We have a changing of the guard in your boxes today, a handing-over of the Produce Crown from one queen to another: Strawberries to Tomatoes.
Taken together, these are center of the galaxy of crops we grow at Terra Firma: everything else revolves around them.
This year we planted our first tomatoes out early than we ever have: February 15th. They were not scheduled to go in until the following week, but they were getting too tall in the greenhouse and the weather outside was beautiful too: it was 82 degrees on the day we planted them. For two full weeks they enjoyed warm and sunny days.
Tomatoes can be damaged or killed by freezing temperatures. So we are always prepared to protect our earliest tomatoes using sprinkler pipes and an automated sensor that calls us in the middle of the night to alert us to frost. But we only had to turn the sprinklers one once this year, and for the first time ever for us, the temperature never got below the 33 degree threshold.
March rains provided a generous amount of soil moisture for the growing tomatoes, although the cool weather did slow the plants down and push back harvest by almost two weeks compared to last year. On the other hand, April gave us perfect weather for producing loads of blossoms on the plants that soon became green fruit.
June may be the best month of tomato season this year. If this week’s hot weather is a harbinger of a long, hot summer, it will likely result in a much lighter crop in July and August. Our later plantings are either just now beginning to bloom, or haven’t even started yet. Extreme heat causes tomato plants to drop their flowers and thus make less fruit.
Meanwhile, after just a few days of hot weather, the strawberry patch is done. Having harvested the last few berries for your boxes this week, we will now begin the time consuming task of tilling the plants in and preparing the field for its next crop. And we have already planted a summer cover crop of leguminous black-eyed peas in the spot where next year’s strawberries will grow. The cowpeas will be sacrificed to the soil gods in late July in order to provide the best possible home for the berries when they get planted in September.
The cycle continues. Enjoy the tomatoes.