News from the farm: June 16, 2010

What's going on at the farm?

          Hello Members!  So, that window I was talking about last week, not as wide of a transition as I expected since we actually have enough to give everyone a decent size share this week.  But, true in the sense that the summer crops, although coming on early this year, are coming on slowly.  Just a speckling of eggplant.  A tease of tomatoes.  Watermelon, well, that is exciting, but only enough for our 38 full share members.    I am hoping that next week we will have enough watermelon for our 87 half share members. 

Here is the tale of the watermelon at Elysian Fields Farm, a bit long winded, but educational.  The watermelon has two enemies here at the farm:  Phytopthera and Crows.  Both keeping the shares shy of watermelon for a couple few years now.  Returning members from years past may remember stories of something (unknown but predicted to be a groundhog) taking one big bite out of each melon RIGHT BEFORE they are ready to harvest.  So much nurturing and work would go into making a nice crop of melons only to walk out one morning and find almost all of them with a big hole in them! Ouch.  Last year we tried putting electric fencing low to the ground and zig-zagged throughout the beds to try to thwart the culprit.  It didn’t work.  We still lost our melons.  This year I learned the true culprit, Crows!  Flying down and pecking a whole in each melon.  Of course!  How to stop them…..???  We decided to cover the planting with shade cloth or row cover (a big thin blanket) right before they were almost ready to harvest and the crows would usually come.  We didn’t want to cover them too early, so that the bees could still find easy access to the flowers on the vine and pollinate them to make fruit.  Long story short, we were a little late in covering them, hard to truly read the crows minds.  We did lose some.  BUT!  Not all of them.  Then there is Phytophera, not a pest, but a disease that lives in the soil.  Like human diseases, this is a living thing in the soil that attacks the roots of certain crops.  Once introduced to your soil, it can spread and persist for years, thriving under the right conditions (wet and humid).  If you are a long time member you may remember three years ago when myself and a bunch of other local farmers bought worm castings from a local supplier to add to our potting soil mix.  Turned out these worm castings were contaminated with Phytopthera, and after transplanting our seedlings with the infected worm castings, so were our fields.  Unfortunately we didn’t realize this was going on until too late.  That year we lost so many things, and had to buy in new transplants to replace a lot of lost ones.  Fortunately we made it through the year just fine.  The Phytopthera lingers in the soil though, and every now and again we deal with some repercussions of that.  One being losing about a third of the watermelon planting this year after we received four inches of rain in one day and an inch a day after that for a week ( a few weeks ago).  The excess wetness activated the pathogen, which in turn attacked some of the roots of the watermelons plants.  Beautiful vines one day, wilting vines the next.  In anticipation of this, as we have struggled the past couple of years with this issue and this crop, we decided to grow all of our melons on Black Plastic this year, in order to have more control over the amount of water the plants receive.  Black plastic, impermeable to water, is laid over the whole bed with only small holes for the plant itself made that allow water through.  I think this is the reason we only lost a third of the planting after all the rain I previously mentioned, instead of the whole lot of it!  We also wanted to lay the plastic and control the amount of water to the soil because we have had one more problem with too much water in the past, splitting melons.  This happens when the melons are close to being ready, and we receive a heavy rainfall.  The plant drinks up so much water that the melons actually burst because they can’t hold it all in.  Radishes do the same thing.  They spontaneously combust.  Good thing that doesn’t happen to us.  Okay, hope all that wasn’t overkill but I really wanted to explain the challenges we have faced with the melons and why folks haven’t gotten a lot in the past few years, and why we are crossing our fingers for this year. 

Tomatoes!  This is the earliest they have ripened since I have been growing. Global warming???  At least there are some benefits.  As they are starting, they start off slowly, hence only a small amount for full shares this week.  We will see more though, and soon.  Not to jinx myself but the plants look great and there is a lot of fruit on them.  We didn’t really have enough this week to give any kind of substantial amount to member, we could have only been able to give like ½ a lb. to everybody (½ a tomato!) so we are bringing what little we have to market to sell.  No worries though, you will be inundated with tomatoes soon!  And as we have two plantings, once they start, you should receive them in your box till your last share in September. 

The results are in!  Summer squash is still hot it seems!  Everyone who emailed or commented at market said they love it.  Give more.  So, you got it! 

Thanks!  Elise.

What's in the box?

Full Box
Crop Amount  

Little Baby Flower Watermelon - one
Green Beans - 1.5 lb.
Summer Squash - 2 lb.
Red Cabbage - 1 small head
Onions - 1 red, 2 white
Carrots - One larger bunch
Tomato - One pint or one lb.
Jalapeño - One

Half Box
Crop Amount  

Green Beans - 1 lb.
Japanese eggplant OR cucumbers - 1 lb.
Summer Squash - 1 lb.
Red Cabbage - 1 small head
Onions - 1 white, 1 red
Carrots - 1 bunch