The frost-warning forecast from a couple of days ago, for 1°C (34°C), moved up a day to tonight. so there’s row cover all over the field. Some of it was floated out against the possibility of frost, the rest, as so-far-effective deer deterrent. Up front, around 800′ of snap beans, just starting to form, are bundled up against the cold. Then, row cover over carrots, and farther, lettuce, has been in place for a few days, and seems to still be keeping the deer from munching. In the distance, peppers and eggplant are under frost protection. Elsewhere, we’ve covered a few beds of cherry tomatoes to prepare for tonight. Winter squash and pumpkins are mostly in, and summer squash and cucumbers are finished, and the rest out there are hardy enough, and that’s about it!
This is our second Saturday market with quite a solid harvest, both selection and quantity. Last week was fine, this week we’ve added the first of the fall spinach, also, an unexpected bushel of radish that sized up practically overnight, picked at the end of the day yesterday at the perfect maturity moment. For the record, we have: green onion (Ramrod), two kales (Red Russian, Nero di Toscana), green and yellow beans (Jade, Indy Gold), two carrots (Nelson, Touchon, mixed), radish (Rebel), cherry tomatoes (a mix of 7-8 varieties, hybrid and heirloom), Asian greens mix (mustards, mizuna, tatsoi, etc, our custom blend!), arugula, Swiss chard (Lucullus, a pale green heirloom), beet (Kestrel), salad mix (four varieties of lettuce), summer squash (Golden Dawn III, Baby Tiger and Raven zucchinis), cucumber (Fanfare and a few round heirloom Lemon), and spinach (Bloomsdale). For those who like lists!
In the market garden, summer squash can’t get much better than this. These guys, part of the second planting for the season, have it all.
Leaves looking really healthy: green, uneaten, and so far free of the powdery mildew that inflicts itself on many squash varieties and eventually kills some off before their time.
Perfectly ready for picking: These Early Crooknecks are a nice size, there’s a few per plant, and they’re quite easy to get at. All the summer squash were multiplanted, 2-3 plants growing together, so things could get pretty overgrown and hidden. This second planting set fruit fast (unlike the first round!), and the plants are still nice and open for easy reaching in.
More to come: In the small-scale market garden, you’re always thinking quantity and COUNTING. How many pieces do we need for today’s CSA shares, how many bunches for tomorrow’s farmers’ market, and so forth. You’re thinking for now, and also for Next Week, and then, more weeks ahead. In that order. Today, there are plenty of tiny squash that’ll size up in a week no problem!
Bonus specialty selection: Squash flowers! Lots of veggies have cool options, like broccoli flowers and side shoots, squash blossoms (aka zucchini blossoms), beet greens, pea leaves, and generally, harvesting very small and young (I tend to like things to grow to a nice, solid size). So if you dropped in looking for a few squash blossoms (as seen on Food Network :), we could hook you up!
So there it is, my idea of practically perfect market garden summer squash for the tiny farm harvest. There’s ALWAYS room to improve…but here, how?
Harvested the season’s first sweet peppers, for the Monday CSA shares. They’re small…but tasty (that description has popped up a few times this year, as we pick early against the slow-growing weather and the flying by of time). The lime-yellow, tapering Gypsy (yellow-to-orange-to-red) are performing well once again, early and prolific, and the always-early, dark green bell peppers are Ace (green-to-red). Both varieties are F-1 hybrids (no seed saving), which isn’t great, but these guys are super-reliable in crazy weather, so I still plant ’em first… Peeking out from underneath, Ambassador (green) and Golden Dawn III (yellow) zucchini (also hybrids; GDIII is a mad producer, yellow zukes everywhere, on and on—another reliable standby that I’d love to replace with an open-pollinated variety)—after finally starting to take off a couple of weeks ago, the first planting of summer squash hasn’t looked back. So that’s something!
Another rather nice fall CSA share this week! Thanks to no killing frost so far, we’re still picking beans (Jade), peppers (Gypsy, Ace, Cayenne Long Slim), and zucchini (Golden Dawn III). There’s also winter squash (Table Gold acorn), cauliflower (Minuteman), onions (Stuttgarter), beets (Scarlet Supreme), carrots (Nelson, Purple Haze), spinach (Spargo, Bloomsdale), parsley (Green River curly, Plain Italian flat), and garlic (Music). Plus a newsletter. Monday shares are left at a drop-off spot, with shareholders’ names printed on the handles…
What at first seemed like a mild three-minute hail storm this afternoon did an impressive amount of crop damage right across the market garden. One of those sudden, short storms that’ve been popping up more or less several times a day built up, rain started to come down quite heavily, this time with a sharp wind, and after a couple of minutes, HAIL joined the action. I went out to check on the trays of seedlings sitting outside the Milkhouse: you could hardly feel the ice pellets on bare arms and the seedlings didn’t seem bothered by the brief pounding. The pellets were pea-sized, in two configurations: smooth, and jagged (the sample in the pic is from a few minutes after the storm ended, with the sharper edges on the rougher pieces already melted off). The hail soon stopped, a few minutes later the rain ended and…sunshine. Great! Not particularly concerned, I went out to inspect (we’ve had small hail a couple of times with absolutely no plant effect that I could notice). Well, SURPRISE!
Crops with fairly large leaves, the squash here and more mature beets, had leaf edges sliced and holes punched right through.
Snapped stems was the most surprising effect. Here, beets were pummeled…
…beans were also quite heavily hit, with severed tops of plants lying in the paths…
…and tomatoes took a good hit as well. I didn’t closely examine the developing fruit, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. It looks like there’s some bruising, but I’ll wait a couple of days when any damage will be easier to spot. Overall, not the end of the world, but a definite setback…not welcome.