Milky Way Farm Newsletter #6 (April 2019)

The weeks have been flying by for us this spring, as is typical for any market farmer. A new farm, a new baby, and a new heated greenhouse have ensured that we have been on a pretty steep learning curve this year. Add to that increasingly unpredictable spring weather, and it would be enough to drive many away from the seemingly ideal world of small-scale diversified market farming. But we have committed ourselves to this worthwhile cause, and trudge on we must–even if these April snows keep falling.

Another rainy week does allow for a few of the things to happen that would normally be pushed to the bottom of the to-do list at this time of the year. One of these things of course is a newsletter, so here we are.

Planting continues in the greenhouse, as early zucchini, cucumber and eggplant are ready to be transplanted into the 3 remaining greenhouse beds, to join the tomatoes and peppers that have been planted out for the past month, and are growing steadily. Successions of seedlings are started every week to be eventually planted out in the field, as soon as the rain stops long enough to let us to work the soil again. While we have been focused on early season crops like lettuce, kale, and green onions for a while, my planting schedule is telling me that we have now approached melon starting season! Every year this signifies to me a shift in focus towards all of the summer crops that will start filling the fields as soon as the weather starts to settle, and an indication that things are about to get even busier! 

We have managed to get a few of the early season field plantings underway, thanks to all of those early beds we prepped last summer/fall, and covered with silage tarp to keep off the winter rain. Salad mix greens, spinach, lettuce, radish, turnip, snap peas, chard, beets, kale and kohlrabi have been planted out, and have thus far been weathering all of the storms we have had lately. Another big planting task we have completed is the storage onions, which get planted once per season are really enjoying all of this rain we have had lately. These also got in nice and early thanks to our prepared beds, and have not been drowning due to the beds being raised a few inches above the path level.

We have been really enjoying spending all of this cold, rainy, spring weather safely protected in our new heated greenhouse, and I have to say I feel a bit of a disconnect this year from the true season, as it has felt like late spring/early summer to us for over a month now.

Our seedlings are also really enjoying the mild climate and diffuse natural light provided by the plastic structure, and the promise of ripe tomatoes in May is very encouraging. But greenhouses do have their downsides, as we have discovered all too soon. Besides the soaring propane bills that almost keep us up at night wondering if the tomatoes and peppers really need to be “that” warm to thrive, is the almost immediate onslaught of insect pests that seem to appear overnight in numbers that can no longer be controlled by finger squishing patrols.

For us this year, it is aphids. They quickly got out of control, and began to multiply and spread throughout the greenhouse, attempting to devour everything in sight. Thankfully our tomatoes and peppers were big and healthy, and have so far withstood the feeding pressure, but our earliest try at cucumbers did not fare so well. We have since released ladybugs by the thousand, along with some beneficial wasps and generalist predators to take care of the aphids for us, but time will tell what kind of long term damage they may have done to some of our seedlings. I feel like any new greenhouse owner should be given a welcome package of beneficial insects and host plants, to start them off in the right direction.

CSA SIGN-UP NOW OPEN!

We are now accepting sign-ups for the Summer 2019 season of our weekly veggie box program. Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program helps us farmers make sure the veggies we grow this season will find a good home (hopefully on your dinner table!), and also helps us cover all of our early season costs associated with producing these veggies.

We offer two different “share” sizes, a full share designed to feed a family of four, and a small share, to feed a family of two, and offer full choice over what goes into your share each week. Members will come to the farm to pick up their shares Tuesdays between 4-8pm, and will choose 15 veggies (full share) or 8 veggies (small share) from our display tables. Payment is due at the start of the CSA season, but as a benefit members will receive a discount above retail prices found at the market.



Besides all of the seeding, transplanting, bed prep, tomato trellising, watering, weeding, and tarp moving we have been doing in the last month or so, we have also been busy harvesting, washing and selling our early season goodies at the downtown Kitchener Farmers Market for the past 7 Saturdays, and Jesse will be there every week from now on to hook you up with all of your local veggie needs until our CSA program starts in June. So far this spring we have garlic (last years crop), loads of big juicy spinach, kale, chard, arugula, salad mix, radish and baby turnip, with lots more variety on the way in the next few weeks. Stop by and see us every Saturday, 7am to 2pm inside the main market building.

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