This has by far been the rainiest season we’ve had since the beginning of City Commons. Water is of course very important to plant growth, much like us vegetables are mostly water, but there are some concerns when we have a rainy year like the one we’ve had this year. More on that below.
Here is what is in a standard box this week (some small changes may be made for the weekend shares, watch this space for changes):
Summer squash in this year’s share really is an opening note for the coming summer fruits. Summer squash is lovely for picking up the falvors of pretty much anything you cook it in, combine them with the scallions and rosemary from this week along with garlic from last week or any herbs you’ve dried over the course of the week.
If you’re not familiar with swiss chard, you can click the link above for a few recipes. A good way to think about it for recipe creation is that it’s a slightly sturdier version of spinach. I actually prefer it for “spinach” lasagna and other baked recipes involving greens.
So back to this rainy year. We’ve already discussed that the upside is that plants need water to grow! When we get HUGE amounts like we did in the spring though, it can make it hard to plant. We tend to have heavy clay soils here in Detroit so they drain very slowly. Walking, shoveling, or running a rototiller in saturated soil can cause some nasty compaction, not to mention break equipment because of how heavy it is. All of this made for a spring with some delayed planting.
Flooded or saturated soils can also cause root rot in extreme situations. Roots want some water, but also need air to “breath”. Also tubers like potatoes and garlic ultimately want to dry out, if they are wet all the time, especially near maturity they also will be more susceptible to rot and disease.
Another issue is that some plants don’t want it so wet, or at least they don’t want inconsistent water. Tomatoes, for example, tend to “crack” when they go from dry to wet conditions. This generally doesn’t affect flavor, but does make them get over ripe faster and make them harder to transport.
When plant leaves are wet all the time, or even dealing with extreme humidity, it can create conditions for disease to spread and grow. Powdery mildew, potato/tomato blight, and many other diseases spread when water splashes soil onto soil leaves and then leaves remain wet, causing ideal growth conditions for fungi and bacteria.
Preventing all these disease problems, especially in organic systems, is a challenge. Much like insect pest prevention the first line of defense is healthy plants and healthy soils. Like humans, disease in plants takes hold when those plants are already stressed out and unhealthy. Also like humans, plants and soils have a whole microbiome of fungi and bacteria that are performing helpful tasks as well. By helping to boost these “good” microbes it creates fewer niches for the disease organisms to take hold.
And finally, there are some organic sprays we can use to prevent and fight disease. A favorite I use on my farm is Neem Oil. This fatty oil helps to stimulate immune response in plants, makes them less palatable to pest insects, and also creates a waxy layer that makes it harder for powder mildew and other disease to take hold.
My dad always used to joke that farmers will always find a reason to complain about the weather, and he might be right. Farmers also will celebrate a great day of weather like no other!