Farm Update September 2015
- posted on: September 26, 2015
- posted by: 21 Acres
Fall is in the air! Crisp air and shorter daylight clearly indicate the season’s shift. Frankly, this change of the weather is such a relief after the unusually hot and dry summer/drought we had for the last few months non-stop. No more fight for water….at least for now. The rain we have received at the beginning of September certainly rejuvenated soils….and our spirit. In fact, the ground is still moist! Earthworms we didn’t see in the soils during the dry summer days are back now while they dug deeper into the ground where it was moister when conditions were dry. This summer was quite a challenging growing season; and yet, it was another learning curve….perseverance and faith in “nature at work” after all the labor we put in.
I often feel fall is a time of changes different from the other seasons and also comes from within. Perhaps, it’s because fall falls after summer’s bursting energy and radiance and offers such a contrast with inner energy and reflection. Such a shift in fall within corresponds to what we see on the farm as nature wears different colors of the season.
As summer departs and fall officially arrives, the fields are already displaying different colors and flavors. Pumpkins are turning orange and winter squash is becoming colorful like a carnival….orange, green, brown, yellow, salmon pink in different shapes and textures. Our first trial sweet potato plants are looking good with beautiful purple white blossoms. We’ll harvest sweet potatoes soon after the first frost. Winter greens are happy in this cool weather and we just started harvesting a new crop of mustard greens, mizuna and komatsuna. Summer squash and cucumbers are close to end for the season and tomatoes are phasing out quickly. In fact, there aren’t many green tomatoes this year, either. What happened?….the prolonged heat wave in July/August affected tomato plants causing many blossoms falling off from the plants due to heat stress. As a result, we had less fruits than usual. Normally we still have some fruits/green tomatoes left on the vines, but not many this year….no fried green tomatoes!? Lettuce, carrots, beets and other greens like baby choy, kale, chard and spinach are looking good in the autumn weather.
Summer cover crop to winter cover crop…..it was just a month ago when we planted summer cover crop/buckwheat. And now, it’s time for winter cover crop/winter rye. Cover crop is a vital and critical part of crop rotation and soil tilth. We’ve already planted winter rye in some of the areas where the season’s production has finished and the rest is to be cover cropped as harvest ends bed after bed.
WSU compost trial….we have been experimenting with compost in collaboration with Washington State University. The main purpose of the project is to evaluate compost performance in contributing to plants growth. We also decided to measure heavy metals in soils and plants with/without compost application. The following is a quick summary of the compost trial/2015 in our test field:
- Crops seemed to grow slightly better/larger in compost added site.
- Soil pH has slightly improved after using compost/2 applications….from 4.7 to 5.
- Some of heavy metals slightly increased in soils after applying compost.
- Some of heavy metals slightly increases/decreased in plants after applying compost.
- Weeds grew more in compost added area.
By the way, in our farm operation there are certain things we pay attention to and practice to do with climate change. From choosing certain varieties of crops that are more heat resistant/require less water to grow, using the soil mix without peat (ecological impact of harvesting peat), fertilizer made of sustainably caught fish (not made of petroleum), solar powered timers for irrigation (less relying on power grid), biodegradable bags (not made of plastic), less tilling (less use of petroleum), no use of plastic mulch (plastic mulch is commonly used to keep weeds down and save weeding labor, but we don’t use plastic mulch = petroleum). So, just to list a few, we consciously practice farming in relation to climate change, ecology, and environment. With consciousness in mind and practice, whatever method(s) we may utilize, it will help address climate change. We practice “conscious farming.”
ter cup, carnival. Each variety has unique flavors and texture/colors. Be creative and prepare to savor them. Winter squash can keep for a long time if stored in a cool/dark/dry condition, so it’s ideal as a staple food for winter storage….and very nutritious.
That’s it for now. You can follow this update with pictures here.
Shasta Lake picture included….I took it on 9/7/2015 and the lake is one of the three major reservoirs in N. CA, providing water for farming and people. It shows how deep CA drought is.