Friday, August 23, 2013

Late August - already!

It seems like just yesterday that we were feverishly painting the barn and preparing it as our new distribution area.  And here we are in week 13 of the summer session!

Everyone asks about how the season is going - here's my attempt to summarize it in between children running in and out, etc.

March was frozen.  I like to have many crops in the field by late March which means you need to get in the fields by mid-March.  Frozen, wet ground is not conducive to a heavy tractor.  In fact, if you risk it, you're setting yourself up for clods of heavy, unworkable dirt for the next few months.  Not a good bed for seeding.  So, we didn't get into the ground until the second or third week of April.  A bit late for favas and onions.   Then we planted like crazy.  May was dry, dry, dry.  The garlic and onions suffered as I kept waiting for the rain that went around us.  June was wet.  Actually, it was perfect - we had nice, steady rains, supported by normal temperatures.  July was July - a week of hotness and storms.  Since then it's been a bit cool and dry but tolerable in terms of moisture.

Overall, the cool-weather crops are doing well and the warm weather crops (okra, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes in the field) are lagging but others are holding well.  It is all evening out.

In early June, we direct seeded many fall brassicas (broccoli, napa cabbage, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc) which didn't do well.  We covered them with row cover to keep out the flea beetles and then the warm temps hit.  I think they cooked - not sure.  Anyway, we have few plants from that seeding.  So, we replanted in flats and transplanted about three weeks ago.  Hopefully they'll make it to maturity before the frost - we'll see.

We're preparing for winter now.  We've planted carrots in the hoops and another bed of beets in the field.  We'll mulch any root crops in the fields for harvest mid winter.  The hoop crops will hold with or without row cover.  Choi and baby kale have been planted in the hoops.  Chard and collards are waiting to be transplanted into the hoops as soon as I am ready to pull some other crops (either peppers or tomatoes).  It's an ongoing process of figuring out which crops are weigning and which are most productive.  Spinach and lettuce will still be planted in the fields with hopes of early spring/late fall harvest.  Daikon radish, cilantro, rutabaga, radishes, turnips, etc. were planted a few weeks ago and will probably go in again.  We've been mulching, fertilizing and weeding.  Not to mention harvesting.  We do a lot of that.  The potatoes are starting to die off which is when I harvest them - I leave them in the ground as long as possible as that's a good storage spot for them.  After they're out, I have to keep them cool and dark.  They are really producing this year!  It's quite a bonanza compared to last year with the drought.  Winter squash is also doing well although powerdy mildew has moved in.

Cucumbers are not doing well, as usual.  They produced for a few weeks but have succomed to downy mildew.  Death for organic cukes.  Other than that and powdery mildew, we've been very fortunate.  We've had some increased rabbit pressure and a bit of woodchuck issues early in the peas but overall, it's OK.  I still find deer tracks in the garden and some evidence of munching but they are grazers - a bite here, a bite there.  We just don't harvest those plants.  No real problems with the tomatoes (which is always my biggest concern re. fungal/viral issues) and virtually no damage from potato beetles.  That's highly unusual.  I attribute that to the theory that I left all larvae on the potatoes this year - some that I wasn't sure if they were potato beetles or lady beetles.  I think they must have been lady beetles which are voracious predators.  We also have the two spotted stink bug which preys on the potato beetle.  That, and I haven't had potatoes in this part of the garden for 3 years.  I'm going to go with the balance of bugs theory though, as it makes me happy.

Staffing is going very well.  Stephanie is a great assistant manager and has done very well while we were out of town. Owen has been with us since mid-April and did an excellent job but will be returning to high school soon.  Alyssa was with us for 6 or so weeks and has returned to college.  So, starting this week, it is Stephanie and I holding down the fort.  If anyone wants to come out to have some fun with the fall harvest, we'd welcome the help.

We're trying to solidify winter market plans.  The debate is Saline or Ann Arbor winter market and I'm waiting to hear back from the market managers as to options.

Let us know if you have any ideas, comments or questions.

It's been quite an opportunity to be able to grow food for you all for the past 5 years.  I look forward to working with you all for many years to come.