Summer 2014 Update

Sure has been an interesting, cool summer growing season.  We got off to a late start (ground still frozen in mid-March), and things stayed pretty cool and wet through most of April.  It was still very cool in early May- the earlier garden plantings either didn’t happen, or didn’t thrive.  

Our first transplanted summer squash and cucumber plants either died early, or are still producing, during August!  The second planting, from seed, barely germinated, and the third planting didn’t do much, either.  Not a great year for summer squash.  

Fortunately, I had some early cucurbits because a few were planted in our new greenhouse.  

The field tomatoes, planted the first weekend in June, are just now thinking about ripening.  Honey Grape plants look so good we’ll consider them for a greenhouse variety next year.  Aphid and whitefly pressure are surprisingly high in the planting area, and there have been very few of those 90 degree days where you can almost watch tomatoes grow.  Nutrient testing is needed, but lack of heat has been an issue for everyone in our region.  Okra has really languished as expected in a cool summer.

The greenhouse tomatoes, while not hitting the 30 lb per plant yields possible for the variety, are doing pretty well.  The Geronimo plants in our smaller greenhouse have lots of stem borers, but it hasn’t slowed them down much.  Both greenhouses are now seeing some spider mite damage which we’re attacking with insecticidal soap.  My wholesale buyer has been a disappointment- they have yet to buy a single batch.  Market sales have been really strong, though.  I think in the past I underestimated people’s desire for round, red, cosmetically perfect tomatoes.  Now that we have the greenhouse space, I will grow more of these (but not as many as this year, unless things change with the wholesale situation.)  I am not a fan of having to stake determinate tomatoes in the greenhouse (we are growing Florida 91 this year) and probably will not grow this variety indoors again.  I may try it outside during a hot summer.

Like most coolish, damp summers (2009 comes to mind,) we have done well with beans.  Dragon Tongue beans are more popular than ever, and even the usually-underperforming Royal Burgundy has yielded about 75% of what normal beans would pump out.  We have had somewhat inconsistent rainfall, but over an inch this week means the beans will probably give us another showing in a week or two. The long beans, in the greenhouse, are also facing spider mite pressure, but are now beginning to crank out marketable quantities of beans and should continue doing so until cold weather hits.

Beets have been good this year and I wish we’d planted more early ones.  The early spring lettuce didn’t bolt until around July 4th- some years it’s more like June 4th!  If we’d known it was going to be so cool, continuous lettuce planting would have been a good idea.  Kale and chard have been good all season so far and the chard has not been plagued with blister beetles much.  Maybe they’re staying in the alfalfa.

Winter squash plants took longer than usual to vine and set fruit, but they seem to be doing ok now.  Peppers and eggplant both struggled- late germination (it was cold even in the greenhouse) and small transplants.  We’re looking at a heated area for this next spring, if finances allow.  Transplanting them into the greenhouse is another possibility now that we have more space.

The fall crops look outstanding, possibly on track to be the best ever.  We have heavy cabbage moth pressure and are struggling to keep the Bt on the plants in the damp weather, but we got the plantings in on or ahead of schedule and they are doing great.  First carrots are just reaching edible size and a good sized second planting looks to have germinated well and should also be ready later in the fall.  Turnips, fall radishes, beets, and lettuce are also on track.  

We’ve started a nursery bed in the greenhouse for some winter greenhouse crops including celeriac, kale, bok choy, and lettuces.  

We’re still waiting to hear about what our winter market situation might be.  Both of our winter markets were challenging in the extreme cold and snow of winter 2013-2014.  If we don’t have a winter market, there’s going to be a lot of fresh produce in our house this winter!

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