Sea change. To me right now it feels more August-like now than July-ish...but last week seemed like a definite turning point in our agricultural calendar; late yet early all at the same time. Or maybe it's just that psychological sigh of relief when I know we just passed the 'Peak Everything' moment that always threatens to tip our sanity in early July. For the curious, a general crop update:
The last of the cool-season crops are finally out of the ground, though a bit late. We saw a very late spring, but a very early summer, which has made for a fast-and-furious couple of months. The potatoes and onions are all dug, cured, and boxed up for summer storage. We never know how much of a given crop you all are going to eat...except for tomatoes (of which we plant as many as we can manage), and corn (of which we will never have enough space for to fill all your corn-hungry bellies). So we look at averages over the years, and shoot for the middle. Apparently this is an onion year for you all. We're already out of red onions, and at the current rate, maybe just a few more weeks of sweet onions left. Were I to have planted more, nobody would be eating onions this summer. That's the way it goes.
The corn is already done and gone; we have maybe one more week of berries. Other farms might be in a different situation, but we're finding ourselves, in mid-July, already a bit past the peak of tomato season. That brutal two-week heat wave we had in late June pushed a good percentage of the entire season's crop to ripen all at once. Tomatoes (and many other fruiting crops) don't set new fruit very well in high heat, so we never see as many new green tomatoes set on the vines by the time summer's heat really sets in. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of tomatoes, just a bit less plentiful from here on out. (We still never sell out at the markets). The roma tomatoes are coming in strong this week, as well as some of our later-maturing heirloom tomatoes like everyone's favorite orange Kelloggs' Breakfast! If you're looking for larger quantities of tomatoes, don't wait too much longer!
Still a decent amount of yellow squash and zucchini and did I mention yellow squash! Have you eaten any yellow squash this summer? I'm not sure you have! These do tend to peter out by early August. Lots of cucumbers and a lovely crop of green beans this week; both often get unreliable through the hottest part of the summer, some weeks we get a lot, other weeks there's not much out there. Grab them while they're here.
There's a roughly 95/75 mark we watch through the next 4-6 weeks in what is typically our hottest time of the year. Above mid 90s in the afternoon and squash, tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers will struggle to set new fruit. If it won't dip below mid-70s at night, everything is in trouble. Relentless high humidity leads to the onset of plant diseases, which can shorten the life of just about any summer crop without turning to some pretty nasty chemical fungicides (which we do not use). Our summer lettuce has been bolting in the heat and long days faster than we can sell it; we'll be out for a few weeks, but I have two more successions of lettuce seedlings ready to set out this week, and it's likely to be happier as the days shorten up in the weeks ahead.
Lots of eggplant now, which adores heat and humidity. Some green peppers; though we try at this point to keep as many on the plants as possible to let them ripen to the more preferable red bells. It takes about two weeks to go from an unripe green pepper to a ripe red pepper, so we're hoping for a nice harvest of red bell peppers by early August. Usually the sweet Italian 'Marconi' peppers ripen a week or so earlier. Okra and melons look likely in a few more weeks; maybe early to mid August.
Only mid-July, and we're already turning our attention to fall and winter crops. There's a lot of mowing and tilling, then re-tilling to do to get weedy overgrown spent May-and-June fields prepped to receive the tiny root and brassica seeds for fall. Tomatoes always seem to easily suck all of our time and attention on that one crop, but when the tomatoes are inevitably done, there has to be something to follow it. Summer does fly by!