Have you noticed that it is swelteringly hot outside?! We have! We wanted to talk to you this week about our production methods and how we and the plants try to deal with the heat! First off, there are certain plants that just cannot handle these consistently high temperatures. Most lettuce varieties, spinach, broccoli, and radishes don’t grow well this time of year. They will either wilt, or the heat activates a chemical reaction in the plant causing it to focus on seed growth. This rapid seed growth is called ‘bolting’ and it usually makes the plant very bitter. We try to adapt to this by growing heat tolerant crops, using shade cloth or shade from the trees next to our field, or simply not growing these plants until cooler weather. Providing shade is a vital practice for crops in the field as well as germinating crops in our greenhouse. We have covered our entire greenhouse in shade cloth, a lightweight black fabric that reduces sunlight transmission, to ensure that the most fragile plants are not baked before they can even make it into the field!
Even crops that love hot weather, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, still need special attention in July and August. When temperatures are over 90 daily and the sun is scorching hot, healthy plants can wither under the pressure. We use high efficiency drip irrigation to combat the heat. Long black plastic drip ‘tape’ is run down each planting bed connected to a main line carrying water. Each bed can be individually switched on or off depending on the plant needs, and since we run the line directly next to the plant roots, we deliver the water right where it is needed the most. We try to irrigate in the mornings or evening when the heat is lower, and there is less chance of evaporation.
This tactic also works well for the farmers’ health! In July and August we arise with the rooster crow at the crack of dawn and work until late morning or just after 12PM. Then we take an extended mid-day break to stay out of the most dangerous heat, and return to work in the late afternoon. Since the days are long, we can work until almost 9PM and still see our fields. This shift in schedule makes for a tiring schedule, but the weather and crops demand it! We also always use sunscreen, drink lots of water, and try to take breaks when we can - we encourage you to do the same when you’re out in the sun!
One final note on produce. It is a wonderful alignment of circumstances that at the height of the summer some of the most hydrating, thirst quenching produce is at its best. This week we are sending some of our first musk melons (cantaloupe) and ground (husk) cherries. Both are sweet, fragrant, juicy, and completely satisfying on a hot summer day - it is as if the plants know we need a little help to make it through this steamy weather!
Sarah & Billy