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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 22

Posted 9/11/2012 8:54am by Chris.

Well, it's the time of year we're all feeling pretty well spent, and words are a little hard to come by. I'm certainly feeling that way. For any of you who have met me or read the newsletter, that might be a little hard to believe. I do like summer, but it is actually the most challenging time of year to grow crops, especially with so much warm weather. One statistic I saw the other day that put things into perspective for me was the number of 90+ degree days we've experienced this summer. We're up to 39 now, with 36 being the previous record. An average year has about a dozen. Looks like we might see another on Wednesday as they're predicting a high of 88.

Relief is on the way as the somewhat easier months of

spinach as a face mask
Our sturdy, super-sweet winter spinach has many uses!

the growing season are just starting. September and early October are very good for outdoor crops, and October through April/May are great with our nearly 1.5 acres of hoop houses. 

In my opinion, our hoop house-grown winter spinach is our most unique and special crop--even more than our popular Sun Gold tomatoes. We're dedicating two-thirds to three-quarters of our cooler season crops to spinach as it is far more cold tolerant than most other crops, and its quality when grown/harvested in very cold weather is incredible. Thick leaves with a wonderful texture and high to very high sugar only happen with the repeated freezing that mature spinach leaves can endure. Basically, it's kind of like a muscle/body builder. The cold weather slightly damages the leaves and they recover thicker and heavier than they were in the first place. Cold weather represents moisture stress for the plants (because water is frozen and plants can't use it), so they become more concentrated, much as our tomatoes do in the summer. Generally, we try to water plants only as much as necessary to keep them healthy and alive, and no more. This usually keeps plants healthier and reduces a 'waterlogged' condition that leaves things tasting, well, watery. I'm sure most of you have had huge strawberries (that received lots of fertility and water) that were bland/lacking flavor.   

carmen peppers
Fully ripe carmen peppers


For now, we're in seasonal transition and enjoying the benefit of both warm and cool weather crops. We've still got lots of tomatoes and peppers, and to a lesser extent, eggplants. I'm very happy to report that tomatillos are looking very good. We'd love to have them in the box at least once before the season is over; if that isn't feasible, we can at least offer them a la carte for those who'd really like to have them. 

 

Fall greens are nearly in full swing, and broccoli looks about 10 days to 2 weeks out. With all the brassica (broccoli family) crops we're growing, including kale and many of the other greens we've been planting, we're seeing a little more disease on some leaves. Not exactly sure what it is, though we're fairly certain it's a fungal growth of some kind. It doesn't affect broccoli too much as the problem doesn't seem to affect anything but leaves. Of course that isn't so good for kale, bok choi, and the other Asian/brassica greens. Some of you may be relieved to hear we might have less kale for a while, and we're always working toward increasing our variety from week to week, and over the season. Probably because we have grown more brassica crops than ever, we are seeing these issues now, and this will force us to look at other crops. Chard is one such crop. We grew more of it outside this year than in the past, and we'll plant more in our fall hoops than last year as well.

Well, that (writing the newsletter) felt like work. The good news is that I'm pretty tough and have a long history of bouncing back. As always, we most appreciate our CSA customers . . . thanks.   


Chris Covelli
and the Tomato Mountain Farm Team 
 

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