Summer of 2015 in review

I ran out of time to do weekly postings, so here is a summary of our season on the Littleton farm site. Overall, it was a great year! All of our trees survived and are growing well. The tomatoes yielded so abundantly that we sold them at Church, after the members and the Carmelites had taken all they wanted. Our favourite tomato varieties were taxi, moonglow, green zebra, black krim, black cherry, Ananas Noire, Siberian, and Cosmonaut Volkov. We also donated some to Christ in the City and The Divine Mercy Supportive care. We also harvested lots of squash, zucchini, and turnips, but it turns out that the members don’t really like turnips, so we will be planting less of them next year. As usual, the Costata Romanesco zucchini did really well at the beginning of the year, and the powdery mildew resistant PM straight-neck summer squash from High Mowing Seeds got off to a slow start but is still going strong. Our Mammoth Sunflowers topped 8 feet, despite a few wind storms, and we harvested at least some seeds ahead of the chickadees. We got at least one ripe cantaloupe, about the size of a soft ball. Next year we will try again to be truly successful growing melons in Denver. And we harvested cucumbers, beets, tomatillos, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and lots of arugula. We tried growing beans up our sunflowers, but this was a failure. In fact, all the beans we planted gave a lack luster performance.

Due to the work of harvesting, we did not have time for infrastructure projects or planting Fall crops. In any case, due to the extremely dry weather in Denver during the Fall, late crops are hard to start.

We have lots of plans for next year. We will be rebuilding our fence to be more animal proof by attaching fine mesh wire along the base and laid out along the ground. Our greenhouse will be mounted on skids sliding on rails, so that we can start winter crops outside while the summer ones are still growing, and then slide the house over them latter. To help lettuce weather the dry climate, we will build wicking beds and shade structures, and to help the workers survive the heat, we will build arbors and plant some grape and hardy kiwi vines. We will be planting more trees, raspberries, hazelnuts, and currents, among other perennials. We hope to have more flowers and insect attracting plants.  We want to experiment with some sunken hugelkulture beds to see if we can get by without watering some crops at all. Our compost system needs to be improved put on track this Fall. We hope to plant cover crops of winter wheat and rye on some of the beds, and deep mulch others.

In a few weeks we will have a planning meeting to get things on track for next year, redefine our mission statement and project list, and reorganize our vegetable share plan. I will post more information as we go.

Land schematic plan

Here is the schematic plan for the Lakewood Urban farm. It will be modified and possibly even changed as we get down to the details. For instance, the small tree orchards “4” will have to be closer to “3” than indicated here.

Land plan schematic fixed

This property is about a three quarters of an acre. As you can see, the land slopes almost due north. That is generally a bad orientation, but it will delay the flowering of our fruit trees, thus avoiding late frosts. To the south are two large crab apple trees; perhaps because of the above mentioned effect, they bore well this year when many other trees failed. On all other sides of the property there are lines of large trees, mostly cotton wood/ poplar, willow, and Siberian elm. Some of these may be removed, and all will be pruned back heavily. The land it self is mostly a blank slate; there is a small run in horse shed in the area marked 2, and a small apple tree in the center of the south side. All the rest is full of weeds, bindweed and thistles and some remnant alfalfa among them. The land was used previously for farming. The two ditches are operational, but we are not allowed to take water from them. However, our fruit trees will have no problem helping themselves.

The garden area will be laid out in contour line paths with keyhole beds along them. In the lower orchard, trees will be planted on mounds. There may be a Mary shrine in the center of the land. Within the solar area, only dwarf trees or bushes may be planted, so that the greenhouse will get six hours of sun on December 21st.