Roots are a source of surprise. With other plants, everything is above ground to see. You can tell with a glance if the chard is doing well or if your tomatoes are setting fruit, but with root crops, the action is underground. Sometimes, as with our radishes this week, you begin to harvest the crop and are surprised by all the shapes and by the health of the roots. Sometimes things do not go as well. Here in Oregon, we have an insect called the cabbage root fly. The adults are innocuous little flies, but they lay eggs at the base of brassicas (a huge family of related veggies) and their larvae feed on the roots. Some brassicas can handle the feeding without too much trouble, and if you are harvesting the above ground parts, say a broccoli floret, then a few larvae in the root of the broccoli plant is not a problem. But if you harvest the roots as we do with our Japanese salad turnips, then you have a crop failure.
Well, crop failures don’t happen so much on our farm because we can cut the bad parts out of the turnips and eat them ourselves. But they aren’t marketable. This is a real shame because flavorwise I think these are the best salad turnips I have raised yet. They aren’t as crisp as previous plantings, but they are very sweet with just a little hint of spice. If you do find yourself with a mess of blemished turnips, there’s a nice fresh pickle recipe courtesy of a friend at the end of the post.
Insect pests are a fact of farming, and we must adapt and respond to them. Rather than spray an organic pesticide, I have chosen to add predatory nematodes to the soil in our brassica plantings. These microscopic worms feed on the larvae and should control their numbers. I prefer these animals to sprays because they can reproduce and maintain themselves in the soil, so one application should be enough for the season. They also feed on the larvae of other pests such as cucumber, flea, and potato beetles. Unlike a chemical, they have the ability to evolve with their prey, so resistance may be less of a problem. We will see–a new planting of Japanese turnips is beginning to form roots and hopefully, the nematodes will protect them.
The benefit of having a diverse interplanting of many types of vegetables is evident now. Even though we lost most of the turnips, we have more than fifteen other crops to harvest for market this week. Our resilience comes from not relying on monocultures.
Otherwise, this week was busy. The first planting of sweet corn was thinned, fertilized, and the remaining plants were hilled and weeded. The second planting of sweet corn is emerging, and I am contemplating a gambler’s patch of late sweet corn. If the state meteorologist is correct, we should have a hot end to this summer and there might be enough heat for this planting of corn to mature. I also created hills for our melons and cucumbers. The cool start to June delayed planting of the peppers and cucumbers, but I was able to transplant 500 feet of these this week. The potatoes were also hilled. Our older planting of brassicas, alliums, and greens were cultivated again and fertilized where needed. All the plantings are doing well, filling in the field with new shoots and leaves.
Please join us at market this week. We will have the aforementioned salad turnips, cilantro, basil, parsley, rainbow chard, sugar snap and snow peas, shelling favas, beets, endive, broccoli, lettuces, mustard greens, sorrel, senposai, cress, erba stella, radishes, garlic scapes, arugula flowers, and our braising mix.
Take care and eat well.
Lea’s Sweet Turnip Pickles