We decided that it was about time to provide a quarterly update on what’s happening in the gardens at Sunflower Farm. (We’ve just had our 4th week of deliveries, out of a 16 week season, which makes this a quarterly update.)
Up until Friday things had been going fairly well, with a nice amount of rain early on, which was such a wonderful change from last year’s drought. The cloudier, cooler weather early in the season did slow a lot of things down so we are finding that things are maturing a bit later than they did last year.
Our biggest challenge has been weeds. The time we spent watering last year has instead been spent weeding this year. As an organic farmer I’ve come to accept some weeds, but we still need to stay on top of them, otherwise they will take over the plants and reduce yields. This is especially true of things like carrots and onions. Carrots take a long time to germinate and get large enough to establish themselves, so we’re on our 4th round of weeding them and the weeds just keep on coming.
Insect pests are a normal part of the process and each year is different. Last year scarabs took over the gardens but were surprisingly not a problem this year. Cutworms were quite bad in some areas of the garden such as in the pea patch. This presents one of our biggest challenges in running the CSA; spotting and dealing with pests. Cutworms are somewhat insidious in that they take off the young plant and pull it down into the soil to eat, so to spot their activity you have to be watching your plantings very closely. Of course we are trying to grow 30 to 40 different varieties of vegetables, so our ability to monitor plantings for pest damage is severely diminished. With something like peas I do over plant but this year the cutworms won most of the skirmishes. All that to say, we wanted to provide you with greater volumes of peas, but the cutworms had other plans.
When this happens we hope to make up for any shortfall with greater quantities of something else later on. We have put a great amount of effort into sweet potatoes, which are a nutritional powerhouse, but they are time consuming to plant. I grow them under plastic mulch with drip irrigation installed at planting time to ensure adequate moisture. They have a long growing season so they won’t be ready until the end of September.
So our growing is “front end loaded” with a lot of labor getting things planted and then watered and weeded, which means that some of our early stuff can get overlooked while we deal with the whole season’s “big picture”.
Last week was a brutal week with record-breaking heat and humidity. On Friday afternoon we watched the sky go from cloudless to black in about 5 minutes. The temperature dropped here from 34°C to 22°C in about 15 minutes as the storm rolled through. The wind was quite strong and very gusty and knocked down the majority of our corn. It was quite heartbreaking because our corn is something that people have always raved about and loved that it was organic. So I spent the weekend, when I had lots of other jobs that needed to be done, trying to straighten and prop up as much of the corn as I could. We lost some and will have to wait and see how much we can harvest.
We’ve started to harvest the garlic and get it on drying racks, so it should be ready in the next 3 or 4 weeks.
Everything else is doing well and growing nicely. Each week you will see new items added to your boxes as some items (like garlic scapes) disappear as their season ends.
Remember to check our website for new recipes to try, using our wonderful organically grown produce! (https://sunflowerfarm.ca/recipes/) There is also a page of interesting links (https://sunflowerfarm.ca/links-to-great-info/) including a great article called “31 Things to Do With Confusing CSA Vegetables that one of our members found and shared with us. (Located here;