While checking customer Katherine through my cashier line at the farm stand last week, she asked if we had cucumbers yet. Cucumbers! In April!

“Oh heavens no!” I exclaimed. Worried that I might have offended her with my abruptness, I added, “I mean, it’s only April.” Right then, in the seconds it took to utter those words, it dawned on me that I was loading her bag with summer squash and red ripe tomatoes.

In April.

Pulling the metaphorical foot out of my mouth, I apologized for my faux pas and admitted that her question was indeed logical, considering the circumstances. April had been filled with 90+ degree days and warm, muggy nights, just like we’d expect to see in a typical June when we’re overloaded with tomatoes, squash and yes, cucumbers.

The fact that our cukes are lagging behind most other hot season crops is due solely to when the seeds were deposited into the ground. We tend to wait until kind of the last minute to plant cucumbers – when the chances for a late freeze are diminishing – because once they start to climb up their metal trellises it’s nearly impossible to protect them from the cold.

Had it been a typical April, having no cucumbers would be a non-issue. In years when April is actually spring-like, we spend the month enjoying a variety of greens, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach while the summer crops are only beginning to set fruit and/or ripen. Yet since we skipped spring altogether this year and leap-frogged directly to summer, spinach and most the other greens were painfully short-lived; broccoli and cauliflower fell victim to heat early on and were killed off by subsequent aphid infestations.

Fortunately, Farmer John’s lettuces made it through the carnage longer than expected. Nonetheless, they too finally succumbed to the month-long torture (who can blame them?) and entire beds have bolted beyond recognition.

Oh beautiful Romaine, Butterhead and Red Leaf, how we’ll miss ye.

Still, there are bright spots amid the ruins. The onions, for example. After suffering through two years of disappointing onion yields, I spent the early spring mostly wringing my hands over the current crop. First, we lost most of the purple onions to premature bolting, thanks to the two-week freeze in February followed by an unseasonably warm March. As if that weren’t bad enough, when a number of Yellow Granax onions began sending up flower stalks as well, I could barely look at the rows without sinking into depression.

Even though Farmer John assured me they would stop – we rarely have problems with early flowering on our yellow onions – I was inconsolable (and stubborn). The possibility of three crummy onion years in a row weighed heavily on my poor ol’ brain.

Then, just as John predicted, the Granax ceased bolting. And remarkably, unlike nearly every year past, they required only one dousing of beneficial nematodes and were bothered no more by pesky onion maggots. Although we’ll have very few red onions after they went down so hard this season, the yellows have come along swimmingly.

In fact, some are beginning to fall over right on cue, signaling their readiness to be pulled and set aside to cure.

What a relief. I don’t know that another bad onion year would have put me over the edge necessarily, but luckily now I won’t have to find out. (Luckier still for John, considering he has to live with me and all.)

Finally, we come to the really, really bright spots.

Each year we do everything in our power to grow early tomatoes. This year was no exception, and since April behaved like June, we were rewarded with one of the earliest crops ever.

The weather sure has changed, though. Here we are facing a day with temperatures reaching only the 50’s, followed by two nights forecasted to be in the 40’s. In May. Talk about topsy-turvy. Yet wouldn’t that be something if it would actually cool down as the season wears on? We recently found out that John’s sister and her husband from Ohio are coming for a visit in August. At first we were concerned about them being here in what’s usually the very hottest month of the year…but now I’m wondering if we maybe should tell them to bring jackets.

* * *

Sorry about running out of parking spaces last week! If you pull into the lot at the Asian Center and find no spaces, you can park on the street along Bell Avenue. (When leaving the Asian Center’s parking lot, turn left on Jollyville and go to the next street on your left – that’s Bell Avenue. There’s a sidewalk all along Jollyville from Bell, so it’s a nice easy walk to get to us.) Here’s what we’ll be bringing for you this Wednesday:

Early Girl tomatoes (If you’re wanting tomatoes but running late, don’t worry…we’re bringing lots!); summer squashes — zucchini, yellow squash, Zephyr and our yummy new Cousa; bunches of sweet white turnips with greens, and probably some bulk turnips too; bunches of carrots; bunches of chard; bulk onions — Yellow Granax and a few Red Creole; bags of arugula; bunches of leeks; fennel; bell peppers; maybe more beets (we harvested the heck out of them last week, so we might have to let them sit and grow for a little bit); and anything else we find ready for harvest.

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

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