May 11, 2017
Good Morning! Things are hopping now that we are beyond any nights of frost (at least lets hope!). I am busy getting all the annual crops into the ground, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, melons, etc. Also getting the herb garden in at the Pittstown Road farm. So much to do, so few hours in the day!!!
There was a cold scare last week… the new farm (Pittstown Road) is always cooler than our home farm on cold nights- usually 2-5 degrees cooler for some reason. And on clear, windless nights, ground temperature is always colder yet, because remember from elementary school science class, warm air rises, cold air sinks…
This is important for fruit flower buds. So on nights predicted to be 36-38, it was reaching 32 in the strawberry plants. Strawberries do fine until 30 degrees, when the open flowers take damage. Lower temps can also harm forming fruit, and even lower can hurt even unopened flower buds. With so many open flowers and 34 with patchy frost predicted for last Monday night, I decided to cover the field, just in case. BecauseI REALLY LOVE strawberries!
Covering the field means unrolling giant frost blankets, 30 feet across by 250 feet long. They are light weight, like dryer sheets or hospital booties. But at that size they get heavy. And any breeze makes them a big kite, which means they can’t go down until the wind dies, typically sometime in the evening just before the cold sets in. The pic above makes it look like daytime, but it is a camera trick…it was taken just as the sun was setting.
For this job, I gather the whole family. We put a pipe through the tube that they are rolled on, and two people stand at the end of the rows holding the tube (like toiled paper on a roll) while others grab the ends and pull the cover to the opposite end of the field as it unrolls. Others grab the sides and help lighten the load by walking along the sides, tugging. After unrolling, we carry sand bags out to pin down the perimeters. Lots of sandbags. Lots of work. Even more work the day after, when they need to be removed before the strawberries cook underneath, and sandbags, which seem to be slug magnets (we farmers hate the strawberry-eating slugs!) must be pulled out of the field.
Rolling them up is just no fun.
So. The results? Strawberries are safe. I wish I could say we saved the day, but the cloud cover stuck around, and the farm stayed at the predicted 34 degrees, with the ground temperature in the strawberries hitting a low of 32 degrees, too warm for damage. Yay! Except now for cleaning up the row covers…
Opening date for strawberries is looking like Memorial Day weekend or a few days before…stay tuned. Not to jinx anything, but this is looking like what may be the very best crop I’ve seen in my entire life. Being a third generation strawberry farmer, that is saying something.
Hope you are having a wonderful week!