Rain and Weeds

There’s a very simple way to kill most weeds for much of the year California. You simply cut the plant’s root just below the soil, or better yet, pull the root out of the ground and leave it lying there. In a day or less, the plant will wither and die in our dry Mediterranean air, whether it’s hot or cool.
But during wet weather the same task is much less likely to succeed. Even the tiniest weed seedling, if uprooted, might survive and thrive if rain and fog and dew keep it from drying out. Eventually it will send new roots back down into the soil and keep growing.
Organic farms depend completely on dry weather to fight weeds. Almost all the methods allowed require the soil to dry out for several days, both before weeding and after. In many parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world, farmers can’t guarantee this is going to happen.
So how do you kill weeds in a place like Louisiana or South Carolina? Herbicides. And even then, it isn’t easy. A long spell of wet weather at the wrong time can make even spraying weeds impossible.
Right now in California we are going halfway into the 3rd month in a row where the ground has not dried out for long enough for us to control all the weeds on the farm. Weeds that we had a chance to cultivate during the two short dry spells we got since New Years didn’t die thanks to all the rain that followed.
Weather like this is not unheard of for California, but it is unusual. It seems to happen about once or twice every ten years. However, in other parts of the country and the world, it is completely normal. For most farmers in those areas, farming organically is not even an option.
If the mostly-wet weather continues for much longer, it will begin to cause us additional problems beyond just the weeds. And it will impact all farmers in the state — not just organic ones. It’s true that our state needed the water, but we’re at or beyond 100% of average now with a snowpack that will continue to fill the reservoirs through the spring.
A few years back, during the peak of the drought, people were warning that climate change might throw California into a drought that would last ten, a hundred, or even a thousand years. But climate change was always predicted to increase variability of weather, not decrease it. 2017 was the wettest recorded year in state history but 2019 is now threatening that record. If we start having years like these more often, California could just as well see a change to a climate that is much wetter some years and much drier others.
In the short-term, the weather won’t effect what you see in your boxes for the rest of the winter. We still have plenty of leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, and citrus. And the cold, wet weather is making everything especially fresh and tasty.
We just need it to stop raining. The sooner, the better.


Power’s Out: The Aftermath

At Terra Firma, we rely utterly on PG&E not just to keep the lights on, but to run our irrigation, washing and drinking water pumps and refrigerate our produce. But for the many people who might take it for granted … Continue reading

Power’s Out!

We woke up this morning with no electricity on the farm.  The powers that be at PGE in their infinite wisdom shut the lights off just after midnight.  For Terra Firma, that means our coolers and irrigation pumps are not … Continue reading

The Orange Glow of Autumn (Produce)

Orange is getting a bad name right now, what with all the crazy news coming out of Washington these days. That’s unfortunate, now that it’s fall.  I would hazard a guess that if you gave people a box of crayons … Continue reading