For many folks, Memorial Day marks the start of “summer vacation season”. It’s the opposite around here. June is usually our busiest harvest month of the year.
As you’re well aware, our summer vegetable crops begin ripening right around Memorial Day and really hit their stride right around now. Tomatoes, summer squash, and cucumbers need to be harvested every 24-48 hours depending on the temperature. And it takes most of our crew to do it. Looking at the weekly schedule, that only leaves two days to get other things done.
But we still have acres and acres of overwintered onions and garlic that need to be harvested, and our spring-planted potato crop has matured and needs to get dug before the real heat of summer arrives. Those “storage crops” are not as perishable or delicate as tomatoes, but if we take too long to harvest them they will begin to deteriorate in the heat and sun.
During the pandemic, we took advantage of the economic downturn to invest heavily in small-scale mechanization of harvest. We’ve always had machines for digging potatoes and picking green beans. But now we’ve got one for onions as well, and another for carrots. With their help, it takes far fewer people to get those crops out of the ground.
It would be nice is we could focus entirely on harvest right now, but there is still lots of other work to do. Trellising tomatoes is a one big task: the plants are growing about a foot per week right now with the long days and heat. We have to keep up with them, weaving twine through the plants and securing it to the metal stakes pounded every 7 feet through the field. It takes half a mile of twine to support a single bed of tomatoes — that’s 10 miles per acre!
And of course we’re still planting. The end of June is the deadline for getting all of our fall-harvested winter squash in the ground, but we’re also still planting tomatoes and watermelons as well as leeks. Once we get to July, though, we’ll get a month long break from planting.
But there will still be lots and lots to harvest. June may be our busiest harvest month, but July is a close second.