There’s never a good time for a heatwave, but the timing of the particular heatwave we’re having right now could be worse. If it doesn’t last too long and the weather cools back down soon, it could kickstart our summer season into a higher gear without too much of a downside — a dress rehearsal to get us ready for the main event.
With the warm spring we’ve had, our summer crops have been growing fantastically and loading up with fruit. Often, this can actually delay ripening and thus harvest. But very hot weather stresses the plants and forces them to ripen the fruit more quickly, in an effort to “lighten the load” . Carrying fruit around takes water and carbohydrates away that the plant needs to simply keep itself alive. The “decision” is clear — the fruit must go. Fruit that is not ready to ripen will be shed entirely if it gets too hot, as will flowers that have not pollinated yet.
Hot weather also forces the farmer to prioritize along the same lines. Almost overnight, our workload practically doubles as the summer crops speed up dramatically, and must be harvested every day instead of two or three times per week when it’s cool. It’s too hot to harvest our cool season crops and we don’t have time to do it anyway. In this case, we made the decision last Friday — just based on the forecast — that our strawberry, lettuce, spinach and kale season was effectively over.
The heat doesn’t just increase our workload. It reduces the time we have to get everything done. We send the harvest crews home once it hits 100, as it is neither safe nor efficient to do much work. So even though we start the day earlier during heatwaves, we often end up working fewer hours — on Monday we quit work before noon. It’s an easy decision as very few vegetables maintain their quality when picked in extreme heat. But it means that we get behind on other tasks.
Thankfully, on all but the hottest day of this heatwave, it has cooled down enough at night to let everyone get a good night’s sleep and provide nice working conditions for a few hours each morning. That makes a huge difference in everyone’s energy level and spirits.
The clear beneficiaries of this heatwave are our subscribers — especially if you live someplace cooler. You’ve got a beautiful box this week full of hot-weather produce to start the first week of summer. In the coming weeks, you can look forward to larger amounts of tomatoes as well Sweet Corn, Watermelons and eventually other melons. And we are looking forward to at least a week or two of cooler weather before the heat returns.