Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Week of July 25 2011 : Market

Here is a photo of our new location at the Lake Metroparks Farmers Market. Wow. This photo was taken towards the close of market. We sold out of everything except cucumbers and summer squash.

The market is still located at the Farm Park, however, has moved from the gravel parking lot to the paved entrance to the main building. The transportation and unloading logistics are a bit more complicated since there is no room for trucks or trailers. But that is a good trade for increased foot traffic and pleasant landscaping.

Notice the green umbrella. My beloved pop up canopy fell victim to high winds. Last weekend we set the canopy to practice our setup. We should have practiced our breakdown too. Later that afternoon, I noticed dark clouds and high winds rolling in. After I removed the anchor weights but before I could collapse the canopy, the wind gusted.

The good news is I was able to hold on. The bad news is I landed 50' feet away. The rest of the bad news was the tent collapsed itself. Permanently.

With three days to market it was time to scramble. And scramble we did. Now notice the cinder block counter weights. Those were deposited in the river courtesy of the spring time floods. This incident was an example of translating nothing into the solution of a major problem.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week of July 18 2011 : Squash

Here is a photo of winter squash. Blue Ballet mini hubbards are on the right and Vegetable Spaghetti are on the left. For perspective, the sweet corn on the right is 7' tall. These are some monster plants. And the New England Hubbards (not picare even larger.

Growing large plants are very different than small plants. Seeds and rows are spaced much further apart. Large vining squash seeds are spaced as much as 3' apart and rows are spaced 6' apart. It's hard on the mind's eye to see one seed growing into a plant consuming so much space. But it does in a shockingly short amount of time too.

Another difference is tolerance to insects and weeds. It seems insects, particularly cucumber beetles, are attracted to squash more so than any other crop. In fact hubbards are grown as trap crops for more profitable cash crops. Control is necessary particularly while establishing the field. Fortunately many organic insecticides are available. The catch though is these controls require direct contact with the target pest and cucumber beetles are active at night.

Weed control is necessary but less urgent than with smaller seeded crops. After primary tillage in the spring, the first flush of weeds quickly invades the field. Squash are planted later in the season, after these eager weeds are destroyed with light cultivation. Once the squash are established, they easily shade out any later emerging weeds.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Week of July 11 2011 : Sweet

Here is a photo of a frog on tasseling sweet corn. I am still amazed at the little creatures that congregate around the micro ecosystems of the farm. Some are good, some are bad but interactions between the plants and creatures are complex and fascinating.

Experienced growers can understand soil profiles by monitoring weeds. Growers can also learn a lot by looking for clues offered by the bug populations. I understand how to interpret the various beetles and caterpillars but still not sure how to interpret frogs' presence. At least its evidence the fields are nasty-cide free.

The sweet corn is really growing well this year. Planting was late but emergence was nearly 100%. There is sufficient mid summer moisture to minimize plant stress and ensure good kernel set. The night time temperatures have been consistently over 70 degrees so the ears are maturing very quickly.

The first stand is past the silking phase; pollen shed is complete and the silks are browning. The second stand is beginning pollen shed. The remainder of the stands appear to be exactly one week behind each other. Looks like maturity schedule was perfectly planned. OK, I admit, luck has a little influence too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Week of July 4 2011 : Victory (?)

Here is a photo I am particularly proud to share. It is a few rows of peppers. For me though it represents several victories.

First, I accepted that I need to trellis peppers. Pepper plants are brittle and stalks will snap under average fruit load. Late summer thunderstorms hasten the destruction. Here the stakes are set every third plant and sandwiched between two strands of twine. I think this is called the San Diego string type trellis.

Next, I accepted that black plastic mulch is not sufficient weed control. Holes need to be cut in the mulch to set the transplants. I am not a surgeon ... so the holes are larger than necessary which promotes weed growth. This year I mulched the plants with leaf humus to prevent the opportunistic weeds.

Finally, I am actually using the irrigation / fertigation system. Rather than turning on irrigation when the plants begin to droop, I planned out an irrigation and nutrition strategy. The result is the plants have a lot more vegetative growth and almost no fruit lost to blossom end rot. Green plants look nicer in the field, sure, but the benefit is the leaves shade the fruits and reduce sun scald.

I wont declare victory yet but the peppers are poised for their best finish ever.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Week of June 27 2011 : Scouts (plural)

Here is a photo of Nathaniel and Frances scouting the green beans. On this day last year, we had one scout. The next day our second scout was born. To celebrate her first birthday, she put on her best crawl and scooted out to the fields.

Nathaniel planted his very own green beans. Each night when I get home from work, he is waiting in the drive way for me. Then we walk to his beans and work the patch together.

Now that Frances is mobile, she too shares in the fun. This is special for many reasons ... one of which is this is the only thing he shares with her.