Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rain Date


This post describes my June sixth trip to the garlic farm in anticipation of the heavy rains from Tropical Storm Andrea.


I went to Agway to pick up another load of lime and to place my buckwheat order, changing my normal path to route 24 through Flanders. Long Island's famous Big Duck was moved along this road sometime during my adult life, but I remember it moving several times since I was a kid. Long Island was known for potatoes and duck farms, two industries not as common around here these days. Our duck was built in the 1930s and its moniker became architectural terminology to those in the field -a building in the shape of its product is known as a 'duck.'


The trees in the area have finally come into their summer greens and the field grass is just beginning to reach upwards.


The crop  is looking a little better than weeks prior, a general greening up, with the Silverskin strain showing the most improvement. I do not know if this is because I fed them with a calcium-magnesium and Fertrell 3 mix, because it was warming up and drying out, or all of the above. However, the Turban and Asiatic strains generally look poor, making it difficult to identify when to harvest. They are browning down now, but the bulbs are not up to size, nor have fully developed cloves. Given the proximity to harvest, the coming rains will not be all that welcome.


This is the saffron crocus, from green to brown in a month's time. Soon the weeds will completely conceal the crocus and I have no time to hand and knee this plot. These crocus require dry, or at best well-drained, summers and they are not going to get that here. I made this choice when I was under the impression that the Trust would rent Hudson Clove land on the North Fork where there is quick-draining sandy soil. The soil here, Bridgehampton Silt Loam, is a nearly powder fine silt loam that holds water moderately well if not nearly as much as clay. I think for the crocus to survive, I will need to affect the soil drainage significantly. I will also look into digging them up for summer storage and then replanting in late September.


Working a field requires the skill of observation. I have that in droves, but I'm now trained on signs of standing water like never before. Earlier on I had seen indications of moving water, puddles in walking rows, and the tell-tale smoothing of soil where water had stood. In other words, I had seen the micro, the after-effects, but not the big picture, the macro. It wasn't until Cornell had suggested soggy soil as a factor in my unhealthy garlic that I began to notice how thin the cover cropping was adjacent my center rows. The low weed count in this area became another obvious indicator of standing water. Then the contour of the land revealed itself as a pronounced 'bowl'. A new problem, or rather an old one, that now needs to be addressed.


Knowing that rain was on its way, and being early June, I pestered my farming neighbor to mow the cover crops planted last December. The grass was going to seed and the peas were in flower. We were probably a week or two late on this, but it is easy to lose focus when so much else needs to be done. Apparently this pea cover should be mowed down by late May because that is when it has fixed the most nitrogen in the soil. As for the rye, just cut it before it sets seed for added organic matter. Sometime next week, my neighbor will disc it in.


This was the radar while we were out in the field. Hudson Clove's first season on Long Island was book-ended by two tropical storms -Sandy at the start and Andrea toward the finish. How rare on both ends.


I wrapped it up a little earlier than usual, although only ten rows were weeded, as the rain clouds approached. I left before dark.


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