Virtual Farm Tour (Spring CSA: Week 5, Summer CSA Intro)

Summer is coming.

I made the joke to the crew that we were experiencing perfect day #4 of 7 as we hand-weeded the fresh onions last Thursday morning. Of course, with this lovely weekend behind us, that makes today the last perfect day of the year (if we only get 7) so, I’m going to call BS on myself. Since this week looks like it will be fairly lovely too.

This weather has felt like a gift. Crops are thriving, and our spirits are higher than they have been in a long time. I made sure to take a bunch of pictures of the farm this week to update on how things are growing. I’m using this blog both to say thank you for a great spring share (this week, 6/4-6/7 is the last Spring Share pick up) and HELLO! to the Summer Share which starts next week (6/11-6/4). Check your email for confirmation of your share size and pick up day – email brittany@upswingfarm.com if you think you signed up for a share but have not received an email by tomorrow, 6/4).

These are the fresh onions we were weeding last Thursday. We will start to harvest these in early July, and they will be in the shares for about a month, before we do a major harvest of the bulb onions.

We have some amazing crops growing right now, in a variety of stages. I’m going to just do a virtual farm tour for this blog, so sit back and enjoy.

We plant many successions of our crops to make sure we have a continual supply for as long as possible. We are seeding the third planting of cucumbers and zucchini in the greenhouse right now (by we I mean Erin). The first planting is protected under row cover and will not be uncovered until the plants start to flower. This year is later than most for us, mostly because the rain and wet soils made it hard to get in and plant, so we expect our cucumber and zucchini to be about a week later than last year, but once they get going, we will have them until disease take down the last planting in September. This requires constant planting. Although cucumbers and zucchini can survive all season, we need heavy yields to make harvest profitable, and after about 3-4 weeks of harvesting every other day, the plants start to slow down, or to succumb to disease. That’s why we plant another succession that’s ready to go right when the first crop slows down.

We plant basil on a bi-weekly basis until we know the downy mildew will take down even the youngest plants, usually in September. Basil is another crop that can be grown cut and come again, and we frequently do make bunches from pinched stems and let the plants keep growing, but usually we only do this once, then clear cut and start cutting the next planting. A good reason for this is that young crops are typically healthier, which means they are easier/faster to pick and provide a higher quality product. Another reason we will clear cut the first basil planting in the tunnel is because we want to plant the last round of tomatoes in there, and they need to get out of the way.

We are planting 4 rounds of tomatoes this year (and I wish I took a picture of all the successions for this blog!!! The last round is just germinating in the greenhouse). Our first planting was planted the week of the first spring share. The second planting went in on Thursday last week (that’s the big planting with the cherry tomatoes, heirlooms and lots of red slicers). The third planting is disease resistant red slicers and cherry tomatoes to extend the field harvest and then the last planting is going into a tunnel (after the basil). We think the protection of the tunnel will keep the leaves and fruit healthier because they will be protected from the fall rains, and help us have tomatoes well into October.

We are planting the 3rd/4th rounds of kale, chard, beets, bok choy, lettuce, sunflowers, scallions, carrots, radish, dill, cilantro and arugula tomorrow! We planted the previous rounds the Friday before last. Because of the late spring our plantings have gotten a little compressed, but it’s ok, it’s better to get them into the field and then try to hold them there than to keep them in their trays.

Oh, and the peas have flowers! That’s really exciting! We planted 300 extra feet of peas this year in two plantings, and they are WAY healthier than last year. We are excited for a good pea harvest. We will see them in the second week of the summer share, hopefully for a month!

We’ve been “tractoring” a lot too. Kevin is out there now cultivating everything he can. Above is photos of our winter rye/hairy vetch cover crop, which was a little stunted by the saturated soils, but has really taken off these last two weeks. We had to turn in a little more than an acre last week to allow the plants to break down so we can plant winter squash, the second round of sweet corn and melons, more cucumber, zucchini and all the rest in a few weeks. We will turn in the last acre and a half in about a week to prepare for late plantings of summer crops and fall root crops.

This is the winter squash . . . it’s just seeds we planted last week. We transplant our winter squash in an effort to combat both weeds and the striped cucumber beetle, which feeds on the young leaves and can kill emerging seedlings in the field, or, if they don’t kill them they can transmit a disease called bacterial wilt which will kill the plants as soon as they start to set fruit. We don’t use chemical pesticides so we plant well hardened off plants covered in surround (a natural clay) which acts as a repellent/shield against striped cuke beetles.

Winter squash is one of the crops we plant just once. Here are some of the others (not pictured, the sweet potatoes which we plant as slips and we finished planting this afternoon):

Emerging potato seedling. The brown on the tips of the leaves was actually us. We use a flame weeder to kill weed seedlings that have sprouted right when we see that the potatoes are starting to emerge. The flame only slightly singes barely sprouted potato plant, but gives it a huge leg up on the weeds. We plant potatoes just once, in a big block and then harvest from mid-July until October.

