The January issue of Growing for Market is out, and in it is my article More strategies for dealing with a changing climate. A photo of our fava beans is on the cover. This is the third in a series of four. (You can see earlier blog posts about the first two, in the Articles category.) This article covers the use of soil temperature as a deciding factor on when to sow or plant, and includes a table of minimum (spring) and maximum (summer/fall) temperatures for about 50 crops. As the climate becomes harder to predict, using a calendar (“Plant potatoes on St Patrick’s Day!”) will need to be replaced by using information like soil temperatures, which reflect what the plants will actually experience this particular year.
The article also discusses scouting, which is the practice of making a regular tour of your crops to monitor growth and health. If you see a pest or a disease, you can determine if the level of infestation is enough to call for action, or if watchful waiting is in order. Keeping in touch with how your crops are doing will help you know when you need to take action to avert disaster or to make good use of an opportunity like an early-finishing crop opening up the possibility of using a longer-term cover crop.
I also talk a bit about being prepared for more extreme temperatures – trialing varieties that are more cold- or heat-tolerant than your old favorites, and using shadecloth and organic mulches to reduce heat stress. ATTRA’s Drought Resistant Soil addresses ways to increase the organic matter content of the soil, and keep the soil covered at all times, helping you farms’ resilience.
In addition I added in a few more resources I’ve found to help with predicting climate change. DailyClimate.org – a daily email newsletter; NOAA Climate Prediction Center, and Weatherspark.com, a fun weather site is where you can see, for instance, what your average winter low has been, and plan plantings accordingly.
Two additional resources on frost management are NCSU’s Frost/Freeze Protection for Horticultural Crops and the Food and Agriculture Organization 126-page book Frost Protection: Fundamentals, Practice and Economics.
Why the fava bean photo? Wait till the soil temperature reaches 36F (2C) before sowing.
As well as my article, there are many other gems – Identify your biggest money-making crops by Chris Blanchard; A Tool Review of The Quick Cut Greens Harvester by Jean-Martin Fortier; 8,000 miles and 18 farmers markets, a travelogue by Gwynn Hamilton and Bert Webster about their cross-country road trip visiting farmers markets all the way; Understanding one of the few insecticides for organic growers by Raymond A. Cloyd, about spinosad formulated as Entrust, and Growers create their own wholesale market for local flowers in Seattle by Debra Prinzing, co-author of The 50-Mile Bouquet about the movement toward locally grown, sustainable flowers.