The Grass is always Greener

For the last four years, growing vegetables in the Sacramento Valley has been quite similar to growing them in the deserts of Southern California, the source of the vast majority of the winter produce eaten in the U.S.  There in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, it rarely rains and the winters are warm and mild.
It was easy to forget what farming in the winter here used to be like.  This year has been a very gentle reminder.
One of the biggest problems we face in the winter is weeds.  Plants love rain.  Much more in fact than they like irrigation.  Natural rainfall causes more weed seeds to sprout, and the weeds get bigger, faster.
There are only three methods of weed control on an organic farm — cultivating with a tractor, hoeing by hand, and dessicating with flames.  All of them require a sustained period of dry weather to allow the soil to dry sufficiently and for the weeds to die.  In the winter, a weed that is uprooted with a hoe will re-sprout if it stays in contact with wet or muddy soil, or if it gets rained on within a day or two after weeding.
Tractor-cultivated garlic
This winter we have only had one week of dry weather between Thanksgiving and today, and unfortunately it was the week after Christmas when most of our staff was on vacation. The weeds have taken full advantage of the situation.
I used to consider our wet winters a limiting factor for how much we could grow during that season.  If we only got a few dry days here and there, there was only so much weeding that we could get done.  No point in planting crops only to see them disappear under the weeds.
But six of the last seven years have had a month long dry spell in the middle, mostly in January.  And we’ve had plenty of time to get all the weeding done.  And so each year, we’ve planted a little bit more in the winter.
Now here we are halfway through the rainy season, and there are fields where the crops are disappearing under a carpet of green.  If it were to keep raining every week in February, we would be looking at losing much of our onion and garlic crop.  Luckily, the forecast is for at least two weeks of dry weather that should allow us to get at least a good chunk of it weeded.
Perhaps the biggest irony is that despite the constant wet weather,  we are still behind last season for our total rainfall to date here at the farm.  It hasn’t rained a lot, it just has been constantly wet.
Get out and enjoy the sunshine for the next two weeks.  We will be out in it as well, weeding.  Finally.
Thanks,
Pablito

CLICK HERE FOR MEMBER NEWS

The Heartbreak of Rain on May Fruit

The storms that swept through California during the last week produced record amounts of rainfall as well as record cool temperatures for late May. They also ruined millions of dollars worth of cherries and strawberries. Cherries and Strawberries have a … Continue reading

The Sad Tale of the Confused Onions

Most vegetables go through a series of life stages including vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting and senescence (aka, “death”). Our goal as humans — farmers, gardeners, and eaters — is generally to succeed in growing them until they produce the part … Continue reading

Tariffs and Tomatoes

If you’re paying attention to trade policy at all, you’ve probably heard that the Trump Administration is threatening to raise tariffs on Friday on a large part of the exports that China sends us, again. This news caused the stock … Continue reading