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Midsummer at La Vista Brings Weeds and Sunflowers

Updated on July 5, 2013

Mid-summer at La Vista can be a challenging time. Our part of the Midwest – the Mississippi Valley – can experience some pretty brutal heat and humidity.

It’s also a transitional time. Spring crops have stopped producing and the heat-tolerant vegetables haven’t come into their own yet. But while shareholders are looking forward to basil, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, summer squash and okra, the farmers already are thinking winter squash, broccoli and root vegetables.

Midsummer harvest - potatoes, carrots,  onions and more!
Midsummer harvest - potatoes, carrots, onions and more! | Source
Garlic hangs to dry in the barn. For a garlic lover such as myself, there can't be too much garlic!
Garlic hangs to dry in the barn. For a garlic lover such as myself, there can't be too much garlic! | Source

I was out at the farm a couple weeks ago helping to transplant broccoli in one of the fields. There were about six of us and we made short work of getting nearly 800 plants into the ground. Our spring crop of broccoli didn’t do well – we had an early heat wave and I think the sun fried the plants and they bolted.

I also started to help harvest onions that would be part of the share that week. Although I had to leave early, I cautioned Eric, our farmer, not to have anyone work in the afternoon. We were expecting temps of 105 degrees or more with the heat index. In our part of the country, it is the humidity, not the heat, that gets us.

Work and more work

There is always so much to do on the farm – sowing seeds and then transplanting the seedlings, watering, mulching and trellising plants and harvesting for 120 shareholders. The produce has to be washed before being put into the bins in the share room. I know our farmers put in at minimum 12-hour days during the height of the season and we couldn’t do it without our volunteers.

One task we always need many volunteers for is weeding. The weeds thrive in the heat of summer and because we use sustainable methods, we hand weed many crops. Before we began transplanting the broccoli, several of us were pulling weeds while we waited for Eric to get the field ready. It’s neither a fun nor an easy task to do – hunched over (or sitting in the dirt) pulling weeds one by one, swatting at gnats and mosquitoes. But as onerous as it is, it is necessary so weeds don’t overtake the plants and suck important nutrients out of the soil.

Our farmer sows seeds in the small field using a seed hopper. We'll have arugula and other cool weather crops come fall.
Our farmer sows seeds in the small field using a seed hopper. We'll have arugula and other cool weather crops come fall. | Source
Early tomatoes start to ripen in the greenhouse. Tomatoes and basil are two shareholder favorites in the summer.
Early tomatoes start to ripen in the greenhouse. Tomatoes and basil are two shareholder favorites in the summer. | Source
Basil growing in the greenhouse. Basil and tomatoes are two favorite crops for our shareholders.
Basil growing in the greenhouse. Basil and tomatoes are two favorite crops for our shareholders. | Source
A tiny worm works its way down  to the radicchio plant.
A tiny worm works its way down to the radicchio plant. | Source
Wild flowers line the farm's fence.
Wild flowers line the farm's fence. | Source
Sunflowers greet visitors at the edge of the property.
Sunflowers greet visitors at the edge of the property. | Source

Looking forward to fall

Even as we pull the weeds of summer, Eric is planting for fall. We very rarely use a tractor and if we aren’t sowing seeds in flats in the greenhouse, Eric uses a hand seeder. This piece of equipment features a hopper with a feed wheel inside it. As Eric pushes the planter along, the front wheel turns the feed wheel. Changeable seed plates allow for a variety of seeds to be sown and the size of the hole in the plates controls the amount.

Despite the heat and backbreaking work, there is much on the farm that brings pleasure. Sunflowers planted near the farm’s entrance greet shareholders as they arrive. Keep your eyes open, be observant and you can find life all around you, such as a tiny worm, not to mention the more evident and ever present birds, bees and squirrels.

We have amazing soil on our farm (all that past cow manure!) and the land brings forth a plethora of flowers, vegetables and herbs for us to enjoy nine months of the year.


This is the seventh in a series of monthly hubs I’ll be writing in 2011 about La Vista Community Supported Garden in Godfrey, Illinois. I joined La Vista in 2005 and became a member of its board of directors a year later. This series – La Vista: Nurturing land and people – will take the reader through a year at the farm, sharing the struggles and triumphs of operating a CSA and the benefits of membership. I hope you find this series useful and interesting and, as always, feel free to leave a comment.

Next month: La Vista's annual Tomato Fest

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    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Sherri. I think it's great that your community garden contributes to your local food bank. I don't know if you've read some of my other hubs on La Vista but in a couple I've mentioned that we donate extra produce each week to the local food pantry. It's part of our mission. We will certainly do our best to keep cool - temps were 108 yesterday (June 28) and expected to be in the triple digits or high 90s for the next week.

      I heard on the news last night they are predicting higher than usual temps and lower than usual rainfall for the next month. Worrisome news indeed.

      Thanks for the votes!

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a delightful midsummer tour through La Vista. There are no CSAs within a 90-mile radius of where I live. If there were, I would certainly join.

      We do have a community garden, the land provided by a local church. 50% of the harvest is donated to our local food bank.

      Keep cool this midsummer out on the farm! Voted up, interesting, beautiful.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Movie Master - we would love to have you out to help! It really is great out there. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Danette, how I would love to come and help you on the farm, what a wonderful project.

      Thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading the next one.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment, Dan. Yes, I know that people are more likely to eat the veggies if they are involved in the farm and not just kids or young people. My 60+ year old husband hardly ate anything fresh until just a couple years ago when he began to help out at the farm more. I think when people have a stake in something, they "own it" and are more likely to work at making it succeed so they can continue to reap the benefits.

    • danfresnourban profile image

      danfresnourban 

      7 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Wonderful pictures, excellent imagery. You are probably already aware of this but young people are more likely to eat vegetables when they are involved with growing them.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading and commenting Simone. It is nice out there, away from the hubbub of every day life. There is a novitiate on the grounds and I envy the young men who live there for a year while they contemplate the priesthood.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Aaaah! I wish I could help out on the farm!! Midsummer at La Vista sounds magical.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading and the votes Dee. It is going to be a "cool" week - relatively speaking - only in the 90s, LOL. But even that bit of a drop will help the plants recover a bit.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Danette, -wonderful report here about the progress of the farm. With the heat wave hitting the way it has been it must be awful on the plants. I know it has been here. Voted useful and interesting.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      @Phil - We just started a delivery service to St. Louis this year and it has been a big success. The 'city-folk' really enjoy the fresh produce and their membership has saved us, financially.

      @Hollie - I wrote a hub on garlic that included a roasted garlic soup, check it out, even my husband enjoyed it!

      @ JSParker - I'm originally from the Detroit area (Sterling Hts). I've been reading about urban gardens. There are a number of them in St. Louis and we have a few in my town too. I'm all for whatever it takes to make fresh produce available to folks. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • JSParker profile image

      JSParker 

      7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Danette, this is interesting to read about. Here in Detroit, there are quite a few community farms operating in the strangely vacant properties in what used to be the Metropolis of Detroit. The city is being transfigured into a new type of urban center, with farming mixed right in. I'd think CSA would be getting a real boost from the economy and so many unemployed, unfortunately. Best wishes.

    • Hollie Thomas profile image

      Hollie Thomas 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is really interesting, and like you, I'm a garlic over too!:)

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      7 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      We get weekly deliveries from a CSA (community supported agriculture) much like what you are describing here. I've gone to the farm a few times but fortunately when I've gone it hasn't been as hot as it has been these last few days here.

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