One of the most challenging parts of a diversified vegetable farm such as ours is the scheduling. In order to have constant supplies of as many crops as possible for about 10 months per year, we have to keep planting almost all of the time. We produce crops in mainly three seasons, although there is a lot of overlap. These seasons are very different from the growing seasons in the rest of this country.
Fall starts with very warm temperatures and frequent and sometimes heavy rainfall. Seeds of winter squash and melons are put into the field in late July and early August. These heat-loving crops take 90 days or more to mature and we try to have them ready for our first few weeks of boxes in early Oct. Eggplant transplants can be put out as soon as we have them ready. Soon after seeding those crops, it is time to plant corn, which takes about 70 days (a little less at this time of year). It germinates best in warm soil so we seed it directly into the field also.
These are some of your favorite warm season crops:
Even though some crops are called warm season crops they do not do well in the maximum heat and moisture of our summers: tomatoes are the best known example of this. So we plant a few of them in August, then more as we go farther into the fall.
Sometime in mid-late October, temperatures start to cool so we can begin planting the cool season crops. Lower night temperatures are especially critical for pollination of tomatoes and germination of lettuce seeds. It’s a waste of time to plant most of the cool season crops, such as the cabbage family crops and most greens, until at least mid-Oct. Cabbage is a little more heat tolerant, though, so transplants can be set out about mid-August - just so we can try to get some early harvest for the October boxes. If it’s not exceptionally hot or stormy, broccoli can go in a couple weeks later (although those plants usually produce smaller heads than the winter broccoli).
Lettuces are especially tricky, since many will not germinate if temperatures are above 80-85°. So, when the night temperatures are below 70° for a few days, we can start seeding the Salanova salad mix and then the heading type lettuces into the transplant trays.
Some favorite cool season crops :
Winter brings the shorter day length which is a limiting factor in crop growth during December and January. Our Spring growing season actually starts in early February, as days get longer and warmer. Around the first of the month, we try to plant the same crops that we plant in the fall: winter squashes, melons, and corn. Their growth is usually quite different, though, because we are going from short, cool days to longer, warm ones-the opposite of conditions in the fall.