April 27th-30th 2020 – Protection in the field

REMINDERS:

*This week’s Wednesday deliveries will arrive on Thursday, April 30th

*Henceforth, we will charge your credit cards at the end of each week for vegetables delivered.

 ________________________

The Chubeza Cover-Up

As reality changes, our perspectives change as well… On my recent trek through our spring field, it seems to be on Corona alert right along with us. Our gloves and masks have become routine, and apparently the field is obediently stepping in line to follow the rules.

Spring is the season in which exuberance explodes with fanfare:   insects galore buzz in the air, ladybugs and butterflies mate and produce offspring, animals awaken from their winter slumber to start seeking food – all in all, an overall growth spurt. After emerging from a winter that lowered temperatures, hid the sunrays and slowed down the rhythm, the warm field is alive and the plants are thriving!

This vibrancy is exciting, but also challenging to the farmers: a host of flying insects arriving from afar carry (non-human) viruses and other diseases which may develop into leaf diseases once they land on our plants, even for a short rest. This is especially critical for the Cucurbitaceaes: zucchini, pumpkins, squash, melon and watermelon, all planted and seeded at the end of winter.

As nature cannot halt flights or close the skies, it also can’t order the insects to go into quarantine for two weeks. Which is why we decided to quarantine them ourselves… well, kind of… Naturally, they still receive their irrigation and sunshine, but they’re protected from the flying insects by Agril (non-woven material) which we spread over the beds:

Spring squash covered in Agril

This cover can only remain in place until blossoms appear on the plants, which is when we need some help from those flying insects to pollinate the flowers, spurring fertilization and eventually fruit. By then, our plants will be strong and mature enough to confront the viruses – at least for a good while. (At some point, the viruses defeat the Cucurbitaceaes, but by then perfect fruits have already been produced.)

Another way to protect against harmful insects stinging the plants, digging into them, nibbling on them or giving them diseases is by planting the crops inside a specially-made structure: a hothouse or tunnel. The walls of the structure have double doors – when we enter, we close one behind us before opening the next door, preventing insects from entering along with us.

The main (but not sole) vegetables which we grow in these structures are tomatoes and cucumbers. In the first years, we planted tomatoes and cucumbers in the open field, but upon building these structures several years later and moving the tomatoes and cucumbers inside, the difference has been enormous. In the open field, the plants were able to yield only one round of crops (if we were lucky), whereas within the protected structures they yield over many months. However, the land is of limited size, so we stretch trellising cords to allow the plants to climb up tall and sturdy. This also prevents a range of problems and harm caused by crowded growth on the ground. These are our tomatoes and cucumbers making their way upward in our net structures:

                                                    Tomato:                                                                                                  Cucumber:

Surprisingly, perhaps, the final safety precaution (pictured below) protects against other plants, not insects: During spring and summer, the field’s beautiful growth spurt is joined by weeds. Covering the soil surrounding the plants is a great way to prevent (or at the very least reduce) weeds which compete with the plants for food and water and wreak havoc with the veggies’ development. Thus, over summer many vegetable beds are protected by a biodegradable silver cover (which decomposes into the soil at the end of the season) into which we insert the plants through round holes. The cover also retains moisture within the soil and prevents the fierce summer sun from drying up the soil too quickly. If you slip your hand under the cover, you will discover nice moist soil, cooler than the exposed dirt outside. Here are some eggplants enjoying the cover and growing happily.

Smiling eggplants burst out of their biodegradable cover (made of corn)

Protective measures against Corona will probably remain with us for a while. When I’m annoyed by the uncomfortable mask or gloves, I think about our plants in the field who are protected as well, and remember that at the end of day this uncomfortable situation yields fruit that is utterly sweet, healthy and joyful.

This week is one that adds a measure of proportion to these challenging days – So many men and women in this country have endured far tougher times. It is thanks to them that we are able to live and grow in this country (and complain about it).

Wishing you all a joyous Yom HaAtzmaut and only good days to come,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team

 __________________________________________________

WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Zucchini/bell peppers, potatoes, cabbage/garlic, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks/onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce, carrots.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root/celery, fennel/turnips, slice of pumpkin/peas.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, oranges/red grapefruit, apples, avocados/loquat (shesek)/nectarines. 

Thursday: Zucchini/bell peppers, potatoes, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks/onions, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce, fennel/turnips, carrots.

Large box, in addition: Parsley root/celery, slice of pumpkin, cabbage/garlic.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, oranges/red grapefruit, apples, avocados/nectarines.