Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By MECHELE COOPER Kennebec Journal
SIDNEY — Diane Campbell never uses chemical fertilizer, but out of desperation, she sprinkled some on her pepper plants.
Diane Campbell hoes in her garden Tuesday at Wolf Creek Farm in Sidney. Campbell says she has had to replant some of her produce three times this year due to weather conditions that have impeded growth.
Photos by Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal
A potato plant struggles at Wolf Creek Farm in Sidney. Many crops have been adversely affected by weather conditions this year. “And I doubt the season will be long enough for pumpkins,” says gardener Diane Campbell.
Campbell, who runs Wolf Creek Farm in Sidney with her husband, Robert, said the recent hot, dry weather, followed by days of heavy rain, is taking its toll on crops.
It started in March with temperatures that soared into the 70s and 80s, dipped to freezing levels in April and was followed by heavy rain in May and June.
The National Weather Service in Gray recorded 11.03 inches of rain in June, almost 7 inches above average.
At Wolf Creek Farm, Campbell's pepper plants are only 3 inches tall. Many of them have peppers, but they're only an inch or two long.
"To have a pepper be this size -- look at this," she said, bending down next to the tiny green plant. "I have basil and squash that are yellow."
She pointed down a long, neat row. "And all those weeds, that's where my potatoes are supposed to be. And I doubt the season will be long enough for pumpkins. They take 90 days to ripen."
Campbell sells her vegetables at a farm stand across the road from her 350-acre farm on a hill off Middle Road.
She's had to plant her neat rows of beans three times. The weather caused them to rot, along with a quarter of her potato crop.
By now she would have Swiss chard and beet greens to sell at the stand. Cucumbers normally would follow in about two weeks.
But not this year.
After four-day stretch of rain last week, the leaves on her squash and cucumber plants turned yellow.
"I have to admit it's pretty poor this year," she said. "The weeds are growing great, but not the vegetable plants."
Her husband has had some setbacks with haying. He had planned to cut hay June 27, but because of reported thunderstorms, that got put off until the next day.
Instead of putting up dry bales of hay for his beef cattle, he did what is called a silage wrap, in which the green hay is bundled in plastic. Those bales of hay look like huge marshmallows lying in the fields.
"It ferments and you get a better quality feed for the beef cattle; there's more protein," he said.
LATE IN THE SEASON
Kevin Leavitt, owner of Farmer Kev's Organic Produce in Winthrop, said his tomatoes and peppers are not doing well. He said the soil becomes soggy and so compact that air can't pass through it.
As a result, the plants are unable to draw in nutrients.
"We didn't have any fields flood, but seed got pushed out from the hard rains, and a lot of the seed rotted. It was too cold and damp," Leavitt said. "In our situation, we replanted. Most people will. That's all you can do unless you run out of something like tomatoes because they happened to die."
Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said some farmers who were late with seed may decide to forgo planting altogether because it's too late in the season.
"The exciting thing is many of the farmers are using greenhouses. We're seeing a lot of crops coming out of hoop houses even with bad weather," Libby said. "They're bringing good stuff to the farmers markets even when they have to deal with rain outside their hoop houses."
A hoop house is a greenhouse with a plastic roof wrapped over flexible piping.
Jim Dill, pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said Maine won't see a shortage of hay this year. Some farmers have managed to beat the wet weather and already had one cutting of hay.
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