Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Beginnings of Summer

As farmers, we try to spend a lot of our time listening. Listening to the plants, the soil, the weather forecast, to better manage the farm. Since 2008, arguably our wettest and toughest year, we have modified our growing practices to alleviate the distress caused by too much rain.

From taking some areas out of production, to guttering our beds with our electric tractor, to using more mulch, these changes paid off in the likewise wet years of 2009 and 2010.

Last year we learned what we should have already known about planting summer crops like tomatoes---wait until it is warm. In 2010 late April and early May saw cold, wet days and nights that killed the feeder roots of three beds (about 300 plants) worth of plants and lead to a harvest at less than 50% of what we should expect.

This year we have been more patient, waiting for what looks like the beginning of day and night temps over 50 degrees. Tomatoes are heat loving plants, and plants that are warm and happy for their whole life grow just as fast, if not faster, than ones put out in the cold to start.

So Wednesday the farm crew set out 100 cherry tomato plants and 100 hybrid determinate plants. Yet to come are 100 hybrid determinates, 300 heirloom, and 200 paste tomatoes. We finish off our tomato planting in about a month with a final bed of summer (heat tolerant) tomatoes.

Tomato planting

Other goings on include walking by the strawberries every day and marveling at their lush green growth and many flowers. At the moment things look right for another successful strawberry season. Keep your fingers crossed.

Elsewhere in the field the broccoli and cabbage planted under the warmth of the row cover are growing as well as in any Spring. As they size up they make thier presence more obvious behind the shear fabric. Other crops are growing well too, as can be seen in the photo of this year's garlic crop.

Meanwhile, in the greenhouse, we are finishing up most of our seeding and moving plants from the greenhouse, to the cold frame, to the field. It is interesting to watch the cucurbit seeds germinate in the soil blocks, as their large seeds seem to explode through the soil surface and unfurl thier leaves.

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