Heat's Hard to Beat

Today is another delivery day. This means early to rise, even if early to bed did not apply. As I came down to get that first coffee, I notice the temperature outside is still over 70 degrees. This is only one night of many that have maintained what could have been a daytime temperature during many a summer past.

What this has done is make the growing season one of the most phenomenal for growing most vegetables I have ever experienced. Before this week is over, watermelons will be acceptably ready. Muskmelons will have to come off from the vines. Artichokes which normally take 160 days to make blossoms only took 124. Peppers, which usually aren’t ready before the second week of August have been ready since the second week of July. It has truly been amazing.

One of the challenges of warmer than normal temperatures is keeping corn coming in a smooth non-interupted or bunched-up fashion. Heat generally creates a bunching effect. Next week there will be two varieties of corn ready at one time. The one is a 68 day corn and the other is an 82 day! One might ask how this can happen? One reason is the colder the soil the slower the seed germinates. Also Corn is is a ‘growing degree day’ driven crop. So it needs a certain amount of heat to produce. However, it seems that when the heat is out of the average  especially on the high side it affects the maturity making it come more rapidly than it would otherwise. So next week will be a big corn week. I pray I can keep it coming until frost. I will plant some next week again.

The only difficulty has been the in the cole crop and lettuce arenas. Both of these enjoy just warm days and cool nights. Cool nights being in the 50’s. I lost most of the first broccoli, and likely will loose a fair amount of cauliflower. The days are just too hot for it to produce good tight heads. The lettuce has a tendency to bolt, producing a seed stalk and becoming offensively bitter. To overcome that, I just start harvesting it when it is still very young.

The exciting thing about agriculture is this variability in crop need. It keeps on on their toes to adjust to the plants need. It will be great time seeing how this whole season plays out.

The Rain Did Come

For almost two weeks it did not rain here on the farm. To begin with it was like heaven, but soon, it was like the other place. It is amazing how much water, plants that are two feet tall use when it is 90 degrees. For the last four days all worked feverishly, its not hard to have a fever when its 90, to keep the potatoes hydrated. They are now in bloom, perhaps the most critical time for potatoes. This is when they set their crop. Even with almost continual watering, one variety, French Fingerling, was still wilting during the day. We did manage to keep it from collapsing, thankfully.

When the rains came yesterday, what a joy. It seems to have put down an inch and one half. Where I had worked the soil, all the water stayed in the field. On hard surfaces it was running like a river. The irrigation pond actually had two thirds of the water replaced by the runoff.

I had to stop planting remaining squash and watermelon due to the dryness. If plastic is laid when it is very dry it is impossible to accomplish full hydration under the plastic once in place. Now I can finish the planting in the next couple of days. Since the soil was so loose where I need to lay it, it will take a day or so before I can get onto the ground.

As cultivation was being done last week the 90 degree temperatures certainly dispatched the weeds once they were loosened. Now that the rain has come the plants will soon completely cover the ground. The weed problem will be minimal for those areas for the remainder of the season.

Up and Coming

George planted Artichoke seeds the second week of March, this year. Slowly they came up and slowly they grew until finally we could transplant them into the field. That was weeks ago.For weeks they seemed to just sit there. That is, until this week.

They are now pushing up. For those who do not know artichoke is in the thistle family and the part of the plant we normally eat is the immature flower. Actually the stems can be eaten too once you get past the prickly and woody parts.The amazing thing about these plants is that they have beginning leaves that appear to be about 18 inches long. Of course a plant that has flower buds up to 3 inches across has to be big, but who knew that they would be this big.

As with all of the items planted this year it is a joy to watch them progress to maturity. At this point in the season the first potatoes planted have tops that are almost touching between the rows. Tomato plants are over two feet tall. The sweet potatoes have established themselves, starting to expand. They are like a morning glory plant. I am wondering what the final outcome will be when the vines are in their full glory. The second planting of lettuce is almost ready for picking. Pepper plants are starting to branch. The seedless watermelons are almost to the point of blooming, and the muskmelons have many small melons on them, with more coming. Summer squash and cucumbers are beginning to produce, although they did not like the cool nights this week. All of the cole crops are pushing towards maturity. There even seems to be enough to feed a couple of woodchucks and deer.

