January 11, 2016

Winter Pruning


The soil on the farm is completely saturated with water from the rain – the entire week was overcast with showers off and on. On the first day of sun following the rain, field after field had steam rising from them. The sunshine made quick work of evaporating all of the free moisture in or on the soil. It looked really cool - the water vapors simmering from the earth back into the atmosphere. The clear blue sky was the backdrop of the performance.

I guess this was the first day of “spring” that we have seen. As a farmer, I define “spring” as weather that is warm enough to evaporate free water and to provide heat-growing units to plants - two things that have not happened for the past several weeks. These glimpses of spring days come and go from
January through February. The next significant weather change is when we can make the assumption that the temperature will never drop below freezing. This date is important because it triggers the planting of all our tomatoes, green beans, melons, basil and any other crop that would be killed when
the temperature drops to freezing. Our experience has shown this date to be sometime in the second half of March, but it is always a nerve-wracking decision to make.

With actual spring just around the corner, I am getting everything lined up for warm-weather plantings. We already have planted the tomato seeds under the protection of the greenhouse. I am ordering seeds for the onions, potatoes, shallots, cabbages, lettuces, garlic, cilantro, green beans and the handful of other random items that will be sown when spring settles in.

The main project on the farm right now besides harvesting is the pruning of the fruit trees and vines. This is an area that I knew very little about when I took over the farm. I had seen it done since I was a kid, but had never been put into the situation to do the actual work. Some years back, I spent a
day with our old farm manager going over what he knows about the grapes and now I feel pretty confident in my ability to prune, but more importantly, to teach someone else to prune our grapes. Other folks take care of the fruit trees.