesting standard hybrids, and even an eggplant cultivar (another member of the Solanaceae, eggplant is closely related to tomatoes, and is graft-compatible).

The heirloom varieties I started are ‘Brandywine‘, ‘Pruden’s Purple‘, ‘Striped Cavern‘, and ‘Moskvich‘. In addition, I started some ‘Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain’ seeds that I got from the annual AHS seed exchange program. I also ordered some ‘Stupice‘ seeds from Morgan County Seeds, but they haven’t arrived yet. They’ll be too late to get into the project, due to size incompatibility between rootstock and scion.

I also started seeds of ‘Mountain Fresh Plus‘, ‘Celebrity‘, ‘Valley Girl‘ and ‘JTO-99197‘, all F1 hybrid types.

The eggplant I’m going to use is ‘Fairy Tale‘, a F1 hybrid type.

All of those are the desired cultivar for fruit characteristics, but the idea behind the project is to graft them onto a vigorous, disease-resistant, high-production rootstock. I selected ‘Maxifort F1‘, a selection that will give me great results — I hope.

As of now, the seedlings have all emerged, the cotyledons are fading and the first and second sets of true leaves are expanding. A couple more weeks and it’ll be time to graft!

For the grafts, I’m using silicone tomato grafting clips and standard double-edged razor blades. I’ll have an update on the progress soon!

Seeds, supplies have arrived… but not Spring.

I got a big box in the mail the other day. Three big boxes, actually.

My seed order had arrived!

I placed my order with Johnny’s Seeds in mid-January, and it looks like I was just in time. There’s a predicted seed shortage coming this season, and already there are a lot of varieties back-ordered weeks or months on Johnny’s website.

But I got 95% of what I ordered, with the other few selections due to arrive in the next two weeks. In fact, I just got an email today alerting me that Johnny’s sent me another shipment.

I’ll get into the details of the vegetables I’ll be growing this year in a later post, but suffice to say that it’s going to be a wide selection with some very intriguing varieties.

I also ordered 2400′ of 4-foot-wide black plastic mulch, and will be experimenting with it this year. It should allow me to use virtually no herbicides by physically inhibiting weeds, and will also retain soil moisture more effectively warm the soil early in the season.

I’m also going to be trying out my new Earthway seeder, which could conceivably save me a lot of time in direct-seeding my corn, beets, radishes, and a few other crops.

It’s still going to be a few weeks until I start seeding flats for transplants, with the exception of my leeks, which will be seeded into trays this week. I’m figuring the average last frost day to be mid-May, and since I’m in school until the first week of May anyway, I’m not going to be able to get a really early start on anything anyway.

Until I build my high tunnel, that is…