After last year with all of the miserable weather we endured, this year is a pleasant reminder that each day and season are different. Keep watching new things are coming each week.

Tie up the Tomatoes

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for things to get ahead of you? At least it is for me. As we have been building a greenhouse for berries and tomatoes, planting thousands of plants, and working to keep the weeds at bay, somethings seem to get missed or neglected.

Several weeks ago we planted a wide variety of tomatoes. They have been growing nicely. So nicely, in fact, that they are now almost too big to tie up.

We have found that tomatoes do strikingly better if they are trained by tying them up so the fruit gets good exposure to the sun and air during the growing process. Normally, this is done right away. This year the conditions have been such that this has been impossible. So this week we will be working to get it done. They will be fine, but the lower portions of the plant will have to lay on the plastic. At least the tomatoes will still be clean and protected from the soil.

As the season progresses and the plants grow more strings will be added. Many of the varieties will reach four feet tall before they stop growing. It will be a very pretty sight to see all of the fruit changing color for all to see.

This season has been quite different from last year. The warmth has brought plants along much more rapidly. I expect the yields will be better if we continue to see as much sunshine as we have so far. It is great to have rain come one day and then have the rest of the week be clear. Plants do not do well when they are damp continuously. Mold and fungus overcome them easily. Protecting them becomes a very expensive and arduous task. So to this point we have been very blessed with great weather. Let the tomatoes grow!

Summer is here

It has been a long time since I posted anything. The last one I wrote got lost because the site logged me out, but still showed the page. I finished what I wanted to say and hit post, poof , everything was gone. I had to go out to the fields and have not been back until today. Thousands of plants have been transplanted at this point. I believe George said we have planted over 700 flats of vegetables so far. It is so many I can feel it. The past two weeks have been sunlight to after dark. It is odd eating supper after ten at night.

To date every type of vegetable has been planted. Corn has been planted five times. The first planting was lost to frost, but the rest are very healthy. The process of planting corn will be a weekly adventure until the end of July so we will have corn once it starts until the first hard frost.

Certain vegetables like beans will be planted several times throughout the summer so that there can be a consistent supply once they begin. Lettuce has been planted now, three times. Tomatoes twice with the last planting to be made in a few days. They will be put into the greenhouse so that there will be tomatoes until November. At least this is the hope.

Day neutral strawberries have been planted. They will start producing berries later in the summer and continue until they are frosted out. They have been planted into the greenhouse to extend the season. Raspberries are planted. They should have a limited number of berries before the season is done. Apples experienced a frost again this year. That makes three in a row. So much for ‘global warming’. Unlike last year there are enough on the trees to supply everyone well this fall. The only sad thing is the Ginger Golds, were completely lost. The regular Golden’s have a good crop. We will just have to wait longer to get them though.

Because spring was so tough, certain things will be a little later beginning, but it still should be a great year. Thankfully there has not been too much rain like last year. If things continue this way the quality of everything will be great. All of the drip irrigation has been connected as we have been planting. It is a wonderful thing to have a dry plant with warm moist roots, getting moisture just as it is needed.

Finally, enjoy the warm weather. We have been. Also enjoy the adventure of many different vegetables.

Wow is it White

My, was it white this morning! The temperature in our little pocket was down to 28.6°F. Everything had white hair. So it is with spring, Beautiful and lively one minute and deadly the next. That is, if you are a plant. It doesn’t help when those tending you are pushing to ever extend the season. To this point all 500+ flats of vegetables are still in houses for protection at night.

Today that may change. In fact, it has to. We are out of greenhouse space. So this morning we will pull plastic. Then the transplanting will start. Items like onions, beets, cabbage, and swiss chard can all take the cold nights we have been experiencing.

