Farewell to Summer | Salad Ways | We're Growing
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Salad-Ways-Farewell-to-Summer-Sunflower-Sprouts

Farewell to Summer

Farewell to Summer by Fiona Haywood

This has undoubtedly been a tough summer. The combination of long periods of hot, sunny, dry weather and the invasions of critters that have accompanied that weather have certainly taken their toll. Even as I write this in the middle of autumn it is another thirty-degree day.

Farming has its ups and downs…

As we don’t use any chemical pesticides or fertilisers we reckon on sharing about fifty percent of our produce with the various bugs, possums and other wildlife. However, this summer they have definitely had more than their fair share!

After losing our entire potato crop to grasshoppers last year, we learnt the lesson and got them in much earlier this year, before the grasshoppers were too plentiful. Fortunately, this meant the plants got well established before they could do much damage and we had a good crop as a result.

The grasshoppers did turn up though and in what seemed like plague numbers. They shredded the leaves of broccoli, kale and pak choi. Nibbled the leaves of young onion down to the ground and I’ve lost count of the number of trays of seedlings of carrots, fennel, onions, lettuce, beetroot and leafy greens that, once planted, disappeared overnight.

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Another bug that turned up in abundance was a type of shield bug. The young are tiny, black, round beetles with white dots on their backs. They get bigger and finally end up completely green. These bugs were particularly fond of green beans, but also snacked on broccoli and tomatoes.

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We spent a fair amount of time and effort preparing the ground for seventy five pumpkin, squash and melon plants. After they had grown to about a metre, a sap sucking beetle attacked the stems causing most of the plants to wither. We replanted but the same thing happened. Only a handful of spaghetti squash plants survived.

By now we were feeling a bit persecuted! As if to add insult to injury, we were having morning coffee on the verandah one day when the puppy trotted past, a look of triumph on his face, spaghetti squash in his mouth, trailing the rest of the plant behind him. We had to laugh, or we would have cried. Some urgent training took place to stop this happening again.

Our capsicum and chilli crop was shaping up really well until bushrats started tucking into them. I was planning to add a harissa paste to our product line but as I need all the remaining chillies and tomatoes for customer boxes and bags, I will probably have to wait until next year.

But it’s not all bad…

Now that I’ve had a good moan, I’ll focus on the positives. We have been trying different methods of excluding the bugs which have been reasonably successful, and as the weather cools and we get some rain, hopefully the bugs will get less rampant.

The paddock we planted with sunflowers, soy beans and mung beans has had mixed results so far. The sunflowers were amazing and have now gone to seed. The cockatoos are enjoying the seeds as are our chooks but we collect the seed heads and have been sprouting the seeds to add some extra greenery to our boxes and bags.

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Feedback from customers has been really positive so we’ll keep going until the seeds run out. We had a moderate crop of mung beans and the soy beans have just started producing so if we get some rain, I might still get to make tofu.

We have had a few melons which have been really sweet and had our first few bunches of grapes. The passionfruit it loaded with fruit and our chooks are laying well.

So, farewell to a tough summer. We have learned some lessons to take forward to next year. We’ll enjoy the cooler months, keep on planting, prepare for spring and have another go next summer.

Fiona Haywood

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