Farmer’s Updates: Onions and Strawberries

It’s dry and warm in the fields. We are watering-in all our transplants and expecting slower germination of this week’s seeding of greens, beets and carrots. We are looking forward to Monday’s predicted shift in the weather pattern which should bring us real rain and cooler temperatures.

Yesterday’s sprinkles merely wet the soil surface. The soil is so dry in the field where we are transplanting onions that we are wetting the soil ahead of where we are working just to make it more pliable and less like cinders.


Planting onion seedlings little by little

We are also pulling row cover over the onions as we plant them to exclude the onion fly. The flies lay their eggs at the base of the plant, and then the larvae eat the young onion bulbs. When we use row cover on a crop like spring broccoli or cauliflower, we transplant four beds and then place the cover all at once (the cover we use is 20 feet wide). We can do it this way because the transplanting happens quickly and flea beetles won’t swarm onto the young plants in just a few minutes: it takes them time to locate their food source.

Onions take much longer to transplant because we space them two inches apart instead of the eighteen inches we give cauliflower. We also seed onions in open trays—665 plants per tray—whereas we seed broccoli and cauliflower in plug trays—128 plants per tray. The plug tray provides a little root ball for each plant, which is easy to handle. With open trays you wind up with bare-rooted plants which must be teased apart from their neighbors.

It can take us several hours to plant one bed, and so we unfurl the row cover one small section at a time. It might take us several days to finish four beds, and the flies would find the unprotected plants in that time. We still have over 30,000 plants to put in the ground, so that’s what we’re working on when you see us out there.


The newly-planted strawberry field

We are also hoeing by hand and controlling weeds via tractor cultivation. Yesterday was our first restaurant harvest of the year: we sold arugula, chives, garlic chives and some final root cellar potatoes to restaurants in Cambridge and Somerville. This year’s potatoes and strawberries have all been planted. Our first farmer’s market is next Saturday in Somerville. We hope to have radish, lettuce, turnips and scallions by then. It all depends on rain!

See you in the field,

Your farmers

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