Like many farmers, I’ve been struggling not to get despondent about erratic and extreme weather, especially in the past few years. I worry about how and if we are going to be able to adapt to continue producing good food despite extreme heat, cold, drought and deluge. I don’t want to slide into catastrophic thinking about plagues of new pests and diseases. Obviously we’ll need to make changes to how and when we plant and harvest – old-timey calendars don’t work any more.
I’m already there with the need for good record-keeping (to figure out what works best); eating and supplying local food (to reduce transportation fuel use and to get the freshest food); and doing my personal best not to make climate change worse. And I need help in understanding how to be more resilient and use the options I have. And it’s definitely time to start this!
Resilience is a concept familiar to another author, Carol Deppe, whose new book The Tao of Vegetable Gardening will, sooner or later, get a review by me on this site. I enjoyed her earlier book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. That book focuses on staple crops for survival: potatoes, corn, dry beans, squash and eggs. Her new book includes other crops which make our lives richer and worth gardening for: tomatoes, peas, green beans, summer squash. I just read an interesting interview with Carol Deppe from Margaret Roach who blogs as A Way to Garden, and makes radio podcasts such as this interview.
And yet more reading! The April issue of Growing for Market is out. I’ve written the first of a pair of articles on hot weather greens. This one is about greens mostly cooked and eaten. next month my article will be about greens mostly eaten as salads. I know there is a lot of overlap, but I had to draw a line somewhere! This month’s article includes chard, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, beet greens, Egyptian spinach, leaf amaranths, Aztec Spinach, Water Spinach, sweet potato leaves, squash leaves and shoots, crowder pea shoots and leaves and edible celosia. No need to go short of leafy greens, no matter how hot it gets!
Another article in this issue is about pesticide drift contamination, written by Joanna and Eric Reuter, whose fascinating blog I love to follow on their website Chert Hollow Farm. Their blog has a 3-part series of posts about their own experience of being contaminated by a neighbor. Their article tells their own story more briefly and also that of Terra Bella farm, an hour from them.
Jean-Martin Fortier has a great article on Six strategies to prevent weeds. We need them all! (Of course, we are already using some of them.) Raymond Cloyd from Kansas State University has written a timely article about the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a newly emerging pest of fruit, especially brambles. Gretel Adams, in her regular column on flower-growing, advises planting bulbs quickly and often. And Lynn Byczynski reports on what the ag census says about local food. Having the report read carefully and summarized for us is a great service.
Lettuce Factory: Sow heat-resistant lettuce outdoors, every 8 to 6 days, #10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Transplant 120/week (1/3 bed). #7, 8, 9, 10, 11 this month.
Deal with potato beetles with Spinosad [or Neem] once larvae are seen, if >50 adults/50 plants or >200 larvae/100 plants. Spinosad: Spray when bees not flying (early morning or late evening.) Shake well, 1-4 Tbsp/gall. Expect to need 1.5-2 hours and 9-10.5 galls. Clean and triple rinse the sprayer. Do not flush in creek or pond. Repeat if needed in 6-7 days – could spot spray where larvae are seen. Flame weedpotatoes before 12” high, if needed.
Deal with asparagus beetles, if necessary. See notes under April.
Continue cutting sweet potato slips until we have enough.
Transplant when hardened off: celery, celeriac, lettuce #7, main tomatoes (2’).
Set out drip tape & bioplastic mulch , transplant Romas (2’), peppers (18” when soil 70°F, dogwood blooms dropping), hot peppers, and melons #1, sweet potatoes.
Sowpeanuts (120d), asparagus beans in bed w/ celery, okra, sunflowers. limas #1, cow peas #1 (68d)
Roll out driptape and bioplastic mulch for watermelons.
Cover Crops: Sorghum-Sudan, soy, buckwheat, or pearl millet as summer cover crops, now frost is past.
Plantsweet potatoes, 16″ apart, with 4-4.5′ between ridges, 5’ at edges of patch. Install drip irrigation on ridges and plant at every other emitter. Ideal if soil temp is 65°F for four consecutive days before planting. If weather dry, dip roots in mud slurry before planting. Plant 2-3” deep, with at least 2 nodes in ground, and at least 2 leaves above ground. If slips are long, plant horizontally to increase production.
