2013 Crop Report: Cilantro, Collards, Cucumbers, Flowers

I’ve been a little distracted by my writing life lately, but I’m back to try to make some progress on the crop report, a few veggies at a time.

cilantro in field smallerCilantro

  • Varieties:  Caribe (Fedco)
  • Amount grown:  4 successions, each of around 30 feet
  • Sales:  $224.  Projected: $216.  We were getting $2/bunch, well above our projected price of $1.50/bunch.
  • Where sold:  Farmer’s market and our mini-CSA
  • Amount sold:  114 bunches  Projected: 160 bunches.
  • What was good about it?  Cilantro is always a good seller at the market, and its fragrance is a nice attractor for customers.  We could easily sell 5-10 bunches every market day (once we sold 14).  What we grew was of very high quality.  Last year, I cut and bunched it, and I started doing that this year.  But I learned that it’s much better to pull out the plants by the roots and sell them whole because it stays fresher at the market that way, and it’s faster to pick that way, and each succession is really only good for 3 weeks, before it starts to bolt.  Picking it all by the roots really forces you to do the succession work and not try to eke out another cutting. Keeping it well-weeded early is critical for plant health and for ease of harvest.  I direct seeded it heavily in two rows per bed.  Thinning produced the first harvest, and then I could pick every other plant for 2-3 weeks, before the bed was empty.
  • What could have been better?  Our first succession was overwhelmed by weeds and standing water from the bad weather.  And I was clipping it rather than pulling it.  Cilantro really prefers loose, well drained soil.  Raised beds helped us get that for the later season plantings.
  • Would I grow it again?  Oh, yes.  I just love this stuff.  It’s fun to grow and customers like it and I think we finally figured out a good way to grow it.

 

Collardscollards in field smaller

  • Varieties: Champion (High Mowing)
  • Amount grown: 2 successions.  Spring succession of about 40 feet all died due to standing water. Fall succession was about 50 feet.
  • Sales:  $125   Projected $192.  We were getting $3/bunch, versus our projected price of $2.
  • Where sold: Farmer’s market and our mini-CSA
  • Amount sold: 41 bunches.  Projected: 96
  • What was good about it? The fall succession was AMAZING.  We grew it in double rows, spaced about 12 inches between plants, from transplants started under lights in our basement.  We grew the plants under row cover, and they got to be HUGE.  Amazingly tender.  Very little pest problems for the late season crop, though we did spray bT against white cabbage butterflies (they were doing major damage). This was the first time I felt like I’ve gotten collards right.  I even sold 11 bunches at the market in one day, which was a shocker, because not everyone is used to cooking them.  But they were just so beautiful.
  • What could have been better? We lost the entire early season crop due to weather and weeds.  I should have given up on it sooner and started over. Standing water just killed us.  I’m not sure it’s worth doing a spring crop of collards anyway.  In our climate, it’s probably best to just leave it for the fall. All our collards were sold in October.
  • Would I grow it again? Yes.  In the fall, doing an August transplanting of seeds started indoors in July, for an October crop.  Raised beds can be helpful.

Cucumbers

  • Varieties: Marketmore 76 and Lemon (both from High Mowing)
  • Amount grown: 90 feet Marketmore, 70 feet Lemon
  • Sales: $25.50.  Projected:  $170
  • Where sold: Farmer’s market and our mini-CSA
  • Amount sold: 44.  Projected: 340
  • What was good about it? When we had them, they sold very well.  The plants looked great before disease took them out.
  • What could have been better? Wow, these really tanked for us this year.  I thought that by getting a late planting, we’d avoid striped cucumber beetles.  And we did, but we ended up having fungal problems that took out the entire crop, just as it was really getting going.  We didn’t get a single lemon cucumber.  The fungal problems were a function of our very wet late spring and very hot early summer.  Cucumbers are a crop that I’m far from mastering.  I need to try more successions, and hope to have one of them hit for us.  But on a small farm hampered by early wet soil conditions, that was pretty much impossible.
  • Would I grow it again? Maybe.  I love eating them and selling them, and customers like them.  But pests and disease have made them very hard to grow.  I’d keep trying, but I wouldn’t count on making a lot of money from them.

Flowerscut flowers at market smaller

  • Varieties:  Cosmos (Sensation Purity, Fedco), Zinnias (Gold Medal Mix, Fedco), Calendula (Flashback, Fedco), Sunflowers (Sunrich and Sunbright, Johnny’s)
  • Amount grown: 20 ft Cosmos, 20 ft Zinnias, 20 ft Calendula, two succesions of Sunflowers, each about 100 feet.
  • Sales:  $67 cut flowers (non-sunflower), $209 sunflowers.  Projected:  $196 cut flowers, $345 sunflowers.  We got a lower price than projected for bouquets ($3-$4 vs $4) and for sunflowers ($1/each versus $4 for 3 flower bunches).
  • Where sold:  Farmer’s market, our mini-CSA
  • Amount sold:  21 bunches cut flowers, 209 sunflowers.  Projected:  52 bouquets of cut flowers, 270 sunflowers.
  • What was good about it?  They were so pretty in the field, and they attracted customers.  The sunflowers were absolutely gorgeous, and the single-stem hybrids really are designed to be cut and sold.  I loved having them at the market.  The cut sunflowers lasted a very long time, at least a week.  Customers really liked them.
  • What could have been better?  Our cut flowers suffered a lot from standing water in the field early in the season–this lead to stunted plants and a very delayed harvest.  The zinnias and calendula produced almost nothing for us.  I also didn’t like any of the varieties that we had for cut flowers, in terms of coloration.  Next time I’d choose pink cosmos–white don’t draw enough attention at the market (we had some pink and reds in there by accident, but they were mostly white). More single colors and brighter colors. I also am not fast enough at cutting the flowers to make it an efficient crop.  The sunflowers seeds were expensive ($58), and I’d like to try to find a cheaper source.  I also had two main successions, which turned out to a big mistake, because they’re so well-hybridized that each succession ALL BLOOMED AT ONCE.  Which gave me lots of sunflowers, but what I needed was to have smaller successions planted every week, so that I could have some at every market, instead of bringing 100 flowers on a single day. They also didn’t sell quite as well as I expected (I didn’t count on having any leftover).  On the other hand, having leftover sunflowers is not a bad thing, because we love having them in the house.
  • Would I grow it again?  Yes.  I’d try cut flowers again, but maybe different types of flowers.  Choosing ones that are fast to pick and bunch is very important.  And I’d definitely do sunflowers, but in smaller successions, so that I could have them more steadily over the summer.  They were very good attractors and brightened the whole market.

Next up:  garlic, husk cherries, kale, lavender.

row of sunflowers smaller

 

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