Farm update

Autumn 2023 - ready - seed - grow!

Autumn 2023 - ready - seed - grow!

It's been all go here on the farm ever since the flooding and cyclone storms. What does 'all go' look like?

READY ... our in-ground summer crops such as tomatoes, zucchini and beans were destroyed in the storm, so our first job was to remove the plant remains and cover over the beds with tarpaulins.

The tarpaulins cover the beds, creating a warm damp environment. The worms and tiny beneficial bugs that live in the soil love this kind of environment. The heat and darkness kills any weeds and weed seeds.

SEED ... we set to work seeding our in-ground winter crops of kale, silverbeet, mustard and pak choi, miner's lettuce and rocket. Some of the crops are seeded in trays, and some are direct seeded into the prepared beds.

For all our in-ground beds we use the no-dig method. To prepare the beds, we fork over and feed the soil with an organic food. Then we top up the beds with about 5cm of perfectly balanced new soil. The beds are then ready to be planted into.

GROW ... preparing the beds and planting out the seedlings is a big job. We've got 18 x 20 metre beds and paths, which seems like alot while we're topping them up! We've got most of the in-ground beds planted out now ... phew.

We lost many hydroponic crops due to the wind and the 6 day power cut produced by the storms. Worst hit were the more mature lettuces, coriander, basil and dill. Most of the younger plants survived luckily. We acknowledge that as a small grower, it's important not to have all our eggs in one basket (or crops in the paddock!). We were lucky to have at least some produce to sell after the storms.

Daryn is building more hydroponics - as demand is always growing for our bagged lettuce and herbs we need to increase our production!

Many of the 'old man' pines along our farm's roadsides tipped over in the storm. The tree guys delivered to us 4 big mountains of mulch ... so we haven't had to buy mulch to top up our in-ground bed paths. There was some good that came from the storms!

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What happened to summer? Feb '23 update

What happened to summer? Feb '23 update

What's with all this rain? What happened to summer?

The other day a customer asked "but how does rain affect your crops - I thought veges like to be watered? We thought that was a good question. Before we became market gardeners we would have wondered the same thing. In short, summer crops like growing in summer. They like many hours of sunlight, can handle getting a bit dry and don't like damp, humid conditions. We saw the met-service guy on tv say that NZ has been averaging 5 hours of sunlight a day! That's totally not enough for summer crops to grow, thrive and produce.

So what does our wet summer garden look like? Baby tomatoes are splitting in the wet and green fruit is slow to ripen due to lack of sunlight. Zucchini fruit flowers are rotting when the fruit is small so the fruit doesn't get any bigger and eventually rots. Less beans, beans need 7 hours of sunlight a day to produce pods and up to 10 hours to produce pods well. All lettuce and herb growth has slowed due to less daylight hours. Lebanese and apple cucumbers were so bad we pulled them out. They hate damp.

We are lucky in lots of ways. All of our growing is either in raised beds or hydroponic, which means it's all up and out of the wet.

Are there any crops that are actually happy about the wet and humidity? The edible flowers are going nuts whenever we have sunshine! If there is no sunshine they don't open. They have loved the extra big drink. The sage and thyme seem to be having a good time. The sage is very lush - time for fried sage and eggs! We have been trialling growing lemongrass - and it's gone nuts in the wet, humid conditions.

Will this kind of un-seasonal weather be more frequent in the future? Maybe. We have to carefully consider what we grow and how we grow it. We can't afford for crops to fail.

I'm writing this early on a Saturday. Early means it's still dark outside. We get up super-early on a Saturday, like, usually ... 4.00am! It's market day, our biggest selling day of the week, and Daryn and Joe need to get to the market and set up before their first customers arrive (often as soon as it's light!). We pick lettuces and herbs and wrap their roots in paper. Other produce we have picked and packed on Thursday and Friday and just needs to be loaded into the van.

I check the boys have their water bottles, remind them to eat and wave goodbye. As soon as it's light, I head outside to do the hydroponic jobs. I check the hoses are all clear and running. I throw out any plants that aren't thriving. Then I put out all the seedlings in the gaps where we've havested during the week. Next up, it's seeding to replace the seedlings I've just put out. We're seeding 600 hydroponic seedpots currently each week. As we build more we'll be able to grow more.

