By the time June rolls around, the summer crops should be in the ground and the winter crops are complaining about the heat. In early June, some greens are still around and the tomatoes are not yet ready. By the end of June, the greens have given up and it is time for tomato basil salads! Best of all, the blueberries get ripe around the first of June! When considering our summer crops, site selection (where we put them) is very important. Five of our fields have irrigation and two do not. Crops that need consistent water needs go in the irrigated fields, and crops with better drought tolerance go in the non-irrigated fields. Tomatoes are a great example of a crop that needs irrigation. They need consistent water or else they have problems such as cracked skin and blossom end rot. Some great drought resistant crops include Chinese Long Beans, eggplant, and many types of peas and beans. The amount of shade the crop gets is also important. Crops that tend to get lots of diseases, such as tomatoes, need to be located in a place that dries out quickly in the morning (full morning sun) so that leaf wetness is minimized. Minimizing leaf wetness can make the tomatoes less prone to many diseases. Other crops that are prone to diseases and will do better if the leaves dry out quickly include squash, cucumbers, peppers, and even some types of snap beans. It is also beneficial to place them in a breezy location. Other crops, such as lettuce, don’t like summer heat, so in the summer they need to be placed in an area that does not get afternoon sun. Most of our herbs such as basil, mint, oregano and sage want full sun all day. Most herbs do not like very much water, so they do well in one of our non-irrigated fields.
Choosing the right varieties to plant in the summer is equally important as the right location. This is especially true given our farm’s commitment to not use pesticides. It is a great idea to check out your state’s Cooperative Extension crop bulletins, on the crops you intend to plant. These bulletins normally give a list of disease and insects the crop is going to have problems with in your area. When you are choosing seeds, look for varieties with genetic resistance or tolerance to the problems you have in your area. For example, tomatoes are a crop that tend to get many diseases. I look for varieties with resistance to some of the most common problems such as Early Blight, Bacterial Spot, and Late Blight. In our area, the varieties bred by Randy Gardner such as Mountain Spring and Mountain Pride tend to do well. There are many others though. Specifically, look for what diseases the variety is resistant to when you are looking through your seed catalogue. Cucumbers and squash are also crops that are prone to so many diseases that choosing varieties with good natural resistance is essential. The foundation of plant disease prevention is choosing the right variety and location, not an aggressive spray program.
Our CSA members love our summer crops! When they get a bag full of tomatoes, blueberries, squash, peppers, cucumbers, basil, snap beans, and eggplant they are in veggie bag heaven. These are crops most of them know what to do with, so they don’t have to work too hard to get their family to eat them. The most challenging summer crop to convince CSA members to love is eggplant. Actually, even I am not totally convinced that I love it, but don’t tell anyone. One of my goals this summer is to figure out some easy and yummy recipes for eggplant. It is a very nutritious crop, loaded with great phytonutrients in that purple skin. Another problem our CSA members sometimes complain about is that summer seems to last forever. Some may start to get tired of the normal summer crops by the time August comes around. That problem is hard to solve because what is “seasonal and local” can’t be changed. Most of our members understand this and realize that broccoli in July just isn’t going to happen. It is a shift in our modern eating paradigm to eat seasonally and locally, because the produce sections in grocery stores offer absolutely everything, regardless of when/where it is normally grown. There is a cost to that availability though, including pesticide use and shipping issues. Eating seasonally is a shift I encourage you to make!
Eat your local veggies,