In Your Share This Week
- Joi Choi
- Scallions, Shimonita
Broccoli: We’ve been waiting for our second wave of broccoli to ripen, and I think the more closely we watch it the more it decides to stall out. We have also noticed that the plants appear a little unhappy due to weeds and pests (we made the decision to forego one final weeding, with the thought that the broad leaves of the broccoli plants would smother out any potential weed competition that popped up, but some very vigorous weeds are proving us wrong) Nonetheless, we did find some broccoli for this week- you may or may not see it in the share next week depending on how the crowns mature over the rest of this week. Its always an adventure with farming!
Carrots: This week we have continued harvesting our first crop of carrots for the season out of our greenhouse- but now without the greens. When harvested this way, carrots can store for a very long time…not that you’d need to- these are some of the best tasting carrots I think I’ve ever tasted. Store your carrots in a plastic bag or a tupperware in the fridge to help them retain their fresh, juicy crunch.
Joi Choi: This is farewell to Joi Choi for the season. It loves the cooler weather in the spring and beginning of summer but struggles greatly in the heat of summer, so we enjoy it while it lasts at the beginning of the season and then say farewell ’till the Fall. We generally do another round of Joi Choi in September, so look for it again then!
Scallions, Shimonita: As promised, here are the Shimonita scallions. These amazing scallions are well-known in Japan, but less common in America. They can grow to the size of a leek and have a nice, long harvest window (unlike regular scallions, which reach that peak of perfection and then sail past it in the seeming blink of an eye). Its also fascinating that the green tops are inflated tubes…when you squeeze the tops there’s definitely air in there! Read on below for some interesting information about soil life and an amazing product that we have been trialing on the farm- with fantastic results on the Shimonitas!
Around the Farm
The last few weeks have been action-packed as is typical for this time of year, but we are now sliding into the little pre-summer lull that’s a little like the eye of the storm. We made it through the hustle and bustle of early June, and now we just have maintenance work to do until the summer crops and summer activities really pick up…harvesting summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and LOTS more along with weeding and larger bulk harvests of crops like beets and carrots. So now is a great moment to back up and start at the beginning of how your food arrives on your table…
Organic farming is largely about feeding the soil rather than feeding the plants- if you have healthy soil, the healthy (and delicious) plants will follow. Well what is ‘healthy’ soil? Its a combination of good soil composition, texture, moisture, fertility, and soil life. You may have heard of good quality soils referred to as ‘loam’; that’s the sweet spot of soil composition where you have roughly 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. We certainly have some lovely silty loams that we farm, and its very important to us that we protect the wonderful treasure that is our soil. We do that by selecting implements for tiling our fields that don’t excessively compact OR entirely break apart the texture of the soil. As such, we are the proud owners of two Italian-made spading implements that we use to do the vast majority of our ’tilling’ with. Its a piece of machinery that emulates the same action and effect as ‘double-digging’ (which is the gold standard for highly motivated gardeners). The spader is in most cases a much preferable implement for tillage than the rototiller. With its circular digging motion moving at a slower rate, it preserves more structure of the soil and allows for microbial organisms to recover faster. A rototiller spins at such a high rate with blades that literally pulverize the soil. Not only does this method make the recovery time for our little soil buddies (the microbes) much longer, but if done on a breezy day, you will see your precious topsoil blow away. The rototiller does have significant strengths of its own. It is a little faster than spading, and it can break down big clods of clay in your soil. However, the “stabbing” that the spader does as it enters the earth breaks up any sort of hard pan that would prevent deep root growth and water penetration. Whereas a rotating tine of the rototiller will compact the deeper soil and create a hard pan. Here at SIO we use our spader as much as possible to steward the land as best we can, but we keep our tiller around for a secondary tillage in our fields with higher clay content.
Since we don’t rely on sprays and quick-release fertilizers to feed our crops, we are counting on the soil itself to feed the plants as well as protect them from pests and diseases. This is also a large motivation for our specialized tilling equipment- in healthy soils, the microbes and fungi actually help to feed the plants with their extended networks. A plant’s roots only reach so far, so they strike up a symbiotic relationship with the soil microbes and fungi where the plant provides space to live in and around its roots plus sugars to eat in exchange for a little help obtaining water and nutrients that are beyond its reach. Since the little microbes and fungi have an awesome food and housing arrangement with the plant, they are also invested in protecting the plant- so they help to fend off pests and diseases! This wonderful set of relationships is also why we farm Organically- to protect and nurture this process now and into the future. We try and drive our equipment over the soil as little as possible and till as little as possible to preserve the delicate and intricate structure within the soil- its a living thing! We’ll go into other techniques that play a role in this process next week, like cover cropping and crop rotations.
Lastly, we have been excited to be working with the folks from HB-101- a Japanese company that has created a liquid extract from cedar, pine, cypress, and plantain to help vitalize plants. They have been coming out to the farm each week since the beginning of the season to apply HB-101 to a selected section of Shimonitas and our storage onions. We could see a very pronounced difference in the vigor and health of the transplants that were enjoying weekly applications of the HB-101 over those that were getting none. We are also excited to try more of this product into the future- especially in the greenhouse.