July news from the Farm
It's busy times on the harvesting front with the start of the french beans, flat beans, courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines. You'll find lots of these seasonal treats in your boxes and at our farmers market stall over the coming weeks.
We did our final big planting of winter brassicas last week and we are hoping for some rain soon to water it all in. We have the sprinklers running much of the time at the moment but there is no substitute for the quenching power of the rain.
Meanwhile, the hoeing continues! We have decided that mob hoeing is the most effective - everyone working together to finish one crop at a time, and we have surprised ourselves at how much we have managed to get done, even on the hottest of days!
We’re currently harvesting lots of pointed hispi cabbages. Planted in early April we first harvest them as spring greens but now they are hearting up nicely. On the underside of some outer leaves are a few aphids but most of these are in fact mummified having been predated by a parasitic wasp. These tiny wasps are attracted to the colonies by sensing both distress signals emitted by the plants and also detecting the aphid’s honeydew secretions. Once there the wasps inject the aphids with eggs and upon hatching, the larvae consumes its prey from the inside out finally bursting as a fully formed adult wasp through a hole in the aphids back. A fairly gruesome end but incredible none the less. We are very happy to see evidence of these parasitic wasps at work as it signifies that we have a well-balanced, diverse environment at the farm keeping things balanced and in check.
Harry Neve, Grower
And finally, a big thank you to David, our volunteer who has been helping us out for the last 18 months. We wish him all the best with his future ventures!
Cucumbers: vegetable of the month
Cucumbers are one of the more temperamental of crops – susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. Last year our crop suffered from a bad outbreak of two-spot spider mite, a small mite that lives on the undersides of the leaves and sucks the sap until the leaves turn brown and eventually die. Spider mites thrive in hot dry weather like last summer. This year we have upped our defences with regular damp downs on an automated overhead irrigation system and we have introduced a predatory mite which preys on the spider mite. So far, we only have a small population of spider mites which is not enough to be an issue (touch wood), and we are checking carefully to make sure we are not inviting downy mildew through overwatering. But this year, we have a new problem: voles! They munched through around 70 of our third and final sowing of cucumber plants shortly after we planted them out into the polytunnel. We have done a rather late replacement sowing and we are hoping that the voles have moved outside now that the weather is so much warmer.
As Joel Morrow says, “I suppose cucumbers are so fragile because we grow them so far from their place of origin, the warm valleys of India between the Bay of Bengal and the foothills of the Himalayas.” (Morrow 2014: 139). It is definitely a trick to get the right balance of warmth and water! We are still learning how to get the balance right but it is definitely worth the effort as there is nothing quite as refreshing as biting into a cucumber on a hot summer’s day.
Quick tatziki recipe
Finely chop a cucumber and add garlic, herbs such as dill or mint, olive oil and yoghurt, salt and pepper. Delicious with salads, pizza, falafel or spicy foods such as curries and chillies!
Chloe Blackmore, Grower