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CSA Newsletter ~ Week 26

Posted 10/9/2012 11:42am by Chris.
We've escaped a hard freeze, but had a heavy frost Sunday night. It didn't affect much really other than adding a little flavor and sweetness to crops like carrots, broccoli, and cabbage. I was quite concerned going into last weekend that we might see temperatures down in the lower to middle 20's, but we lucked out,broccoli head  closeuphad cloud cover one night, and south winds the next night, to keep temperatures above 30. 

Broccoli is in good supply this week after a slow start last week, and we're seeing some of the biggest heads we've ever had at the farm. After years of heavy cropping we need to be careful to replace nutrients our crops have removed from the soil, and doing this for crops like broccoli and beets has made a big difference. There are beets in the box this week. They have nice tops/greens, though as you'll see, they're not green at all. The tops are great for cooking or eating fresh if you like a strong beet flavor. We have cabbage and bok choy for plenty of diversity and volume of brassica family crops this week. We don't have many of them, but shallots find their way into the box this week. A variation on onions, they're not a whole lot different than the 'long red', or 'torpedo', onions we had a few times earlier this year. Shallots don't yield as well as onions, and they are as susceptible to insects as any onion plant, so we are planting less and less of them all the time. Enjoy them while you can, but don't worry, we grow some very nice onions of every color, and with very nice flavor. 

A few people have noticed more bugs on crops lately, especially the lettuce and bok choy. Basically, our policy on bugs is not to worry about them if they pose no risk or threat to the crop. It takes time, energy, and chemicals to spray for pests. We have plenty of that we do during the season. When bugs are on a crop but not eating it, transmitting disease, or otherwise hurting the plants, we let it go. Even if we do wash some crops like lettuce, we can't get off all bugs, especially aphids, which are pretty small and cling to the leaves more than most bugs. As noted in an earlier newsletter, when we harvest these crops during cool weather we don't have the need to 'hydro-cool' them by rinsing them to remove the field heat, so they've missed that step that might have rinsed away the bulk of the bugs. But washing lessens the shelf life, so we only do it when it's necessary.

In general, insect pressure this year was very high due to the heat and lack of water. Bugs breed faster when it's hotter, and they need water and so are attracted to irrigated crops even more when it's dry everywhere else. We had lots of bugs this year, and lately there's been a healthy crop of aphids on the lettuce. The best thing for the lettuce is to wash it right before eating. Twist or cut off the core so you're washing only the leaves; use a water spray and/or physically wipe the bugs off with your hands. You could probably use a sponge if you wanted too. 

Insects are part of the field, and if they don't get in our way, we try not to get in theirs. Most pesticides--even the organic-approved types that we use--kill everything, and we need to have a good reason to make such a decision.

Chris Covelli
and the Tomato Mountain Farm Team 

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