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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Farm Tour: Sweet Haven Fields


Tim and Onnalee Nicklin: Sweet Haven Fields
Tim and Onnalee Nicklin began selling with the Emporia Farmers Market in 2012. Their product list includes peas and purple passion asparagus. Strawberries, black raspberries, radishes, kale, lettuce, spinach and rose orach, a colorful spinach substitute. The Nicklins also grow burgundy okra, sweet peppers, snacking and slicing tomatoes as well as a variety of herbs. They make a low-sugar strawberry jam that became very popular with market shoppers.

Sweet Haven Fields is about as sweet as country living gets. Arriving at the Nicklin farm, I felt as if I'd entered a wonderland. The hillside was blooming with purple flowers. The house and gardens are nestled within a grove of trees, a shady creek running nearby.

 They utilize raised beds, compost, mulch ( no till or chemicals), sodded garden aisles, and narrow growing beds. Because they live in a low-lying area highly populated by deer, the gardens are fenced and surrounded by berms. Fencing keeps the deer out, though Onnalle says they have been known to test the gates to see that they are truly closed, and the berms keep the flood waters from doing too much destruction in the garden areas.
The gardens are abundant with a variety of berries. Tim says the more acidic soil of their little valley is better suited for growing berries. An orchard includes a variety of fruit and nut trees. 

Because they live in a flood plain, but as Kansans are subject to years of drought at a time, the Nicklins work to find plants that can survive the range. Like many gardeners, they are always experimenting to figure out what works best. "We'll try something for several years and if it can't handle the extremes, it's gone," Onnalee says.

New gooseberries line the driveway. The jugs are buried to help conserve water.  Rather than allowing the water to run off or evaporate, the perforated milk container leaks the water slowly to the roots of the plant.
Milk jugs also serve as mini greenhouses for starting plants right where they will grow. Tim prefers this method to starting plants and then transplanting later. This bed contains sweet potatoes and pepper plants.
The Nicklins lost many of their strawberries last year to the drought.  Beds have been started this year in recycled pallets. The red stone strawberries, in theory, teach the birds that there is nothing good to be found here before the real strawberries begin to grow tasty.

The purple plant is rose orach, a colorful spinach substitute. 
Note the fences which are built primarily to keep out the deer. Only asparagus is grown on the outside as it  is one plant deer aren't especially fond of eating. Here you see yellow sedum on the outside, asparagus, and black raspberries along the fenceline.

Note the fences which are built primarily to keep out the deer. Only asparagus is grown on the outside as it  is one plant deer aren't especially fond of eating.

Tim begins a garden with grass in mind. Sodded walkways give the gardens more of a park feeling and one can imagine spending hours outdoors at Sweet Haven Fields, enjoying the open spaces and the rush of the breeze through the surrounding trees.