Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We Want More Gruel!

We are continuing to ask for input on what you would like to see more of from us in 2013.

 Here is what we have heard so far:
JanMarie: Broccoli
Nevin: Tomatoes, early and often
Nancy: Baby carrots
Kory: can I just cross my fingers for a good squash year? at your place and ours?
Nick: Broccoli or carrots
Rachel: Broccoli
Ryan: Asparagus
Jennie: chocolate caramel (we understand the appeal, but please don't ask us to grow it!)
Anne: carrots
Stephanie: Tromboncino squash, winter squash, peas
Jeff and Susan: Steak!  (ummmm)  and peas.
Marianne: Spinach

The prior posts addresses changes we are making in 2013 in order to extend and improve our tomato and broccoli harvest.

Asparagus is one of those crops that require years to establish.  Each year, we start another tray of seedlings and add them to our production areas.  But, since asparagus is a perennial crop, there really isn't a whole lot we can do in one season to change what we have.

However, we do grow two plots of asparagus on the farm.  Typically the asparagus is distributed during the Spring extended season shares that run in April and May.  The season for harvest of asparagus typically ends right around Memorial Day for us.  But, even if it went further into June, we would not have enough for all 100+ CSA members in the regular season.

This is a difficult crop for us to increase without adding a fair amount of labor for harvest.  In short, peas cost us much more to grow than many of the things on the farm.  There are several factors.  First, the yield per row foot is significantly lower than what we get for other things, such as green beans.  So, we're already looking at lower returns on the space given.  Then, we actually find that peas have a higher labor cost per pound than beans.  We have to add trellis time and factor in slower picking rates.

Does that mean we won't grow peas?  Nope.  We'll grow them.  We have plans for 2013 to hopefully make them more manageable while still getting everyone a bit more peas. We intend to plant them a bit earlier so they don't overlap with the beans as much.  We only have so much labor available and if the peas must compete with other crops, they will lose.  We are likely to drop all shelling peas from the grow list and focus on the edible pod peas.

Winter Squash
This one has three answers.  One has to do with research, one is simple and the other is probably surprising.

1. We have applied for a grant to do some research involving pests, intercropping and paper mulch.  If we receive this grant, we will have additional funds to hire help specifically for this crop in 2013.
2. We will be using paper mulch on at least half of the crop.  By keeping the early weeds down, we expect success on par with prior years (about 1500 - 2500 winter squash).
3. We will be reducing the number of plants we put in the ground.

Yes, you heard the last one correctly  We are going to reduce the number of plants we put in the ground.  Analyzing our numbers tells me that we can meet and exceed our demand with fewer row feet of winter squash.  Also, if we reduce the number of row feet, we can allow ourselves to use some bigger equipment for cultivation without the risk that tighter spacing brings. 

Essentially it comes down to this.  We can either grow more and struggle to keep up with it again OR we can grow less and do a very good job with it.  Since we anticipate an increase in our pest populations in 2013 due to the spraying last July, we have to expect that we will need to do more to protect our vine crops.  If we run at the same volume as prior years, I don't see how we can keep up.  But, a reasonable reduction should allow us to do what needs doing.

With fewer row foot of squash, I can increase the presence of nasturtiums, borage, zinnia and marigolds.  I can put in some oilseed radish.  All of these things help us control vine pest populations without spraying. 

1 comment:

  1. Tammy Faux7:23 PM

    Note - the connection between the spraying and increase is pests: The spraying of insecticide on the farm, even though the other half of the farm, reduces the number of beneficial insects and predators who each bad bugs. We have worked for 9 seasons to create habitat the support "good guys" and had seen a huge increase in both the variety and the number of spiders and other "eaters". We had even seen some praying mantis. After the spraying we saw virtually NO spiders, etc on the west half of the farm, but saw many bad bugs, who are very capable of reproducing and migrating across the farm.


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