Hello all, it’s been a while since I’ve written a good old-fashioned farm update, and I promised one in my last newsletter, so here we go. Brace yourself—it’s going to be a long one! Read on for details about tomatoes, basil, green beans, eggplants, and raspberries. There’s also info about some upcoming volunteer and work for share opportunities involving the PYO flower garden and Children’s Garden, as well as our frustration with groundhogs.
Hazy, hot and humid
As you all know, it’s been super HOT. And sooo HUMID! After first a cool, and then droughty, start to the season, we’ve been lucky to have substantial rainfall in advance of most the extreme, endless feeling, hot spells we’ve been experiencing.
Plants (and weeds!) grow in leaps and bounds when we get this kind of weather, but the incredibly high levels of humidity also encourage leaf-borne disease in tomatoes and some other crops. We are definitely seeing some funky stuff emerge in our tomato field that we’ve never seen before. Otherwise, they are growing tall and are starting to ripen rapidly. I’m hoping that they’ll out-ripen the disease, because we have some really beautiful fruit on those plants.
Meanwhile, despite the benefits to plant growth, this kind of weather makes humans wilty and tired. Thanks to everyone for your kind words and your popsicle deliveries these past few weeks–it’s meant a lot.
The tragedy of basil
The tragedy of basil is that it is often plentiful right up until the tomatoes begin to emerge, and then they are struck with a relatively new disease called Basil Downy Mildew. This disease was non-existent in the Northeast until about 10 years ago. Now, as Vegetable MD Online notes, “it appears to be here to stay. It was first reported in south FL in October 2007. In 2008 downy mildew was confirmed in both field- and greenhouse-grown basil crops, as well as home gardens, in many states: NC, PA, NJ, NY, MA, NC, KS, and MO. Likely it occurred elsewhere but was not recognized.”
Basil Downey Mildew damages the leaves and makes them unmarketable, and it happens rapidly. Pick what you can from the PYO gardens, and make those basil-mozzerella-tomato salads!
Flower garden and Children’s Garden “oops”date
We’ve been successful with new programs and offerings this year, but some of you may have noticed that our pick-your-own flower garden and Children’s Garden aren’t looking so hot. I have explanations and a couple of requests.
We’re in the process of redesigning the PYO flower garden, and we are hoping to put in the work to make permanent beds (similar to the herb garden) that are beautiful and don’t need to be retilled every season. This takes an immense amount of work up front, but requires less work later.
We never got to the second half of the flower garden because we hit a bottle neck with staffing and time (and it was droughty, so we were putting lots of work into irrigating). But I think we can knock it out, and be prepared for a strong start next season, if we get a large group of folks together and focus on building the flower garden for next season. If this is something you’d be interested in doing one Saturday morning, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you are interested in managing the flower garden (with lots of guidance!) in exchange for a share next season, please email me.
The Children’s Garden had a refresh and clean up day early in the season, but then we lost control over it after we had two inches of rain and then our first heat wave back in July. The weeds took it over big time! It might be a lost cause this season, but we are looking for someone who might be interested managing it (again, with lots of guidance!) in exchange for a share next season. Please reach out if you are interested in learning more.
Eggplant flower drop
Our eggplant plants are looking better than any I’ve grown at Stearns–up to my hip and higher, in some cases—but they are mostly without eggplants. Eggplant are the most sensitive nightshades when it comes to Blossom Drop. Blossom Drop is exactly what is sounds like; the flowers fall off of the plants and the plants remain fruitless. It can be caused by many things, but it’s most likely the result of our two most extreme heat waves (temps over 95°F for extended periods of time.) In texting around to find out if anyone had eggplant we could buy in until ours produces, I found out that we are not alone in our eggplantless suffering, which of course brought me a strange kind of comfort.
We have been blessed with an oddly insect pest-free season, with one exception: Mexican bean beetles on our string beans. With the help of a woodchuck, these beetles destroyed our first planting, and now they are on our second planting. I plan to treat the plants for them, but they are known for being tricky to eradicate, especially when it’s so wet and our organic pesticides get washed off. Wish me luck!
With our tiny farm surrounded on three sides with lush tree lines and thickets, it won’t surprise you to know that we’ve been struggling with woodchucks big time this season. They are attacking us from all sides! I’m pretty sure there are three families chomping on our crops.
We’ve tried setting Hav-a-hart traps, and a couple of other things, but to no avail. And neither Ember nor myself own or are handy with a rifle. Do you have any woodchuck eradication tips or tricks? Do you want to help us get rid of ours?
We are BERRY EXCITED about raspberries!
Our raspberries are looking amazing this season, and should be plentiful. I anticipate that they will be ready to pick in 2-3 weeks? Look for announcements in the weekly pick list.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, all. Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts, or are interested in helping out with any of the opportunities mentioned above.