Every crop needs a few necessities to get off to a good start. Soil: it holds the nutrients like Phosphorus, Manganese, Magnesium, Nitrogen, Boron, Calcium, etc. Soil critters: microbes, fungi, earth worms, beetles, spiders, bees and other creeping, sliming and crawling critter that digest decaying matter or breakdown minerals so the plant can utilize the nutrients to grow. Sunshine: everything loves a few heat units. Water: check that off the list, until August!
In our micro climate, we can really assist the crops we grow by amending our soils with nutrients in the form of compost or mined minerals, like calcium, through soil sampling and application rates. We can also inoculate our fields with good bacteria and fungi that help the plants thrive. We can do as little harm as possible to earthworms, beetles and spiders by not spraying our fields with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and bactericides. We can also help the critters help the plants by not overtilling or overcultivating our fields.
When it comes to soil and soil critters, we can treat them alright and have a measure of control. But when it comes to sunshine and water, we barely have an “oar in the water” to guide that boat! The greenhouses can help, but sunshine is still needed to generate some heat. We don’t use propane or lights in our greenhouses. Propane and lights can mimic natural sunshine, but they come with their own environmental impacts and expenses. Have you ever tried to heat a 1000 sq. ft. space to 70 degrees with 1/16th of an inch of plastic between winter and the crops? That is a sure fire way to “burn” some dollars up. For us, we use them as season extensions to try and capture a little more warmth as spring comes on or fall leaves us.
But water, that is completely outside my control. Yes, we can irrigate a little in the summer, but for the most part we work with what falls from heaven and is conserved in our soil. Our soils have great moisture holding capacity (a.k.a., clay!). They are slow to dry out, which is a great attribute in August, but fairly detrimental NOW! Ideally, I would have some sandy soil for the spring crops and some of “heavier” (clay) soils for the summer/late summer crops when a lack of water is an issue. But alas, I have heavier soils, which makes springs like this one very challenging.
But the good news is that we have perennial crops, like tree fruit, berries and a few greenhouse crops, to offset a wet spring, but we will need a warm summer to catch up. It is going to be a good year for our vegetables.
Farming for the future,