Written by Maggie Fusco
Justin’s blog about life on the Wood Road Salad Farm has just been added to The News-Herald’s website. Clink on the link for Blogs and then click the Life tab. I appreciate all the kind feedback about how you enjoy my newsletter but while my writing takes a practical approach, Justin’s is more cerebral and he is by far the better writer. For those familiar with astrology we’re a Capricorn/Gemini pair and I’ll bet you can guess which is which!
So, it went from wet and cold to hot and dry in a week and then just when I thought we could use a light rain the skies dumped 1.5” in one hour……………welcome to Northeast Ohio. We growers would like to see it settle down to several warm days followed by a brief rain, a “Goldilocks” kind of season, not too wet, not too dry…….just right!
Most folks like to get their gardens in on Memorial Day weekend but do not despair if you weren’t able to because of wet soil. There is still plenty of time to get plants in the ground, in fact, growers plant in succession for the next 6 weeks so that we have plants producing at their peak for the rest of the growing season. I’ll be planting my last crops of greens for fall right up until 8 weeks before our last frost in October so really, the planting season has just begun here.
We had been cutting asparagus since May 1st and much as I still wanted to enjoy it’s hearty spring flavor I called it quits for this year. This is the 3rd spring for this planting and one month of harvest is the recommended time in order to let the plants replenish for following years. For those who are not familiar with this crop here’s the scoop:
Asparagus is a perennial meaning it will persist year after year, with fields producing for 10-15 years. It is planted as “crowns”, a clump of roots in a dormant state. Trenches 8” deep are dug, roots planted, trenches filled in gradually over the first growing season, and anything that grows above ground is allowed to grow tall and go to seed. These look much like the asparagus fern you see in hanging baskets.
The following spring you can harvest a spear or two from each plant, enough for a few meals, and then allow them to go to seed again. Year 3, this year for our planting, we could harvest for a month and then allow the rest to grow up and go to seed. After this year we can take a full harvest each year until the plants stop producing.
On a warm, sunny day asparagus can grow 1” per hour so cutting is a twice a day task. Cut in the morning, leave the little ones until later and then go back and cut again in the evening. Those tight and tender tips we love to eat? Give them a day and they open up, branch out, and eventually form seed. Remember, all plants live to reproduce so left on their own they will directly produce seed. If we keep up with harvesting a plant will continue to produce more “potential” seed……..meaning, more for us to eat!
I was planting potatoes today so I thought some of you may be interested in hearing the scoop on that crop. Potatoes for planting are purchased as “seed potatoes” which means they are actual potatoes that are certified free of any disease that may afflict a potato crop. If you’ve ever kept potatoes too long you may have noticed that the “eyes’ have formed sprouts. A potato has enough energy stored in it to regenerate itself. So, when you order seed potatoes you pretty much buy a sack of potatoes that costs way more than any sack of potatoes you buy in a grocery store! These are planted in trenches 4-6” deep, sometimes they can be cut into sections depending upon the number of eyes they have, then covered with soil. Once sprouted roto-tilling between the rows loosens the soil and then raking the loose soil towards the plant forms a hill. This is done several times during the growing process. Once potatoes begin to form they need to be covered by soil. Above ground, potatoes from a leafy canopy and even flower but the real action takes place below ground where the roots are forming. This is what we turn into French fries, baked potatoes, and hash browns! Pulling taters is like uncovering buried treasure! The maturity date varies, some early, some mid-season, and some late, anywhere from 80-130 days. I planted some of each, 10 varieties, mostly fingerlings, those small and tasty types!
For the home gardener you can plant them in the ground or in containers. Grower catalogs offer many options for planting them in grow bags as well.
Here’s a link to a story featuring one of our Willoughby market regulars, a doctor who is a firm believer in food as medicine, who recommends we “eat the rainbow” of vegetable colors…………………………………………………………………
While local produce has been slim thus far some things are coming along now and we have greens! Lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach is growing nicely. Beets and carrots are not far off.
And starting this week I will be cutting the garlic scapes…..the what you ask? The shoot that the garlic plant sends up to form a flower is called a scape and as I learned several years ago, they are not only edible but downright tasty! They have a mild garlicky flavor without the hot bite of the actual garlic bulb.
Follow this link for more details and recipes:
and look for them at market for the next few weeks only….they come and go so quickly but the good news is that they can be preserved by freezing or making into pesto.
Local strawberries were at market last week!
There is still a great selection of garden plants to choose from as well as herbs and ornamentals from many vendors at both Painesville and Willoughby markets.
Anything you’d like to hear about? Let me know. I’m happy to address any gardening or market concerns and I’m at 2 markets per week to answer any questions you may have.
About the author:
Maggie Fusco and Justin Kopczak have been happily married and growing great produce since 2002. While we are not certified organic we use all natural fertilizers, our produce is pesticide-free, and harvested within 24 hours of coming to market.
We called our farm a “salad” farm because in the beginning we grew mostly lettuces and greens but then one crop led to another, and every season became a new adventure in growing!