This is Brittany cultivating the celery root, which is planted in April and not harvested until October. The leeks are in the next beds but hard to see, but also planted just once.
Garlic was planted last October, mulched in December and will be harvested between July 10th and July 15th. The garlic scapes should show up any day, and will probably be in the second and third weeks of the summer share. Scapes are the flower stalks of the garlic plants, which need to be removed to make the bulbs larger, but are edible and tasty, dare I even say trendy?

So, that’s the tour. I hope you enjoyed it!

Here’s the list for the last week of the spring share. If you are in the summer share you’ll get another email next week with information about what is in the first summer share. I blog every week about something or other and include a list of what’s in the share. You can always find the blog on our website.

What’s in the Spring Share, Week 5
2 heads lettuce
1 bag pea tendrils
1 bag salad greens
1 small bunch dill
1 small bunch cilantro
1 bunch kale
1 bunch chard
1 bunch dandelion/collards or radish (choice)
1 bunch salad turnip
1 green garlic (garlic stalk harvested young, can be used like garlic or scallion – you can eat the whole thing)

Jess’s Recipes

I have a wedding to go to this weekend and I love it when I can combine a couple of my CSA ingredients into one recipe so I thought I would feature a few recipes that “marry” up ingredients this week.

PEAS WITH LETTUCE AND GREEN GARLIC

If you’ve never tried cooking your lettuce here’s your chance! The lettuce is added just at the end so it still has all of its crunch. Paired with the green garlic, this dish will really highlight your spring share and it’s super quick which I like in a side dish.

CUCUMBER DILL SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

Lemon and dill are the perfect match in this light spring salad. If you have radishes left over from last week, toss them in! Pea tendrils and microgreens would also work in here.

ONE SKILLET POLENTA WITH GREENS AND BEANS

This recipe is SO fast and can be made all in one pan but it’s also filling AND the kids will eat it so it’s a major win around here. Marry up your greens or just use one variety. Top with microgreens when it comes out of the oven if you have some left over.

4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tube polenta, cut in 15 slices
1 can black beans
Few Tbsp Romano
1 lb. greens (kale, chard, broccoli raab, spinach, dandelion, mustard)
1 jar pasta sauce
8 oz sliced Havarti
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil

Drizzle olive oil in large skillet. Slice polenta in ½” rounds and lay in large cast iron skillet. Rinse beans and pour over polenta. Sprinkle with Romano. Rinse and shake greens. Chop coarsely and spread over beans. Top with sauce and cheese and sprinkle with dried herbs. Put lid on and simmer 5 min. Alternatively, use a 9×13 baking dish and bake, covered at 350 for 45 min. Uncover and cook 15 min. more.

BAKED ORZO WITH CHARD, FETA AND DILL

Swiss chard and dill pair up with feta in this quick weeknight pasta dish. This dish would also love to get hitched up with the Cucumber Dill Salad listed above.

PEA TENDRIL SALAD WITH RADISHES AND FETA

Here’s another chance to use up any leftover radishes! Salty feta, sweet honey, tart lime and crunchy pea tendrils and radishes.

TEX-MEX CHARRED CORN, BACON AND JALAPENO PIZZA

I’ve been seeing corn on the cob in the supermarket but if you can’t find any Trader Joe’s and WholeFoods both sell frozen roasted corn that would work great on this pizza. Use Naan bread, pre-baked pizza crust or make your own pizza dough. Finish it off with fresh cilantro and microgreens!

DANDELION GREENS WITH DILL AND A CRISPY EGG

We just got more 10 baby chicks last week and they have me thinking about all the luscious eggs we’ll be getting in a few months. Take advantage of the dandelion greens while they’re around this spring and sauté them up with some fresh dill. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

SAUTEED SALAD TURNIPS WITH TURNIP GREENS

While it’s always a good idea to separate your turnips from the greens as soon as you get home, don’t toss the greens! They’re packed with antioxidants and nutrients and pair perfectly with the turnips in this super simple side.

ENJOY!!!!


Preparing and Planting the Tunnels for the Spring Share

Morgan and Erin planting Spinach last Thursday morning.

When Bob Durling emailed last week asking if there was anything to take pictures of at the farm, I got inspired. We were planning on planting the tunnels on Thursday, and wouldn’t it be cool to document the process and then put it on the blog? Well, the stars aligned, Bob was available and the weather cooperated, so, ta-da! Here is a narrative and some excellent pictures describing how we plant the tunnels.

Our Tunnels are 12’x72′, with hoops spaced every 4′. Their rounded shape (refereed to as ‘quonset style’) is not sufficient to support the snow load of a typical New England winter, and their narrowness does not allow them to hold very much thermal energy, so we take the plastic off in winter, usually around Christmas, and put it back on the first week of March. This year, we let the heavy snow of early March fall before we covered: first, so we didn’t have to worry about the tunnels collapsing and second because we didn’t get much precipitation this winter, and it’s actually good for the soil to get a natural ‘flushing’ before being covered again.

