Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #15, 5/26/16

What’s been going on!

So I am afraid to say that it looks like we may not get any blueberries this season.  We knew way back last winter that we would have a smaller crop when they started blooming in the unusually warm December weather.  When they started blooming again   in late March we felt like there was still a substantial number of blooms so maybe an OK crop.  26 degrees on April 6th reduced the number of berries even further.  Now with so few berries out there the birds are taking everyone just as they begin to show any color.

We have seen this twice before.  In 2001 when we had what everyone now refers to as “the Easter Freeze” with 24 degrees on April 18th and again in 2007 with five nights in the 20’s the first week of April.  Both years we had a tiny fruit set which the birds and squirrels took either all or most of.  What happens when we have late freezes like that it not only kills domesticated fruit buds but wild fruiting plants too, leaving not much for the wildlife who in turn eat where the pickin’s are good, our bushes!

Could we net the bushes and save what we have, sure if we had netting here and when weighing the cost of netting and the labor to put it on and take it off to pick it is hard to say if it is worth it with a small crop.  So now we will wait and see if this flock of birds will move on or not.

The good news is we have gotten all the peppers in the ground and they look great.  The big planting of tomatoes we finally got pruned and tied up for the first time and they look happy too.  Every day we look for a ripe tomato in the little tunnels knowing that sometime in the next week we should be able to eat one!  Take that you birds!

Picture of the Week

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Even the fake rubber snakes don’t slow the birds down

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #8, 4/6/16

What’s been going on!

Trying to get the newsletter back on its regular Wednesday schedule and why not do it just in time for the first Wednesday afternoon Farmers’ Market.  Yes today from 3:00 to 6:00, it all starts again.  We will be there with the first lettuces of the season and Betsy’s beautiful flowers.

Cold this morning, 26 degrees, but all the tender crops are tucked under their protective blankets and look fine.  We are definitely getting our March winds and temperature swings only a bit late.  Looks like another serious shot on Saturday night too.

We are steadily working towards the main tomato planting under the Big Tops in two weeks.  The cover crop has been turned under and a layer of compost has been spread on each bed.  Next week we need to pull the plastic over the bows and get the final bed preparations done.  The plants look good in the greenhouse but as usual there is experimentation in the air.

We are once again working with a graduate student from NC State on a grafted tomato trial.  A decade ago, over several seasons, we grew some of the first grafted tomatoes in the US as NC State was beginning to work on the technique.  Just like it sounds and just like more commonly grafted fruit trees, the desirable variety is grafted to the top of a rootstock with the required trait, usually disease resistance but in this year’s trial, drought resistance.

The rootstocks we are looking at this year are capable of taking up more water than other tomatoes, could be important in either very dry areas or as climate change throws more droughts our way too.  All of the Cherokee Purples in the main planting will be in the experiment this year and you all will get to see and eat the results.

Pictures of the Week

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Frost on the lettuce

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Early tomatoes warm under their blankets

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #4, 4/11/12

What’s been going on?

You knew that it was coming, couldn’t go all the way through this warm spring without one last blast of cold weather, are you ready? Lots of people blinked and planted their tomatoes and other warm season crops, now they will be running around today trying to cover them or are just going to take the hit and replant, if they can. The if they can part is the one thing we can’t do. With over twenty varieties of tomatoes, some the only seeds we had, waiting to go in the ground, we just can’t gamble that way. Last week we had moved them all outside to harden off before they went to the field but this would be a little too hard. As it was they went through 29 degrees on Sunday morning and a few got a bit burned even with row cover over them but it was only supposed to be a low of 35 degrees. So with tonight’s low forecast to be 30 degrees here and knowing it can swing 5 degrees or more, we moved them all back into the greenhouse for safe keeping until Friday morning when we hope to finally put them into the ground.

The super early tomatoes in the little sliding tunnels will be just fine and we will protect them with an additional layer of row cover and clamp the plastic down to make them as warm as possible. We have been able to protect them down to as low as 20 degrees, which we had some years ago with the historic Easter freeze in April 2007. Hopefully this will not be as drastic a situation as that was but we are going into it with very similar conditions. So make sure you cover what you can tonight and be wary about tomorrow night too as sometimes we get fooled and the second night is the worst.

All at the same time we are now getting too dry and we need to spend the day setting up irrigation. We wait as long as possible in the spring to install the irrigation because it makes planting and cultivation more difficult once it’s in the way. We spent the last few days doing some final cultivation and now we can start running lines. Drip irrigation lines down every bed, sometimes two on crops like onions. Micro sprinkler lines down every third bed on the greens. Flush the main lines and then attach the headlines that run across the top of every field and flush those, to which we then attach either the drip or sprinkler lines and finally fill them up and make sure they are all working. There has never been a year we didn’t have to irrigate at some point in the season but we always wait until we have to.

First Wednesday afternoon market today (3:30-6:30), it will be cool and breezy but there are good reasons to come out besides the fresh produce. Bill Smith from Crooks Corner will be doing a cooking demonstration during market and then immediately after market there will be a Food Truck Rodeo fundraiser for the Farmer Food Share which is the group that collects extra produce from the Farmers’ market and then distributes it to the food banks and kitchens. Come on out for both the market and the fundraiser, see you there.

Picture of the Week

Warm tomato plants as far as the eye can see

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