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Midsummer at La Vista Brings Weeds and Sunflowers
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.
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.
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