Transplantlettuce #8, eggplant (2’ apart, single row in center of bed, spray off flea beetles with jet of water & cover immediately), watermelon, insectaries, (okra if not direct-sown – mulch later, when soil warm).
Set out drip tape and biodegradable mulch and transplant melons and watermelons at four weeks old max. Cover for 3 weeks. Move rowcover off broccoli (12 pieces) and strawberries (~8 pieces) Watermelon needs 12 pieces.
In greenhouse sow tomatoes #3, filler watermelons & Romas. Sow cukes & squash #2 if spring is late and cold, and direct-sowing not wise.
Sowbeans #2 (5/14, 28 days after #1), edamame #2, carrots #6, sunflowers.
Till between rows of corn #1 & transplant in gaps and/or thin to 8”.
Weed onions 3 weeks before expected harvest date, and broccoli.
Garlic: Harvest garlic scapes, remove mulch from garlic, and weed. Move mulch to weeded broccoli.
Check maturity of potato onions and garlic.Likely harvest order is fall potato onions 5/25-6/10, hardneck garlic 5/30-6/15, spring potato onions 6/3-6/18, bulb onions 6/11-6/30, softneck garlic 6/5-6/15.
#4 Spring Tractor Work mid-May – Disk areas for June potatoes, corn 3,4,5, & later succession plantings of beans, squash, cucumbers.
Mow between no-till paste tomato rows before mulching with hay. Fill gaps, weed, tuck mulch. Set up posts and string weave the tomatoes, using thick baler twine for lower 3 rows. Really try to keep up with weekly string-weaving.
String weave 1 row around peppers, using short stakes.
Clear empty coldframe and mulch with cardboard or plant something.
Till each corn twice, undersowing at 2nd tilling (30 days), when 12” high, with soy for #1-5, oats/soy for #6. Thincorn to 8”. Avoid cultivating corn after it’s knee-high—roots are shallow.
Sowcorn #2, cowpeas #2; cukes #2 (picklers and slicers), summer squash & zukes #2 5/24 (or in greenhouse 5/14, transplant 6/7), watermelons #3, winter squash 5/26 (put woodash with seeds to deter squash vine borer). If squash sowing is late, don’t sow Tahitian butternut – slow. Cover cucurbits (perhaps not winter squash) against cucumber beetles. Max. cuke beetle population is mid-May; keep susceptible plants well-covered until flowering.
Transplantlettuce #9, 10, 11;Roma paste tomato replacements for casualties, insectary flowers. Fill gaps in eggplant, peppers, melons, watermelons.
Store any seeds not needed until fall or next spring, in basement (radishes, onions, winter squash,watermelon).
Harvest fall planted Potato Onions in dry weather, after tops have fallen, (5/25-6/10, spring planted 6/3-18). May not all be ready at once. Handle gently. Dry as clusters in barn on wooden racks for 1-2 months, using fans. Service fans or buy new as needed. Eat potato onions >2.5” without curing, unless yield is very low, in which case label & refrigerate, then plant in September. Weight after drying for 1 week is approximately twice the final weight. First sorting is late June. Use the Worksheet and Log Book
Harvestgarlic when 6th leaf down is starting to brown on 50% of the crop (ie .5 green leaves, so that 5 skins cover cloves), or cut open horizontally- when air space is visible between. stem and cloves it’s time to harvest. [Could replant small cloves immediately for garlic scallions.] Allow 15 mins/bucket harvesting and 15 mins/bucket for hanging in netting in barn,.
Till garlic area, sow soy & buckwheat to control weeds until fall carrot planting.
Plan fall and winter crops for raised beds.
Cover crops: can sow buckwheat, soy, millet, and sorghum-sudan during May.
Perennials: Put up blueberry netting before fruit sets. Weed & water & top up mulch. Mow grape & fall raspberry aisles. New grapevines: remove side branches and fruitlets. Weekly: visit grapes and log progress 4/20-5/30. If asparagus weeds are getting out of hand, mow down one or more rows to keep control.