It has been an interesting past month to say the least. Weather, as per usual, is the topic of conversation and the main source of anxiety here. We’ve seen a wide range of weather since my last update…hot and dry, wet and cool, and windy and cold. After our early start this spring, plant growth has slowed with warm, sunny days few and far between over the last few weeks. The most nerve-racking days just barely behind us, as high winds and frost threatened our newly planted tomatoes and cucumbers. We covered them to provide a little protection from the harsh elements, and luckily they seem to have made it through just fine. They may be set back for a week or more as they recover from withstanding temperatures in the mid-30s, but there shouldn’t be any long-term consequences as long as the conditions improve. So put your rain dance pants away for the moment, and let’s all hope for some sunshine and warmth in the days ahead.
We have experienced a couple casualties in the fields thus far as a result of less than ideal weather conditions. Our first seeding of spinach didn’t make it very far before succumbing to damping off. Basically soil pathogens causing the seed or newly emerged seedlings to rot before getting established. Thankfully, round two looks great, because it won’t be a spring without spinach. Our peas also suffered from root rot, which girdled their stems and have stunted them significantly. It is hard to tell at this point whether or not they will be able to recover. It is very difficult for me to look at a suffering crop. It stings badly to think about losing anything, much less a fan favorite. Every year we lose a few crops completely, and have varying degrees of reduced yields, but it never gets any easier. It makes me feel like I’m failing on a promise to all those that have invested in the farm season. The sting usually fades after a bit of time, especially when I see the rest of the bounty we have to offer. That is the beauty of diversified crop production! When one crop goes down, there are still many others to fill the void.
Leaf Miner damage on Chard. Slug damage on lettuce.
Weather is not the only challenge we have encountered this spring. Pest pressure is always hard to predict. It changes every year, whether it’s the type of pest and/or the crop experiencing the pressure. We’ve had slugs and groundhogs eating our lettuce, onion maggots in onion seedlings, flea beetles on arugula and turnips, and leaf miners in chard and beet leaves. This is nothing new, just another unpredictable part of nature. We rely on our beneficial insects to do a lot of pest control for us. That is why it is important to maintain habitats for beneficials, and provide additional food like pollen for some, in the form of intentional insectaries. There are instances when we have to step in to save a crop if pest pressure is too high. That can be in the form of hand picking bugs, or spraying naturally derived organic pesticides. It is a fine balance though because if there are no pests for beneficial insects to feed on, then the populations of our friendly bugs will dwindle and we would be left unguarded against the next infestation.
Sprouted ginger, ready to get in the ground! Our potatoes are poppin’!
Despite the typical challenges of farming, there has been a lot of positive progress here at Sandbrook Meadow Farm. The fields are filling up at an incredible pace. Peppers, eggplant, summer squash, flowers, and more lettuce will be joining the party later this week. We’ll tuck in the leeks, winter squash, and remainder of the ginger next week if we don’t get too much rain. Many of the crops we planted over the last month are looking happy and healthy. We harvested the first greens of the season last week for market and wholesale. It’s an exciting time here as we start to reap the rewards of our work over the past few months. We can’t wait to share the bounty with you in just a week! With our memberships filled and a fully stocked crew, we are ready for the harvest season to begin. We’ll see all your lovely faces very soon!