Crops Update: Preparing for Frost

If not tonight, then by the weekend, we’re expecting the first light frost of the season. We take the forecasted low and subtract ten to account for the farm’s frost pocket. This means that in the week ahead it’s all hands on deck for what may be the closing bean, pepper, eggplant, summer squash and tomato harvests of the year. And while there is a mountain of work to get through this week, the Crops team has one less farmer, as Jen finished her season with us this past Friday. Jen accepted a job helping underserved communities in the Berkshires access public transportation. We will miss her steady presence on the team and wish her all the best. Given that, we’re really looking forward to having the help of our first corporate volunteer groups of the season later in the week, and we’re hoping to see some of our committed community volunteers on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to help with these important harvests. Last Friday afternoon, we had wonderful volunteer help throughout the tomato and bean harvest, and then some people stayed, while even more arrived, for a total of nine volunteers on the evening flower harvest. Their good work helped us reach a season’s high in flower sales at Saturday’s market. Below you can see volunteer Nancy surrounded by a portion of that enormous flower harvest at Drumlin’s farmstand on Saturday morning.  

While Nancy was making bouquets to order for farm visitors, seven more volunteers fanned out across the acorn squash patch and helped us bring them in before the arrival of another cool evening. Temperatures below 50 can cause chilling injury to squash and pumpkins, so it felt good to get the very last of this year’s crop into the greenhouse just in time. Acorn squash will be in this week’s CSA share, along with peppers, tomatoes, and some really nice carrots you can see lined-up below. We need to cut the tops off the carrots since we’ve sprayed the ferns with repellant to keep the deer away, and lining them up helps speed that process. The twine fence you see around the carrot patch is an added measure of protection against the ten deer we’re seeing on a regular basis in the field (4 does, 6 bucks).  

One crop family the Drumlin deer leave alone is brassicas—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. Turkeys will occasionally eat brassica leaves, but its main pests are cabbage loopers and aphids. We spray organically certified bacterias to help control loopers, and for aphids, we seed cilantro in the patches and let it flower. The white flowers attract insects that also eat aphids. The flowering cilantro is taller than the already tall Brussels sprouts (we seeded the cilantro in the same week we transplanted the Brussels). On the soil you can see the top growth of the plants that we’ve just cut away to encourage the sizing-up of the sprouts—it’s like removing the garlic scape to boost bulb size. With this one bed of sprouts, we’re about two weeks too late with topping. But we’ll be able to compare sprout size in this bed with three others we topped earlier in the season.

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