With October here, our Coastal Summer has arrived… but will it last? Late season heat waves are not uncommon, but for coastal growers like us, spoiled by year-round moderate temperatures — when yesterday’s thermometer hit a blistering 100 degrees it was a scramble to adjust irrigation, planting and harvest schedules to deal with it. Growing a diversity of crops is always a mixed blessing; some thrive, while others get stressed. Tomatoes, peppers, green beans and squash will get a late season boost from the heat, but ripening apples and berries may get sunburned. And insects, especially aphids and flea beetles which thrive in warm weather, will probably multiply on some of their favorite host crops (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli) which have already been planted for late fall and winter harvest. Fortunately this time of year there are plenty of beneficial predator insects which will help keep the population of aphids down. We also use physical barriers to limit pest incursion, such as putting floating row cover over the young and more vulnerable arugula and Brussels sprouts. By week’s end this heat wave will be a distant memory, as the first chance of showers for our area is predicted. If it materializes, it will quench a very thirsty, dry landscape.
Looking ahead, the winter squash is stellar and I predict we’ll have a bumper harvest of four of my favorite types: Delicata, Butternut, Kabocha (pictured at right), and Sweet Dumplings — all great to cook with. The pumpkins are also quickly turning bright orange, just in time for our harvest celebration (see announcement). The concord grapes are sweet and fragrant and so are the Quince. Fields are being prepared for end-of-season plantings of strawberries, garlic, onions, artichokes and cover crops. October is always a time of seasonal transition; we are holding on to the last of our summer crops, the Newton Pippin and Fuji apple harvest is in full swing, apricot trees need to be pruned, winter squash needs to be harvested… we all feel a little nervous as the season slowly turns and the chance of early storms, announcing the beginning of the rainy season, is not far off.