Sunday, May 9, 2010

So, when will that first sweet corn be ready,eh?

"It's horizontal weather out"
Slang for heavy snow or rain with extremely high winds.

Okay, let's just review the last few weeks of spring weather:
The driest April since 1881.
Record high temperatures.
A season 3 weeks ahead of normal.

So we all knew it was too good to last.....

Like a Maple Leaf winning streak or a Larry King marriage; we're pulling for them. But sooner or later, the wheels will fall off. Ditto the weather here in Southern Ontario; it's a leaky vessel to pour much hope into.

Winds touched 100 clicks here yesterday afternoon. Dance partners included heavy rain, hail, sleet and snow throughout the day and overnight; horizontal weather indeed!
The snow is not deep, but it's certainly crisp and even this morning, just in time for Mother's Day.

Bless their cold tolerant little hearts, our first sweet corn planting chose yesterday to make their first appearance above ground, just in time for the frost that we enjoyed overnight.

The actual temperature of a "killing frost" is quite different from one crop to the next. Cole crops like cabbage and broccoli are extremely frost tolerant. Sweet corn, being a warm weather crop that will not grow below 10 degrees C. is considerably less tolerant.

For corn, a "simple frost" is anything warmer than 28 degrees F. Corn will survive short periods at this temperature, shake it off, and keep growing once the weather gets warmer again.

Lethal cold, or the killing temperature for corn is anything below 28 degrees F. This will kill the growing point (even of corn below the ground). It takes a few days to diagnose; cooler weather prolongs your diagnosis,because the corn is merely being refrigerated, rather than growing.

We usually aim for August 1 as the start date for sweet corn in our area. This frost certainly has thrown a wrench into the works; call us simple but we don't know whether our frost was a killing one yet; stay tuned for crop updates.

Happy Mother's Day!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is it just me, or is it getting kind of dry out here?

" Well sown is half grown"
Farm saying

Most of us remember 2009 as the year without a summer; a dreary progression of wet weekends brightened by biblical downpours. Local coffee shops were filled with roving gangs of air conditioner and pool salespeople. Tempers frayed and tomatoes blighted. It made "Mad Max" look like "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm".

What a difference a year makes!

The fields are alive with the sound of diesels. Cash croppers have on their "What, me worry?" smiles and most of Ontario's 2010 field corn crop has been planted, into the best soil conditions in many years.

We sowed our spring wheat on April 15. We have had no appreciable rainfall since then, meaning that there have been 17 days straight to plant any early seeded crops. By way of comparison, it took until June 10 in 2009 to accumulate 17 planting days! Soil conditions were such that a lot of those fields were worked too wet; the crops "mudded in".

There is a perfect time to plant most fields. The tipping point comes when there is enough moisture to germinate the seed, and yet not too much moisture to allow the soil to be compacted by the weight of the tractor. Hence the well sown=well grown. If you can wait a bit and avoid compacting the soil, the roots will have an easier time growing and ultimately produce a better crop.

Because it has been so dry, even the dreaded "Markham Clay" can be worked this spring without fear of soil compaction.

Our first planting of sweet corn is in the ground. I have never seen such dry soil conditions so early in the season; we actually need rain just to germinate that first planting.

Planting season for a vegetable farmer is a drawn out affair; we go from now to the end of July, so it's still early in the piece as to what kind of year we're in for.

It's overcast and the weather man promises rain. I say send-her-down, but the memory of 2009 is still sloshing around.....

In farming, as in life, you have to be careful what you wish for!