Tag Archives: rain

Planting

There is a lot going into the ground today. There is a greenhouse of perfect-sized plants, and prepared fields, dry enough to plant into. Plus, it is a dry day before predicted rain! Seeing the opening, last night, Paul quickly made a planting map … the day’s work.

The crew will work all day, filling the blue truck’s bed with flats of plants and driving to the edge of the ready bed. Then one worker, usually Servando, walks along the row, separating the plants from each other and the plastic flats, then as he walks along, he drops the plant in the row. The furrows are marked with a shallow trench by a tractor mounted shovel. The “dropper” is followed by someone on his hands and knees, quickly scooping soil around the seedling, standing it up and pressing firmly around its stem. When the rows are finished and the water is giving them their first drink out in the field, it’s a little thrill.

This planting includes broccoli, celery, fennel, leeks and onions. They were started in the greenhouse in Feb. This is the first large planting of the year. There is room in the greenhouse for more flats to be started. It feels like the real start of the year. The first crop ready to harvest will be Napa cabbage in about 6 weeks, toward the end of May. Celery, leeks and fennel need 80 days before you’ll see them on the farmers’ market stand. Some of the onions need 100 days.


It Did Rain

Our fields probably got 3-4 inches of rain last week. It messed with last week’s Friday Farmers’ Market and allowed us to begin our restaurant deliveries again. Nothing flooded, no crops lost, just a little mud and the wind has ripped plastic covers. We’ll carry on and are happy for the boost to the water tables around the county.


Before Rain Buzz

Today the farm was busy with field preparation. It feels like spring. But there was added urgency because much needed rain is predicted. Not just trace amounts, but possibly days of the wet stuff which will hopefully be able to bring us closer to some kind of rainfall normal. We’ll see.

One field is being readied for some long overdue cover cropping. This field has been in constant production for many years, but in the interest of restoration and more fall production, it’s getting tilled, composted and planted with a “green manure” crop which will grow through the spring to build a better soil. In June or July the crop will be incorporated into the soil to augment the fertility and enhance soil structure. The vegetable crop that follows should get a boost from this process.

Another field is being readied for peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, about a month away from target first planting.

Our salad production is in full swing. Rows of colorful lettuces are in stages, some ready to be picked, some already grown past their prime. And some rows are just emerging, barely there yet full of promise. The head lettuces are grown in the greenhouse then transplanted and covered to keep them warm. The covers have been a huge help this year, allowing better growth for many crops, including the kales and chard. The plastic is a bit tricky to attach to the hoops that cover the bed and when it is windy, checking the covers is the first chore of the morning. But even with that issue, the covers are a plus for us.

We are almost out of carrots, but this week was our first harvest of baby Tokyo Turnips and Green Garlic. You can see the beautiful turnip greens are plentiful and vibrant. The next carrot crop is just to the left. The rainbow chard is just out from under covers and shining. Spring is springing.


Getting Ready for Rain

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Instantly fall

That was fast. We got possibly an inch of rain last Wednesday, the first rain of the year since May(?) and that made quick work of the summer season. We are expecting warm weather again this week, but there is no doubt that the first rain begins a new kind of work on a small diversified produce farm in California, such as ours.

The summer fruits are quickly sucking up the water from the damp soil, leading to splits and cracks in the skins and then to rot. The flavor dilutes. The leaves are clean and yet brittle. The first planting of tomatoes has been abandon and the trellising has come down. The stakes will be pulled as soon as there is time.

We’re glad to be moving into fall crops like this fennel and celery as rain will size them up nicely.

The small greenhouse was covered on Friday, putting a lid on those crazy cherry tomatoes as they reach the rafters. They will likely have a growth spurt with the added humidity.

Most of the crew has Saturday off which is the first time several months.


Field Turnover

So much is changing so fast.

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Nothing lights a fire under a farmer faster than the prediction of the season’s first rain, especially if the timing is early or the outlook is for significant precipitation. Ideally, a farm’s fields are fully clean of plants and weeds, bedded up, composted and cover cropped if necessary, before the first rain event of the season. And rain is predicted for the next three days, not a lot, but certainly it will change things.

