Newsletter July 2018

Riverbend Farm Newsletter July 1, 2018

In a complete turnaround form May, the end of June has been quite wet. Since Monday the 11th we have had just over 4.5” of rain. And it is actually raining, just raining right now. No thunder and lightning or big winds, just rain. The rain has been spread out fairly well and has not been too much yet. The mosquitoes have finally appeared but the horseflies are the worst. They are fast and the bite hard.

On last Monday Logan, Kathy, and I (one of our workers decided that this was not a good job for her so she called it quits a couple weeks ago) planted a few lettuce that had been hanging around, around 1000 fall cabbage, and 500 or so kale plants for fall harvest. We got almost 1 ½” of rain that night so they were well watered in.

On Thursday we set out another 300 tomato plants. It is late, but I’m hoping that they won’t catch up with the earlier planted ones. Our fall season has been going month longer before first frost than it used to. The plan had always been for the first planting of tomatoes to run out in mid September when we would get our first frost.

Since the season is now a month longer and it is the night time low temperatures that have been increasing, it makes some sense to plant later. Late plantings always seem to catch up to the earlier ones (everything always comes in at once…) but I’m hoping they will be far enough behind to have tomatoes through early October. This rain is ideal for them.

Yesterday we had our monthly crop mob. We would usually be pounding in tomato stakes but with the slow start to the season and being a little short handed we were not ready. The mulch has to be put down before the 4’ tall tomato stakes go in. The stakes make it impossible to pull a load of hay down the rows and carrying it in from the ends is a complete nonstarter. The mob split into two teams with one picking up the mulch and loading on to wagons. The other team weeded between to tomatoes and spread the mulch.

There are not many people who have driven a tractor but we had 3 of them show up yesterday. Our neighbor Norman got the hay cut on Thursday and the rain held off so it had a couple days to dry. We used the hayloader to pick up the hay and put it on the wagons. Hayloaders were used to make haystacks before there were balers. Loose hay is much nicer to work with than baled hay for mulching, no strings to cut and collect (they are treated and can not be left in the field), no bales to break up, much lest dust, etc. We were getting about one row mulched per wagon load of hay and got about half of the tomatoes weeded and mulched.

I have been making some progress on the seed garden. The tomato varieties that I was growing for seed last year are planted side by side with some of the seeds from the late blight survivors to see if there is any difference. There are a few ex-hybrid pepper varieties that I’m trying to stabilize and some Aleppos that I’m doing a second round of adaptation on. They did not like being here last year and only ripened a few peppers. This year should be better adapted to our climate and growing conditions. Prairie Road Organics has some pea seed that they say tolerates hot weather. We’ll see. If it does it could be popular around here. They are shell peas an no one can afford to shell peas, but they simply taste the best.

The warm rainy weather has also brought out the bacterial spot in the arugula. There are three short rows in the seed garden to continue the selection for resistant plants. When the plants start to show the disease I pull them out. The first time about 3% of the plants were resistant. The second time about 10% were good. Hopefully this time will be better. Next year I’ll plant the resulting seed to produce a seed crop for field planting.

The kale plants are producing decent sized seed pods so it looks like they were successful. This year I am adding a little more Lacinato genetics to the Rainbow Lacinato. The leaves were starting to shift to the curly Redbor style and losing the rumpled Lacinato type leaf. All the plants in the cabbage family (cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, etc.) are self infertile so planting a Lacinato between the Rainbows should be enough to get them to recross. I’ll find out next year.

We are also part of an Organic Seed Alliance kale trial to try to find new varieties that will replace the hybrids that you usually see in the stores. In addition there are half a dozen blight resistant tomato varieties in the middle of the tomato field to evaluate for production, flavor and hopefully not late blight resistance. Some of the seeds from the tomatoes that survived the late blight are being grown at Perdue where they always have trouble with late blight. That is close enough, thank you very much.

Upcoming events:
4th of July Pancake Extravaganza fund raiser at The 221 in Delano. All the proceeds go to keeping the lights on and creating a nest egg to build a community commercial kitchen. The kitchen idea has been around for a long time and now there is a space. There are a lot more moving parts than I thought there would be but they all fit into the idea of making this a stronger community. The range is from start up businesses to providing meals for kids in the summer to a place where local farms can do a little value added to big family canning projects to teaching basic cooking skills.

Mid July there is a Co-op Farm tour where we will be showing people around the farm and having a look at the Organic Seed Alliance Kale Trial. There are 8 or 10 varieties of kale being grown side by side to compare how they do in real world conditions. My hope is to get some of our CSA members, produce buyers, chefs, other farmers and anyone else who is interested to come and sample some the possible replacements for Redbor and Winterbor, the red and green kale varieties you see in the co-ops. We will be hosting an official OSA field day in early August if you can’t make the Co-op Farm Tour.
As long as it is raining, I’m going to pickle some radishes.