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Del Norte Gardening: Blame weather for slowness of cucumbers, tomatoes

Del Norte Gardening runs every fourth Thursday. Paul Madeira and Julie Jo Ayer Williams own Ocean Air Farms in Fort Dick.

As we waltz into September, the sun has managed to shine for a fair portion of the last month. 

With the weather, we’ve been pretty satisfied. Though it’s not the exact program we’d have imagined.

This year reminds us of last year in many ways. First of all, it was a cool, wet and long spring; second, it was, again a mild summer. Lots of fog, some overcast days, a typical summer, really.

We, like many of you, are hoping for that warm and beautiful fall the area is often known for.  There have been a few crops we’ve had trouble with, which we attribute to the weather.

First of all, cucumbers have been very late to fruit (outside).  Many factors could have slowed us down, like transplant shock or just a poorly adapted variety.  Yet, now, they are coming around and we’re seeing the cucumbers we’d hoped for in July.

The second crop worthy of mention are the tomatoes. This is a hot topic at our market stand: “When will you have tomatoes?” “My tomatoes haven’t ripened


We’ve learned that it is the cool summers like this season and last that really make these two warmer-weather crops a challenge in Del Norte County. We have four greenhouses full of tomatoes, however, half of these are not ripening to speak of.

There are lots of variables. Each greenhouse boasts a different variety, which has a lot to do with the outcome. Also, half of the greenhouses have endwalls and doors, while the others are open on the ends. This must have something to do with it, right?

Our point to all of this is there are many variables that are within our control. Like what variety you plant, the timing of seed sowing and/or transplanting. Even the design and functionality of the greenhouse plays a role.

The ever-important variable is the weather, over which we have no control. This is the fact we must admit, or we will not enjoy gardening for very long. 

So what we do to maintain our sanity is try our best to be responsible and timely with the variables that we have control over.  For us, organic farming is more about prevention than curing.  In fact, once there is something to “cure,” we often give up and note exactly how we will “prevent” this from happening next time.

One thing we are doing right now is turning under our first plantings. These are old, buggy, going to seed and weedy. The easiest thing to do is forget about it and focus on what’s providing.  However, those weeds are going to seed and harmful insects prey upon aging plants.

Our goal for September is to turn under everything we have moved past. We then plant a quick cover crop to grow while the residue is decaying, usually oats or buckwheat. This helps build the soil and suppress weeds just before we get ready to plant most of the farm in the winter cover crop.

This is such a fulfilling time of year. We are pulling in the biggest and best crops and are continuing to look toward the future. Tune in next time as we discuss the importance of winter cover crops. Happy Gardening!

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Crescent City, CA 95531

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