We're full into Summer, we've been flat tack picking and packing and delivering and generally going hard since a couple of weeks before Christmas. This is our biggest revenue gathering time of the year, and we need to earn as much as we can to get us through the lean winter months. There is barely any time to do anything other than pick and pack ... except seeding the herbs and lettuce for the hydroponics. All other garden work comes to a halt at this time of the year, there's just no time. We get up early every morning so we can be outside at sunrise ... most summer crops have to be picked daily, and out of the front paddock into the packing room before 10.00 or 11.00 at the latest. After that, it's too hot for the produce and too hot for us to be outside. Once we have it all in, we then weigh, bundle, punnet or bag and into the chiller it goes.
So what's in our in-ground beds and being picked right now?
Tomatoes - 100 metres, my goodness, we've got so many tomatoes, it's almost too many. We have 5 varieties planted, 20 metres of each. Our little baby tomatoes are going great guns, the plants are heaving full of handfuls of the little guys and they taste terrific. We grow Black Cherry, a red 'Cherry Berry' and yellow 'Honeybee'. Then we have Andiamo, which is a San Marzano style tomato. They're a curious shape, long and quirky, and their flesh is more meaty and is lower acid than other varieties. And the last variety is Tigerella, a stripy medium sized tomato, good for salads and sandwiches and has good flavour.
We had a customer ask during the week; 'how do you grow the tomatoes without having shield bug (stink bug) problems?'. And we had to say we haven't had a problem this year ... (yet). We squash a few a week, mainly on the beans. I looked up 'who eats the shield bug', and it turns out lots of other insects and even birds eat them. Out in the front paddock we grow a lot of edible flowers, and beds of 'wild' insect loving flowers. These flower beds are full of bees and other insects. We also have a massive amount of bird life here, which we often curse when they nibble on snow peas and lettuces. Are the birds redeeming themselves by helping us with the shield bugs?? Maybe.
Beans - 60 metres of beans, 3 beds planted 2 weeks apart - this helps to stagger the pick. One bed is nearly finished. The other two have a few more weeks in them. The beans are an awesome crop for us, customers appreciate being able to enjoy freshly picked beans and the tall rows provide an avenue of shade - which is appreciated while we're picking. We deliver our beans, zucchini and herbs to The Smoko Room at The Sawmill Brewery, a fantastic local Restaurant where the chef creates delicious dishes from truly locally sourced seasonal produce. We love that the chef changes the menu depending on what's being picked.
Zucchini - 140 metres of all kinds of zucchini and scallopini. 7 beds planted all throughout the season and I'm thinking of seeding more. Our first plants have been harvested for 3 months now, and have pretty much finished. Varieties this year are: an ordinary green variety, the yellow and green 'Zephur', the little yellow spaceship-shaped scallopini, and my favourite - stripy green 'Cocozille'. The Cocozille is an Italian variety with creamy nutty flesh. The plants grow upright ... which is a bit of relief for our backs when we're picking.
Lebanese cucumbers - 40 metres of the little guys. We've trained them upright this year, which saves our backs a bit, although we've left some of the leaders to sprawl over the ground too, as it creates some shade for the roots. They've got such lovely sweet flavour, and are so refreshing to munch on ... we eat a lot of these.
Jalapeno chilli - 20 metres ... the fruit are just appearing. These are the first chilli we've ever grown, so we're excited to see what we can do.
Mint - this is the first year we've sold bunches of our mint. We grow it in big grow bags, so that we can stop it from spreading everywhere. Every once in a while we rotate the bags so the roots don't take hold of the ground under the bags. Rascals!
In the hydroponics, the big stars right now are basil and Thai basil. Market Customers say they smell the basil before they see it. Customers wander around the market with these massive basil plants, and other people ask where they got them from. We're a bit famous for our basil. Our Thai basil is amazing this year, the leaves are bigger than previous years we've grown it - not sure why. If you haven't tried Thai Basil Chicken yet, find the recipe on our website. It's easy and truly delicious. Our other hydroponic crops of lettuces and coriander carry on as usual.
That's about it, we're hoping for a bit of rain but all-in-all it's been a good growing season for us. So far so good, long may the summer crops carry on!