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from the Field

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August 19, 2018
Weather Respite
Notes From The Field
by Farmer Derek

Flowering buckwheat is seen all over the farm right now providing nectar to pollinators.
Amidst what will probably be our second wettest season in 10 years we're remaining afloat and overall are satisfied with and thankful for this year's harvest so far. Undoubtedly there have been a few crops that were negatively impacted by the wet weather. Most noticeably the cherry and grape tomatoes never fully reach production potential and were stunted and challenged from the beginning while they endured our wettest May in 10 years. We also lost the spinach in the spring due to the weather but other than those two crops we've been lucky with the harvest.
We've also been extremely fortunate that the ground has continually dried out just enough between rain events that we've been able to do the minimally required work to keep plants alive (cultivate and weed) and to build homes for future crops (raised beds). For cultivating to be effective the ground has to be dry otherwise the weeds can easily re-root, especially when we can't cultivate in a timely manner because of the perpetually wet soil and the weeds grow sets of true-leaves beyond the initial cotyledon stage. Our fall brassica patch has been particularly troublesome and unfortunately is located in what is probably the wettest part of the farm. During dry seasons crops thrive in these soils; during wet years they struggle. So far the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are surviving and growing but would definitely appreciate some drier weather with only minimal weekly rainfall (quarter-inch please).
Besides simply being a huge crop planting, the brassicas are plagued by grass, a terribly persistent weed that's hard to defeat especially when it's been allowed to grow for a week beyond the ideal cultivation period. We were desperately close to losing the battle at first cultivation. It wasn't an ideal time because the ground remained slightly wetter than suitable for cultivating, but with forecast rain the following day, we only had a small window of opportunity to try to kill the weeds. Our employees muscled through the manual cultivation and saved the brassicas. A week or so later, with the smallest of dry weather opportunities also followed by forecast rain, we cultivated them again (this time a whole day's worth of work). We also added in some tractor cultivation for the tops of the beds between the rows of plants. Between and immediately around the plants cultivating still had to be done manually with stirrup hoes, though. The forecasted rain didn't materialize immediately after cultivation so the couple more days of dry weather allowed further desiccation of the weeds and grasses. After this second round of cultivation the crops' canopy seems to be tall and wide enough to out-compete the weeds. We may have to hand weed in row eventually, but for now our focus shifts to saving the fall and winter carrots and rutabaga. Also, for the brassicas at least, we must hope that perpetually wet feet won't undermine our efforts. The forecast does look like it's changing for the better. Here we are.
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