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BigVanVader February 26, 2018 06:00 PM

Backyard Market Garden: Year 3
3 Attachment(s)
I decided to start a new thread instead of continuing the old one here.

After a couple of years at our farmers market I've learned a lot. Mainly that customers are never as excited about heirloom tomatoes as me. Most just want a decent red tomato. I've also realized that growing heirlooms well on a large scale is very hard. I'm not one to shy away from work and like a good challenge, but heirlooms have whipped my butt. I will always grow some, but in my situation the effort is to great for the return.

This led me to looking at ways to reduce labor, time, and losses. One of those ways is commercial determinate varieties. The other is incorporating "wild" or Landrace varieties this year. Creating landrace crops just makes sense. I don't want to have to baby my garden plants. I want them to do what they do with as little help as possible from me. No more irrigating, no more ferts, no more sprays. Just grow!

I will be documenting the progress of this years garden and market. I am crossing Bowers Rodney F5 with ISPL, and other undecided varieties, giving reports on Karma Pink, Rainbow Jazz (det), and Dwarf Metallica and giving reports on the effectiveness of bacillus amyloliquefaciens. I am eliminating all other sprays to coincide with transitioning to all Landrace so as to not create spray dependent plants. Hopefully this will be my best year yet.

The madness has started :twisted:
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5 days between photos. They grow up so fast!
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Nan_PA_6b February 26, 2018 07:27 PM

"I don't want to have to baby my garden plants. I want them to do what they do with as little help as possible from me. No more irrigating, no more ferts, no more sprays. Just grow!"

My mom grows Big Beef & Early Girl with huge yields, no water, no ferts, no spraying. Even when they got Septoria, they yielded big.


Koala Doug February 26, 2018 07:52 PM

Good luck, BVV!

I'm looking forward to the future updates. :)

Goodloe February 26, 2018 08:06 PM

I wish you the best, Brother. I'm too old for such a big operation. It's all I can do to keep up with my 28 tomato plants and 50-odd pepper plants!

I plant mainly hybrids, with 3 heirloom varieties rotated in every year. I'm with Nan: give me a good ol Early Girl or Big Beef anytime!

Good Luck!

FourOaks February 26, 2018 08:13 PM

Looks good! Are you doing any flowers as well?

Goodloe February 26, 2018 08:56 PM

Flowers are great. As long as they turn into tomatoes or peppers.... ;)

BigVanVader February 26, 2018 09:34 PM

Yes lots of flowers and herbs. Focusing more on plants this year. That is yet another reason I need my garden to be more hands off. Thanks for the well wishes all.

Salsacharley February 27, 2018 09:33 AM

I have experienced the same situation with customers at the market I sell at. 4 years ago I grew over 200 varieties of OP's and heirlooms. The public was impressed with the amazing variety, but wouldn't pay for them. This year I am still growing about 40 varieties, all but Big Beef and a couple of Fred's new ones are OP, but most are red and round with a few exotic ones for attention grabbing (and my own use). I too am interested in how your landraces work out.

Ann123 February 27, 2018 10:04 AM

Good luck and have fun! Keep us informed about the landracing.

Cole_Robbie February 27, 2018 11:48 AM

I was one of the first vendors at my market with "heirloom tomatoes." I was also the first to mix colors of cherry tomatoes in one box. Now it seems like all the other vendors are selling the same thing. However, many of them are growing the newly popular "heirloom-type" hybrids, which are basically imposters. Customers think any tomato that isn't red must be an heirloom, and seed companies that sell to market vendors have taken advantage of that phenomena. It has thus become even more difficult to compete when you are growing legitimate heirloom/OP varieties.

My cousin has now become interested in the family market garden and built his own high tunnel. I tried to talk him out of attempting to grow food to sell. In an age of global competition, trying to compete on price...or even just be in the same foreign competition is swimming against the current, to put it mildly. I've done a lot better with flowers and plants than I have with tomatoes, less work for more money. I think it is because those are items that do not ship well, and are difficult to transport internationally, thus making them command enough of a price to be worth growing.

Automation is the next step for me. I have one wholesale landscaper client from last year who bought me out entirely. If I can largely automate a high tunnel and have it squeal out a net profit each month, even if only a few hundred dollars, then I can start building more of then.

Good luck with your market garden adventure. It is a journey, not a destination :)

BigVanVader February 27, 2018 01:33 PM

Wise words Cole. I will likely transition to more and more of a nursery, but breeding my own landraces has me really excited atm. I guess I want to see if I can find that perfect balance of effort vs return. It likely doesn't exist but I am stubborn and interested enough to try, plus we do have a good market and co-op that pay good prices. I've literally changed so many things every year I would really like to see how a season goes once I get a dependable system down pat. I'm at the point where ideology is not a factor anymore. If things don't work I accept it and move on.

FourOaks February 27, 2018 03:11 PM

Yep, I have to agree with you Cole.

No reason to elaborate because you hit the nail, squarely on the head.

Still plan to grow out the veggies this year, and probably the next, transitioning more and more to plants. Eventually just growing produce for our own use.

One of the big hurdles to get over, is the lack of flower sales in the dead of summer. In my experience, it hits a dead end. Until fall.

