The First Tomatoes Spotted & the Benefits of Cover Cropping
Village Farm Team,
Tomato planting continued on the North Farm this week. The team has been working on systematically pulling out the remaining winter crops and composting them to make room for the tomatoes. So far we have 10 rows planted which equates to about 800 tomato plants! We still have another 500 or so remaining in the greenhouse that we hope to get out in the next week. Our cherry tomato varieties that were planted out first are already producing fruit. Though the tomatoes we can see are incredibly tiny at this point, it has us dreaming about the first harvest.
Now that we’ve planted more than half of our tomato starts and have extra space in the greenhouse, we’ve been able to head right into seeding our summer crops. We have 14 trays of yellow crookneck squash seeded in addition to 13 trays of Bastan peppers. A type of poblano pepper, Bastans are ripe when they reach a blackish green hue. They have a mild heat level and are perfect for roasting and stuffing.
Remember our sunn hemp cover crop that was planted on half of the rows on our South Farm? Previously home to our chard last spring, sunn hemp took its place as spring transitioned into summer. A member of the legume family, sunn hemp works to fix beneficial nitrogen back into the soil. Once mowed down, it was left in place to act as green mulch which boosted the carbon levels in the soil in addition to deterring weed growth. As the team has been harvesting turnips on the South Farm these past weeks, the benefits of our cover crop has been expressed in the size and quality of both the turnips and their greens. The turnips growing in the previously cover cropped rows are much larger in size with greener leaf growth. The turnips growing in the non-cover cropped rows are much smaller in size and have more of a yellow tinge to their leaves.
One of our hens “Beyonce” is prone to a condition called sour crop. This occurs when too much food piles up in the crop, an elastic storage compartment at the base of a chicken’s neck. When there is too much food in the crop, it can no longer efficiently make its way into the gizzard (stomach) to be digested and ground up. To combat this issue, Farm Educator Bonnie closely monitors Beyonce’s diet in addition to outfitting her with a “crop bra”. The bra allows for crop support to help keep it in the proper position as well as stimulating more efficient digestion.
The Agmenity Farm Team
Words & Photos by Courtney West