THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Torpedo Onions
• Pattypan Squash
• Pickling Cucumbers—but they’re not just for pickling!
• “Midnight Ruffles” Lettuce
• Green Romaine Lettuce
• Beets, Kale, or Swiss Chard
• Basil or Cilantro
Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.
COMING SOON: New Potatoes, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Tomatoes
At this point, the first week of July, the word “dry” is an understatement. In a typical year, whatever that means, we would have had our last rain for the season probably last week. Maybe even this week. Aside from one glorious dumping rain several weeks ago, we have had virtually no rain since April. That makes things veeeery dry.
Most of our crops are shallow-rooted—lettuce, broccoli, herbs all have root systems that don’t go more than 6-12″ deep. That means that their little roots dry out quickly. These 90° days speed up evaporation from irrigating and dew, and increase transpiration from the plant leaves. The plants metabolize and grow very quickly with the heat and long day length, provided there is enough water to keep them making new cells, and growing.
What that means is that we have water running somewhere 24 hours a day. We use Kent city water for leafy crops because the well water is high in iron and discolors the plants. But city water is expensive, and slow. Well water is cheaper and abundant, but we can only use it on crops whose surfaces aren’t eaten—potatoes, carrots, winter squash, etc.
I am actually concerned about what our August water bill will look like. In the past it’s been as much as $4,000.
There are things we can do to conserve water. We use plastic mulch—it looks like black plastic sheeting on the ground. This holds moisture in the soil, and it also suppresses weeds. We can run drip-irrigation-tape under the plastic to make it even more efficient. But not all crops enjoy being planted in plastic. We found that brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) don’t like the extra heat baking their shallow roots. Lettuce is also too hot in plastic. But it works great for summer squash, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes. We use misting sprinklers, but only at night, so the tiny droplets don’t evaporate.
But some things are just not doing well. The spinach hasn’t germinated. We’re trying again, but it just won’t happen above a certain temperature. Lettuce won’t either, but with shade-cloth on the greenhouse, and in the shade of the tree most varieties are germinating. But it’s tough.
Remember, the joy of having lots of crops extra early—and most things have been a month early for us—means that many crops are going to suffer. But this is the beauty of a diversified farm system. Our brochure says some crops will excel, and some crops will fail. It’s a built-in safety feature. There have been years where the broccoli, peas, and lettuce went on forever and there were no squashes, tomatoes, or beans.
That said, the pickling cucumbers surprised me! Usually not ready to start picking until at least the end of July, I found boxes and boxes of them! They are only called “pickling cucumbers” because of their stereotypical shape, so don’t be afraid to slice them up in your salad or just bite into one. They’re delicious fresh. Here are a few quick pickle recipes though, in case you’re inspired. Pickle Recipes