By Jug Bay Market Garden’s Farmer in Chief, Scott Hertzberg
This season was shaped by global warming more than any previous year. We have never started the CSA so early. Prior seasons, we started in mid-May but this year we started in mid-April. Because the heat did not really kick in until late June, we were able to provide the CSA with weeks of spring crops. We broke a record for how many straight weeks of head lettuce we harvested (8) and grew some of our best radishes, onions and potatoes.
While climate change helped us have an extended spring, the changes had an overall negative impact on summer harvests. Because of the relentless heat, the squash and cucumbers came on early and heavy but the harvests did not last as long as in the past. We picked some crops for two or three weeks instead of four or five weeks. It was not hard to see what happened to the cucumbers. We had three lush beds of them. For two weeks we picked hundreds of pounds of them and then the fruit got sunburned because it was not possible to give the plants enough water for the leaves to remain turgid and shading the cucumbers on the ground without watering all day every day.
Fortunately the other summer crops did better than the cucumbers but they all were stressed by the extreme heat. As long time CSA member and meteorologist Jonathan Kesley pointed, the high night time temperatures were an even greater problem than the day time temps. The true miracle of the season was the tasty tomatoes we grew in the unheated greenhouses. According to the agriculture extension both the day and night time temperatures were too hot for them to set fruit yet they somehow produced ample yields.
By August, the heat relented and we had a normal late summer and fall by the standards of the old agriculture extension planting schedules. We took a risk and planted the bulk of our greens in mid-August on the early side of the suggested planting window instead of waiting until early September when there would be less chance that high temperatures and insects would be a problem. The gamble was rewarded with timely rains, mild temps, few bugs and plentiful greens and root crops.
Every season is different in the Mid-Atlantic but I think what we saw this season is the new normal for our growing area. The good news is that we are going to have extended springs and fall harvests. The bad news is that most years the torrid heat is going to make things very difficult during late spring and much of summer. The best thing to do seems to not fight it too much, get off to an early start and take breaks during the worst of the summer, just as we did this season.
Over all, we feel we did a good job this year and probably had one of the best seasons in the past five years. Sure there were some crops failures but we grew a great deal of produce each week.
This year we partnered with only two other farms. In addition to our produce the shares included vegetables from Ronald Zimmerman in the spring and Joe Goldsmith in the summer. We have been working with both for a long time and find their farms good fits with ours. Like our farms, they our true small family farms with parents and children doing nearly all the work. Also like our farm, both farms are truly local, situated well within both the metropolitan economy and reach of sprawling housing development. We are a mere 19 miles from Christ Church on Capitol Hill. The Goldsmiths are 22 miles away and Ronald in the Mennonite Community in Saint Mary’s County is 40 miles away.
There is of course room for us to improve. Next season we will strive to provide an average of ten different vegetables each week instead of an average of eight. We want to concentrate on growing more beets and sweet potatoes and even try carrots. We also want to grow way more watermelons, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes and basil. We’ll grow a lot of garlic again like in other years. Another big goal is to continue to mechanize by getting more skillful at planting and weeding with tractor equipment.
We hope you enjoyed the CSA season and look forward to reading your comments about what you like and how we can improve for next season. Thank you for participating in the CSA this year. We know there are a lot of options for seasonal produce and we appreciate you choosing the CSA. Below are a few pictures and final observations from the 2012 growing seasons.
Most plentiful crop: Potatoes by far. The most we ever have grown. Maybe some people tired of them but considering that we have had a few years with few potatoes we welcomed the abundance.
Best new grow: The fennel we grew this spring.
Worst new crop: Some of the new suggested tomatoes varieties from Johnny’s seeds, namely Indigo Rose. Nice name, rotten tomato not worth picking for people to try.
Best new piece of equipment: The hatfield transplanter. Yes it is a hand tool and conflicts with our plan to mechanize more but it was a big time saver.
Greatest Improvement to Comfort in the Field: The cheap Coby ipod knock off which let me listen to NPR and music non-stop. I had been relying on old fashion sports radios that are useless once you knock off the antenna. I purchased many of these radios and may have been the last American to buy them. The Coby has an internal antenna that actually works, better late than never.
Top First Aid Lesson: Poison Ivy does get worse with multiple exposes however I think the reaction go down the if you manage not to touch it for a few years. Also Techno really works to prevent the rash and the Techno scrub gets rid of the rash fast.
Most Desired Piece of Equipment for 2013: A basket weeder to mount on the Farmall cultivating tractor.