This has been the most perplexing of springs and by all accounts we have seen some extreme meterologocial events. First we had an extremely mild winter’s end with some 80 degree days in March that hastened springs arrival. All of us cynics (mostly my farming friends) knew this would set us up for failure and sure enough by mid May we were battered by heavy frosts with a morning low temp here of 23 degrees. We irrigated the strawberries 13 nights thus far and on that particular morning we were pretty convinced that our blueberry crop had been totally trashed. But despite the local apple growers suffering almost complete loss, the blueberries survived and although there is some measure of damage, its not the total loss we thought we would experience with that low of a temperature. The irony was is that everyones peach trees survived the cold temps and are loaded with tiny peaches,when by all accounts they are less hardy than apples. The only explanation was that the peaches bloomed so early that the were able to survive. Mother Nature certainly acts in mysterious ways…
Today we picked 32 quarts of strawberries. This is the earliest ever, by 10 days, that we have been able to pick measureable fruit. The extreme heat has forced them somewhat,mostly the ones that were grown on black plastic. On the other side of the heat issue,we burned up some transplants in the field with the rowcovers. Three days of 95 degree weather in May is a little unheard of, and it has been tough keeping the greenhouse flowers and plants looking decent. At 95 degrees it’s pretty hard to keep humans looking pretty decent. We were all dragging our sorry dehydrated butts around here and we are very greatful for the return of cooler days.
Buts its pretty dry,and we could use a some rain. That’s something I haven’t wished for after the last two summers…
Last night we got what my parents used to refer to as a “black frost, where the temps got down to the mid twenties. We saved the strawberry crop which is in full bloom but lost the blueberries for lack of overhead irrigation.
Its not like loosing your house to an earthquake, contracting cancer or loosing your fishing job in the Gulf of Mexico due to an oil drilling mishap. But it is discouraging after all the fertilizing,watering,mulching, mowing and pruning to realize that there will be no fruit to pick this year. If you think anybody but mother nature is in the drivers seat when you or farming, you are definitely suffer from a very large case of egotism.
In another arena, it would seem as though many new people are getting into home gardening, and the interest in vegetable gardening has really shot up the last couple of years. This year is no exception and we get a lot of questions and the range the gamut from sophisticated to very basic. We think it a very good think for people to be growing their own food. It makes them consider what is really entailed in eating locally and sustainably here in New England. What really amazes me is is the questions that novice gardeners don’t ask, and perhaps should.
We had a neighbor ask us to rototill her garden, something we don’t make a habit of doing but consented to because she was a neighbor. When I arrived at her home I was greeted by her and two younger members who evidently have had some horticultural exposure in college. I found that they wanted to increase the size of their current garden from 600 square feet to 12,000. I was to rototill up the remaining large lawn up to the trees. They want to plant immediately.
This is where it starts to get sticky for me. Do I tell them they are nuts, that they will be fighting the grass clumps all summer? Do I tell them that even if the spray Roundup and subdue the grass chemically that the wireworms will raise hell with the roots and tubers of the vegetables for a year or two? Do I ask to see their plan for their new garden which is 20 fold larger than their existing one? What about fertility,have they had the soil tested? An adequate water supply? How receptive would the the young organic idealists be if the the old fart chemical farmer up starts making suggestions?
In the end I kept my mouth shut, not any easy task. I figured they were just as entitled to retain their enthusiasm and make the same mistakes I did 35 years ago.