The boys get back from the market early afternoon. It's always exciting to see how they've done. We aim to sell-out every week, and it's unusual for them not to. We unpack the van, sit down and have a yarn about market-goings-on ... and then ... to be honest, we often nod off. It's been a big day!

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Welcome to Winter '22!

Welcome to Winter '22!

The cool season crops have taken over the no-dig beds, it's been raining, there aren't many leaves left on deciduous trees and we're eating kale, silverbeet and pak-choi ... this means IT'S WINTER!

Big excitement here on the farm with winning a gold medal for our Babyleaf lettuce with edible flowers in the Outstanding NZ food producer awards. We're so proud that a little family run market garden can achieve a gold medal up against bigger producers. It gives us a boost of confidence and reward for our hard work.

It feels good to have the no-dig bed winter seedlings in, and established. We forget every year what a big task it is to seed, transplant and look after all the seedlings it takes to fill the beds. We generally fit 170 plants per bed, and there are 33 beds. 12 of the beds are for the pak-choi, beetroot, rocket and miner's lettuce which get planted and sown all through Winter. Each season we top-up the soil in the beds to replenish and provide good food for our plants. We expect a lot from them, harvesting from them every week through winter for our online orders and farmers markets.

You can see new beds that we've added on to the bottom right of the no-dig bed garden photo. Each year we are growing more and more, as customer demand for our produce grows. Each year we are getting better and faster at our gardening tasks and can take on a bit more work. I guess at some stage we'll reach our limit.

Every season we try growing a new crop. Sometimes the crops are a success, sometimes not. It is a reminder that we just aren't good at growing everything. This season we're trying out Miner's Lettuce. It is looking great, very cute dainty leaves, crisp, succulent with a mild flavour. Perfect, we decided, to pair with peppery Rocket, and we're selling it bagged into our home-compostable, worm-farm friendly bags as Miner's Lettuce and Rocket salad. It's really yum and very pretty on the plate.

The hydroponic crops of lettuce and herbs just carry on as usual. The change of seasons always cause a bit of disruption to the lettuces, while they have a bit of a struggle to adjust to less daylight hours and lower temperatures. If the lettuces are a bit weak, often they will get attacked by bugs, which sets them back further. It's a bit of a frustration to us and our customers, but it's just mother nature and something we have to work with.

Now that there is so much water around from the rain, the paddocks are green and the soil dark and moist, it's seems like so long ago that it was hot and dry and we were so worried about keeping our plants watered. Thank goodness for seasons and change, they make life ... and growing ... interesting.


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Hay! With everything that's going on in the world it's nice to have a change of season to distract us ...

Hay! With everything that's going on in the world it's nice to have a change of season to distract us ...

It's autumn!

The leaves on the trees are slowing turning yellow then brown, it's dark in the morning when we get up and it's a bit cooler at night, yay! BUT ... it's still so hot during the day, and it's really dry in our part of the country. Any rain has passed us by, our tanks are very low and the soil very dry. We know the rain will come sometime, so we just have to carry on getting plants in the ground and ready for winter.

It’s the time of the season when we’re ripping out spent crops and getting new crops established in the no-dig garden beds. Pak choi, Chinese brocolli, Kale, Silverbeet, Mustards and Cabbages we seed into trays, and once they’re big enough plant the seedlings into their beds in the no-dig garden. While it's still so dry, we are mulching with pea straw. This helps the soil stay moist, and also gives the tiny seedlings shade and wind protection as they emerge. Straight into the ground go beetroot and snap pea seeds. They get watered twice a day so they stay moist until they germinate. Beetroot beds are mulched with shade cloth until they emerge. If the beetroot seeds dry out they won't germinate. 

Most years we get our flat riverside paddocks cut and baled into hay. It makes us feel good. The hay goes to farmers who need it, we get nice tidy paddocks and some tractor work done for us in return. We love the sweet smell of the hay, our boys love fooling around on the bales and the dog loves running on the once-a-year short grass. Everyone loves hay time!

On Saturdays we head off to Matakana Village Farmers Market and Catalina Bay Farmers Market. As the seasons change, our market stalls change too. Soon our stalls will be full of winter leafy greens, pakchoi and watercress. Our year-round crops of lettuces and coriander carry on... business as usual!

