The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Rain, Rain, Go Away

May 5th, 2009 · 4 Comments · Posted in Blog

Too wet and cold for eggplant. Will these little plants survive?

Too wet and cold for eggplant. Will these little plants survive?

Can the farmer get too much rain?

“I haven’t seen anything like this in 10 years,” says Leigh Hauter of our dreary weather lately in the Washington, D.C.area. “This is spring, but you usually have more time to get things in the ground. This is a bad one.”

Leigh should be setting his tomatoes and eggplants in the fields at this point. Fortunately, they’re doing fine in the greenhouse–missing an unseasonably cool wet spell. Apparently the jet stream refuses to make its usual seasonal shift north and continues to channel cool, wet air into our part of country. We are getting an extended dose of March in May.

Leigh remembers the last time we had a cold, wet spring like this. “I thought I was going to get everything in the ground. But I only got the eggplants out. Then day after day it rained. I’d look out and each day the eggplants would get a bit smaller. When it finally stopped raining, I went out in the field and the eggplants were gone.”

One farmer, Leigh recalled, lost his entire crop of tomatoes. “They had to do quite a bit of scrambling to find more plants.”

Only a few weeks ago, Leigh was worried he wouldn’t get his onion plants in the ground because of the rain. The plants were beginning to dry out in storage. But finally the weather broke for a few days. He and his small crew made the most of it and transplanted all the onions. He also managed to transplant his brassicas–the broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower–and make an initial planting of greens–lettuces, arugula, mizuna.

In the meantime, we had a brief heat wave with near-record temperatures of 90 degrees. Then, just as suddenly, the mercury plunged again and the rain resumed. It’s been raining for days,with temperatures down in the 50s.

“We were going to plant basil and then I had a problem with the tractor that took half a day,” Leigh said. “I ran out of time on the basil and went out again Friday but it was so wet out there I just sank. The planter I use is real heavy, and it just went down into the mud.”

He fears the lettuce planting may be lost. “It’s supposed to mature in 42 days and I planted the seeds 42 days before our first (CSA) delivery in June,” Leigh said. “The seeds have probably all washed away in the rain. We’ll see.”

Leigh still has some 60,000 seedlings in the greenhouse. He considers himself fortunate that the tomatoes and peppers and eggplants are all still safely under cover there. No telling what might happen to them in all this rain, with these cool nights. “Eggplants are especially sensitive,” he says. 

So what does the farmer do when it rains? Write his newsletter. Work in the greenhouse. There are squash and cucumber to plant, and plenty of seedlings to take care of. In one of the hoop houses an early crop of lettuce already is growing and nearly ready to harvest. Soon the CSA subscribers will be invited out to pick their own. They’ve already been to the farm to pick rhubarb and asparagus. But the asparagus isn’t very happy either. “Asparagus does not like it wet,” Leigh says. “It slows down.”

Now Leigh wonders if he’ll be able to start his CSA deliveries on schedule. There might be a week delay. But that’s no tragedy, he says. He’ll just make the season a week longer–assuming it stops raining.

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  • steve darland

    We will take some of that rain here in New Mexico.

    Will be in the high 90s all week; humidity in the low single digits. Tough on people; good for our traditional-style balsamic, long-aged on Italian casks:

    Many of our crops are one month ahead of normal, making the May 16 opening of our nearest Farmers’ Market in Truth or Consequences, NM more timely than usual.

    Still, will take the rain!


  • Ed Bruske

    Steve, as Mark Twain said, everybody complains about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it. Global warming calls for dry areas to get dryer and wet areas to get wetter. We would gladly send you some of our rain if you can add a month to the front end of our growing season.

  • Lola

    It is driving me crazy! Will I ever get my kids outside this spring? We were able to thin a bit today, but everything is sooooo sllloooowwww….. all my snapdragons have flopped. Let’s just hope this rain means a mild and perfect summer in D.C. – yeah right!

  • Ed Bruske

    Lola, I managed to get a lot of weeding done at the Studio School garden, but there’s been no planting at all. We started some beans in one of the classrooms and they are now two feet high, climbing up the windows and desperate to be moved into the garden. Maybe we should just eat worms….