Updated October 2019
Want to know our current progress? Check out our latest farm update here. (Link goes to our blog post for August and September 2019).
How We Got Started
After moving to Phayao, Northern Thailand we discovered how much fruit was available to the community here. Locals would take their produce to market every day and there was a massive selection to choose from. We started experimenting with tropical flavors using Jaggery, a non refined palm sugar.
A long list of flavours was cut down to four, we started producing and had our friends and family to try. They loved it! We continued to work on our recipes and got accreditation for our flavors. At the same time we built a small jam factory (60m2) where we do all our cooking.
We love what we do, the cooking, travelling and meeting new people is all part of our business.
To make quality and delicious tropical Fruit jams using fruit sourced in Phayao. To manage a small urban farm where we focus on organic farming and sustainability. Our aim is to produce organic fruit and vegetable for ourselves and our community.
Matthew moved from Australia to Phayao to start a small farm and homestead together with Thanaporn. In Phayao he perfected his jam making techniques and start creating unique flavours using fruits found within this state.
Thanaporn grew up in Phayao and moved to Australia in 2016. After returning to Thailand, they started building a small homestead, urban farm and jam factory. She enjoys working with fruit jams, tending to the gardens and nurturing their collection of Bantam chickens.
K&M Blossom Farm’s Urban Farming Project
Using Available To Space And Turning It Into Productive Gardens
After building the jam factory, we had an open area at the front of our property that was not being used. We decided to put a strawberry patch there. This patch would consist of over 250 plants and runs for 20 meters. We tilled the soil by hand to remove the grasses and weeds. Tilling also helped us shape the mounds. We mixed the remaining sand and organic materials into the soil (Compost, rice hulls, straw and charcoal).
We planted the strawberry plugs Late September. Unfortunately for us, wet season didn’t really kick in and we had a heat wave for about 3 weeks. We lost about 20% of our plugs, others lost their leaves and started growing smaller hardier leaves (Blossom Farm is a zone 10-11 for hardiness).
By December they had fully hardened and had tripled in size. Early January the strawberries started flowering and fruiting. Winter was short this year so we estimated roughly 15-20kg of Strawberries were collected.
How We Turned Our Open Spaces In A Practical And Sustainable Urban Farm Project
Managing The Soil
Low humidity and clay don’t really mix well. The clay hardens and cracks making hand tilling very difficult. We soaked the areas we wanted to till first and broke up the clay. We found rich dark soil underneath the surface.
Turning Clay Into Black soil
In the case of the strawberry patch, we had alot of sand remaining so we mixed sand and compost together plus hay and rice hulls. Over time this will break down creating better soil conditions.
We found the best way to stop the soil from hardening was to apply the plastic weed matting ontop. It blocks 90% of the sun but still allows enough light for microbial life to grow. In conjunction with drip irrigation we had fewer problems with our soil.
Starting off small
We made 75cm wide beds and ran 3-4 drip lines down each bed. Drip can distribute water evenly along the bed near seedling or plants.
Extending Our Urban Farm Project
We did our research and decided to build 4 x 6 meter long beds at the back of our farm. We tilled up the soil by hand over a period of a week. We added our organics (Charcoal, compost, rice hulls, hay, manure) and tilled it again. After tilling we used 6m long steel beams to guide us as we raised the beds up 15cm and formed them into shape. We had no shade cover at this time and it was HOT! We leveled the beds off and applied the plastic.
It was at this time we decided to build a shade cover in preparation for summer. We were able to source bamboo cheaply and have it cut into 3m pieces. Holes were dug for the vertical poles and the pieces were drilled and lashed together. The structure held and 70% shade cover was added to the top.
Having The Family And Community Involved
I think my father enjoyed the garden the most. He was outside from sun rise to sun set. When he saw what we had done, he was ecstatic!
Planting and Growing Through Winter and into Summer
We have really struggled with tomatoes in summer. They are mostly a winter plant and need the cold to germinate the flowers. They grow really well in the soil we created and have climbed up the rope attached to the top of the bamboo shade cover!
Converting Lawns Into Garden Beds
Summer Is Here And We Have Started Focusing On What To Plant That Will Last Through Wet Season
When you start an urban farm, you really learn something new everyday. Whether its plants or nurturing animals, there is always a challenge to overcome or a new goal to reach. Some of the challenges we have faced so far include:
- Growing in clay
- Lots of bugs and pests
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Rapid changes in the weather
- Drought and no access to water for nearly 2 weeks
- The height of summer (Low season)
- Lack of sunlight due to smoke haze
Removing The Strawberry Patch And Transplanting Them To The Greenhouse
We started removing the strawberries mid march as the summer started. Strawberries don’t like the heat. They can survive but their leave burn and they sprout smaller hardier leaves. They also continue to flower and fruit but its small and rots before it ripens. We had an extension this year before the hot summer. Some haze reduced the available sunlight giving us more time to remove them.
