Tomatoes

 Strawberries under cover. I almost removed their blanket a week ago, but we had three 20F mornings in a row, so we'll wait a little longer. Assuming all goes well, I would expect the earliest to fruit around May 1st.

Strawberries under cover. I almost removed their blanket a week ago, but we had three 20F mornings in a row, so we'll wait a little longer. Assuming all goes well, I would expect the earliest to fruit around May 1st.

2018 Week 11, Winter CSA Pickup 8 of 13

Here's a big, "Hip, Hip," to seeding the year's first tomatoes. Per Craig LeHoullier's newish book, Epic Tomatoes, rather than 20-row trough trays -- which give 20 varieties per tray -- this year each variety went en masse into their own cell in a 50-cell tray. With 50 varieties -- 25 Cherries, 25 Earlies -- it gives just one tray to cover and keep warm while we watch for germination. It also, we hope, means a clean and ordered movement into the field over the next month, because when I or you bite into a most amazing tomato, let's make sure we know which one it is! Regarding time: 1 week to germination + 5 weeks to transplant + 10 weeks to earliest maturation in summer + a few weeks for slower spring growth = 16+ weeks = 4+ months = an early-to-mid-July harvest, if all goes well.

The sunroot (Jerusalem artichoke) grew a little taller than I expected, at 15 feet, so I am moving them out of the orchard. I dug several hundred pounds over a couple afternoons last week. They have had the winter to convert their inulin to a more digestible starch, and are currently at their best. I like to think of them like water chestnuts -- crunchy, but otherwise un-flavored -- and so use them accordingly. Cooking too much makes them soft, but is otherwise a fine way to prepare them, too. Do have a go.

Some farm/farmer notes: We are just a couple weeks from spring, and so have had the winter to watch how the cover crops faired in their different roles. For all this past talk of tomatoes, cover crops are my favorite to grow. Some pictures to follow, but a few upshots:

  • Rot A, Clean. With a new scheme, rotation A has more relay cropping -- one crop out, the next crop in -- and so can't take any cover. This does, however, make a relatively easy movement into Rot B.
  • Rot B, Staple beans. I removed 'the goonies' -- the funny rotation of staples below the old 35-bed fields of annuals -- and made a simpler 5 x 45-bed rotation scheme. Moving things around, this means 4 fields of veggies and a new field / staple rotation of beans, corn, and possibly oats -- principally for garlic and strawberry straw. This rotation was previously a traditional bare-ground start, and will still be, but will add the zone two-row's red clover early in the growth of the corn and beans. Due to the nature of the crops that follow the next year -- big seeds or transplants -- a late fall flail mowing should be all we need in preparation. If we were were tractor-less, a scythe and rake would also do, and I can experiment with both that and the timing, just in-case a late-fall cutting of clover reduces its winter hardiness.
  • Rot C, Zone two-row. The zone two-row worked better than expected, with the middle red clover naturally making it through, and the edges of berseem clover and spring barley growing well in the fall, but dying over the winter, as hoped. I did scythe the barley in fall for fear of mature seed. I will also need to find a better way to keep the red clover in its zone, as wheel hoeing through their impressive taproots would be nice to design out of the equation in coming springs.
  • Rot D, overwintering in-situ mulch. The zone 7 winter-hardy trials -- Lana / woollypod vetch and winter barley -- did not make it past the -5F low on the farm (and perhaps some of the 0F nights). We will go with the more standard cereal rye & vetch components next year, but likely keep the crimson clover and possibly Austrian winter pea additions. We also need to seed a little later in the year, or otherwise irrigate to assure a quality stand.
  • Rot E, last summer in-situ mulch. Last year's soybean & German/foxtail millet did not degrade all that much over the winter, but some perennials and cool-season annuals were starting to make their way through, with much wild garlic/onion in some places. The mulch rakes out easily, and wheel-hoes thereafter, but likely does not make a fine-enough seedbed for small seeds -- early carrots, radishes, spinach, etc.. It either needs tillage, less clay, more soil friability, or possibly less soil moisture at time of wheel-hoeing to keep from essentially making accordions of a weak sod. In the future I will be using Japanese (rather than German) millet for an earlier seeding -- 12 weeks after last frost is the new earliest transplanting date in this rotation, with 10-11 weeks of soybean&millet growth to mechanical killing -- and, in the quest for less tractor time, see about wheel hoeing well in advance of seeding the smaller seeds.

    Also due to the increase in rotation size, I have added 16 beds of winter spinach to the end of this patch. The experiment next year will be tunnel-less but otherwise covered -- and uncovered -- spinach for the winter.

See you on the farm,
Austin

PS: I will be grabbing some spinach this Tuesday. See the above note for the implicit apology for this year's trial spinach.

Greens
Spinach, to some extent

Veggies
Dry Beans
   - Carolina Crowder
   - Kenearly Yellow Eye
   - Kebarika
   - Midnight Black Turtle
   - Quincy Pinto
Popcorn - Cherokee Long
Winter Squash
  - Long Island Cheese
  - Seminole

Roots
Beets
Carrots
Celeriac
Kohlrabi
Onion
Parsnip
Potato
Sunroot
Sweet Potato
Radish, Winter
Rutabaga
Turnip, Winter

Medicinal Roots
Ashwagandha
Burdock / Gobo

Culinary Herbs
Cilantro
Garlic
Hot Pepper

Tea Herbs
Anise Hyssop
Basil, Italian
Catmint
Chocolate Mint
Lemon Balm
Lemongrass
Peppermint
Shiso
Spearmint
Sunset Hyssop
Thai Sweet Basil / Horapa
Tulsi / Holy Basil

 Overwintering In-Situ Mulch test #1: Wollypod Vetch, Winter Barley, and Crimson Clover. A cold Zone 7 winter, so only the clover made it through, as the muck of old vetch shows. Good to know.

Overwintering In-Situ Mulch test #1: Wollypod Vetch, Winter Barley, and Crimson Clover. A cold Zone 7 winter, so only the clover made it through, as the muck of old vetch shows. Good to know.

 Overwintering In-Situ Mulch test #2: Hairy Vetch, Cereal Rye, Crimson Clover. Not the best photo, but all made it through, as one would expect. Although this patch is thin, the rest of the field looks better, and will form a roll- or scythe-down mulch come summer.

Overwintering In-Situ Mulch test #2: Hairy Vetch, Cereal Rye, Crimson Clover. Not the best photo, but all made it through, as one would expect. Although this patch is thin, the rest of the field looks better, and will form a roll- or scythe-down mulch come summer.

Rotation for easier viewing.

 The end-of-the-day meandering is always pretty, but now it's getting brighter.

The end-of-the-day meandering is always pretty, but now it's getting brighter.