Photo by Carol Ann Sayle
It seems almost radical, given that, for the 61st day, it's still over 100 degrees outside, but I've got a real desire to get seed into the ground. To get on with fall. The seasons seem to be on speed dial anyway. August weather came on June 1st and continues like a habit, hard to break. The crops in the field think we're at the end of September (which can also be hot), and they are making plans for retirement.
Okra, only 3 or 4 feet high, is setting its pods high on the plants, at the end of heavily-picked stalks. This sort of behavior is more typical of an end-of-season urgency to make seeds when the plants typically reach 8 ft tall. But lack of rain and fierce heat will stunt any plant's plans.
Oddly, we have to pick our eggplant very small; if we wait for it to get even medium size, it goes yellow, concentrating on its seeds. Eggplant never gets huge down here in Texas, like it does up north, as we, being closer to the equator, don't have daylight for as many hours. Of course, with this heat, quicker nightfall is a blessing.
Maybe things are looking up. The rapini I sowed for tender salad greens came up in thick rows, enabled by the straw we placed over the sown bed to keep the soil cooler.Under shade cloth, and taking a cue from the eggplant, the bell peppers, which normally color up in the fall, have been red or yellow all summer, but, thinking they've done their job, the plants now are dying.
All that weirdness doubles my need to see something growing towards a future. With most of the farm cover cropped to at least nourish the soil, I want to have the remaining beds provide food for our customers. To that goal, my interns and I prepared three beds with fertilizer and amendments, and then the men followed the tractor and sprayed water at the tiller to keep the enveloping dust on the farm and not let it float away to coat the neighbors' houses.
We sowed the finished beds with Italian flat beans. A couple of days after the shoots were up, our bird nemeses, the city grackles, moved in and pulled many seedlings straight out of the ground and pinched off others. They thought perhaps there were worms in the moist soil around the seedlings. Like all the animals and birds this summer, they are thirsty and hungry.
But in my role as cruel hostess, I placed rebar arches over the beds and strung twine between them to create a structure for perforated white plastic tenting. The beans would be off limits to the diners. It worked; the birds went over a couple of beds and started on the tiny Asian long bean seedlings.
We replanted the lost beans, and then just the other evening, a miracle happened. We got 2/3 of an inch of rain. As the rain slowed, I planted more long bean seeds to fill out the gaps, and uncovered the Italian beans with confidence, as now the birds have other places around the farm to find their food.
Maybe things are looking up. The rapini I sowed for tender salad greens came up in thick rows, enabled by the straw we placed over the sown bed to keep the soil cooler, and by their innate "mustardness." Like arugula and other mustards, they will germinate in rather awful conditions in just a few days--if their beds are kept moist--and given the little rain, the rapini jumped with delight.
It just thrilled me, and the chefs who come to market will also be happy. You know how they love tiny delicate greens!
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