Our potatoes are almost ready for harvest! In the images you can see a potato plant before I dug it up, the same plant with potatoes still attached and some baby new potatoes harvested for the CSA shares. We will soon have potatoes in the markets available for everyone.
Yesterday we finally finished putting up the shade cloth over the tomatoes, chiles, sweet peppers and cucumber plants. I rented a power t-post driver and that saved us a lot of work. More than half of middle terrace in the field is now shaded with a 30% shade cloth. It is noticeably cooler under the shade in the heat of the day. We will augment the shade with water sprinklers during the upcoming heatwave to keep the temperatures reasonable for the plants (and for us as we work in the field).
In case you don’t receive the Heirloom Farmers’ Markets emails — the Sunday market at Rillito this weekend (19 June) will open at 7a and close around 11a due to the expected extreme heat.
Yesterday we finished putting the bird netting and shade cloth over and around the blackberry bushes. We finished this task just in time because the first berries ripened this week. Of course we have eaten all of the very few ripe ones that we have seen. It looks like we should have enough for the CSA shares and maybe even for the markets within a few weeks.
We partly completed trellising the tomato plants this week. Most of the plants have many small tomatoes and more blossoms are opening every day, so it looks like we will have an abundant tomato harvest. Now we just have to wait for them to ripen; it always seems like the first ones take forever to be ready to pick. We will keep you up to date on their progress.
We started harvesting at 5a this morning and quit a little after noon. It is 102 degrees out in the field right now. I just put some additional shade over some seedlings we planted last evening. They were looking pretty wilted, but will perk up as soon as the sun gets low and the temperature moderates. Tomorrow will be even hotter !!
If you didn’t notice, the last few days gave us a little taste of the heat that is coming. We hit the high 90s at the farm and that prompted us to work more quickly to implement some of our strategies to deal with the heat.
You can see a couple of those strategies in the image taken of the sweet pepper bed. Shade cloth is attached to the supports for the pepper plants and draped down on the western side. The row to the right is a greens bed with a row cover to shade and keep in some humidity. The rowcover on the bed now is AG30, that we use in the winter. It along with all the remaining rowcovers in the field will be removed this week and replaced with AG19 a very lightweight cover that lets in plenty of light, but does not trap in the heat.
The tomato plants (blooming already !!) love the warm weather, but will fry in the extreme heat that we usually experience in June, so that bed will also get a shade cloth treatment within the next few weeks.
Shade cloth will also protect the blackberry bushes that are blooming heavily now. The bees have been busy and there are already many green berries forming. We are really excited about this crop – we might harvest 100 pounds of blackberries this year!
Another heat strategy we employ has to do with lowering the temperatures of the soil to allow seeds to germinate when the ambient temperatures are very high. That we do with triple-layer germination covers made from old rowcovers. We apply these directly to the beds and topwater them twice daily (early morning and just after sunset). The evaporation of the water cools the underlying soil and the high albedo of the white germination covers reflects the daytime light and heat.
In order to keep the humans cool out here, we are shifting our operations a bit earlier every week. We will soon be starting the workday around 5a and even earlier. We’ll work until it is too hot, then retreat inside and sleep in the afternoon, arising again when the sun is low. When the sun goes down, the headlamps come out and we’ll work for a few hours at night. We will also increase shaded areas on the farm using 90% shade cloth to create more spaces where we can work out of the intense sunlight.
For a few more weeks, we will be continuing the sign-up for the late spring/summer CSA share program. We have several more slots open, so if you want to buy a share, please let us know. The program will consist of 16 weeks of deliveries to the markets starting the third week of May and continuing into September. The cost will be $250. We will have the signup forms at our farm stands and available online. Thanks!