Farm Happenings at Harvest Thyme Farm
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Farm Happenings for Week of September 22, 2020

Posted on September 20th, 2020 by Brendan Prewitt

Well, that's a week we're glad is over! Aside from the usual work of the week we had a looming threat of freezing weather towards the end of the week - about three weeks before usual.

We knew it was coming all week. On Wednesday, they forecasted a low of 42; we got to 36. On Thursday, they forecasted 38, we got to 33. On Friday, they forecasted 33, so we knew we were likely in for freezing weather - they seem have a very hard time forecasting cold, clear nights for whatever reason. We did what we could to cover crops, but most are now too tall to fit row cover over (and anchor securely). We harvested others heavily that were nearing the end of their life, knowing we simply didn't have enough row cover (or time) to save them all.

By midnight, our temperature alarms went off, as it crossed below freezing - hours before it was supposed to get even close to that cold. So, we kicked sprinklers on. As water freezes, it releases heat. So despite the plants getting coated in a thick layer of ice, they don't freeze. By 4 am, it was 29 (tied for the daily record) and it bounced around between 29 and 30 until the sun came up - a solid 7 hours of below freezing weather. Needless to say, it was an exhausting start to an already early farmers' market morning.

The damage was about what we expected, crops that got covered look a little worse for wear, but are still kicking. Rows that we picked heavily and left uncovered lost the battle, plants coated in ice from sprinklers running all night look like nothing even happened (though the rough looking plants on the edges where the sprinklers didn't quite reach mean that it's a good thing we ran them). 

That officially brought an end to our technical growing season, a total of just 95 days between frosts. We typically assume a 138-day frost-free period from 5/25 to 10/10, this year it was from 6/15 to 9/18, nearly one third shorter than usual - by far the shortest season we've experienced. 

So, the good news is, other than the stress of it all, we escaped relatively unharmed and the forecast looks good for the next couple weeks now. We've never seen frost in September here, so it's throwing off our mental schedule - it sure feels (and looks like) October around here!

Aside from worrying about frost all week, we managed to clean out the main tomato hoophouse to get it ready for fall crops. It's usually a pretty daunting task, but four of us managed to get it cleaned out in just a few hours. With daylight shrinking at an ever-increasing rate right now, there's a bit of a rush to get plants in the ground before we pass 10-hour days, at which point plants stop growing. As tempting as it is, now's not the time to try to eke out another week of tomato harvests, it's time to get lettuce and spinach planted, or we simply won't have anything available come November. 

Now that frost has wiped out most of the crops that were on their way out, we'll be spending much of this week pulling drip tape and trellising up and putting those patches of ground to bed for the winter. 

Fortunately, today looks like a great day to go get some things done, so we'll leave it here for now!

Have a great week!

-Brendan & Greta