Rain Rain Rain.
June is often rainy. It does however, always seem to catch us off guard and make us wonder why there are such things as June bearing strawberries – isn’t that a flaw of nature? Nature didn’t think ahead to a time where all the strawberries needed to be picked and packed on top of each other. How could Nature not have foreseen industrial farming? What started out as an amazing strawberry season, has become very rainy with moldy strawberries for many. As soon as rain like this hits strawberries that are in the fields waiting for harvest, mold sets in. If not on the plant, definitely in the punnets as they wait to be bought. Take note…June is an important month for strawberry growers as they all await the weather reports. High tunnels and greenhouse berries can mitigate this risk on the small scale. If you are out there and your strawberries are getting hit by June rain, make friends with a jam maker.
Similiarly, in the fields the crops are both benefiting and negatively affected by the warm and wet weather. Some crops thrive, others don’t. Rust is hard to avoid in this climate, but you hope to hold off and either not get it or delay it as much as possible. Rust is a fungal disease that is very common. It infects the allium family and can spread quickly when it takes hold. Because you can’t control the weather, the only thing you can do is create the situation that rust doesn’t like. Avoid overhead watering, plant so there is good airflow, and rotate allium plantings. Planting all of your alliums in one area is exactly what the crop rotation god loves, so does rust. Perhaps consider having a couple areas for allium planting so you can have your garlic and your onions planted apart so if rust is common it doesn’t spread across your entire allium crops. The rust blocks out sunlight and can lead to smaller bulb size. Conventional growers use fungicides. Fungicides act as protectants so unfortunately, it is too late to stop the spread once it has begun. Note that! Perhaps compost teas and other natural fungicide sprays to prevent rust would help. Do not put your infected rust matter in the compost. Burn pile! Or hole of death. Every farm needs a hole of death.
The fields are well watered and there is heat. Great for germination, rooting down, and brassicas. If you drive throughout Richmond you can almost hear the brassica growers celebrating. Many of these big fields of brassicas do not have irrigation, so the wet Junes are very necessary. It is definitely time for the shoulder crops to come out. Spinach is bolting and if you didn’t notice that, you’ll notice signs of aphid stress. The farm had a good spinach harvest and it is seasonally time for it to come out and get planted again in August for fall harvest.
The slugs are back. We thought they were gone, however, they are not. The impact however, is much less now, later in the season than it was at the beginning of May when we were trying to get plants germinated and big. Now that the plants are bigger, they can withstand a bit of slug competition. They have a bit more resilliance. Cassie is still as relentless in her slug picking though! Once you’ve developed slug eye, its pretty hard to live and let live. All slugs be gone!
Because of the rain we got a break from flea beetle which was starting to ramp up in the summer sun. The best way to get a break from these little guys is to pray for rain and colder weather, so the wet and the drop in temperature gave the chance to get the flea bugs off the crop. There is notably less damage on the arugula since the weather shift.
The winter squash is in the fields and look great! The question now is: should the farm undersow with clover, or black plastic? If you read about undersowing with clover, it sounds amazing…..in Utah. The team is considering how that might play out here in Richmond where the climate is so much wetter, and we often have wet Falls. As squash matures in the fields they need heat. They need a time of curing on the vine and when all of the winter squash are in production is gets very full out there. In the past we have noticed that overhead watering (and rain) on the squash also waters in the weeds and the grass and creates a wet environment that the squash lay in. The ideal environment is dry and curing in the dry heat. Sasha and James are considering not doing an undercrop as they are worried about the squash in September sitting in wet green cover. They are considering putting black plastic between the squash, to increase heat and dryness for the squash to cure down. But there are down sides to that as well. Both methods have positives and negatives. You basically talk it all out and make the best decision you can at this point in time, write it down, and take note for seasons to come.
The farm planted their second planting of beans at the end of last week. It is important to stagger the bean planting or they all need to be harvested at the same time. This is a challenge, labour wise, and also market wise. Any time there is a glut at the farmers market, for example, abundant times for cucumbers or beans, the price point goes down. To get the best price, the farmer staggers planting so they still have beans even once the glut has gone. Spreading out the planting and the harvest helps you get the highest price, maintains consistency in your harvest, and allows you to level out your labour needs. The highest price is always the farmer who has it first. Many farmers use their high tunnels to corner that first market. In Richmond, there used to be a farmer who did their potatoes in greenhouses. They were the first on the market with new potatoes, and therefore got a higher price and sold a lot.
The verdict is still out, about the clover in the pathways in fields A and B. The clover is doing great, however, there are still weeds growing in with the clover that need management. It takes way more time to spot weed than it does to run the rototiller through the pathway or to use the wheelhoe, however, in the long term, the clover is a living mulch that will give back to the soil. More real life real drama.
This is actually the part I love about farming — the complexity and the fact that there are sooo many right answers. This makes for daily victories amongst the losses for sure, but also really demonstrates the active living practice and craft of farming and the everchanging space we occupy in the farm ecosystem. If you’re not responding you’re not farming.
We are also starting to think about where to cure down the winter squash. I suggested the new greenhouse, and was reminded of rat damage. Squash like to cure down on the vine if possible, but have to be harvested before the first frost. If the squash do not get the chance to cure on the vine, they need 10 days in a dry and ventilated area at 75 – 85f
Mid June and its also time to start thinking about what you want for your fall/winter crops. Brussel Sprouts need to be seeded by mid June, and that kicks off the list of fall/winter crops to seed. This week the farm is seeding the fall kale, chard and collards. They also are looking to make sure the beds for their last root planting are ready. The cut off for root planting (carrot, beet) is mid July at the latest.
Farm School students will be discussing weeds and weed management. Believe me, you too will become a farm geek (if you aren’t already) and start to really look forward to talking about weeds and weed management. You are going to spend alot of time in your career dealing with weeds, you may as well geek out and embrace it. Weeds are also the gateway drug to pests which is the gateway drug to machinery…..you get it….you are probably already with me on that. I guess this is why farming community is so important. There is nothing I like more than sitting, having a beer with a farmer friend talking about berry disease.
Now who doesn’t need to find new friends to fill that niche?