Our farms emphasize a thoughtful approach to growing fruits and vegetables. This means taking a hard look at both conventional and organic growing methods, selecting ideas that work and are safe, and avoiding other practices that harm the environment. If you are too conventional, you risk destroying the life of the soil; if you are too organic, you risk not being productive enough to make the farm economically sustainable.
How we grow with both soil and water:
Soil is the most important part of gardening, and it is our belief that soils must not be excessively disturbed, such as through tilling, applying toxic materials, and baked in full sun. The hardest part to growing food in Southern-California is the fact that for most of the year, it’s inhospitably hot.
Here’s how we beat the heat:
We build shadehouses, not greenhouses. Shadecloth, and the metal pipe structures we bungee them to can reduce summer air temperatures by 15 degrees F, allowing tender leafy veggies to grow without too much stress.
We use multiple water-saving techniques to reduce water usage, which includes wicking beds, hydroponics, composting, and dew harvesting. With these growing methods, we use ~90% less water than with traditional farming techniques.
How we fertilize our plants:
We fertilize our veggies primarily with a hydroponic mineral-based fertilizer (containing 12 essential minerals for plant growth), solar dehydrated ocean water fertilizer (containing 90 trace minerals), and a silica fertilizer to increase plant cell wall strength.
In addition, our veggies and fruit trees/vines are given generous amounts of compost that we generate on-site through kitchen scraps, crop residues, and mulches. We view composting/mulching as a long-term way to regenerate nutrient-rich soil and hydroponic minerals as a short-term tool which can be used to generate biomass and build soil.
How we deal with weeds/pests/disease
All weeds/plants out of place in our gardens we pull by hand. In many of our hydroponic growing areas, weeding is not needed b/c it is growing in water.
The three main pests we get in our gardens throughout the year are the cabbage looper (green caterpillars), aphids, and spider mites. We encourage beneficial predators to help reduce the population of these pests by having plants that provide nectar to predatory insects as well as offering hanging seeds for wild birds. We will occasionally get pest damage on our veggies, which is something we tolerate, and the veggies can grow out of this if they are healthy.
We have learned that the main reason plants typically get diseases is because of too much/too little sunlight, water, and nutrition, which is why we focus on growing healthy plants to prevent disease.
Where we get our seeds from:
We order all of our seeds from Johnnyseeds.com, which is an employee-owned seed company based in Maine. We have never used and do not plan to use GMO (genetically-modified organisms) seeds, and to our knowledge Johnny’s does not sell them. Whenever possible, we order OG (organic) seeds from Johnny’s seeds. We also save our seeds from year-to-year, making our veggies more specific to our region.