Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall 2012 update

As we brace for the strange weather coming our way, there's no question that summer is now over.  Our fall session is nearing an end as well.  We have this week and next, followed by the mega-box (actually 2 boxes +) the following week.

My quick review of 2012:
  • It was hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry.  The mild winter was nice in the beginning.  I didn't have to worry too much about covering the plants in the hoops and had many days of above-freezing temperatures so I could water (I still get water to the hoops with above-ground hoses).  So that was good.  Then we had the crazy spring heat wave for weeks in a row which brought on early-blooming of perennials, etc.  We grow mostly brassicas over the winter and when they are exposed to prolonged periods of about 55 degree temperatures, they think it's time to go to seed (bolt) which happened.  Luckily we still had enough food to get through it all.
  • Spring came relatively early which was OK - wish I had planted potatoes in March!  But I waited until mid-May.  I planted many rows of early crops March 15, the day of the tornado which ripped through Dexter.  Luckily we only suffered flooding - no real wind damage but others were not so lucky.  Many seeds were washed away so I re-planted 2 weeks later.  Those early plantings of chard, beets and carrots carried us through at least August.
  • With the early warm weather came an earlier hatch of pests.  Specifically, flea beetles.  They're always bad and just chow down on spring growth.  If they get into a brassica seed bed, they'll kill all baby plants.  They did kill many plantings but enough managed to survive.
  • June was dry.  July worse.  We do irrigate using drip irrigation.  This year I even had the well repaired at our rented property so that the potatoes and tomatoes could be irrigated.  Both June and July were stifling - record heat, drought.  I kept watching the drought map as we moved from "Abnormally Dry" to "Moderate Drought" to "Severe Drought".  It was a doozie.  I seeded many fall crops in flats this year, mostly in hopes of escaping the flea beetles and in part  and transplanted them in mid June.  Luckily they took and we're going to have the best brussels sprout harvest ever!  Broccoli, too, did very well.  I seeded spinach 3 times and none of it took (well a plant every 5' doesn't really count).  It germinated but just couldn't make it past the heat.  Fortunately, other crops did better.
  • Summer was generally shorter on greens and heavier on fruits.  Since we grow in the hoop houses, tomatoes and cucumbers were in good supply starting early.  The summer squash also did pretty well.  Beans didn't do as well as normal which was disappointing but overall, I was pleased that we were able to distribute so much despite the heat and lack of rain.  It was interesting to watch the plants turn more yellow over time - especially evident in the summer squash.  Lack of rain also means lack of nitrogen in the air.  As the rains returned slowly, the plants increased their vigor.
  • Now that we're back to fall, I have a bit more time to reflect.  We've gotten most of the fields cleaned up and cover-cropped and are working to finish planting the hoops.  This year I'm transplanting many plants from the fields to the hoops - small lettuces, chois, scallions, chard, etc.  The carrots were planted in mid-August and are on schedule for winter production.  The spinach seeded a few weeks ago is also looking good.  We finally pulled the last of the tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers from the hoop.  Our front entry is over taken by crates of these fruits.  Those beds will be seeded this week.
Enough for now.  Let me know if you'd like to sign up for winter, spring or next summer.  Thanks!

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