Notes from Our Farmers

Rain, Rain, Come Back To Us (cont.)

    We use drip irrigation tape under the plant roots that provides water where the plant needs it  and mulches cover the wet zone so weeds have difficulty growing through it.  This is the perfect year for most of these crops.   They like water and heat.   Dry leaves on these plants usually mean less disease.  Drip irrigation is a great match for these crops and that’s why you are receiving large amounts of tomatoes, peppers and melons this year.

    Overhead watering is used at Garden of Eve Farm to get water on cooler weather crops like lettuce, beets, carrots, kale, broccoli, and cabbage.  These crops prefer to grow in the cooler spring and fall.  We are planting seed and transplants now for fall harvest.   Growing and starting them requires first that transplants be started in the greenhouse until they are big enough to plant out. In the greenhouse it’s easier for us to provide water and sometimes shade in a wind, insect and disease free environment.
But once they are planted out in the field, keeping these little guys alive is a big challenge. Especially this year due to the hot and dry conditions.  The flea beetle is one of our worst enemies and this year it has been extremely bad.   Smaller than a pin head, this bug thrives in these dry conditions and its favorite food is arugula, cabbage, Kale, broccoli and turnips.   They hop around and then feed on the leaves poking holes until the leaf is completely eaten. That is why arugula, bok choi, and many others in the “brassica” plant family often have holes in the leaves when they come to you. We aren’t happy about this, but we do our best to prevent it and sometimes even that is not good enough. Some people say, the extra air from the holes in the leaves makes them low-calorie greens!
    Keeping the soil and leaves cool and wet helps but there is no organic approved spray that controls or reduces flea beetles’ population.  Covering these crops with fabric sheets called “row cover” provides a barrier if placed immediately after planting.  Finding time to manage these tasks of planting, watering, covering  and then uncovering to weed and cultivate is a challenge during time of tomato harvest.   Watering these plants requires an overhead source in our system.  This is done with aluminum pipe with sprinklers we lay by hand (they are very  heavy!) and then moved (also by hand) to the next location after 2 hours of watering. 
Preparing the fields for planting is also challenging without rain or water.  Since we use cover crops to loosen soil and build organic matter we first need to mow them down and mix it in the soil so it can decay.   If there is no rain, the micro organisms in the soil can’t do their work of breaking down the dead leaves of the cover crops we have tilled under. If the cover crop doesn’t decay, this can delay planting. Even once the field is ready to plant into, we usually try to encourage the weed seeds to germinate before we plant, so we can get rid of them.  This requires water too.
    Of  course, dry conditions are good for a few things. Dryness is good for preventing the fungal diseases that struck down so many crops last year, including the tomato blight. Some weeds grow slower without water… but some don’t!  It’s good for farmers market sales on Saturdays. That’s about it though. The bottom line is, we’re growing living things, and they need water!

Note from Our Farmers about Corn and Tomatoes

Now that we are later in the sweet corn season (which started in mid July), the earworms pick up steam and get into a larger percentage of the ears. That is just a fact of life of organic production, as contrasted with conventional farmers who are spraying highly toxic chemicals on their corn every three days or so. We have heard stories of members not taking our organic corn at the CSA distributions because they are afraid of a few small worms – this makes us sad. We work very hard to bring you super sweet corn for you to enjoy, it is  a highlight of our season and we hope it is a highlight of yours. Thanks to those of you who have sent encouraging comments on this subject. We are happy when you are happy. So this week we are going through nearly every corn ear before we distribute it, and are snapping off any affected tips, or shucking the corn entirely to make sure it is clean, and then distribute it in bags. So if you get a slightly shorter ear, or even a worm, this is why.

The heirloom tomatoes are coming in strong, with (hopefully) no sign of late blight in our area. Also, we have noticed that the sungold tomatoes don’t seem to be lasting as long as they usually do- they seem more fragile this year, crushing more easily. We are not sure why, but it may have something to do with the heat. In any case, if you get a mixed container, just wash it out at home and discard anything broken, the good ones will still be fine. Please know we don’t ever intend for you to receive anything damaged obviously, we spend hundreds of man-hours each week going through the produce, culling, and packaging it so it arrives at your CSA in good shape. However sometimes our best efforts are thwarted.

Heirloom tomatoes being harvested this week are Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Great White. These are three of our favorite varieties. Great White in particular is a little-known, low-acid, very delicious tomato. Yes they are delicate!! If you come near the end of distribution, there will be some which are damaged, split, etc. Again we do our best culling but they do get damaged en route (by each other, in the crates), that is why you can NOT buy them ANYWHERE in stores. If you get a damaged tomato, cut it up and roast it. It will be delicious!