The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Garlic

Hello,
Remember a few weeks ago when I put out an emergency call to help with garlic harvesting?  I was shocked at how suddenly it matured.  Now I know why.  We have a Leek Moth infestation.  This insect came into this part of the province for the first time last year, and effected our farm by damaging almost 100% of the garlic scapes.  The bulbs didn’t seem effected.  This year, the scapes were beautiful, so I thought maybe the moth was not going to be an issue… however it now has shown up as effecting the bulbs!  This is a serious problem for the garlic.  About a quarter of the crop has already rotted (that’s the “Ugly”), and another third is showing signs of damage and will not store (that’s the “Bad”).  The rest is “Good” at this point, but will likely need to be held on to for planting next year’s crop in October.  The “Bad” is usable now, and I will be giving it out “Free Choice” for as long as it’s okay.  You can preserve garlic by simply peeling it and freezing it in bags.  You can also dry it. Unfortunately this looks like it will be the only way to have garlic from the farm this season.  I’ve been looking into options on dealing with this moth, and will be trying them out over the next years.

Cory

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Next CSA payments

It’s August and after a late and slow start, the summer bounty is finally coming on.  Crops are looking promising for fall and winter as well.  I will begin accepting Winter CSA members in September, but wanted to remind folks who have given an initial payment for the main season, now is a good time to make another payment.  Contact me to make arrangements if you haven’t already.  Thank you!

Sand, Silt, Clay and Nature’s Calendar

The question on every CSA member’s mind is “When are we starting up?” For those who don’t want to read further here’s my abridged thoughts: as this has been the latest spring in my 23 seasons of growing, my conservative guess is the first CSA pick-up will be Tuesday July 9.  There is a chance that it will be a week earlier, so keep checking these posts as I might have to change the day. The first Farm Market Friday will either be July 5 or July 12.  Keep posted.

“Why so late? And why is it so hard for you to predict the first pick up?” You may ask.  The lateness comes from a combination of the cool wet conditions this spring (where the days that were not raining it was too cool for the soil to dry), and the degree of clay in the farm’s soil. Soil Texture refers to the size of the silica particles in the soil, and is categorized as either sand, silt, or clay.  Almost all soils are a combination of these three, and the better agricultural soils are the loams, which have a workable percentage of each.  Almost all the large scale vegetable growing locations have a sandy loam, with few to no stones.  These soils are more forgiving if you work them a bit wet, are easy to plant into (this is done mechanically for the majority of agriculture), and are heavily reliant on irrigation.  At the Saugeen River CSA, we have a silty clay loam, or a clayey silt loam, depending on where you are on the farm (this can even vary within one field), and plenty of stones!  This means the planting conditions can vary between the beautiful texture of cake, which can make planting such a pleasure and the crops love it; and the texture of bricks, which make planting horrendous and causes the crops to struggle.  Whether it is one way or the other is entirely up to me working the ground at the right time based on the moisture content of the soil and the following weather conditions.  If I work the ground when it is too wet and the weather turns dry, we have the brick conditions. This is what happened last year to the extreme where the late spring turned into the hottest driest conditions making it the worst brick planting.  If I work the ground a bit wet, but then we get some wet weather and I’m able to do a follow up cultivation as it is drying (and this window can be a matter of a few hours only!), we can have the beautiful cake like texture.
So we are running late this year because I had to wait for the soil to dry enough to work. I didn’t get the early things in the ground until the third week of May. The average over the years for planting these early crops is usually the end of April.  In the past, if I didn’t do it until early May, it felt late.  It seems the later springs are becoming more common.  The way to overcome this I think is to go in the direction of some sort of movable greenhouse, which I am looking into for next year.
So, that’s for why it is late, but why is it so hard to predict the first pick-up?  Well, although the calendar on the wall says it is the third week of June, nature outside has its own calendar.  What I’ve noticed this year is that even though my activities were later than normal, nature has been too.  I am usually planting onions early to mid May.  This is typically peak black fly season.  I know because the flats that I do the onions in are designed in such a way that as I’m holding them for planting they have little nooks that the black flies love, and my arms are usually bloody from all the bites.  Well even though I didn’t get to planting the onions until the end of May, sure enough it felt like the right time as the black flies were at their peak!  Another noticeable difference is the grass pollen.  I have a bit of hay fever, and usually the grasses are in full pollen mode the first week of June, when I’m trying to get all the frost sensitive crops out.  Well this year its only now, the third week of June when the pollen is at its peak.
The picture you see in this post is of the first lettuce and scallions, which is usually part of the first harvest.  They look good, but are still on the small side.  As the solstice approaches (this week) things normally jump forward, but that’s usually after they’ve been in the ground longer.  Since lettuce and scallions can be harvested at the small stage I usually use the garlic scapes as a gauge to tell when the first pick-up will be, which is usually closer to the third week in June (now!).  But the scapes aren’t showing any signs of starting yet (although the garlic looks good).  Since the window for harvesting the scapes is narrow, are they going to be ready in two weeks, in one week, in three weeks?  I don’t know with these strange patterns… that’s why it’s hard for me to predict.

It will be soon no matter what… just keep posted!

May Greenhouse Seedings and the Nature of the Beast

Here are the planned May greenhouse seedings that you are welcome to join:

May 4: Cucumbers and squash
10: lettuce, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi
16: rutabaga, zucchini
20: lettuce, fennel
28: radicchio, lettuce
31: cucumber

The “Nature of the Beast” is referring to the weather, of course.  I wanted to give you a picture of how this year is stacking up compared to others.  In my 23 springs growing the CSA in West Grey the earliest one was in 2011, when March saw many days in the 30 degree range.  I was able to start preparing the fields at the beginning of April.  By Mid April many of the early crops were seeded and transplanted outside in beds.  That year turned into a cooler and wetter than normal year.  The latest spring I’ve experienced was last year, 2018, when I couldn’t start preparing soil until May 10, after snow covered the ground most of April. This turned into the hottest and driest in my experience.  Even though there was about a month difference in this schedule, in both of these extreme years, the first harvest came only a week apart: the earliest spring harvest began the third week in June, and the latest spring harvest began the end of June.  There has been a trend, I would say, over the past ten years of springs generally being later than the average was for the ten years before.  If you have a small home garden, where you do everything by hand, you can get on the soil way earlier than I can with equipment.  Even though the season is likely to shift into summer like weather very soon, crops don’t instantly become ready… I’m still looking at a third week of June or so start… be patient.

New Year! Sign up for a share or get a “Pre-Paid Card”!

Happy New Year!

I am immersed in the seed ordering for this coming season, so am making plans for a great year to come!  Several changes have been made and are in progress to improve the management and production of the farm, and meet the needs of the community. CSA shares are still available at the farm on Tuesdays, as in previous years, in small, medium and large weekly and biweekly sizes.  New will be an on farm market Friday afternoons from Canada Day weekend to Thanksgiving.  This will be open to the public.  I know the CSA does not work for everyone, every year, but many people are still interested in connecting to the farm.  So new this year, I am offering pre-paid cards for farm products in $50 and $100 options.  This will allow you to come to the Friday market when you can and purchase what you would like, making a commitment to the farm, but with more flexibility.
Signing up for a CSA share now, or purchasing a pre-paid card now, helps cover the costs of seeds and spring start up greenhouse expenses.  Please contact me to make arrangements, or if you have any questions.
Cory