From the Farmer

Week 12 – 8/22/2012
Hello CSA Members,
 
New in Your Share this Week
 
A number of you have asked how the weather has been for the farm this summer. The easy answer is, “pretty good.” Every year has its hot periods, dry periods, wet periods; it’s easy to say, “it is what it is.” It’s been hot, but we expect that, and in any given year there are crops that do well and crops that don’t do well. Cucumbers, for example, haven’t done so well this year. Tomatoes and peppers have.
 
At the same time, things seem to be early again this year. Many summer crops came in before expected and we may harvest some of our fall crops early, too. July’s heat is starting to catch up with us. We had an early burst of melons, but later plantings struggled with high temperatures. Many crops will lose their flowers or otherwise manage the stress of high temperatures; no flowers means no fruit down the line. Well, down the line has come! We’ve seen a corresponding drop in yield in sensitive crops like tomatoes.
 
We manage this by plugging along with our summer crops and by using the moderate weather to jump on late summer-fall crops. We expected this kind of slowdown in September, so we’re able to adapt. I expect things will heat up again, not to July levels but into the nineties and we’ll take advantage of this “cool” week in the eighties. 
 
Onions
 
Last week you saw the first of your onions, members of the Allium family along with shallots, leeks, garlic, and scallions. Biggest onions I’ve ever grown! That’s an artifact of poor drainage in other places (the early dry spring let us plant on time) and serves as a reminder that drainage and soil potential are high priorities for selecting farmland. It should also serve as a reminder to all of us – farmers and non-farmers – of the importance of preserving prime agricultural land, and of supporting a culture of productive, profitable, and sustainable, even regenerative use of that land.
 
That said, we’ve got white onions, we’ve got yellow onions, we’ve got red onions. What made it work this year is an onion’s sensitivity to day-length. Backyard growers, make sure you choose varieties that match your latitude (we’re around 39 degrees), and get them in early enough that the will take advantage of the sunlight we get here, and the cooler temperatures of spring. There are “long-day” (good for the North), “intermediate day” (safe here), and “short-day” onions, which like the lower latitudes and mild winters. Really, there are many ways to grow onions – sets, winter seeding, perennial onions – all are fun in their own way. I think the keys are planting on time, keeping them weed free as long as possible (they don’t like competition), rotating them around the garden to avoid the buildup of disease, and to use the right soil amendments. They like sulfur in the soil – if your garden has good pH but needs calcium (not uncommon), use gypsum; if you’re low in magnesium, try some Epsom salts. Because of where the latter are located in the pharmacy, you might want to talk about how you use them in the garden…
 
Anyway, you all know onions and Bonnie will tell you more about how to use them. Rest assured, except for the odd sect that believes onions are an aphrodisiac and prohibits eating them (I’m still trying to figure that one out), onions are a popular vegetable in many cultures, and evidence shows that they are good for us, with qualities ranging from fighting inflammation and heart disease to fighting cancer. 
 
Have a good week and be great, 
 
Mike
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