We got a nice soaking in Northern California over the last three weeks, desperately needed after one of the driest winters on the books. Around here, we prefer to get rain during the usually cold , dark months of December, January and February. The crops growing that time of year like the rain, and we don’t have that much to do. In March and April, on the other hand, we need the ground to be dry for planting and the warm weather crops — from tree fruit to tomatoes — suffer in the cold and wet.
Apart from filling up the reservoirs, the biggest benefit we got from the rain was to our cover crops — the soil-protecting, nutrient-building plants that we grow on most of our fields in the winter. They had struggled to stay alive through most the winter, hardly growing at all. But in the last three weeks, they exploded upwards and outwards, drinking up the moisture and reaching for the sky. Now three to four feet high, the cover has been turned over to the sheep who mow it off and convert the biomass into readily available nutrients for our summer crops.
In the best of all worlds, we would now get a couple of weeks of dry and warm weather to plant all the crops that need to go in the ground. Most of the stuff we planted in March made it through the storms: potatoes, squash, tomatoes, corn, peas, green beans and many others. But we have another round of all those things that need to get planted again now, and we’re not out of the woods yet. We have another week or so before we can stop worrying about frost damage< so I am going to wait before giving you a report on the crop outlook for our apricots, cherries, peaches and grapes. And even if we avoid a late frost, a repeat of last year’s cold, wet April and/or May could really put a damper on most of our crops.
To end on a positive note, I will mention that our strawberry field looks as good as we have ever seen for early April. The plants clearly enjoyed the dry weather in February combined with the rain in March: they are big and green and absolutely loaded with both flowers and green fruit. I won’t make any promises about when you might see them in your boxes, but it’s likely to be earlier than last year.
In Your Boxes
We were hoping to get enough Sugar Snap Peas out of the field this week for everyone, but with the cool weather and rain, it just didn’t happen. We have a large early planting that is absolutely loaded with flowers and almost-ready-to-pick pods, but very few that are ripe enough to harvest.
It’s actually a “teachable moment” for those who are curious about how their food grows. Yesterday, we harvested about 120 lbs. of ripe snap peas from a quarter-acre field. Tomorrow, we may harvest 200 lbs. If we were to divide these peas among all our subscribers (S,M,L), you would each get about an 8th of a pound. Instead, we only put them in the Large boxes.
By next week, the same plants that currently have just one or two ripe pea pods on them will have 8 or 10, and we will almost certainly get 1000 pounds of peas out of the field This will allow us to send you each at least a half pound.
The bunches of Spinach in your boxes today may be the largest spinach plants we’ve ever grown, but that doesn’t make the leaves tough or less flavorful. In fact, they are sweet and mild. That spinach field was planted way back in October, and was harvested for baby leaves in December. It grew back kept growing through the winter and the plants are now big and lush and healthy.
We’ve sent you a lot of spinach this winter, as it fared much better than many of the other leafy greens we grow. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re not a spinach fan) this trend has run its course. Three weeks of constantly wet weather have brought mildew into our fields, and the baby spinach we would otherwise be harvesting now and for the next several weeks has turned yellow and shriveled up. The mature (bunching) spinach is less susceptible.
It will be a couple of weeks before there are any salad greens in your boxes, and the first will likely be Arugula planted back in February. We also have spinach just coming up that may escape the mildew (assuming we get some dry weather) and could be ready by the end of the month.