Cheers to a great growing season! I have so much gratitude for my supportive CSA members, hard working worker shares and family and friends who all helped make this season a success!
Every season I keep a notebook FULL of ideas, failed experiments and successful experiments, notes about which crops did well and which did not so well. At the end of the season, I go back and reread my notebook. Sometimes it's challenging to read my notes about all the hard parts of the season. But it's also exciting to read about the successes. As I read through my notebook, I write down comments that I had about each crop and I write a season reflection which I would like to share some of below. My end of season reflection and your CSA survey results are what help me optimize the farm better during the winter months.
Crops that did well:
- Brussels sprouts: So big and so tall this fall- there were plants that were literally taller than me! Only bad news is that they matured earlier than usual and many of the lower sprouts rotted on the stalk. I am considering putting these in the shares earlier next year if this threatens to happen again to avoid this crop loss.
- Head lettuce: This year I planned for 4 beds devoted to head lettuce since CSA members indicated they liked it in 2015. I really love growing all the amazing variations of reds and greens and purples that head lettuce offers. I plan on expanding to 6 beds in 2017.
- Onions: Yay for plastic mulch! Because of plastic mulch, we had an abundance of onions this year.
- Peppers: Holy cow- did you get sick getting a handful peppers every week?! With the humidity and heat this summer, I've never grown so many ripe peppers before. YAY! And wow hot peppers galore! I even am learning to like hot peppers now. I expect this year to be an anomaly but who knows with how the climate is changing.
- Sweet corn: Although I spaced out the two successions that I planted, both varieties decided to produce all around the same time. I was really happy with the amount but would like even more for next year. Sweet corn is one of those special crops that a lot of CSAs don't produce because it takes up so much space for relatively little yield and profit. 2017 *might* be the last year I grow sweet corn for the CSA as I ramp up production on our new land. I don't want to grow past the 1.2 acres I plan on growing on next year and sweet corn would be the easiest to cut from the roster. I also believe sweet corn is challenging to grow, harvest and store correctly. And on top of that, organic varieties are generally much less sweet than the conventional sweet corn varieties. These are all the things I consider as I plan for 2017 and beyond.
- Sweet potatoes: I was really happy with the sweet potato slips I got from a new supplier this year and they produced really well. If this abundance happens again in 2017, I will set up a sweet potato curing area in my pack shed to increase storability of these sweet tubers.
Crops that didn't do well:
- Cabbage: I just can't seem to figure out how to grow fall cabbage... We had great mini cabbages in the spring but the rest rotted in the field. I'm sure the huge rainfall and high humidity this season didn't help. I am hoping that our new land will grow fall cabbage better because I love to make fall sauerkraut!
- Cucumbers: I was surprised and taken off guard by how much disease there was this year and how little the cucumbers produced because of it. Normally I feel like I am drowning my CSA members is cucumbers but I barely had enough this year. I am guessing this was an anomaly and we will be back to regular production next year.
- Peas: Complete crop failure due to weeds. I am trying these ONE more year! I will figure this out!
- Root crops (beets, carrots, etc.): Although I stayed much more on top of the weeding this year, I still missed out on keeping up with the carrots. And the cows got into my field once topping most of the beets... Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, move on and seed more anew. Which is exactly what I did this year.. which is why we only had carrots twice. Next year though! So many carrots will be happening. And I am sure no one is complaining about the lack of beets except me.
- Tomatoes: Oh tomatoes... This year was VERY wet and humid. And tomatoes do not do well with that kind of weather. Disease ran rampant and the tomatoes stopped producing by mid-September (about one month earlier than last year). Good news is that they started producing earlier as well so I was able to hit my production goals anyway. I was very glad I choose to add 100 feet of hybrids to the mix this year as well which helped extend the disease resistance a bit. The heirloom tomatoes did really poorly this year as a result of the disease. I am hoping with increased nutrients to the tomato plants in 2017 that this will help mitigate some disease issues.
- Winter squash: Again this year! Many of you may have noticed the lack of storability of the winter squash this year. You would think (and rightly so) that a pie pumpkin would store on the kitchen counter for more than a couple weeks but apparently not this season. Between squash bugs, cucumber beetles and various fungal diseases, I was constantly dumping rotting squash as I was packing the fall CSA shares. I did my best but I would rather give winter squash even with the risk of them not lasting than not give them at all.
Thanks for all your support this season! Travis and I will be busy this winter building the pack shed, clearing honey suckle from our new land and then going to Europe for a whole month! Woot!
2017 CSA sing up begins January 1st, 2017!