What’s been going on!
I try not to make this the weather report page but you know that is what dictates farmer’s lives and sometimes, especially in the spring, it is the news. A very unusual May cold snap coming Saturday night, an extreme version of the classic blackberry winter which we have every May but usually with lows only down into the low 40’s or high 30’s, we have forecast lows on Sunday morning as low as 31 degrees! We will be watching this one closely but will undoubtedly have to pull out the row covers to add an additional layer of protection over the tomatoes and cucumbers even inside of the tunnels. And the wild blackberries are not even blooming yet!
This blast of cold is one of those crazy swings due to the polar vortex breaking down as it moves towards summer. There was a really good article in the Washington Post in March that talked about how intense the polar vortex was in the arctic this winter (which contributed to our warm winter) and when a vortex with such strong winds breaks down all kinds of unusual weather can be the result.
The generally cool weather for the start of this week has slowed down some crops in the field especially the flowers which are not blooming as quickly as we would like for the Mothers Day weekend. Betsy refers to it as like milking a chicken, you go out every day and cut the few stems that have opened but you don’t get much. If you need to reserve some bouquets email us and we will put you on the list or let you know if we will have them by Friday afternoon.
Picture of the week
Sugar Snap Peas blooming like crazy, peas in two weeks!
What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading
What’s been going on?
Weather alert- this years Blackberry winter will occur today and tomorrow. My father called this last cold snap in May “Blackberry winter” because it always happens when the wild blackberries are blooming. Looks like 40 degrees or even high 30’s here tonight and then another cold night Thursday. Our friends who farm in central Texas called last night in a panic because they have an acre and a half of zinnias and celosia planted and it was going to be in the high 30’s which, as farmers know, could mean frost if the forecast is slightly off. They were pulling out the covers to protect it all!
No such extreme actions here at Peregrine Farm as everything we have in the ground has seen cool temperatures and we know that after this we are into the steady sure warming of May. Next week is pepper planting week and they will be happy to have avoided yet another Blackberry winter. Peppers, second only to Eggplant, hate cold soil and air temperatures and will just sulk if planted too early in the season. Our belief is that a happy pepper is one that goes into warmer soil and continues the grow vigorously, sure they will grow and make peppers if you plant them early but probably not as well if one waited just a week or two.
Sometimes the frenzy of spring has nothing to do with crops and crop care. I told Jennie the other day, who has seen me wear a tool belt a lot this spring, that really my job is Maintenance Man. Sure farmers are supposed to spend the winter fixing things and preparing the tools for the busy season ahead but sometimes the problems are not apparent until you start using the equipment in the spring. The big one so far was the rebuilding of the big walk-in cooler (last week) but yesterday was a classic breakdown as I started to mow the last of the winter cover crops and tore up a universal joint on the mower, arghh!! Parts ordered and I will have it fixed next week, not too bad, sometimes these repairs can drag on for weeks waiting for parts. Now we will just hope that nothing else breaks down, soon.
Picture of the Week
Sweet Willam in the early morning light
What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading
Blackberry winter is what my father always called these times in late spring when we get abnormally cool periods. Not really abnormal as it seems to happen every year, and it is when the blackberries are blooming along the roadsides. We were in the high 30’s on Monday morning and all of the crops, except for the lettuce maybe, are looking skyward wondering when the heat will come and make them bust out in profusion. Another Mother’s Day and graduation upon us and Betsy is wondering just when all those flowers will start to bloom too. There is a bloom here and there just teasing her and the plants are looking really good and full of buds. This is the story the beginning of each May when the big question from Weaver Street, graduates, parents of graduates, brides and others is “When will you have more flowers?”, we just shrug and say probably the week after Mothers Day. It does seem to be exaggerated this year due to the tremendous cold snap at Easter, it really made a lot of crops just stop and it has taken some time for them to get rolling again.
The last big hurdle is in front of us this week. Pepper planting. Now that the tomatoes are in and looking really great, the last of the large plantings is upon us. From here on we only plant a few beds a week and never are they as important to the whole farm as the big pepper array is. Twenty two varieties this year including a few new ones. The best part is we are in one of the best fields we have. Great soil and sun, the last time we had peppers here (2002) it was a superb crop. The plants look as good as they ever have too. Good germination and they have grown well and look very uniform. Sometimes, especially with the hot peppers, germination can be poor and then they can take forever to get going. The last few years we have gotten into the pattern of planting the peppers in two stages. The first half go into raised beds covered with black landscape fabric which warms up the soil a bit faster. We put the hot peppers and some of the finicky sweet ones into these beds, I think they need the additional boost the warmer soil gives them. In the second planting stage, all of the red bells, and half of the yellow and orange bells, we plant “no-till” into the remains of a huge cover crop of rye and hairy vetch. There are many reasons why we do it this way but better long term soil management and less disease on the peppers are the main ones. We have been experimenting/working with this system since 1995 and each year we refine it. This year is exciting as we have new tractor implements that we hope will make it really easy to plant into the thick residue from the cover crops. Again this spring we may have to wait another week to get them in the ground because it is impossible to kill the cover crop organically until the hairy vetch is really blooming. Like everything else, it is delayed from all of the cool weather. Once the rye has sent out its seed heads and the hairy vetch is in full bloom we can just roll down this mass of plant material which crimps the stems and they give up the ghost and die. If they are not blooming then, even with the rolling, they have a will to live and make a seed that allows them to re grow which then makes them a pesky weed in the peppers. Patience is the key, they began blooming nicely this week so next week will be just fine.
Picture of the Week
Preparing the pepper beds for planting, no-till on left, tilled with fabric going on, on the right.