Thursday, June 19, 2014

Garden Update: Monsoon Season

It is raining. Again. On Sunday it poured. Three inches. Then since then I have stopped keeping track. Tuesday, Wednesday, and now Thursday have each produced over an inch of rain. There is a bucket sitting out that I think has almost a foot of water in it. I have never seen so much rain in any Spring since I have been farming. Our gardens are swampy, mucky messes of malodorous mud. When I drove down to Glenwood City today I saw that many fields are partially underwater, and everywhere I looked there was evidence of erosion. Then Donna mentioned that it is actually official - that we have not had a Spring this wet since they started keeping records. Wow!

What does all this mean for future harvests in the Land School Community Garden? Well, the good news first. Last week was relatively dry, so we were able to get a lot of stuff planted in the big field by the Homestead. Things need to be dry for us to use the tractors to weed field crops, so right now we are watching weeds grow without any recourse, but since the crops were just recently planted, the weeds haven't had time to completely overwhelm. The onions, potatoes, garlic, peppers, eggplant, pumpkins, zucchini, winter squash, leeks and tomatoes all look pretty good, actually. If it dries out next week, we will be able to fertilize and weed everything that is already planted. There are cover crops of either oats or rye established on about half of our fields, and those cover crops are thriving - using the rain to grow and create biomass that will help build the soil later. These cover crops have also helped stabilize the soil and prevent major erosion.  

Now the set-backs. The garden at the Farmstead is the only field we have that is protected by a deer fence, and it is a mucky weedy mess right now. The garden soil is much slower to dry out than the big field, and it has never been dry enough to really dig up and prepare the soil. We need to plant deer sensitive crops there. These include carrots, beets, green beans, edamame, lettuce, chard, and more. We also prefer to plant crops in the garden that require more time and attention in the harvest. These include cut flowers, herbs, kale, and other such crops. We have done our best in the garden. The cut flowers and most herbs went in last week. We have tried twice to seed carrots, beets and green beans, to mixed results. About a third of the green beans came up, some beets sprouted, and almost none of the carrots came up. My best guess is that the soil was so wet that the carrot seed rotted. The ground has been mostly too wet, so kale and chard and lettuce never got planted - those plants are patiently waiting in the greenhouse. Maybe next week. In the big field, the corn went in late and seems to be having a hard time with the transplanting. The cucumbers were tender from the greenhouse and then got blasted by high winds, breaking many of the tender stems in half. We have more cucumbers on the way in the greenhouse and corn too.

I have no doubt that it will dry out eventually. Then we will finish planting the garden. Some harvests will be delayed, and you'll likely have to get your summer carrots at the farmers market. But there will be produce, and lots of it, as usual.

This summer is rough summer to be having these weather issues, because I want to pass the gardens along in beautiful shape to Laura Kosowski, who will be managing the farm starting in August. Laura is traveling in Europe right now, currently getting ready to work on an organic farm in Italy. In August I begin my adventure in Marin County, California, working for Marin Montessori School. I bet that soon I will be wishing for some of the Wisconsin rain in droughty Northern California.

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