Farm Notes from Farmer Benjamin Shute

We’re just past the summer solstice– the longest day of the year–
and you can really see the effects on the farm. With more sunlight,
plants grow noticeably faster. Funny things happen when the day
length changes so dramatically; for example, we transplant a new
planting of head lettuce into the field every two weeks or so, so that
we have a steady supply to harvest all summer long. But two of our
plantings, which were put in the ground two weeks apart, are now both
the same size– the younger lettuces caught up to the older ones
because they have been growing so fast with all the extra sunlight.

The bigger crops are growing even faster than the lettuces, since they
have more leaves to photosynthesize the available sunlight. The
tomato plants are keeping us busy with their quick growth, because we
have to continually tie them up to the stakes that we have in the
ground for them (we stake the tomatoes to keep their leaves off of the
ground; this prevents disease and makes picking easier. By the way,
there are already green tomatoes on the plants and we hope to have
ripe tomatoes in a few weeks!)

And what’s growing even faster than the tomatoes? The weeds! Many
weeds have evolved to out-compete other plants by growing as quickly
as possible. So we are spending a lot of time battling the weeds so
that they don’t rob our veggies of nutrients, light and water. We hoe
them, yank them, mow them, whack them, and sometimes even “flame” weed
them with a big propane torch– but there is never an end!

Actually, there is an end; the first heavy frost, still months away,
will knock back many weeds, and the first heavy snow will leave us
with a clean slate. It seems a long way off, but the passing of the
solstice reminds us that from here on out the days are getting
shorter, already counting down to winter.

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