The Volunteer Spirit


Productive day at the farm yesterday–mostly cleaning up the northcentral garden and getting started on cleaning up the west garden as well.

Weeded all the rows and the aisles where wheat has sprouted from leftover seed in the straw.  Uncovered the short row of cabbages up there, weeded them out and gave them all a little composted chicken manure, courtesy of Carolyn (Thanks! I’ll bring your bucket to the market this week!).

Hilled the row of Austrian Crescent fingerlings and weeded alongside as I went.  Potatoes are a good “cleaner crop” for weedy areas, because the hilling of them generally gets the weeds under control as a side effect.  Also hilled the Purple Peruvians in the west garden–they are a little slower to grow–Austrians are close to flower already!

When I weeded the Brussels sprouts in the west garden, I accidentally cut one down! But, I still had a few left in a six pack, so I replanted that one and the one that mysteriously disappeared (I’m blaming bunnies). In that bed, and in the yellow onion bed next door, I have a few volunteer tomato plants coming up.

They’re fairly small yet, so I weeded around them in anticipation of digging some up and replacing in open spots along tomato trellises throughout the garden (that’s also how I cut down a sprout plant–focusing on the tomato). They’re pretty much all Principe Borgheses and San Marzanos in that area–and these are volunteers of last year’s volunteers.

Some years I have so many volunteers of various kinds in the gardens, I consider just not planting at all–and simply nurturing and thinning all those hardy, happy plants that come up from the previous year.  But who am I kidding? It always seems like a lot of extra plants because I already have a lot. It’d be pretty slim pickings if I only relied on volunteers.

Today is cool and dry–still none of the promised rain, but it is a good day for watering. The cabbages I uncovered got a bit wilty–not having had much experience with full-on sun exposure under their row covers–but that did make it easier to weed around them without breaking their leaves.

A little bit of wilting is actually a market grower’s trick–some crops are almost impossible not to break while harvesting–cabbage and bok choy are first to come to mind.  You let them go just a little slack in the field, then cut and pack and hydro-cool/chill so they regain their crisp rigidity for delivery or sale.

So, today will be watering, more weeding, and maybe a little planting.  I’ve only got a few eggplant and chilies left to transplant in the lowest part of the east garden, and then perhaps I’ll throw in the various head lettuces behind a tomato/pole bean trellis to keep them a little bit shaded.

Transplanting head lettuces is a signal to start more in my basement.  For the most part, I’m done starting transplants down there, but the cooler temperatures do aid in germination of crops that won’t come up from direct-seeding in the heat. I’ll get the sizable ones in the ground, start more, and by the time the second batch is ready to go in, the first batch can come out.

This seems a pretty reasonable way to keep a lettuce crop going through the summer, as long as there’s a little bit of shade for the hot days and a good amount of water as well. That’s why I erect some of the tomato/pole bean trellises on an east-west axis–it provides some north side protection for the tender salad crops in the heat of summer.

A final note: the sugar snap peas are starting to bear pods!  Not sure if I’ll have enough for market this week, but next week for sure…

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