Wood Prairie Farm                                                                                                                            In This Issue of The Seed Piece: 
 Seed Piece Newsletter                                                                                                                     Tending the Crop.
Organic News and Commentary
                                                                                                         Dave's Garden: Garden Gate Keeper.
         Friday, July 1, 2011                                                                                                                                 Recipe: Sea Salt Baked Potatoes.                                                                                                                                       Special Offer: FREE Organic Buckwheat Cover Crop Seed.
                                                                                                                                                                  What Did I Miss? Rocks,  Hart and Potatoes.
                                                                                                                                             Our Mailbox: Growing Potatoes & Growing Democracy.
                                                                                        Early Season Flaming.                

Tending the Crop.
     As predictably as Blackflys in June, within days of planting our last field and the last seed potato piece ('seed piece'), it's time to tend the earliest planted and earliest emerging potato varieties. Our first job is to flame. Twenty years ago we found that flaming was an effective step in controlling Colorado Potato Beetles. Now that CPBs seem to have evolved to emerge later in the Spring, flaming achieves minimal mortality. But way back we learned that we received the side benefit of excellent weed control (especially in-row between the plants) as a result of flaming. So we've stuck with the practice.
     The ideal timing for weed control is at 1% plant emergence. But with wet springs this precise timing is often not possible. The other end of the suitable flaming window is 4" potato plant height - and that's the extreme end. We'd much sooner flame when the biggest potatoes are 2" maximum to minimize their set back due to heat damage.
     On Wood Pririe Farm we use a tractor mount liquid propane flamer on a diesel tractor. If you're on a scale of half acre or less, a simple 500,000 BTU hand vapor propane burner with a barbeque tank works just fine. Nowadays these 'stump burners' are commonly available (even now at Home Depot) and for $100 you are good to go. If you're growing an acre of potatoes just buy a second flamer unit and convince a friend that this job will be a good chance to work on your tans together out in the fresh air.
    Weed flaming doesn't take much propane and you'll be happy with the results. A week or ten days after we flame our potatoes, we'll cultivate and fingerweed with the tractor but that's another story. Click here to see our 53 second 'Flaming' video on You Tube.
Jim & Megan

Dave's Garden: Garden Gate Keeper.                                              
     So how do you know whether you can trust a new-to-you company for seeds or plants? Our first step is to try to determine two points important to us: are they oragnic and are they family scale? Unfortunately this is not as easy as it should be. Part of this failure is because more and more big outfits are trying to pass tehmselves off as 'family farms' or their equivalent and many are employing such empty and ill-defined terms as 'natural' or 'safe'. In doing so they are muddying the waters. Monsanto's description of Roundup as 'biodegradable' caught the attention of New York State's Attorney General and as a result Monsanto agreed to cease and desist and contribute to New York's state treasury.
     One valuable tool for separating the chaffy companies and claims from the wheaty ones is the Dave's Garden website. There you can read up on a company's reviews. The reviews are provided by the paying customers that make purchase from thousands of garden companies. Dave's Garden site has been around a long time and they may well have the most extensive listings, most especially for ornamentals. Also, a good tool for finding which company has that rare plant that you are after. Jim.
     To help you get a feel for how it works, here's our Wood Prairie Farm listing on Dave's Garden: https://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/c/107/

Sea Salt Baked Potatoes

Photo by Angela Wotton

Recipe: Sea Salt Baked Potatoes.

2 large baking potatoes, such as Butte

Flaky sea salt

Butter or olive oil 

2 large handfuls of arugula or spinach


1 T Champagne or tarragon vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Egg yolk

Scant 1/2 c olive oil

2 T grated Parmesan

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the potatoes, prick them with a fork and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Then bake until tender, about one hour. 

While the potatoes are baking, make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, egg yolk, and olive oil with a big pinch of salt. Then whisk in the cheese and finally the lemon juice. Taste, make any adjustments and set aside.

Slice a big cross in the potato and push in on the ends to open the top. Scoop out a bit of the potato filling if you like. Add a pat of butter/olive oil to each potato, or a splash of dressing and a bit of salt. Toss the arugula with a generous amount of dressing and then pile it into the potatoes. You'll likely have some leftover dressing to enjoy as needed with the salad and skins.


Source: 101cookbooks.com

Special Offer: FREE Organic Buckwheat                                                                            Cover Crop Seed.

