July 5th– rain rain go away

July 8th, 2009, 9:22 pm

July 5th.

Finally saw the sun today after what seems like weeks. This sunshine combined with the steady and sometimes stiff Northwest wind will go a long way toward drying out the soggy soil that has, in the past, been called Hope’s Edge garden. It is, however a long long way that we need to go before these fields can be called gardens again.

The pleasant day afforded me the opportunity to walk the garden and fields taking stock. What I saw is not the scene that makes a gardeners’ heart soar. I will describe in the next few paragraphs the situation that we the gardeners and you the consumers currently find ourselves. I am providing this somewhat bleak description not to depress you but in order to put us all on the same page with regards to the season ahead.

First, a note about last months’ weather. Unless you’ve been sailing in the Bahamas for the last month you don’t need me to tell you that it’s been wet. How wet? Record setting wet. Eleven and a quarter inches of rain fell in June surpassing the old record of 10 inches set in June 06. The average precipitation for June is three and a half inches. (This begs the question; Are extremely wet Junes going to become more commonplace? Some climate scientists say yes.) In addition its been colder than normal. The highest temperature for all of last month was only 73 degrees; 14 degrees cooler than the highest June temperature last year. We also had two mornings of frost last month.

We are barely into July but so far this wet cool weather pattern does not seem ready to end anytime soon. Tomorrow, Monday is predicted to be another glorious day like today but the forecast calls for rain on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Two steps forward one step back.

So what does all this excess water mean to the vegetables that I am trying to grow for you. First those crops that in a normal year would be coming in now or very soon.
STRAWBERRIES – the crop is late and questionable. There may be some to pick but there will be significantly less than in years past.(Sand Hill Farm in Somereville has berries now and will have for another week).
PEAS- they looked OK until the last big rain but now they are showing signs of blight, a disease associated with wet conditions. Yields will be reduced and the season will be short. I’m waiting for some soils to dry out so that I may plant a crop for fall harvest.
SPINACH- we lost a third of the crop. We will plant more for fall harvest. LETTUCE- so far we have done OK even though we have lost a considerable number of heads to gray mold. However, we have not been able to transplant on our usual ten day planting schedule hence there will be a time in the future when we will not have lettuce available.
POTATOES- one quarter to one fifth of the new potato crop has rotted the remainder is hanging in there. The main crop of potatoes has not even been planted yet and is unlikely to be planted anytime soon.It is questionable whether a crop planted in a week or two will have enough time to mature. BROCCOLI- those plants in the wettest part of the field are falling over. When we pull them up we observe that the roots have rotted.
FLOWERS- (I know that they are not edible but they do feed our senses nonetheless and some of you love to pick) are not even in the ground yet. They are sitting in plug trays waiting for the standing water to subside from their intended home.

On the bright side the GARLIC, CHARD, FENNEL, BEETS, most of the CARROTS and the HOOP HOUSE TOMATOES look OK.
Those crops that depend on a long season are also struggling. SUMMER SQUASH, CUCUMBERS, MELONS and WINTER SQUASH have experienced spotty germination and those seedlings that have germinated or were transplanted are marking time- looking stressed but not dead. It is not too late to plant summer squash and cukes but the winter squash requires a 100 day growing season and would need a long warm fall to mature.

ONIONS, LEEKS and CORN are stunted and yellow but hanging in. The first BEAN planting rotted. We will plant again as soon as we have a dry place to put them. Finally the FIELD TOMATOES are looking stressed and some have given up already. PEPPERS and EGGPLANT – what can I say, some like it hot!

As I said earlier it’s a bleak picture, but we could still salvage a decent season if things turn around soon. We have many seedlings already planted in preparation for fall harvest and we will continue to plant more with the hope that they will soon have a place to put down roots that don’t rot. A dry warm spell will go a long way toward improving the current state of affairs. If things don’t turn around, however, we are in store for a pretty sad season.

Those of you who have been members over several years know how abundant things can be in a normal year. For those of you who are new to this CSA idea, I hope that this doesn’t turn you off to the concept. From all of you I ask for your patience and understanding. In the flier that I put out at the start of each season I mention that under the CSA model, the consumer shares the risk with the farmer and this may be one of those years where this “risk” is felt most severely. We feel badly that things are not doing well but we know that
we are doing all that we can do under the circumstances.

I think that all growers are feeling some effects from this weather, although when I went to Sand Hill Farm to pick berries the other evening, things there didn’t look too bad. So, why you may ask is everything struggling here on the edge of Hope. The answer to that question lies in the soil. Our soils just do not drain well. Water doesn’t move downward through the subsoil as rapidly as it might. In a dry year this works to our advantage, it means we don’t have to irrigate but in a year like this one -  well, I just described what happens.

We here at the farm would very much appreciate hearing back from you with positive or negative comments. (Feel free to post right here below or email me through the contact page.) In the meantime we will continue to try to provide you with the vegetables that we do have and we continue to hope for the best that the weather spirits can send our way.

Very Sincerely, Your Farmer, Tom

2 Comments

  1. Beverly Scott said,

    July 9th, 2009, 11:11 am

    Oh, Tom, I trust today’s lovely sunshine is warming your heart along with the crops. We so are loving our share this summer. My sister and I laugh about “What are we going to do with all these greens?!” when all the while you’re toiling over this difficult weather and doing such a splendid job of caring for the land and for the rest of us. Do take heart! Your farm is a treasure, and we’re grateful to partake of its bounty, come what may.

  2. cindy said,

    July 21st, 2009, 6:19 pm

    Lots of rain this season too…
    hope you are well

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