Farmer Becky here with a quick update from the fields. We’re at that exciting cusp in the season, getting ready to start putting things in the ground for fall. Really, the summer crops have petered out. Tomatoes finished in mid-July, and since then we’ve been nursing some heat-loving corps along like long beans, okra, and peppers. But there really hasn’t been a huge quantity of fresh produce coming out of the fields, and we’ve been relying on storage crops to help fill our CSA shares. (Thank you, crop planning!). All that to say, we’re chomping at the bit to get fresh crops. First, they’ve gotta get in the ground, then out to our customers (hi!).
Like clockwork, I always start to get a lot of questions at this time of year of people wondering when the fall planting dates are. Like, what’s the planting date for broccoli, for example? Well, I wish I had a more clear answer for you, but sadly it’s not so simple. Because the climate in Texas is wonky, and even more so because climate change is making everything more volatile, there aren’t exact dates. Fall planting dates are determined by a patient process of waiting and watching for the right environmental cues. A few weeks ago, despite my best judgment, I seeded some carrots and arugula in the ground. I couldn’t wait any longer! They all germinated beautifully, but after just 1 day of intense sun with way too high of temps, they fried up. I jumped the gun! Soil temps were definitely too high, and in my sandy soil especially, the sun will just bake the newly germinated seeds. Transplants, too, won’t do well when temps are steadily over 100 - the sun reflecting off the soil and onto their tender baby leaves will simply scald them.
It's this time of year that Gianna, our head grower, and I really have our eyes on the weather. We're looking for an event exactly like what happened last week. That first rain that comes and cools things down, our bodies, but most importantly the soil temperate. Even a few cloudy days in a row can establish a good moment to get some stuff planted. Once everything cools, it’s really the right moment to start slamming in our first round of crops. It’s just temperate enough that they might survive. We’ve got a nifty thermometer gun, sort of like this one, that helps us measure the temps precisely. When trying to decide To Plant! Or Not To Plant!, we’re taking daily readings of our soil temps, waiting for it to be at least below the mid-90s - an okay temp to germinate things like carrots and brassicas. Other crops, like spinach or cilantro, need much lower soil temps… down in the 80s… before anything good can happen. It’s such a weather-dependent waiting game during this early season. As we get deeper into the season and have better temperatures, it becomes much more route, arugula every two weeks, lettuces in between that, all on a set schedule that nearly runs itself.
In addition to getting some direct seeded crops in the ground, we also had some transplants in the greenhouse that we seeded about a month ago that we’ve been waiting to plant. (To see a rundown of our 3 planting styles, read here.) A lot of these first transplants are in the brassica family - they can handle that early season heat a little better. Cued up and in the ground, we’re looking at: bok choy, green, red, and Chinese cabbages, broccoli, collard greens, as well as basil which isn’t a brassica but warrants a mention nonetheless.
Hang tight, y’all. Fall is coming.
P.s. VRDNT is hiring. Spread the word! (And don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about the position.)