Nicest July Ever

Just this week we added yet another feature to our list of social media resources: a Terra Firma Farm You Tube channel. We will use this channel every once in a while to post videos of cool stuff that we see around the farm, live action farming footage, and other things we think might enhance your experience of being a TFF subscriber. First up? A quick  video I took of a noisy bumblebee pollinating tomato blossoms in our field.
There are many times of the year when the weather here in the Central Valley is pretty pleasant compared to other parts of the U.S. and the world: especially the months that end with “-ember” and “-ruary”. But the 7th month of the year is generally pretty hellish, by just about anyone’s standards.
The average high temperature in Winters in mid-July is 95 degrees. The record high temperatures for most days are well over 110. And on average we have 10 days over 100. Some Julys there are more days over 100 than not. And the longer it stays hot like that, the less it cools off at night.
This year, though, Mother Nature seems to be giving us a break after a challenging winter and spring. We are twenty-five days into July 2019, and it’s been about as close to perfect weather as anyone here in the valley can imagine summer being: Cool nights and warm days with an hour or two of hott-ish temperatures in the afternoon. Yesterday was our first 100 degree day for the month.
At Terra Firma, the biggest problem with very hot weather is its impact on all of us who have to work in it. I think most people imagine farmers struggling with the hot afternoons, but the reality is that we start work at first light and usually finish before it gets too hot. But during a July heatwave it can be 85 degrees at 6 a.m. and 100 before noon. Even if we cut work short, it can be tough to get through the day.
Of all the crops we grow in July, tomatoes are the most temperature sensitive. When it gets over 100 degrees for days at a time, the fruit starts to ripen very quickly — and it keeps ripening for hours after we harvest it, even after we put it in the cooler. It can be hard to keep up. Meanwhile, the tomato blossoms can’t pollinate when it’s that hot, so we lose the future crop. Many years our tomato season ends in mid-September thanks to a heatwave back in July that caused all the flowers to abort.
The weather for the past month or so has been just about perfect for people and tomatoes. The mornings have been enjoyably cool. But there’s been just enough heat to keep the tomatoes (and other crops) ripening at a slow and steady pace. And the plants have continued to set an incredible amount of fruit, which means that our season could potentially continue well into September.
Looking at the news, though, it seems far more likely that Mother Nature is probably not done messing with us yet in 2019: She’s just too busy causing weather havoc in other parts of the U.S. and the World. Meanwhile, the temperature forecast for this weekend is showing a high of 107. And we’re only halfway through summer.
But it sure was a nice July.


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