     One of our favorite cover or green manure crops is Buckwheat. It does well in poor soil, makes rocket-like growth, smothers weeds with its rank biomass and dramatically improves the tilth and friability of the soil in a matter of weeks. Last week we planted this year's cover crop of Buckwheat. Click here to see how we did it on this 32 second YouTube video.
     Here's your chance to earn a FREE 2 1/2 lbs. bag of Organic Buckwheat Seed ($9.95 value) when you buy three bags of our 3 lbs Wood Prairie Farm Organic Fertilizer at the special price of $26.95. You can mix and match from our four selections of organic fertilizer: Organic Fish meal (7-11-1), Organic Potato (4-2-6), Organic All Purpose (3-2-3) or Organic Pelletized Poultry Compost (2-4-2).
     Please use Promo Code WPF1027. FREE Organic Buckwheat Seed must ship with your fertilizer order. Offer ends Friday July 8. Call or click today!

Click here for our Organic Farm and Cover Crop Seed
Buckwheat. Chopping down at 8 weeks after planting.

Photo by iied.org
What Did I Miss? Rocks, Hart and Potatoes.

     With lots going on we're using regular posts on our Facebook wall to keep you tuned into the Wood Prairie Organic Community. Here are some highlights since our last Seed Piece that you won't want to miss. Jim & Megan.

     • Peru Rocks. In an open and inclusive display of the democratic process                  working for the people, the Peru Congress has voted 56 to 0 to impose a                  moratorium on GMOs. Read the inspiring article in Truthout. "Peru's thriving            ecosystem and its hugely important organic sector have provided viable                      arguments against the introduction of GMOs..." Yay Peru!

    • Wood Prairie Rocks. Like all potato farmers in northern Maine we pick rocks        with a hand crew this time of year to clean up our fields. Watch our Sarah                 driving tractor with Caleb and Amy and neighbors on the ground 'picking rocks'          in this 40 second You Tube video.
     • Farmers With Hart. Must-watch short documentary of English farmer Michael         Hart who travels America and interviews farmers who grow GMO crops.                 Honest authentic farmer explanations on the failures of monopoly control, the lie         of 'co-existence' and bullying in cases of transgenic contamination. Don't miss it!

'My Potato Project. The Importance of "Organic".' Over 97,000 people            have viewed ten-year-old Elise's YouTube video of her experiments with                  chemical and organic sweet potatoes and you should too. I watched this                    wonderful two and one-half minute video with our eight year-old daughter                 Amy and she thinks the third potato is the one she would like to eat. Me too!                          
 Please click here to become a Friend of Wood Prairie Farm on Facebook and keep connected. Thanks! Jim. 

Our Mailbox: Growing Potatoes & Growing Democracy.

                                      Mega Growth in Containers.

                                      I am attaching pics of my fingerlings so far. They were planted at different times which accounts for the
                                      height of the plants. The bags have been folded down and I have been inching them up as I have added
                                      soil. I'll send pics of my yield whenever.

                                      You can see that I am growing a lot of things in my small space and I just move my chair around and
                                      work from there. This is my largest deck garden so far, and I have some things in pots down next to my
                                      steps, but only things that deer supposedly do not like.

                                      I really enjoy your newsletters.

                                      Chincoteague Island, VA

Successful Organic Farming.

Hi Jim & family,

Congratulations on planting in between the showers! I know you are busy with summer coming on, but I meant to tell you how all your potato planting suggestions make a real difference.

Our old-timer Cape Elizabeth farmer neighbor commented to me when we were hilling our potatoes by hand (we are still figuring out how to use the tractor without killing our huge potato plants) "I'm surprised your plants are as big as they are given the time of year." I replied we were doing all those things to them I'd been telling him about, greensprouting the seed and adding beneficial fungi and soil bacteria. He said "Well it must really give them a boost! They are twice the size or more of anyone else's in town! We didn't know any of that when we were younger, just put the cold seed right in the ground. I guess those things you do really make a difference." And this from a farmer who when he was young his parents farmed over 80 acres of the Cape and stored cabbage, beets, carrots and blue Hubbard squash to sell to Boston all winter. Let's just say he is impressed. And so are we!

Your seed continues to be the highest quality with no losses, first to sprout, largest plants, gets ahead of the pests. Ours are now beginning to flower as of last week, and before hilling the plants were above my knees! (let's say we were late hilling them). I'll try to send a picture as the hills are substantially impressive.

Looking forward to doubling our crop again next year.

All my best,

Cape Elizabeth ME

     Glad to hear of your success and grateful that you took the time to write. Hired gun detractors whose propaganda has been bought and paid for by the self-serving chemical/transgenic  industrial complex would have one believe organic is inferior. Fact is, properly executed organic farming produces the best yield (nutrition per acre)  for the least real cost (vs. the exterinalized cost shifting tricks of CTIC) while at the same time being environmentally sound and sustainable over the long term and promoting democracy by the poliferation of family farms and land ownership by the people. On this planet, that's the best  deal going. Jim.