We then let the soil warm and dry before spreading compost (roughly 2 yards per house). We don’t use much compost on this land because there is very high phosphorus and potassium, so adding compost (a source of both) is not recommended. But, the tunnels produce so much food each year, we like to start with a healthy dose of compost both to add slow release nutrition and as a soil conditioner. Humus, which is fully decomposed organic matter, has a slightly negative charge and can hold water and other positively charged minerals like calcium and magnesium, increasing their availability to our crops. (We did the compost the day before we did the photo-shoot, and didn’t take pics, but you can imagine Erin and Kevin shoveling rich, dark, beautiful compost off the back of the big black truck.) We buy in from Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton – it’s certified organic and high quality.

To prep the beds we first marked the center of our pathways (two per house) and used a shovel to dig them just slightly deeper than our beds, tossing the soil from the pathways into the beds. This makes our pathways clearer to see and it also helps to use the fertility of the pathway soil. We then use a broad fork (see Morgan in brown hat above on right and left) to gently loosen the soil by inserting the fork, lifting the soil just enough to loosen, then doing the same thing about 1 foot away. The soil is lifted by rocking the handles back, so there isn’t any physical lifting of soil, but still plenty of physical effort. It’s a good spring workout! Then we rake the beds level, and remove any remaining weeds (yes! there were plenty of chickweed plants that survived being uncovered from January to March).

The soil is already fairly loose and we try not to invert it when possible, so we don’t do much more than this to prep the beds. Oh! we do add a slow release organic fertilizer to provide a little extra nitrogen for our hungry spring greens.

We shake the fertilizer on by hand. The label pictured above, from the fertilizer bag, is an important one to know. It means the product has been approved for organic use by the Organic Materials Review Institute. If you are someone who cares about organic gardening, this is a good website to check out and an important label to know.

We use minimal amounts of granular fertilizer in our tunnels because they can cause a salt built up if used excessively, but because we are able to uncover the houses for a few, usually wet, months of the year, we are not too concerned with using small amounts.

The other thing we did (which you can see Kevin working on in the left picture, and Erin working on in the right picture) is install overhead irrigation. The irrigation has small, oscillating emitters that hang from the header tube attached to the ridgepole of the greenhouse. They spray a fine, even, gentle mist that is great for watering in directly seeded crops and transplanted crops. We would never use something like this to water tomatoes, because they are highly susceptible to fungal leaf diseases and one of the major benefits of growing them in protected environments is controlling the moisture. But, it doesn’t hurt to let the overhead hang there all summer and then water the fall greens in September/October.

Our spinach, which was seeded 3 seeds per cell in 128 flats on March 1st was showing some signs of nitrogen deficiency. The pointy leaves that you see in the close-up on the far left are the cotyledons, the pre-formed leaves inside the seed casing that are first to emerge when the seed germinates. Their slight yellow coloration is an indication that they are deficient in nitrogen. We use an excellent point soil mix from Vermont Compost which almost always is sufficient for our seedlings until transplant, but there was a little bit of 2018 soil left in the soil bin when we started this year, that got mixed in with the first 2019 soil. The 2018 soil got rained on over the winter when the lid came off (we took the bin out of the greenhouse to make room for our winter CSA distribution). Rain leeches nitrogen from soil, which is what we think explains the deficiency.

In any case, they are excellent transplants, despite showing a little hunger, and we gave them a ‘fishing’ for a little nutritional boost. Erin mixed just a tiny glug of fish emulsion (literally super ground up fish guts, the waste product of fish processing) with water and watered all our trays before we carried them on a handy plant stretcher to be planted in the tunnels. This liquid fertilizer is highly available to our plants, which is great for a small boost, but because of its availability it is not very stable, and is not a lasting source of nutrition (unless you keep applying).

We plant the spinach plugs 6″ apart, 4 rows/bed. It took just under 12 flats to plant 3 beds. The other three beds were planted into: direct seeded french breakfast radish, direct seeded arugula, and one bed was half swiss chard transplants, half lascinato kale transplants. The soil is loose enough to plant just with our hands, but the trowels have markings that help us measure how far apart our seedlings are. They are planted in a grid pattern.

We use a Jang Seeder to plant the direct seeded crops. It is a very precise seeding tool with multiple adjustments that allows us to plant the exact number of seeds/foot we desire (after a little fussing with it….).

So now the beds are all planted, watered in and covered with multiple layers of floating row cover at night to keep the soil warm and the frost out of the tunnels. The arugula has already germinated and I’m sure radishes are right behind.

Thursday is our no-child-care day, so Harvey got to ‘help’ a little bit.

Well, I hope you learned something, and got excited about spring vegetables!

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