PureHarvest March 2, 2018 02:11 PM

Van, you are on the right track. I made the comments somewhere here on TV last year that I am done with heirlooms and most likely tomatoes for commercial production. For as much hype as I can find about heirlooms on the web or in print, I just don't see the translation here for sales. Not to mention how much headache they have been to get a good marketable yield. I tried to follow AKMark's advice and posts, but I think my climate precludes me from getting his results. Then Big Beef was my best tasting and producing tomato last year, and I thought, what am I doing chasing all these heirloom tomatoes? And quite frankly, why am I even trying to be a tomato grower at all?
Cole's points are dead-on. I was in Fresh Market in October last fall, and there they were: "heirlooms". SOOOO obvious it was the heirloom knock offs. They were even marketing the runt sized ones that didn't size up during production (about 2-3 ounce size) and they were labeled/branded as 'Baby Heirlooms'.
Then last week, I see the big guru grower in NY at Neversink Farms on Youtube and he loves the heirloom hybrids from Johnny's. The market, like everything else these days, is now so clouded up, and a battle will have to be fought to win and retain educated customers. No thanks.
With all that being said, in some ways I think all that is good business sense. Sell what the market wants.
But then the other part of me is like, no thanks. If I'm not proud about it, I'd just rather not produce it/sell it.
For me, like Cole said, there is too much current to fight at this point. Everyone loves the idea of niches, until it comes time to pony up. Saw the same thing happen when I did pastured poultry. Did we sell them? Yes. Did our customer's love us? Yes. Could the niche sustain my family? NO. Was it a constant battle of marketing and exhausting customer education? Yes.
I know, I can hear someone now, "welcome to business", or "if it was easy, everyone would be doing it". I get that. I work my ★★★ off between a full time job and 3 kids, and another 20 hrs. plus a week trying to be a grower (that is my new self-given title, not a farmer). But at some point, like you said Van, ideology goes out the window. The tricky part is not letting your morals and ethics go with it.
So, I like many of y'all, am going to do things that allow me to enjoy the process and product. I want to get more for my time spent. I am trying to be more of a grower rather than a farmer. I feel like that encompasses more of what I do.
I too am doing flowers, but for cuts. I have 576 Karma Dahlia cuttings coming in May, am going to plant 4 different types of coneflower plugs (360total) for cutting, and am going to direct sow sunflowers starting in April (eventually 1,200 plants).
The sunflower seeds and Echinacea plugs are cheap. The Dahlias are not, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I grew flowers way before I started with veggies, so it's not much of a leap. I am not worried about marketing all of them. I just want to get a season under my belt.
I showed pictures of the 'Magnus' coneflower growing in my pollinator planting last summer (where I got the idea of growing Echinacea for cuts) to a florist, and she said "where did you get those?!, bring me some buckets!" They were so easy to grow. Put down fabric, burned holes and planted. That's it. No fert, no spray. 6-12 stems could have been cut from a 68 cent cutting that was 3" tall when I planted it.
I have a couple of Florists in mind and there is a huge regional distributor a couple hours away. That would be a long term goal if I like the way this goes.

Sorry for hijacking this Van. It was a long-winded way of saying keep doing what works for you and forget all the hype.
The hard part is when you are pressing the efforts because you are trying to leave a full-time job. You push so hard, and try to get it all right and figuring it all out so you can speed up that process and get on the farm full-time. I've been there.
It will help make you better all around if you keep your head right and get wise along the way and your eyes open up, like it sounds like you are experiencing.
I was finally able to acquire a full-time career type of position that is fulfilling, so I was able to step off the treadmill of attempting small scale farming full-time. Now I am just trying to grow so I can afford to live the lifestyle I want to provide for my family.
May this be your best season ever. The landrace is interesting. I need to read up on that.
I will be back to check in with this thread as the season goes on.

Cole_Robbie March 2, 2018 02:19 PM

I love Dahlias. I had good luck with the Harlequin mix from Harris. I just now planted Black Beauty and the Rainbow Mix.

BigVanVader April 9, 2018 09:22 AM

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Well I've been so busy with seeding and transplanting I haven't had time to post much. Here are some pics of my progress. I lost about 1k plants to frost but about 500 survived and either have grown through it and look good, or will soon. At any rate I'm still transplanting tomatoes and have seeded many cukes, melons, herbs, and flowers. I have more started than I ever have not to mention the lettuce/spinach/beets/radish/turnips I have growing for produce sales. Tomatoes are getting planted Wed of this week.

As luck would have it almost all of the tomatoes I grew for me are the biggest and healthiest. Ot'Jagodka and Fern from Joseph have proven quite unfazed by my cold, windy, dreary Spring. All of the Mountain varieties as well as big beef have also ignored the challenging weather. Excited to get my plants in the ground. This is the "set it, and forget it" year of gardening for me :lol: We will be attending a plant sale in late April and supposedly over 1500 people will be there. So really hoping to make some serious profit that day :yes: I will get some pics of this gorgeous lettuce I'm growing from Frank Morton I direct seeded them b/c I want to eventually be able to direct seed everything but tomatoes/peppers so they are still small, but man are they going to be unique!

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