Sunday, October 16, 2011

Update from the Field

Finally we are beginning to feel the effects of summer winding down and the fall kicking in. Last Thursday we seeded our last planting in the field: an experimental, late planting of fast germinating radishes. Every year it’s a gamble when the first frost will be, and thus we play around with when the last radishes and the last baby greens can go in, two of our fastest growing crops. While some farmers I’ve spoken with are hoping for an early frost to take care of all the disease and pests that are having a field day with all the rain we have had, I am hoping for a late frost. Many of our fall crops got in the ground late because of the rain and so I want them to have as much growing time as possible to size up. Be prepared for a plethora of miniature crops in November! Now with the field plantings finished, we are focusing our energy toward the hoop houses and cover cropping. This is the first year we have had three hoop houses (the plastic greenhouse-like structures in our field) in production and I am excited about having more winter growing space. One hoop house will be dedicated to baby greens (arugula, pea shoots, spinach, lettuce mix and mesclun mix), one will be dedicated to cooking greens (collards, kale, chard, and maybe some mustards if I have room), and one will be bok choi, tat soi, scallions, radishes, hons tsai tai, lettuce and turnips. Two of our hoop houses are still missing their plastic coverings, so we have our work cut out for us in the next few weeks. These crops will be for winter sales at farmers markets and to Weaves Way Co-op.
Cover cropping is a satisfying project that I look forward to. It is the act of deeming a bed completely finished for the season, and giving it the attention it needs to be covered for the winter and full of organic matter for the spring. Cover cropping means planting a crop in an empty bed that will not be harvested but cut and returned to the soil. This prevents undesirable weeds from growing, protects the soil from erosion and nutrient-leaching over the winter, and it also adds necessary, replenishing organic matter to the soil in the spring. We typically use rye, oats, vetch, field peas and clover for cover cropping. The act of cover cropping is simple as the seed is broadcast (scattered) on the bed and gently raked in. You don’t need to pay attention to specific spacing or narrow windows of planting times.
The early setting of the sun necessitates a less ambition plan for the day, now that we have to start cleaning up and putting away tools at 6:30pm. You’ll see me hanging around the end of the pick-up more as it becomes too dark to work in the field. It’s a great time of year to start drafting the winter list of things to do, which feels like a welcomed agenda of luxurious items that can’t be tended to during the growing season. It’s also a time to start day dreaming about winter time off and how to spend that vacation time. Perhaps a bike trip in a warmer climate? Or reading in front of the fire at my parents’ house in Vermont. Although who am I kidding? If I go on a bike trip, I’ll probably visit other farms, and chances are I’ll be reading seed catalogues in front of the fire!

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