It happened last Friday. It was a warm day — hot for this time of year — and quite windy. If you work with plants, it is the kind of day that makes you constantly anxious about their well-being. You wonder if their leaves are getting torn by the dehydrating wind, if their fruit or blossoms are being knocked off. (You worry about how the people working with the plants are doing as well, but that’s another story).
I checked our first planting of tomatoes in the morning and noticed how nice they looked, tall and lush with lots of blossoms. Some had even begun to set fruit. Then, at the end of the day, I was running an errand and had to drive past the field again. The plants were visibly wilting in the hot wind, their branches no longer upright but rather sagging and droopy — despite having been irrigated the night before. But after 10 hours of hot wind, I had expected this. What I hadn’t expected is that they had grown. A lot.
Since 7 a.m., those foot tall tomatoes had grown at least 6 inches — many of them twice that much. “Grown” is probably the wrong word, “exploded” is probably more like it. They weren’t just taller. They were wider and denser, with more leaves.
I went back the next day to double check and in the relative cool of the morning without the plants under stress, it was even more obvious. I wasn’t the only person on the farm who noticed, several people commented to me about it. And it wasn’t even just on our farm — someone who had driven from Winters to Davis and back that same day told me that every tomato field he passed (and there are some big ones) had jumped in size that day, although ours are still the biggest.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen our summer crops grow this fast — 2009, to be exact. Using that year as a guideline, you may able to look forward to cherry tomatoes and green beans as early as the 2nd week of June, sweet corn the following week and Early Girls soon after that. Heck, we might even have watermelons in time for the fourth of July like we used to in the “good old days”. If you enjoy summer produce, you might really enjoy 2012.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, Terra Firma has had a really rough two years at the hands of the weather. But while our crops did horribly in 2010 and 2011, the weather was actually a bit nicer for humans and when things grow slowly, the stress level is much lower. We might have a bit of re-learning curve on the farm as we get re-adjusted to having a real summer again. But that’s the only downside that comes to mind.