Into the home stretch

I can’t believe how busy this summer has been! I completely missed both July and August for blog posting because there just wasn’t any time to sit down for a moment to collect my thoughts. Reading the previous post, I realize how much has happened since then. First off, the weather did an about face and became hot and dry, almost drought-like at times. The irrigation drip lines were rolled out and used to make sure plants wouldn’t die off during a 3 week stretch with no rain. But all that heat paid off in tons of summer squash! In our peak production weeks, Jeremy and I hauled over 400 lbs of them off the field each week. In multiple trips of course…even with both of us pulling the cart, 150-200 lbs were a struggle!

The hot, dry weather was also good for making sure the tomato plants didn’t get blight. Instead, the tomato horn worm hit, which meant some unwelcome worm picking for me (uggh…absolutely hate the tomato horn worm!) and feasting for the chickens ;P The potato plants were also hit with potato beetle, which meant picking off potato beetle larva…yet another unwelcome task. I’m really not a bug person, so manual pest control is not something I look forward to, but it’s definitely high on the farm priority list.

In late June/early July, after all the tomato, pepper, hot pepper, eggplant, cucumber, summer squash, winter squash transplants and sweet potato slips were finally transplanted into the field, I was nearly overwhelmed mentally looking at all the weeding that needed to get done. Two acres of vegetables to weed, even with two people, looked like a lot more than what I had to weed on my own in previous years. Thankfully, some farmer friends came to the rescue and on the first Saturday in July, four of us hit the field with wheel hoes and regular hoes and took down the weeds between plants for about 1/3 of an acre. At the same time, Jeremy hooked up the hiller attachment on the rototiller and hilled all 8 beds of potato plants. Jeremy got a bit heat stroked from all that activity in the heat, and I’m not sure how the rest of us avoided the same.

We celebrated our weeding/hilling achievements (and my birthday!) with some great organic, biodynamic red wine from Tawse Winery and the Fellowship cheese wheel from the cheesemaking workshop I went to at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. back in April. Absolutely delicious!

The carrots and beets have also done really well this season, tasting amazing and growing so much bigger than in my previous two years. When I fork up the carrots, I’m always amazed by how long and big they’ve grown given how hard and compacted the soil is under the top few inches. Gardening experts always say that carrots won’t do well under such conditions, so I’m thankful that my carrots chose to ignore all that.

The one crop family that seems to be a consistent failure in my field this year is brassicas. This includes bok choy, cabbages, turnips, broccoli and brussel sprouts. There are a number of possible reasons for this ranging from the extremes in weather (too cold and wet to too hot and dry) to pests (flea beetle and swede midge) and most likely, to deficiencies in trace elements in the soil (to be addressed over the years with the addition of compost and building up of organic matter). I did get one harvest of bok choy early in the season, and the fall planting of bok choy seems to have germinated well, so we’ll see if there will be some to harvest before the season’s over! Otherwise, many of my clients have been very happy that both turnips and brussel sprouts haven’t turned out ;P

Of the first time crops this year, the most resounding success has been edamame! Specifically, the Beer Friend variety that I bought from William Dam Seeds. It was a pleasure to watch the soy plants grow, from their fresh leafy stems, to their tiny, delicate flowers to the pods, fuzzy enough to pet! And it was amazing to sit down to a bowl of freshly boiled and salted pods with a beer 🙂 I’m definitely growing edamame again next year!

There’s still lots to do this season, especially if the fall stays warm. Last night was the coldest night with a definite risk of frost, which didn’t happen (thank goodness!), so there will still be tomatoes and summer squash for a bit. And the fall crops need to get harvested, like the potatoes (Purple Viking and Russian Blue are already in, next are the fingerlings!), winter squash and pumpkins.

If things ever slow down, I’m going to tackle the leeks and onions which haven’t gotten weeded at all this season and are completely lost in brome grass right now. I’m hoping they will be early leeks and onions for next season at this point ;P

This is the story of my journey into sustainable agriculture. From the streets of downtown Toronto, to the farm land of southern Ontario, I hope to discover the techniques and practices that work for me in both mind and heart.

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