While our family was picking Gravenstein apples last week, I couldn’t help but notice that the Honeycrisp trees were full of red fruit. The telltale sign of ripeness is when the underlying color turns from green to yellow. On a red apple that can be a little harder to discern from a distance, but up close it is pretty obvious. Another sign that the fruit is getting ready is with how easy it comes off the tree. Most of the time, when an apple is not ripe, picking it resembles a tug-o-war match. At that moment, wise farmers concede defeat and wait a few more days J. The worst way to determine when an apple is ready to pick is to wait till they are all on the ground! With that said, there are always a few overachievers that ripen early and fall, which is a sure sign to get picking!ravenstein and Honeycrisp apples are three weeks early, potatoes are early, winter squash is really early, garlic and raspberries are not so much early, and corn loves this weather. But most things are early, especially for the later maturing crops. The good thing is that they are early and not dead! The dry spring and early summer has taken its toll on crops, but with good management we were able to use the heat to our advantage.
Having some late August rain has certainly helped take the edge off the fall harvest. The squashes—Delicata, Acorn, the three varieties of pie pumpkins, Kabocha (yes, Eileen, I planted those for you!) and Sweet Dumplings—have loved this weather. If truth be told, they are ready to be picked, but it just messes with my mind to think about havesting winter squash in August. So I will continue to walk past them, smile, and pretend they have a few weeks to go!
If the weather pattern continues trending with wetter winters and drier summers, us farmers will begin to shift the timing of our plantings and eventually even the crops we grow, to better fit the “new” growing season. Things like June strawberries will be replaced with May strawberries – I can hardly even say, “May strawberries.” On our farm we will definitely plant spinach, beets, chard, and peas earlier to take advantage of the rain and warmer springs. I will probably plant tomatoes and peppers outside the greenhouses.
There is an upside to drier summers: the heat produces sweeter tasting fruit and little water stress “kicks” the sugar off the charts. It just requires us farmers who are normally “water rich” to adjust to less water and watch for signs of stress. I am confident we can make the switch!
The long and short of it is that local farmers are going to have a few challenges with when and what to plant for the next few years, but dealing with weather isn’t new and growing food isn’t either.