What’s coming up for harvest at Salty River Farm?

In full harvest mode: Cos lettuce, Baby leaf lettuce, Oakleaf lettuce, Buttercup squash, Coriander, Sage, Dill

Finishing soon: Thai Basil, Little tomatoes, Zucchini/Scallopini

Later in Autumn: Pakchoi, Kale, Mini cabbages, Chinese broccoli, Coloured Silverbeet, Babyleaf coloured silverbeet, Baby beetroot, Snap peas, Mustards, Watercress, Parsley

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Happy New Year! What's happening at Salty River Farm in January?

Happy New Year! What's happening at Salty River Farm in January?

Happy New Year! Hasn't it been hot. The heat effects everything on the farm, from plants to animals to us and our holiday plans!

Wow - 2022 has certainly turned on the heat. We were all set to take a couple of extra days on holiday up north when we realised that some of our plants were looking very stressed. With no rain on the horizon, we flew into action, setting up extra irrigation for the no-dig beds.

We have set up a drip irrigation system that slowly drips water at the base of each plant. We are totally self-sufficient for water, with rain water tanks for the gardens and household, and dams for the animal troughs. Collecting, storing, filtering and making sure we have enough water are super important tasks, nothing survives without water.

We know we made the right decision even though we would have loved to have had a couple more days at the beach.

The heat is no problem for the little tomatoes though, and all the sunshine is encouraging the little guys to pop into colour. Our little honeybee yellow tomatoes are leading the race so far, with the plants laden with bags of the little sweeties. It might sound crazy but it’s actually good for us to slightly water stress the tomatoes - this ensures they are full of good old fashioned out-door-grown tomato flavour. Keep an eye out in our online shop and at our farmers market stalls for for these little summer sweeties.

Great timing! Lucky nature has designed BASIL to be ready at the same time as TOMATOES! Our basil plants are HUGE right now, it’s a great time to grab one in your order or at one of our markets. They’ll stay alive for ages in a jar of water on your bench - lots of time for you to deal with a big batch of pesto! Actually all our summer herbs are crazy big right now. We are growing Thai basil for the first time this year, and we’re loving it. Licoricy, spicy and bit more bold than sweet basil, it’s amazing in a refreshing thai salad - perfect on a hot evening.

Have you ever eaten an apple cucumber? They’re a bit of an old fashioned thing, the kind of summer vege your grandma might have grown. They are ... a cucumber in a ball-shape. Our boys love them - and we have to be careful they don’t all disappear before they get to the packing room! Crispy, refreshing, quirky ... it’s understandable really.

What are we harvesting at Salty River Farm?
Just starting: Little tomatoes - yellow and red
In full harvest mode:
Thai Basil
Cos lettuce
Baby leaf lettuce
Oakleaf lettuce
Lebanese and apple cucumbers
Kumi Kumi
Later in summer: Watermelon

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Spring 2021 at Salty River Farm

Spring 2021 at Salty River Farm

Well, it's spring and with the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, everything is waking up from it's winter slumber. The lettuces in particular are growing big and fast, sometimes it seems like we can actually see things growing!

We have been super busy with our online orders for contactless home delivery due to the covid lockdown here in the Auckland region. We are very pleased we set up our online shop so our customers can still purchase our produce, and we still have an income. We're very grateful to our old and new customers for their support and that we took the opportunity to set up the shop, which makes us stronger going forward.

This winter we extended our hydroponic area so we can grow more lettuces and herbs and we're excited about having more to sell, particularly of our babyleaf and cos lettuce bags.

Checking for bugs and birds getting into our cloaches is an everyday job. We don't use chemical pesticides to control bugs, and keeping our plants healthy is our best defence. A weak plant will always get attacked. If we find bugs have attacked a plant, we throw that one plant out and often the bugs haven't got to the rest of the lettuces.

Sparrows are a real problem at this time of the year. They LOVE sweet green butterhead lettuces! They can completely wreck lots of lettuces very quickly. Bird netting and running tape between the gutters stops the sparrows from getting in. We have been so busy with home deliveries this spring we didn't have time to put tape in between the new hydroponic area gutters ... and the sparrows wrecked a whole lot of butterheads. We got the job ASAP once we realised!

