What happened to summer? Feb '23 update
What's with all this rain? What happened to summer?
The other day a customer asked "but how does rain affect your crops - I thought veges like to be watered? We thought that was a good question. Before we became market gardeners we would have wondered the same thing. In short, summer crops like growing in summer. They like many hours of sunlight, can handle getting a bit dry and don't like damp, humid conditions. We saw the met-service guy on tv say that NZ has been averaging 5 hours of sunlight a day! That's totally not enough for summer crops to grow, thrive and produce.
So what does our wet summer garden look like? Baby tomatoes are splitting in the wet and green fruit is slow to ripen due to lack of sunlight. Zucchini fruit flowers are rotting when the fruit is small so the fruit doesn't get any bigger and eventually rots. Less beans, beans need 7 hours of sunlight a day to produce pods and up to 10 hours to produce pods well. All lettuce and herb growth has slowed due to less daylight hours. Lebanese and apple cucumbers were so bad we pulled them out. They hate damp.
We are lucky in lots of ways. All of our growing is either in raised beds or hydroponic, which means it's all up and out of the wet.
Are there any crops that are actually happy about the wet and humidity? The edible flowers are going nuts whenever we have sunshine! If there is no sunshine they don't open. They have loved the extra big drink. The sage and thyme seem to be having a good time. The sage is very lush - time for fried sage and eggs! We have been trialling growing lemongrass - and it's gone nuts in the wet, humid conditions.
Will this kind of un-seasonal weather be more frequent in the future? Maybe. We have to carefully consider what we grow and how we grow it. We can't afford for crops to fail.
I'm writing this early on a Saturday. Early means it's still dark outside. We get up super-early on a Saturday, like, usually ... 4.00am! It's market day, our biggest selling day of the week, and Daryn and Joe need to get to the market and set up before their first customers arrive (often as soon as it's light!). We pick lettuces and herbs and wrap their roots in paper. Other produce we have picked and packed on Thursday and Friday and just needs to be loaded into the van.
I check the boys have their water bottles, remind them to eat and wave goodbye. As soon as it's light, I head outside to do the hydroponic jobs. I check the hoses are all clear and running. I throw out any plants that aren't thriving. Then I put out all the seedlings in the gaps where we've havested during the week. Next up, it's seeding to replace the seedlings I've just put out. We're seeding 600 hydroponic seedpots currently each week. As we build more we'll be able to grow more.
The boys get back from the market early afternoon. It's always exciting to see how they've done. We aim to sell-out every week, and it's unusual for them not to. We unpack the van, sit down and have a yarn about market-goings-on ... and then ... to be honest, we often nod off. It's been a big day!