Monsanto's Misbehavior.

Inbox.      While I may not always buy something when I get your newsletter, I almost always read about what is going on.
     I have always felt that this whole Monsanto thing is backwards...if Monsanto's frankenstein genes land on organic farm land, then Monsanto is the one who is trespassing and the farmer should get restitution from Monsanto for destroying their organic crops.
     What is the world coming to when the government of the United States of America can just be bought and sold...so sad. Please keep up the good work. You make us all proud!

Concord NC

WPF.      Thanks and you're right. This is not the America we teach our kids about in school.
     The people have always had to confront bullys and tyrants. Now, the organic community has decided to employ our system of law to challenge Monsanto's abuse of family farmers and their illegal and unconstitutional misuse of the patent system. We will not let the likes of Monsanto steal the real America from our people and our children. Please click here for background on our lawsuit. Jim.

Controlling Colorado Potato Beetles Organically.

Inbox.     Hi gang,
     Just curious how growing organic, you're able to combat the potato beetle invasion. I only have a few rows and had to go out a few times a day seven days a week for about three weeks to pick off and squeeze as many larvae that I could spot. Earlier I was catching the adults while doing the nasty and in that case I got a two fer. I dubbed it the "Big Bang Cleanup". Fortunately my garden is right outside my office which enabled me to frequent the plot every couple hours but I often thought about Wood Prairie Farm and wondered how do you all combat this problem without some kind of spraying?

Lititz PA

WPF.      Like a lot of things in nature the population of Colorado Potato Beetles swings from increase to decline and back to increase. Up here in northern Maine, following a decade of CPB decline beginning in the mid-1990s, we've seen an uptick in CPB pressure the last five or six years. Prior to the mid 1990's, in the late 1980s and early 1990's, CPB population in the Northeast were huge, hungry and wicked. Back then CPB did a lot of damage to crops like potatoes. There were even some reports of crop failures on conventional potato farms in Pennsylvania when insecticides deployed to combat CPB failed due to CPB acquired resistance.
     CPBs are tough. CPBs have been eating plants of the poisonous nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, for untold thousands of years. Today's CPBs are the rugged decendants of many thousands of generations of nightshade survivors. They mean business and CPBs are a major pest of potatoes worldwide.
     Geography plays a role. CPB were first documented to have caused problems for potatoes back in 1859 when settlers planted potatoes on the east side of the Colorado Rocky mountains. By 1865 Colorado farmers had turned to Paris green (lead arsenic) to control CPB.. The CPBs spread East at a rate of about 85 miles per year (if you have ever watched clumsy CPB fly - when the temperature has reached 70ºF - you will find this fast migratory rate amazing). CPB reached the Atlantic ocean within 25 years.
     The more one can geographically isolate this year's potato patch from last year's, the better. On Wood Prairie Farm we have a four year rotation. Once very four years (it's coming up for us next year) we jump from potatoes on the home farm from one year (this year) to a field the next year that is over 600 feet away with woods, pond and road barriers in between. When on this one field over the last 20 years we have only had to control CPBs once because most times it takes the CPBs a year to figure out where we've moved the potatoes. But it is a rare home gardener that has such spread out plots. And in our case we have the geography card just once every four years.
     While it won't help you out this year, next year, right after planting, you could cover your potato patch with spun-bonded polypropylene row cover. This material will effectively exclude CPBs if the edges are buried completely.
    Your technique of crushing CPB is recommended. The control will succeed if you are able to continue to persevere. One year in the late 1980's under heavy CPB pressure I protected a 500 row foot isolated seed potato plot simply by picking CPB every second day. I consider that row footage to be the maximum amount practical for this hand picking technique. As you indicate it was a big job.
     Finally there are two organic sprays also at your disposal:

1. Spinosad, a somewhat selective insecticide made from the bacteria S. spinosa. Available to organic farmers, formulated as OMRI-listed 'Entrust'; and to home gardeners as OMRI-listed 'Bull's-Eye'. https://www.groworganic.com/monterey-garden-spray-concentrate-pint.html. Works well.

2. Neem oil, a botanical, is a vegetable oil (though not used for cooking purposes) pressed from the fruit and seeds of the Neem tree native to India. because it has a broad spectrum insecticidal effect, Neem should be considered a last resort. Neem has been manufactured into several different OMRI-listed insect control products such as Green Light Neem Concentrate. https://www.groworganic.com/green-light-neem-concentrate-pint.html.

If one is certified organic they should check with their certifier prior to use of any new material.

Good luck. Jim.

Wood Prairie Farm Quick Links

Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(800)829-9765 Certified Organic, Direct from the Farm