Just as I was starting to agree with passersby, that yes my field was looking good. Boy, those corn stalks are getting really tall. Those tomato plants are filled with tons of green fruit and those gourd vines are huge. Mother nature was like “Not so fast.”
Let me backup a little bit, for most of May and June the weather here in Tilghman had been sunny and dry … really dry. Having farmed for years in California, I joke that my farming skills thrive in drought-like conditions. So for about two months I had perfect growing conditions. My field was looking really good. All the crops were big, lush, and green thanks to my drip tape and the amendments I had applied in the spring. I was able to stay ahead of the grass and weeds because they don’t like dry weather and I applied tons of mulch to prevent them from encroaching on my crops.
Then in the beginning of July an evening storm blew in, bringing 3.5 inches of rain in 2 hours, plus lots wind during and after the rain event. The next day I walked the field to find most of the corn horizontal instead of vertical. But the rest of the crops looked fine except for a few battered leaves from all the wind. There was also standing water in all the walkways.
Well as the days went on, many of the crops stopped looking fine. A lot of the plants started to wilt looking like they were thirsty but they had plenty of water as the standing water remained for about a week. I figured the plants were wilting because they had wet roots and lacked oxygen in the soil. But some of the damage just looked odd so I reached out to my local extension agent to see what she thought. She came out for a field visit to see for herself, she pulled out some of the wilted tomato plants and cut them open where she found black veins instead of white veins. Which she explained shows there is some disease present. She figures it is a type of bacteria wilt, tiggered from all the standing water. Four tomato plants have been sent off to the University of Maryland labs to determine what exactly the disease is and I’m waiting on the results.
Not all is lost, many of the crops are doing well, most of the corn has bounced back though it is growing a bit diagonally now. I have been getting a steady daily harvest off of the cherry tomato plants. The second planting of tomatoes currently show zero problems from all the water in the walkways.
As a farmer you know that you are never fully in control. At times this can be extremely frustrating but it is also what I like about farming out in the open field. I know a lot about growing vegetables but not everything (and I never expect to). I like that plants can fend for themselves getting what they need in case I didn’t provide it for them. My goal in farming is to work together with the natural world to create a resilient space for delicious nutritious food to grow. So as always the work continues.