Weird Weather Means Summer Plants in Fall


Photo by Carol Ann Sayle

The strangest year since 1854, they say. All the area farmers are chiming in via email with their worries over the next two nights' promised low temperatures, especially in the valleys and creek bed areas, which generally have good soil and ground water. Naturally, farmers are attracted to those places. But valleys tend to get very cold, for as you know, cold air is heavier than hot air and so it settles in these fertile but low places. So suddenly the farmers are racing out to cover tender items after being just about fried silly over the drought and heat wave that made this summer the hottest/driest since 1854.

Amazingly, however, we have had a wonderful fall so far, in contrast to the summer nightmare. Over 20 inches of cool rain fell during normally hot and dry September and October. Everyone's farms greened up in just a few days. After spending all my days on irrigation, I've now practically forgotten how to turn on the well pump!

We're not supposed to have tomatoes with our salads down here on the frontier; this year it's happening.

Spring finally made its appearance, in the wrong order of course, just as August came in June. Eggplants that earlier we'd had to harvest tiny, lest they turned yellow in the field, are now normal June size, and almost surprised, they nudge up against radishes on our market tables. Cherry tomatoes, on plants that didn't flat die in the summer, are red. Summer items are meeting winter crops, and folks are pleased yet a bit stunned. We're not supposed to have tomatoes with our salads down here on the frontier; this year it's happening. But, perhaps that concurrence is about to end with a layer of chilly frost.

If we have our first freeze tonight, we won't be growing those summer vegetables anymore, or at least not until next April. In anticipation, I mowed down the basil this morning. I might have been a bit ahead of myself, except that the basil has seeded out a new crop in the foot paths and even out in the Bermuda grass. If it survives the frost, our harvesters, the Mother/Daughter Marias, will still be cutting basil a while longer.

This is Texas after all, and after two nights of freezing temperatures, we expect balmy, even hot days to follow. Basil and tomato weather for sure.

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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