A Long and Productive Summer

It’s been a long, sweaty summer, and even with continued help from some of the teaching faculty (Steve, Emily, Chelsea, Mary, and Xavier), our farm manager Eric has been very busy.

Eight harvest tubs are arranged, each with its own crop: red mini bells, mini eggplant, jalapenos, orange mini bells, Asian eggplant, tomatoes, yellow mini bells, and okra

We made several large harvests of commodities that went into long-term storage: garlic, onions, butternut squash, and potatoes. For every one pound of seed potatoes that Eric planted back in February, we harvested 14.5 pounds of fresh, organic potatoes back, which is a great return.

Many of the summertime crops, such as beans and squash, have also been very productive, with many still yielding, like tomatoes, mini bell peppers, mini eggplant, Asian eggplant, and okra.

With autumn just around the corner, our long-term crops of peanuts, parsnips, and leeks are continuing to develop and grow.

With the return of students, we have just begun to harvest our edible summer cover crop of pinkeye purple hull peas.

And finally, the perennials and flowers that Eric planted earlier in the spring, like asparagus, have been very productive.

Planting Onions

Students measure out and plant onion starts

With frost on the ground, Eric and the students busily transplanted over 300 onions starts—almost twice as many as last year. Onions can be started from seed too, but it saves a lot of time and energy to mail-order some high-quality starts.

Students mulch around newly transplanted onions with hay
Students mulch around newly transplanted onions with hay

Once the onions are planted, the students then mulched around them with hay to suppress weeds, preserve water, and protect soil. Not only do onions need consistent moisture to grow well, but they are very susceptible to weed pressure, with one study finding that weeds slow onions growth by about 4% per day (50% in just two weeks).

After only one month (March 26, when this post was made), the onions have already grown tremendously. As they continue to grow, the onions can be harvested at various stages of maturity, from green onions to pearl onions and finally the mature globes in June. Quality onions, when cured properly, can be stored for six months or longer in the right conditions, so these will find their way into many future meals.

In addition to onion planting, students also continued to prepare beds for future transplanting. Eric also tested and compared the merits of the power harrow tractor attachment to the much lighter, cordless drill-powered tilther. The power harrow proved to be too heavy and cumbersome in such tightly packed and water-logged beds.