2015 A Difficult Season with Unexpected Results

Another season is drawing to a close and am I ever so ready for some rest from working in the fields. This year I planted more area than ever before, primarily because I had so many new crops to trial out. I did have some extra help which made getting all this done possible. Special thanks to Patricia and Ben.

The initial plan was to trial out a number of heirloom barley and wheat varieties. This has IMG_5013always been the weakest link in my attempt to grow out as many staple crops as possible. Cereal grains can be very tough here in Northern Indiana. Our wet springs and variable temperature swings can wreak havoc on pollinating and maturing grains like rye, wheat, barley, and oats, not to mention lodging, due to heavy rain fall and wind. These crops traditionally have been raised in areas which are more arid, but due to the droughts in the West and increasing unstable weather patterns in other parts of the US, farmers are beginning to look at more diversification, outside of the crops they traditionally grow. This trend is national and global. My hope is to play a tiny role in this process, by helping to locate and determine the feasibility of certain crops that could be grown in my community. This year, as well as last year, have proven to be challenging to cereal crops. They were two of the wettest springs in my memory. In actuality, this provided the “best case scenario” for trialing out heirloom grains like Hourani Wheat, Turkey Red Wheat, and Sardinian Barley, just to name a few. The continually wet conditions eventually brought on an outbreak of scab and other minor foliar diseases. Of the 23 varieties I grew, only a handful did well. Early on (especially in June, when we had 16 rainy days) I would have felt lucky to find one wheat and one barley variety to consider for growing out in 2016. As it turned out, after harvesting and threshing all of my cereal crops, I now anticipate there may be a couple of wheat varieties that did great, and as many as 5 barley varieties showing great promise. I still have  some testing to do for DON (the toxin which can be present when you have an outbreak of scab). Once I have all this data, I will make my results available in a future post.

Another goal was to plant some multi-cropping plots and test out growing 7 different crops all in the same space. I got the idea for this from reading about the Baranaja cropping system of the Himalayas and the Pannendu Pantalu system of the IMG_5228Deccan region in India. Basically, it is a variation on the three-sisters method utilized by Native Americans. I planted 4 types of millet (Pearl, Foxtail, Proso and Japanese Barnyard) along with Painted Mountain corn and Dale Sorghum. I also seeded 2 types of legumes into these beds. One bed got Red Ripper cowpeas and the other, Moth beans. I was not sure this project would be possible back in May, when my soil was to wet to plant. A large portion of my fields went unplanted and eventually were sown with a buckwheat cover crop. I had planned on a large plot for the multi-cropping system, but had to settle for 2 100 square foot beds. Enough to test and learn a few things.  I plan an update on this once all the crops have matured. Exciting stuff if you are a farm “geek” like me.

I also continued my trials of heirloom soybeans. Another year of seeing how they perform and a substantial increase in my seed stock. I will be able to offer larger packets of seed for some of these incredibly important staple crops.

I am currently wrapping up the fall harvest which should be finished around October 1st. I plan to have seed, ready to sell, around Thanksgiving. I will put up a post when the website is updated. I am changing my business name from “Sherck’s Heirloom Vegetables, Plants

Gaspe Corn

Gaspe Corn

and Seed” to simply “Sherck’s Seed”. I no longer sell produce (knock on wood) and am growing fewer and fewer plants to sell in the spring. I want to devote all of my energy into continuing with adapting and growing out seed. I will also have a few new crops to offer for 2016, Gaspe corn, Fastigiata Pin Striped peanuts, wild soup peas “Pisum Arvense Roveja Di” and Egusi watermelon (grown for their super delicious and nutritious, protein packed seed). There are a few others, like the Sardinian Barley ( I believe this one will prove to be a highly adaptable and vigorous! ), which I plan to grow out again next spring to increase my seed stock, and begin to offer seed the following year.

Again, thanks for your interest and support.

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4 Responses to 2015 A Difficult Season with Unexpected Results

  1. Anthony Meschke says:

    Thanks for the update! I grew the amaranth, quinoa, hulless oats, and Christmas beans I got from you this spring. Everything grew great in my St. Paul, MN backyard. I grew small plots of each and they took minimal input and upkeep. They out performed the weeds in my garden and produced a lot of grain. I wish I would have listened to you earlier in the year and supported the amaranth and quinoa when they were about 3ft tall. I had a lodging issue during a may wind storm that ripped the awning off my neighbors house. Other wise I think they all would have stood up by themselves all year. Even the lodged plants still produced well and filled out nicely. I did not notice and pest problems other than some normal but bites on the leaves. I have the grains drying in my garage now and look forward to threshing them. I already threshed the oats by hand and was satisfied with the seeds that I will use to grow a larger plot next year.

  2. Sean says:

    How far do different wheat and barley varieties need to be separated to maintain purity? You seem to grow quite a few varieties and they look pretty close in the pictures.

  3. Kieran Neal says:

    Just saw this post. I’ll be really excited to hear the results of the grain poly-culture. Shinonome soybeans did awesome over here in Detroit, and the dry late summer helped them dry out in the pod a bit. I’ll be hoping to make tempeh soon.

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