May 20th, 2013
We have had an extremely rainy spring so far. I am not sure how many inches of rain we have gotten (need to get a new rain gauge–our old Farm Bureau one cracked a year or two back) but it has been more than plenty.
I don’t envy the farmers in the area who are attempting to grow hay as a cash crop. It’s going to be impossible to get a “horse quality” first cutting this spring. I would have trouble believing any central NC farmer who claims that their May cutting of hay didn’t get rained on!
The rain has led to a great spring crop of shiitake mushrooms, and the blueberries, blackberries and mulberries all look like they are going to be abundant and plump.
The grass is growing full tilt and our farrier is starting to despair because he is pretty sure that a lot of his clients are letting their horses eat too much of this lush spring grass, thus leading to sad or even tragic emergency calls for him when they founder.
The rain is keeping us from keeping the pastures and lawn as tidy as we like them to be, but it is providing great weather for weeding the garden. The weeds are so easy to hoe and pull when the soil is as damp as it is right now.
All in all, I wish that we were getting less rain, but I can’t really complain because I think that a little excess rain is far preferable to the terrible droughts that we have had in recent summers.
May 19th, 2013
The garden is getting into full swing, providing us with lots of vegetables every day.
Currently, we are harvesting bumper crops of Donkey spinach (we had great success with planting pre-sprouted seed to help with our usually poor spinach germination), Bright Lights Swiss chard, cilantro, flat leaf parsley, Red Sails lettuce, Parris Island lettuce, Montpelier lettuce and arugula.
May 15th, 2013
The “frost free date”, or date after which the agricultural statisticians claim growers should pretty much be able to rely on not having any more frosts, is April 26.
However, for the past two years, we have had a frost at our place on May 9 and May 8, respectively.
This year, as we were about to cross the threshold into the third week of May, I thought that we would be in the clear.
I was wrong. We had a frost Monday night, technically the early morning of May 14.
Luckily, I had been watching the weather reports and knew that our tender garden plants (tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, squash, etc.) needed some extra help from us.
So, out came the floating row cover. The plants were cozily wrapped up by sunset on Monday evening.
It was a good call: the plants really needed the protection. The row cover blew off of a couple of our tomato plants and they got burned by the frost, probably delaying their growth by several weeks if they manage to recover.
A frost so late in the year seems like it should be some kind of record. I wonder if we can chalk this up to global climate change or if such late frosts truly have been a common occurrence here forever.
May 13th, 2013
Last year, I noticed some bugs that looked like pebbles congregating in clusters on our big Celeste fig tree. I had never seen anything like them before, but there were only a few of them and I didn’t give them much thought.
This spring, they’re back, and there are about ten times as many as there were last year.
I squished one and it seemed to stink a bit, so I started wondering whether these bugs were the Marmorated stink bugs that I had been hearing about.
A quick search of Wikipedia revealed that they were not.
Well what were they then? After reading our local county extension agent’s weekly e-newsletter, I learned that they are Kudzu bugs which are a type of insect that has only been present in the USA since 2009.
The newsletter said that they tended to gather on figs trees, grape wines, fennel plants and beans of all kinds.
Apparently they don’t do too much damage to figs, but they can wipe out bean crops almost completely.
No one really knows how big a problem these Kudzu bugs will become because they are such recent arrivals to our shores.
Let’s hope that they discover some good organic control methods for them soon!