Fitting summer into year-round farming (otherwise known as just the opposite of what I used to think about growing food)

The weather warm up last week brought with it the feeling that summer has arrived, and although this week’s vegetable harvest won’t reflect it, next week’s will. The summer squash and zucchini plants exploded with their gorgeous yellow blossoms and are now filled with the fruit of their labor, just a bit too small still to harvest this week. The beans, which take a little longer from blossom to maturity, should also be ready by next week. And we almost had carrots for today’s harvest, but a little bit into the row made it clear another week would be worth it. Hooray!

The tomatoes all look so gorgeous this year, the main planting all done in a new section this year, the lowest part of our main field. The bottom of any slope is always the most fertile, and in our case, the wettest. Our tomatoes had a minor set back this spring after we lost the greenhouse and their tops were touched with frost, but we babied them back to really good looking starts, albeit smaller ones than last year. After planting them in this low spot, we have not had to water them once and they are thriving, a great experience we are having with using our seasonally wet spaces for dry land farming certain crops.
Still, our large slicing tomato varieties have a lot of maturing to do, although the cherry varieties will be ready soon. All of our summertime crops come a little later than many of the other farms we spend time with each week at market. One obvious reason for this is our choice not to use large forms of season extension to help these heat loving plants ripen sooner. This is something we will probably keep to, although we have expanded our use of row covers for pest protection this year, and are probably going to utilize this next year to warm certain crops in their early growth, something that will help with quicker maturation.

I have been looking through our records, though, and I think that another reason why we don’t have summer crops right out the door of the main season is because we have chosen to not place our main emphasis on these crops. Having switched to growing vegetables for year-round harvest, we have removed all the weight that is often placed on summer and fall crops. Our planting schedule is almost continual from mid-February through September, and when we look at our whole year, we have more harvests in the “off” season than we do for these “main” season crops. With a goal more than twice as many weeks of harvest for the CSA as for market season, we have to keep our to do list balanced in the early parts of the year, needing to concentrate on fast growing cool weather crops in the spring while we also get the fields and the seedlings ready for our summer plantings. We always know that when our summer crops mature, we will have more than we can sell.

We are on the door of that kind of vegetable madness that summer brings, and for us, it seems to be right on time. And although we are just about to jump into almost daily summer harvesting, we are also at the start of our fall planting schedule. Just yesterday, we started over 2000 flats of seed for transplanting in a month, the beginning of food we will all eat from for the fall, winter, and early spring. These plantings bear so much significance in this light, the cooler months a time we more instinctively feel the need to make sure we have plenty of food growing, a time of less surety. And that is the funny fate of the year-round farmer, to not fully be fully present in the wild abandon of summer, with vegetables growing like weeds, so fast and furious; because it is during this time of the year, during the thick of it all, that we are readying the soil and seed for the slow and steady pace of the rest of the year.

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