I hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe Fourth of July holiday.  Here at Terra Firma, we appear to have missed most of the extreme temperatures that broke records and made headlines in others spots.  In fact, the hottest heat appears to have moved from our west (Napa and Sonoma) to our east and north over the course of last week while mostly missing us — it hit 109 on Saturday and stayed over 100 degrees until almost midnight.  Other areas, such as the Capay Valley north of us in Yolo County where it hit 118, were not so lucky.  While we appear to have escaped obvious damage to our crops, over the next few weeks we may start to see problems arise.

Currently our biggest challenges with the ongoing heatwave are: 1) Getting our people home before it gets too hot, 2) Harvesting everything that needs to be harvested, and 3) Keeping all the crops sufficiently moist.  So far we’ve accomplished the first two goals, but the third goal is almost impossible.  Our irrigation systems were running 6 days a week even before the heatwave started, and we irrigate most crops every 7 days.  Yet the ground has been drying out just 3-4 days after irrigation.  We’ve tightened the schedule to every 5 days for a few crops, but it’s not possible to give everything on the farm a shot of water twice a week.

In the last few years, we’ve actually been adding to our irrigation demands by planting summer crops later, in an effort to extend our season for warm-weather vegetables into fall in response to climate change.  For example, where we used to stop planting zucchini in June, we now plant it until early August.  We’re growing more onions in the summer for fall harvest.  We’ve added a late planting of tomatoes and peppers.  And this year we’re experimenting with planting sweet corn to harvest in October.  All of those crops will grow through the peak heat of summer, requiring more water than crops like broccoli or spinach — which are planted in late August — would.

But far and away, the most water-intensive crop we grow in the summer is  Carrots.  In order to harvest them in September, for example, they must be planted in late June or early July.  During for a month or longer, they need to be constantly moist to sprout the tiny seeds and keep the delicate seedlings alive in the heat.  It is challenging even during a normal summer, but this year it has been simply impossible.  We’ve missed two plantings as a result.  We’ll need some less-hot weather for 10 days or longer, and there’s no guarantee we’ll get that any time soon.

Carrot lovers need not worry any time soon though, as we are still harvesting from fields that were planted back in the spring, and will be for at least another month.

Wish us luck staying cool and keeping everything and everyone hydrated.