What’s Happening on the Farm — July

What’s Happening on the Farm — July

  • posted on: July 7, 2014
  • posted by: 21 Acres
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Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July weekend. This is Farm Update #3 – what’s happening on the farm since the last update in June.

Summer is here! The growing season is in full swing and we’ve been very busy on the farm.  Crops are generally growing in our favor except that we lost a little bit of the first and second crop of carrots and beets due to the heat wave in June and the soil issue in early spring – the ground got too wet/cold (Field 2) where they were planted.  We are still behind with weeding, which is not unusual, but most crops are winning against the odds on their own. It’s actually impressive to see their strength to grow out of weeds, indeed. For example, we didn’t have much chance to weed beans this season, but mini-tilling between the rows; and yet, all the beans have been strongly competing against the weeds and vibrantly growing….are they “magic beans?” It’s sort of like a testimony of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story really.

Have you seen/tasted our new variety Burgundy beans yet? They are gorgeous and sweet! Onions and leeks are still partially buried under thick and deep waves of weeds, but thanks to the Secondary Academy of Success (SAS) volunteer program and our new volunteers/interns helping, we are gradually beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel….or is it merely my wishful thinking, maybe?  As the summer moves on, we continue to prioritize what needs to be done first and most accordingly among weeding, harvesting, planting and other tasks.  

The good news is the season’s most time consuming/large quantity planting items such as onions, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, corn, summer/winter squash and pumpkins are all done. Seedling production in the greenhouse has already slowed down quite a bit, and we continue to seed basic things like lettuce, herbs and greens on a regular basis along with direct seeding of carrots/beets/radishes in the field.  From now on, our focus begins to shift more to harvesting, weeding and watering as well as paying attention to pest and disease control/management….yes, it’s about that time when our “enemies” also start to become active and thrive due to the weather (warmth and humidity). Cleaning up harvested beds and rotating crops for planting in succession as well as planning on summer cover crop (buck wheat) in fallowed/finished production areas are to take place during this mid-season in order to maintain soil tilth. Also, it’s time to start to organize the season’s operation data for WSDA’s Organic Certification annual inspection.  So, the things to be looked after never end on the farm and keep us busy non-stop.

Second crop of greens (chard, spinach, kale, komatsuna, mizuna, etc.) are looking great and much better than the first crop. Summer squash is about to “explode” soon in volume thanks to summer’s arrival….we’ll do our best to harvest timely before they grow too big. By the way, jumbo zucchinis are great for making zucchini bread and other dishes like casseroles, BBQ, roasting, etc.  I often notice Russians and Polish people specifically look for such big zucchinis at farmers market. They know all the good recipes and how to use such a staple, economical and nutritious food while most people may not even bother….ah, such a waste of food!

We have a new variety “Segev” with good tolerance to powdery mildew.  Segev is known as Lebanese summer squash and is a light green summer squash producing late into season when other varieties slow down. Corn is finally catching up and is about two feet tall now. In fact, it made me worry a bit because corn plants were just sitting there without much growth for a few weeks after being transplanted in the field, good grief!  Tomatoes and peppers are steadily forming fruits and yet green, waiting to ripen just a matter of time.

We are hoping to see a lot of heirlooms and saucy Roma tomatoes this season, also introducing exotic Indigo Rose – black/purple tomato! Lettuce doesn’t like much summer’s heat and tends to bolt fast and have tip burns, but we have some bolt and tip burn resistant varieties of lettuce like Jericho Romaine, so let’s see how they perform during the warm summer months.  Carrots and beets are finally looking good and we should be able to pick them every week from now on. Peas (snow and snap peas) are almost done for the season, and shell peas are coming up. Fava beans are gorgeous and ready for harvest, and soy beans are probably still a few weeks away. We just finished weeding the flower/herb garden, which should give a good boost for herbs and flowers to grow better now.  Tarragon and chervil are our new herb members.  Cucumber and pepper plants look healthier than ever before and abundance is on the way.

Irrigation…..summer is also the time of high demand of water use. We do our best to manage our precious water resource and make an effort to conserve.  We combine drip irrigation, sprinklers and hand labor to water. We also schedule to irrigate certain crops (tomatoes/peppers/cukes) during night time just once a week instead of daytime so that our water use will not compete much with other gardeners since we all share the same water source.

Education programs and farm tours….we’ve been assisting some of farm tours and education programs more frequently than previous years as part of the farm’s new objectives responding to the needs of 21 Acres this year.  Not only for the annual SAS program and farm tours of UW Bothell’s classes, but also for chefs farm tours/cooking classes and kids summer camps, we make an effort to help according to their request as much as we can.

Bird feeders and wild birds….wow, have you noticed there may be more wild birds gathering/residing on the farm now?  Come and listen to wild birds calling and singing.  It may make you feel like strolling into a tropical forest with all those birds calling and singing, often very loud. I believe those bird feeders set up in many areas on the farm are working effectively, attracting wild birds, which was our intention and plan so that they might become a nature’s way of mobbing and driving away crows.  Some of the wild birds often sighted on the farm are very pretty – Goldfinch (wild canary) is one of them.

Tomato pruning instructional video…..we are in the process of making a short/simple instructional video on how to prune tomato plants. We’ll send you a copy when it’s done, hopefully soon.  Home grown tomatoes are the best as you know it, and pruning tomato plants can help tomato plants for better yield and disease control, which some gardeners may not know about.

Story of weeds…..as I mentioned earlier, we have tons of weeds growing in the field.  Interestingly, many of them are edible such as Amaranth (also known as Chinese spinach), Lambs Quarter (also known as Quelites in Spanish), Purslane (high in Omega-3), Chickweed (good for salad), Plantain (wound healing/inflammation), Burdock (detox) and so on. They are all wild, edible and highly nutritious and also medicinal.  You are most welcome to harvest them as much as you want = help us weed and take some home….they are all FREE and guess what? — They are also certified organic!

That’s a wrap for now. Enjoy the summer….and eat the sunshine via summer’s good food!

Farmer John