Now that the rainy days of May are gone, and the humid, dusty days of June are here, it is really feeling like Summer. Despite the May 14th hail damage, it doesn’t appear that our tomatoes will be late. We think perhaps our switch to Vermont Compost potting soil might even be pushing them a little early. We start our earliest tomatoes in mid-February, so we don’t ever get fruit until July, and we’re not expecting any until then. But some of the cherry tomatoes have some full-size green fruit on them, so we’d better keep our eye out for color while we’re stringing them up.
In mid-February, right after my birthday, Ben gets the greenhouse started. Every Monday, he seeds a new round of flats. The flats are germinated in the house, either in a cool guest room, or in a closet we have newly outfitted with a space heater and metal shelving. Some seeds, like tomatoes, germinate best in the heat, others, like lettuce, in the cool. Once the first seed leaves show themselves, the flat gets whisked out to the greenhouse where the sun shines. We heat the greenhouse, but only barely; we want our plants to be hardened and ready for chilly spring conditions, so we only heat enough to keep the nights in the forties.
New this year, we’re trying for some fall broccoli. Even the best broccoli farmer I know says that there’s only a 70% chance of broccoli every year, but we found the space to give it a shot. Another new crop this year is celery, which we’re looking at as sort of an experiment. From what we’ve read, Virginia’s climate is borderline too hot for celery, which takes a long time to grow but prefers cooler weather and plenty of water. We made some irrigation improvements last year, and we found a space for it close to the edge of a field where it will receive some morning shade, which may help it keep cool. So if we get some celery or broccoli that we like the looks of, they will make it into our CSA share, and show up at market!
It is not to late to join our CSA! Bring the fruits of our labors into your home, and sign up now–we would love to have you!
In December, when the seed catalogues start arriving in the mail, I begin to think about the coming year’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program. Managing a CSA properly means planning for a diverse assortment of crops in each box. We don’t want to deliver a box with 10 pounds of summer squash in it and nothing else (though there are weeks when I could do that!). Of course, summer squash is one of the “anchors” of our CSA, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, so we attempt to plant and harvest continuous successions of these anchor crops. So when I peruse the seed catalogues by the woodstove, sipping my morning cup of coffee, I am searching for a few untried but promising varieties of each important crop to add variety and keep things interesting both for me and our CSA members. And every year we like to try a completely new crop. In 2018 we are excited to try our hand growing celery and black-eyed peas.
By choosing to join our CSA program, you choose to support our farm in the winter, when the most important work is mental, rather than physical. In the summer, we pay back your investment in our farm with the fruits of our physical labor. But winter is the time for mental labor, as I look over the 2017 field maps to plan the 2018 maps, deciding what the landscape of tomato stakes and bean trellises will look like. And when I am imagining the shape of the coming season, you become part of my mental landscape as well. I am motivated by the thought of you opening your box, marveling at some variety of radish you have never seen before. I love thinking about you sharing the fruits of our labor with your friends and loved ones.
Our CSA runs for 19 weeks, from June through October, and is available for pickup on Wednesdays in Charlottesville, in Lexington, and at our farm. Please visit our CSA page for more details and to sign up now!
Yesterday was Father’s Day, and it was also the summer solstice. And around here, you sure can tell. Many summer plants flowered this week; the day lillies lining our roads, the mimosas at the swimming hole, the rogue sunflowers in the middle of our fields, and the black-eyed susans, chickories and milkweeds in forgotten pastures are all capitalizing on the nearly 16 hours of sunlight. The berries are ripening; I harvested the first blueberries and raspberries this week. And we always harvest garlic near the solstice, because the bulb size peaks with the longer days.
We can’t help but feel some kind of relief on the occasion: we made it to midsummer! It feels like we’ve reached the top of the pass, and can now coast downhill. From now on, the days will grow steadily shorter, the weeds will grow steadily slower, and before we know it, the season will wrap itself up. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to do–we haven’t even started to harvest tomatoes yet!–but it is somehow reassuring to know that we’re over the hump.