Written by Tom Prohl, Production Educator for our Teen Ag Program, “Tom Talk” is a weekly feature in our summer CSA newsletter and offers insights on a range of topics regarding our five-acre vegetable plot.
For the second summer in a row, Maine is in a severe drought advisory. For many people this is easy to overlook…sunny days at the beach, clear skies and endless heat, what could be better? For growing vegetables and hay crops, consistent water is essential for crop production. We are currently running over 10,000 feet of drip line which slowly drips water at the base of our plants. We like to irrigate early in the morning, and in the evening when the sun is not beating down on the plants.
How does vegetable farming change in drought conditions?
Plants become stressed and stunted by lack of water uptake. Leaves curl, fruit sets become smaller, and insect feeding leads to even more damage and more stress. This makes timing crop production for our CSA or events more challenging, as crops are growing and ripening inconsistently. Cover cropping in the field becomes increasingly difficult, as seed need water to germinate. We are forced to time cover cropping with thunderstorms and hope that enough rain falls to germinate the seeds. This is stressful when hundreds of dollars of seed are being put down to cover crop with 50/50 odds of success in drought conditions.
Worse yet are bare soils which dry out, and valuable top soil that flies away with the wind. Last Friday, the rains finally came and soaked our ground. Long stretches of drought, followed by heavy rain, have consequences as well. Plants under heat and water stress struggle to regulate water uptake after a long rain. Many of our tomatoes cracked after taking up too much water. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for more consistent rainfall!