Both the calendar and thermometer agree, it is officially summer here in Central Texas. We hit 105 yesterday and it could reach 107 today. Brutal, just brutal. Along with the hot summer temps we are also dealing with a dearth of rain. Suffice it to say that farming here in the summertime is a bit of a challenge. Folks from more northern areas always look at me in disbelief when I tell them that summer is really not a growing season here, but it is true. Our best growing seasons, albeit rather short, are fall and spring.
Our best hope for extending our summer season is to irrigate more frequently and to cover our crops with lightweight row cover. Since we covered our crops a couple of weeks ago, and modified our watering schedule we have seen quite a bit of improvement in most of our crops. Of course some of the crops are simply at the end of their life and will be removed soon to make room for fall crops, but others, such as the peppers, will rebound in the fall if we can keep them healthy until then. And still others, like the okra should continue to produce for most of the summer if we keep them irrigated and covered.
The sweet potatoes and herbs are doing quite well now that they are protected from direct sun from midday through the afternoon. We have three different types of sweet potatoes this year and the greens are a delicious summer stand-in for swiss chard or spinach in stir fries, quiches, or simply sauteed in a bit of olive oil with garlic and a bit of red pepper.
Farm shares this week will include Toscano kale, tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, jalapenos, bell peppers, poblanos, Anaheim peppers, southern peas, cucumbers, okra, sweet potato greens, cantaloupe, watermelon, parsley and basil.
We will also be at the Dripping Springs Community Farmer’s Market at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company this Saturday, in the air conditioning, with tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, jalapenos, bell peppers, poblanos, Anaheim peppers, cucumbers, okra, sweet potato greens, cantaloupe, watermelon, parsley and basil.
We grew watermelons for the first time this year and they have been extremely sweet and juicy, as well as being the most popular crop at the farmer’s market, followed closely by our cantaloupes. There is nothing better on a hot summer day than an ice cold slice of watermelon!
I often say that the best thing about summer is that it is followed by fall, winter and spring. Getting fall crops planted in a timely fashion, especially those that need 100 days to mature, like pumpkins, can be a tricky business in the dog days of summer. I have already started some fall tomatoes, kale and eggplants which will be ready to plant in mid July, and I will be starting pumpkins, onions, potatoes, winter squash and other fall crops soon. It sure would be nice if Mother Nature would bring us a tropical storm or two in July and August to cool things down and to fill up our rainwater tank….fingers crossed.
Hope you have a safe and enjoyable fourth of July!