PEAS farm: Your questions answered

PEAS Farm hoop house interior.
As you probably are aware, we’ve had some rain this spring in Missoula.  Our five minutes of hot and dry is followed by five minutes of rain and vice versa.  The past couple weeks have held some drearier days than we usually get late June, and I’ve been asked a few times this year, “What do you do when it rains?”  The answer inevitably varies depending on just what needs to be done.

Rain in the early spring typically means we find indoor tasks, like creating the greenhouse seed-planting guide or setting up a trellis system for the soon-to-be planted tomatoes in the hoop house.*

What do we do when it rains in the summer?  We get wet.

Summer rain can be quite nice for farming.  The rain that’s been going on for the lately doesn’t hurt too badly.  It’s warm and there are a lot of people grinning through it together.

The rain does change some of the work plan, however.  Harvest days, which are Mondays and Thursdays at PEAS, are set in our schedule so that we can provide our CSA shares.  The other days have a little more flexibility.

When it’s super wet, we hold off on tilling or cultivating with tractors.  There are a couple of reasons for this: The muddy soil just doesn’t work as well with our tractor’s implements – imagine globs of mud being churned instead of clumps of dirt breaking into rich luscious soil — and the heavy weight of the tractor can cause soil compaction.  Soil compaction means the soil is less porous.  Which means less oxygen.  Which means less activity from soil biota, those lovely soil-dwelling organisms like bacteria and earthworms and fungi.  Which means fewer accessible nutrients to our would-be otherwise hearty vegetables.  So, the tractor stays parked on the rainy days.

Hula hoe picture courtesy of "The Pondering Pastor" blog.

We also choose what we weed carefully when it’s so muddy.  Hula hoes, my favorite farm tool, aren’t so great in the mud.  However, tough weeds like quack grass often come out more easily to a hand tug when the ground is wet.

While the rain doesn’t stop us from getting work done, it does put a damper on how quickly are plants grow.  So if you are hankering for tomatoes more quickly, do a sun dance and get the rain out of here.

*If you are wondering the difference between a greenhouse and a hoop house, here is the most common answer:  Greenhouses have a heat management system so that they don’t drop below a certain temperature point.  Hoop houses can have a heat system added to them, even temporarily, to act as greenhouses.  However, traditionally a hoop house uses only passive solar heating. For way way more info, click here.