Overall, the strawberry patch was productive this year though this winter we may plant more tomatoes which seem to be in high demand all year round. In this picture, I am splitting strawberries and re-potting them. Not all made it, we had a water shortage crisis when the hottest part of summer happened. We have thrown out the dead ones and recycle the soil for plants growing in pots (Gourd, beetroot and pumpkin).
We Connected Our 2000L Storage Tank To Our Drip Irrigation
We have an electric mistubishi pressure pump connected to our water tank and irrigation. The pump is strong enough to have both the front and rear drip going plus supply water to the greenhouse and home.
Our Small Sunflower Patch
We made a few mistakes with sunflowers this year. That being using seed meant for bird food. It had a 20% germination rate. Lesson learnt! What did sprout and grow is a mix of large, medium and multiflower sunflowers.
Our pumpkins went in at the height of summer and just before they shut off the water. We hand watered them for 2 weeks and they have taken off. We were told they wouldnt grow in summer but they’re doing well!
Number Of Tomatoes Planted In Winter 2018
Number Of Pumpkins And Gourds Planted This Year
Number Of Bok Choi Harvested This Year From 2 Rows
Hours Per Day Spent On Maintaining Our Urban Farm
Along Came A Little Chicken
How Our Collection Of Bantam Chickens Turned From A Gift Into A Hobby….
We Started Off With A Few Eggs A Week
When we first had a Bantams, they didnt lay for at least 3 months. We remember our first egg, we didnt know what to do so we left it. Other hens laid their eggs in the same spot. Before long a hen had become cluck and looked after those eggs even though they were all from different hens.
Every Hen Started To Become Broody
Towards the end of wet season lat year, the avairy started to liven up. Hens were singing and the roosters were showing the hens where to lay. Before long hens were laying eggs everywhere and building nests.
We Incubated The Eggs, Hatched The Chicks And Gave Them To Our Hens
We wanted the best hatching rate so we purchased an incubator and started collecting eggs. The chicks would hatch and we would keep them for 3 days before handing them over to broody hens.
When We First Started Raising Bantams
There were our chickens mid 2018 before the garden beds and jam factory. We had grass and hard clay. They loved to scratch through the dust and clippings looking for protein filled bugs. There was no sharing though, when one chicken found a delicious bug, they ran! The aim was to run as fast as possible to tire everyone else out then swallow the bug in one gulp!
Here they have their wings spread out and sun bathing in the morning light. After 10am the sun is too strong and they search for a place to dirt bathe and cool down. We free range our chickens for about 5-6 hours a day, mostly in the mornings before the heat.
What We Learnt About Introducing Bantams To Our Garden Beds
Our second generation of chicks getting stuck into our Bok Choi seedlings. These seedlings were a bit leggy and didn’t grow too well. It was our first time growing large rows of Bok Choi and we discovered that the chickens loved the baby veggies. When new seedlings go into beds now, we have a few choices.
- We put up chicken mesh round the garden beds when possible;
- Avoid free range till the plants are big enough (we did this with our corn for 2 weeks);
- We both have to stand near the seedlings and babysit the chickens to product our plants from being eaten.
Our chickens never stop eating. They are like little vacuum cleaners and no matter how much food is available they will always scratch and look for more.
We Built A Green House And Avairy After Realising We Wanted More Bantams
In the beginning of 2018 we both decided to build a greenhouse with an attached bird avairy for our chickens. We used galvanised steel as it was more durable and didnt require painting to prevent rust.
We have chicken boxes which are only used for the sick chickens, hens with baby chicks and only at night during winter. These chickens are susceptible to the cold and will get sick if exposed to bad weather. Due to their size they are also prey for hawks, dogs and snakes. Knowing this we did our best to protect them while free range and in the avairy.
Where in the world is Phayao?
An Overview Of Phayao
Phayao is one of the 76 provinces of Thailand. It is located in the far north of Thailand directly south of Chiang Rai and directly East of Chiang Mai. Phayao Province is 417km2 in size and consists of a 12km long lake, numerous mountains, forests, fields and flood plains.
Its capital is Muang and is located on the eastern side of Lake Phayao. Its tourist attractions include, markets, temples, agriculture, festivals and the lake.
Each district in Phayao has a small group of shops and market or mall. Muang Phayao consists of 3 shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, schools, public facilities (swimming pool and stadium), 2 movie theaters and government services.
The Mountains Reach Up To 1000 Meters High Full Of Dense Forest
Its hard not to see mountains in Phayao. They reach into the sky, covered in lush green forest. They are surrounded by farmland, rice fields and orchards.
Rice Fields And Cattle
As the farmers rotate their crops each year the cattle is left to feed on the scraps and provide natural fertiliser to the soil. Outside of the city, you will find fields of rice, vegetables or fruit orchards everywhere.
A Beautiful Sunset Over Lake Phayao
Relaxing beside the lake and watching the sun set behind the mountains leaving beams of light that break through the clouds. A beautiful way to end an afternoon stroll.