Here it is, late July, and I can finally say with confidence that this has been a WET season. A rainy spring has matured into a rainy summer, and we’re rolling with it as best we can. A steady supply of dry socks certainly helps.
The tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are finally coming in. This year they’re planted in Lower Crooked, the first field you pass on the way to the berries. The wide grass pathways and mulched rows are pleasing to the eye, but they’re a cover-up for the field’s troublesome nature. With the wettest, heaviest soil on the farm, Lower Crooked is the slowest to warm up in the spring, making it unsuitable for spring crops. Even with summer and fall crops, it can struggle in a wet year such as this. Fortunately, we’re not without resources and options. The grass pathways and leaf mulch covering 85% of the field acts as a huge sponge, absorbing excess water and providing a physical barrier against soil-borne disease. We’ve also taken on the time-consuming but pleasant task of pruning the eggplant, to promote better air circulation at the ground level. All in all, we still expect a good nightshade harvest, albeit a little behind schedule, and with some extra work.
We also started harvesting onions a few weeks ago. That in and of itself is an accomplishment, given that our entire first planting was devoured by maggots. Friends and fellow growers came to our rescue with donated seedlings, and now we’re harvesting varieties we’ve never heard of before—Gold Coin, Cabernet, Mystery Red #1, Mystery Red #2. An additional curveball was thrown our way when we were informed we could no longer use the red barn at the Old Bethpage Village to cure and store the onions. Curing is a critical process whereby onions lay flat for several weeks to allow for the respiration of excess moisture. The barn’s dark, dry loft was the ideal site, but we’re making do with the facilities we have. We purchased shade cloth and high velocity fans for the greenhouses, and we’re building tiered racks so we can maximize our limited space. We won’t know until the final harvest in late August if our space is adequate, but if not, we’ll just distribute more of the onions sooner, rather than later.
Meanwhile, the fall crops are well underway. The fennel is starting to size up, the Brussels sprouts have been transplanted, and the first carrot seeds have already been washed away by—you guessed it!—another torrential downpour. As usual, we keep reseeding until something takes hold, but I swear, this is the last year I plant fall carrots on a slope.