In our case, many of the fields are still producing a straggling amount of food. In some cases a newer planting is kicking into high gear; tomatoes for instance. In other cases, the crop is finished for the season, like the first plantings of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  The fields with finishing crops are the target of attention before the rain. For example, this field of peppers was essentially finished with another crop in full production so Saturday it was mowed, tilled, composted and bedded up.

Another important winter prep detail involves making room for storage crops, onions and winter squashes, in our case. Storage crops are the staple for small diversified growers who rely on having something to sell while they are unable to get into their fields because of weather.


A Stab at Spring

The sun is out today. Walking around the farm, my feet squish or slide with each step, but at least the sky is clear and the forecast is for warm weather (80 degrees?) later this week. The fields are percolating the rains down rather quickly, especially where the soils have been left in place. The roots of the weeds and crop debris form vertical channels into which the water finds and uses to move deeper.

Paul figures a week or 10-days of dry weather are needed to enable him to drive the tractor through the wet fields to cultivate lightly in anticipation of the next planting.

Carrots are coming up despite the wet weather. These 9 rows were planted February 11th and months away from harvest. The big carrots we have been bringing to the farmers’ market have all been picked and will run out on Friday.


Drenched!

The on-going rain can dampen the spirit and worry the farmer. 2011 may well be one of the wettest springs in recent memory, with rain or showers predicted 10-14 days running. A couple posts back I noted the paths on the hills were drying out. I take that back. After days of rain, even the longer daylight is not reversing the soggy situation. And what about the low lands, the fields where we work to grow food for our local community. How do we manage such a deluge?

There are several strategies to manage a rainy spring. Crops that are being harvested and sold now are growing in 60-inch wide “beds” which is the distance between the tractor tires. The tire track, a compacted 12” swath on either side of the bed, becomes a path during harvest days and while it rains becomes a ditch to carry away water. Plants grown in beds are less susceptible to rot, because the root zone can drain more quickly.

Many of the salad crops are in beds and covered with plastic or floating row covers (agrifabric). Covering helps with warmth and insect damage, but in the rain and especially wind, can be problematic. This year, we have struggled to keep the covers in place in the wind. I saw an amazing YouTube video of plastic row cover in the wind. It reminds Paul of Christo’s “Running Fence” gone array.

The greenhouses are another helpful tool. We have several crops that are grown entirely inside; pea shoots which get mixed into our salad and sunflower sprouts which we are selling separately right now. When the salad is in large part pea shoots, the lettuce and greens in the field are most likely difficult to pick. But most of the greenhouse space is given over to growing plants to be transplanted into the field; kales, chard, onions, head lettuces, broccoli, cabbages. Right now many plants are ready to go out, but they have no place to go. The fields are too wet to prepare, so those plants will end up in the compost because successive plantings in the greenhouse will be ready at the right time.

Sometimes it is helpful to look back at Paul’s “Top Secret” notebook, (his field notes over the years). For instance, first tomatoes were planted (under covers) on April 3rd in 2009 and 2008. Last year, they went in April 10th. There was 2 ½” to 3” of rain the first week of May in 2009. But the most noteworthy stat could be that 2008, ‘09 and ‘10 there were 5 to 6 plantings of cool season crops in March. So far this year there have been no planting days. The repercussions of that are obvious. We will have less to sell a couple months from now. Thankfully, we had a dry January and were able to plant. Some of January’s crops are those we are picking now.

We hope for dry weather soon and that those first crops explode with growth.


Wet field

We’ve had a lot of rain the last 2 days. The 1-1/2″ the weather stations claim seems quite shy of the actual amount we see. Farmer David at Oak Hill keeps good track and his gauges captured 4-1/2″.

This part of the field was planted in carrots on Saturday. The picture was taken while it was raining this morning.

The same part of this field a few hours later. The water is purcolating down pretty quickly!


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