One of the hardest (but perhaps most important) things I want to do for the farm, is keep track of critical—often game changing—moments of the year. I love my winter spreadsheets and planning documents. But, this year when the season really got rolling and weather/pests/life crises came flooding in, the plans flew out the window. So, on this rainy Wednesday in late October I'm taking the opportunity to crawl through my memory (while it's still relatively fresh) and write down a few dates I don't want to forget for next year.
- April 15th (part 1). Broccoli will not bring a good harvest in the southern heat if it is planted after the 15th (or maybe the 20th if I'm pushing it). Plantings in mid-Arpil will give you a harvest by the first week in June. After that the heat and the sun will be such that the broccoli heads will turn yellow and bitter. Also at that point the cabbage moths will be in full flourish!
- April 15th (part 2). April 15th is also the earliest date to plant cucurbits. This is a risky planting because of frost. However, this we found that if the plants make it past the frost you will get a long beautiful first succession before the squash bugs and striped cucumber beetles show up. This year our first cucurbits succession bore fruit for 9 weeks, compared to the next three successions of cucurbits all of which only bore fruit for 3-5 weeks.
- Redbuds. When the redbuds come into bloom so will the flea beetles. This will mark the beginning of the pest battle. Greens (and almost everything else) will have imperfections from this point until the 1st of October.
- April 20th. This is the time to start adding summer crisp lettuces to the lettuce successions. After this planting the lettuce will start growing much faster as the days warm up. If successions are kept tightly to 10 days or less you can still keep harvesting throughout the summer. However, oak leaf varieties will not grow to full size before bolting and butter heads will also begin showing signs of heat damage. Leaf lettuces and summer crisp varieties will do the best through the hot months.
- May 1st-15h. The first two plantings of Spinach in May may or may not make it to harvest. It is worth planting Spinach all the way through May in case the weather is cool (especially the nights), but this is when they will start turning yellow and dying before full harvest size.
- August 31st. After this point the spinach should make it to harvest. However, it's probably worth starting successions in early to mid August just in case the weather shifts and the spinach makes it in early. This fall though, we lost our first few fall plantings to the heavy rains. It's worth noting for next year that the spinach needs good drainage especially at this time of year.
- September 1st. This is about the time the light begins to change and we start seeing a real slow down in crop growth. It's worth starting to double up on lettuce plantings the last week or two of August and tightening up the successions into September.
- 2nd week in September. After this date cole crop plantings probably won't come in for a full harvest in time for the last markets. It's worth having two fall brassica plantings, but I wouldn't plant the first one much before the 1st of September (otherwise it will be too hot and buggy for good growth) but after the second week in September growth slows down and therefore the 50-70 day crops won't make it to harvest for the end of market season.
- October 1st. This is the latest date to plant greens in the hoop house in time for fall harvest. Spicy greens and Arugula planted October 1st were ready for harvest this year on the 29th of October. Lettuce planted at the same time will not be ready for another 2 weeks (which makes it very marginal for fall harvest). Better to plant the lettuce in the hoop house in early-mid September. Lettuce this time of year will hold much longer without bolting, so it seems better to get larger quantities in the hoop house early.
Most likely everything will change next year and I'll have a whole new set of dates to remember. But, hopefully some of these will make it into the lessons learned category and help increase production next year.