This Week on the Farm 8/25
It has been grossly hot this past week. Every morning we have woken up to foggy conditions. The hot, wet conditions are ideal for plant disease development and we have been keeping a close eye on all of our crops. Powdery mildew has appeared for the first time this season in the winter squash, but it was just a matter of time before that plant disease appeared. Every season powdery mildew shows up in the summer and winter squashes. It doesn’t hurt the fruit (the part that we all eat), but it does slow production down by limiting the amount of leaf surface that is able to photosynthesize and therefore produce energy. Given how damp this season has been I am actually somewhat surprised that we haven’t seen it earlier.
We have also noticed what we think is Septoria leaf spot in the tomatoes. With this disease small brown spots first appear on the lower leaves, then the leaves yellow and dry up. The fungal spores are then spread upward by rain splashing. So in other words, the conditions we had this past week with hot, wet conditions were ideal for the spread of the pathogen. Thankfully, unlike late blight or bacterial speck/spot, this disease does not impact the tomato fruits and they remain blemish free and edible. This may impact the length of our tomato season, but we are nearing the end of August so nine more weeks of tomatoes is unlikely anyway given that we live in Wisconsin and the threat of an early frost is a real possibility.
This year we are trying to harvest the tomatoes just as they are turning red, to try to lengthen the shelf life once they are given to you. If one of the tomatoes isn’t totally ripe when you receive it, the best way to ripen it is to place it in a sunny window. Don’t store the them next to bananas, apples, or melons. These fruits give off a lot of ethylene and this chemical will ripen the tomatoes too rapidly and lead to spoilage. Also, make sure that you remove the tomatoes from any plastic containers that they may be packaged in (we have been experimenting with this to see the best way the fruit travels from the farm to your table). The plastic will trap any ethylene that they tomatoes give off and they will become overripe.
In other crop news, we were able to get all of the onions harvested last week. We harvested them into totes and then brought them back to the house and sat under the burr oak to trim the tops off. We then laid them out in bread trays and took them down to the big greenhouse to cure for a week or two. The dry conditions in the greenhouse will help dry out the top several wrappers so that the onions store well.
We can tell a big difference between last year’s onions and this year’s crop and we think a lot of that has to do with an early weeding. Ideally we would have been able to weed the onions twice this year, but the heavy rains in June pushed all of our fieldwork behind schedule, so we were only able to thoroughly weed them once. The crop would have been much more uniform had we been able to do that, but we are still very pleased with the
For those of you who signed up for an Apple Share-
Remember Apple Shares are a WEEKLY Delivery
Apple shares are delivered every week, even if you have an every other week CSA box, so don’t forget to pick up your apples! onions that we harvested. The Walla Wallas in particular did very well this season.
We have passed the halfway point in the delivery season and now is the time of year that Tyler and I like to sit down and talk about improvements that we want to make for next year. I think the largest change that we are going to make is to reduce the amount of land that we are working. Currently all of our fields are one acre sections where only one family of vegetables is grown. For example, all of the garlic and onions are in one field and all of the summer squash and melons are in another. This is wonderful for crop rotation and disease prevention, but it leaves a lot of empty space where we then have to try to control weeds.
There are multiple ways we can achieve this goal. In some cases we will plant fewer plants and focus on increased plant nutrition to maintain yields. Some crops like onions were are going to try planting at higher densities by decreasing the space between rows. We are going to pair some crops up in our plant rotation (like putting the potatoes with the onions, leeks, and garlic) to reduce empty field space.
One of the biggest reasons we want to decrease the amount of acres we work is that we will be able to afford to add soil amendments (compost or chickity doo doo) to all of the fields. We were unable to do full field applications this season because of the cost. Instead we side dressed the crops that are heavy feeders and left the rest to fend for themselves. Our fields have been worked for many, many years and are very sandy so there are very few naturally available nutrients, so being able to do a full field application will be huge.
Although reducing acreage is a large scale goal, this doesn’t mean that we are going to reduce spacing in all of our crops. We have really liked how the trellising has improved the quality of our tomato crop and we are going to increase the spacing between rows next year for all the varieties of tomatoes. We ran out of space this year in the tomato field and ended up having to alternate trellised rows with untrellised rows. Next year the tomatoes may end up in a field to themselves so that we can have six feet between rows. This should help keep the plants healthy by increasing the airflow around the plants to help dry them out every morning. It will also make harvesting easier.This year it is very difficult to harvest one row without accidentally standing on/brushing up against a plant from another row.
Another change that we are going to make is to try planting sweet corn in the greenhouse and then transplanting it outside. This season we weren’t able to get the sweet corn in until late because the cool spring prevented the soil from warming up quickly and then flooding issues prevented us from getting into the field once the soil temps were finally warm enough. By the time the field dried out enough to be worked and we got the seed in, it didn’t rain for two and a half weeks. This lead to really uneven germination. By seeding the plants in the greenhouse we will be able to plant them earlier (ideal soil temperatures for untreated sweet corn is 85ºF ), and there will be more even germination which should mean a more uniform crop in the field. Sadly, until then, you are going to have to buy sweet corn from a different farmer this year.