Part one of a two-part post.
I was a little anxious heading out to the farm yesterday–I hadn’t been able to do a lot of work out there for a number of days because of the wet weather–it rained last Thursday night and Friday, then Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday.
The moisture is great of course–it keeps me from having to worry about water needs of all the newly transplanted and seeded crops. But it also means the weeds can get way ahead of me. I imagined a lot of hoe-time and anxiety about getting everything back under some measure of control.
So I was pleasantly surprised that things weren’t nearly the horror I’d imagined. The last round of the spring cabbages and the first two rows of leeks I’d transplanted last Thursday were happy, the ground was starting to dry out nicely (the howling southwest wind yesterday undoubtedly helped), and the weeds were there, but not unmanageable.
The lawns still haven’t been mown–and that sticks in my craw every year, but that’s not my job or my problem (except for the weed seeds) and won’t be until we have a working riding lawnmower on the farm (which I’ve been actively lobbying in favor of for, oh, several years now).
The first hour or so I spent wielding the stirrup hoe between the rows of turnips and broccoli raab/bok choy and then going in with hand-weeder to pluck weeds from between the plants.
Pulling back the cover on the raab/choy row (and weighing it down with rocks to keep it from shredding in the voracious wind), I decided it was time to thin out the raab to allow the remaining plants to enlarge. I don’t want them forming buds when they’re four inches tall.
I seed raab (or rapini) thickly partly to make sure I have a good stand, but also because I love to eat the babies! Working along the row with a bucket by my side, I pulled out about three full gallon bags worth of the little ones out of the 55 row feet of raab–and there will probably be more in another couple of weeks.
When they were safely put aside and water-chilled, I dusted most the brassica-type crops with diatomaceous earth (DE) to discourage the flea beetles (turnips, raab, choy, and the arugula, which is pretty much harvest-ready at this point) and re-fastened the row cover over the remaining raab and choy.
I don’t thin the baby bok choy because it’s not seeded as thickly, and because I like them small. The variety I grow is a miniature one–I’ve grown the full-sized plants and they’re gorgeous, but they’re also hard to harvest, cool, and deliver or pack for market without breaking their tender stalks.
The recommended harvest method is to cut them very carefully and let them wilt so they’ll be a little floppy and won’t break as easily while packing. But a wilted vegetable isn’t very appealing at market, so you have to revive them–usually with a cold water “dunk,” and the temperature difference between choy and water can cause contamination problems.
Not to mention a full-sized bok choy is a huge vegetable! Many of my customers have smaller families, and they’re more comfortable with a bag of smaller choys they can use whole rather than cutting off sections of a larger specimen.
Anyhow, the choys look on schedule for the initial CSA delivery of the season in a couple of weeks. So does the salad mix–though I’ve got to go in and weed the lamb’s quarter out of it (I didn’t get to that yesterday).
The radishes are also looking really nice for that time frame–couldn’t help but sample a few little ones–you know–to make sure they’ll be of good enough quality for my valued customers.
They passed my rigorous test, which basically consists of greedily searching for a specimen, rubbing the soil off on my shirt, and chomping it down in one or two bites. Then working down the row finding a few more to, uh–to determine the consistency of the crop. Yeah. It’s all about consistency.
I’m happy to report the radishes were consistently delicious, and I’m looking forward to gobbling them all up delivering them and selling them at the market!
Read on! The second part of this post is here.