If there is enough time perhaps some tomato plants will be put in. We will place a low tunnel over them so that they continue to grow as rapidly as possible. The goal is tomatoes before the fourth of July. Off to the field we go.

All Ahead Stop

Even though it has frosted the past two nights the plants in the houses are growing ever bigger. I had expected to spread lime last week, but now it is certain none will be available until next week. So we will have to wait. I did have some bags and they have been spread on a quarter acre piece.

There are over 100 flats of everything from beets to tomatoes that are ready for the field. It appears the next few days will be good so I expect plastic can be pulled and some of the cold hardy items can be planted. The Tomatoes need to be in a house. Perhaps one can be erected this week. The goal is to have tomatoes ready before the fourth of July.

Enough corn for 2/3 of an acre is ready to plant. I think it will be put in and clear plastic will be laid over it. Also another planting of corn will be made this week under plastic. We shall see what success can be had this year for early corn.

The shortage of lime really has brought the majority of the field work to a halt. Thankfully the greenhouses help a great deal to keep movement even when outdoor activity has to be limited.

Spring 'n Summer

Yesterday it hit 74 degrees here. Not unlike an Erie Co. spring, it was sunny, it was cloudy, it was calm, it was breezy, it rained, and then it started all over again. I love it!

Mother nature is moving fast this year. Just two weeks ago the grass was still brown. None of the the apple buds were out. Our crocuses had still not bloomed. What a difference two weeks makes. The apples are already open cluster in some cases. If conditions remain the same disaster could be, this years byword, once again. I do not believe it will be the case though. It seems the wild fluctuations in the temperatures are having a moderating effect.

The green house plants are screaming. Let me out! Just as most years go, I do not have all of the field cultural necessities finished. When the D21’s fuel pump went it made life a little more interesting. So as usual, progress will be one step at a time. If lime can be applied by early next week plants will be in the ground before it is over. Tunnels will be erected to protect them; all without having to hold them back.

Next week I will be picking asparagus already. Strawberry and raspberry plants will be arriving. Planting of many direct seeded items will be in full swing. We’re all going to be eating well this season.

2nd frost in three days

This morning Everything was white. The temperature here was 32. As the sun is coming up I can tell today will be one beautiful day. I expect it will finally be dry enough to pull some plastic.

Some of the tomatoes in the greenhouse are desperate to be in the field. Perhaps today can be a major step in getting them moving that way.

Every day the house gets closer to being filled with plants. The artichokes are almost 6 inches tall now. It will be neat to see how they do this summer.

We thought we had all of the tractors ready for hard work this spring only to find out the D21 has a bad injection pump. Hopefully it will be repaired and put back together this week. Having one less tractor is a big handicap.

In two weeks we are getting our new raspberry and strawberry plants. I hope to have the large greenhouse up by then. We have been have a problem getting the aluminum fixturing pieces to hold the plastic in place. We needed the dies released for our usage, but the elderly gentleman we purchased them from had yet to fax the release on Friday. He did call yesterday saying it has been done now. We shall see today. It will take two weeks to get the extrusions from the time of order. It will be cutting things pretty close. I am sure we will get it done though.

Spring Has Sprung +

It has been a long time since I posted anything. Time has been spent planting a large number of items. Tomatoes are ready for the field. Peas are up and the second planting has been made. Cold resistant corn has been planted outside and in the greenhouse. The four varieties in the house are already up. Cabbage and other cole crops are waiting for the weather to stabilize so they can be put out to harden before we get into the field with them. Everyday more items are being planted.
The largest problem with this time of year is determining when the conditions will be consistent enough to put crops into the field. I do expect though to have something in the field by this time next week. The temperature last night dipped to 31 degrees. So we are still in an iffy time of year.
Apples are out with 1″ of new growth. They have been quick to get going this year. I hope this does not mean there is a grave danger of crop destruction again this year. Actually apples can withstand 20 degrees currently with the bud cluster being so tight, but as the days go on the resistance to cold will diminish to the point where 28 degrees will cause damage. So if there is going to be cold now is the time for it, not in late May like last year. So far it looks like it will be a great year.