The no-dig beds have been producing nicely over winter, with our kale and silverbeet doing the best. We experienced the warmest winter for many years, and our rocket didn't do well because of it. Preparations are now underway for spring planting, bean seeds are in the ground and zucchini, tomatoe, cucumber, watermelon, squash seeds are underway.

Last year's calves are growing bigger and really enjoy the vege offcuts. If they're in a paddock close-by they come running if they know we've got treats for them. We haven't raised any baby calves this year, we've been so busy. We'll look forward to raising more next winter.

We are excited about the summer crops, juicy flavour-some baby tomatoes, apple cucumbers, little cheerful sunbeam scallopini. Lots to look forward to!


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All ready for winter 2021 on the farm!

All ready for winter 2021 on the farm!

Well, it's been a busy time on the farm ... getting all our winter crop seedlings into their no-dig beds in the front paddock.

Silverbeet, kale, upright spinach and mustard plants will stay in the ground all winter and we'll pick leaves off each plant as we need it. We sow pak choi every week, transplant into the garden every week, and harvest the whole plants every week. They grow quick and we call them 'our little troopers'.

Radish and beetroot, spinach and rocket get sown every second week and we'll be sowing new beds all through winter as we need them.

And, of course, the hydroponic lettuces and herbs are year-round, and just carry on as usual. We sow these seeds every week, they go into the hydroponic nursery table until they germinate, then they go into the 'grown up' tables until harvest in 7-10 weeks time. 

Daryn has been working hard extending our hydroponic area, it's very exciting to imagine how many more lettuces and herbs we'll be able to grow when it's finished.

All growth slows down as the temperatures drop, and this can be very frustrating for us and our customers. Sometimes it means far less lettuces for market ... until they 'catch up' and get big enough!

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Summer 2020-21 on Salty River Farm

Summer 2020-21 on Salty River Farm

Summer-time is a busy time on our farm.

In-ground crops such as pumpkins and watermelons are growing and developing. The pumpkins are ready to harvest when the plant is completely dead - the pumpkin paddock ends up looking like a waste-land dotted with brightly coloured pumpkins!

Cucumbers and Zucchini grow so fast you can almost SEE them growing - and we plant succession crops to extend our season - especially if it's dry like it has been so far this season.

Our wardrobe of little tomatoes are slowly ripening - because we grow them outside and in the ground they are sweet and full flavoured. We are growing a few different kinds this year. We're really pleased with the Tigerella variety, it's a medium sized orange-red tomatoe with red tiger stripes on it and yellow cherry Honeybee, which is fruiting well so far.

The recent rain will help keep the plants fruiting. When it's hot we are thankful to previous owners of our little farm for planting all the trees, they provide shady spots for both us and our animals.

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Preparing our soil for summer crops - spring 2020

Preparing our soil for summer crops - spring 2020

Ready ... set ... plant!

Soil preparation for Salty River Farm summer crops has been under-way (or under-cover) for a while now. To prepare for the summer crops, we cover winter crops until the old winter plants have died off. Then, our larger in-ground beds get a shallow surface harrow, but our no-dig beds get planted straight into.

The soil is full of worms and is lovely and moist from being covered.

We have hundreds of baby pumpkin, squash, zucchini, scallopini, cucumber, melon and tomato plants that we'll be planting out over the month of October.

It's a massive job, but we love the promise of all that summer produce to come.

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Pumpkin paddocks - summer 2020

Pumpkin paddocks - summer 2020

On our riverside flats we grow pumpkins – pumpkins of all shapes and colours.

Two of our favorites are baby sugar – a bright orange story-book looking pumpkin and long island cheese – named as it resembles a wheel of cheese!

Jeanie the farm dog does a good job of chasing any wild ducks away. The ducks will eat and destroy baby pumpkin plants.

We plant the pumpkin plants in spring, and by the time it’s summer they have sent down a long tap root to access water. We harvest late summer and ‘cure’ for a few weeks – this means storing the pumpkins to allow the flavour to develop.

Pumpkins are then ready for sale – good timing to make your mum a pumpkin pie for mother’s day!

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