2016 Year-End Report
First, we had several late frosts this spring. That eliminated most of the pear and peach crop and reduced the quantity and quality of the apples. As a result, our fruit harvest was 20,510 pounds in 2016 compared to 25.402 pounds in 2015.
Second, we had an unusually hot, dry summer. That impacted both the tomato and chile crops.
Tomato plants, our largest crop, do not set fruit once the temperature gets above 85 degrees. Due to high heat, there were fewer tomatoes and those we had were small and many had blossom end rot. In 2016, our tomato harvest was 15,313 compared to 19,840 in 2015. On a positive note, we had a record squash crop. We tried something new this year to protect the squash plants from the evil squash bug.
As we moved into fall, the weather cooled down and we received a little rain, the tomatoes became larger but that proved too little too late. We expanded the gardens by 1/2 acre, had a record harvest and we passed the 70,000 pound mark for the first time. Two graphs are provided below. The first graph shows our harvest totals from 2010 – 2015. The second compares our major crops from 2012 -2015. Thanks to a long growing season, a good fruit crop and many generous property owners who donated land and allowed us to glean fruit from their orchards, this year’s harvest was 70,174 pounds…and the season is not over yet. We still have broccoli and cabbage to harvest between now and Thanksgiving.
What went well
Long growing season
Our first hard frost did not occur until the 1st week of November. That is approximately two weeks longer than usual.
Increase in volunteer hours
Besides Seed2Need volunteers (Sandoval County Master Gardeners and the general public), we hosted nine Eagle scout projects – three to plant the gardens, five to glean fruit and one to clean up the gardens at the end of season. In addition, we received help from several Corporate volunteer groups such as Heads Up Landscaping and CarMax, three large church groups, boy and girl scout troops, and students from Bosque School and Albuquerque Academy. We sincerely appreciated the help.
- Squash bug Control
In 2014, we planted squash and cucumbers twice and every seedling was killed by squash bugs before it was 1″ tall. In years past, we have tried several ways to control squash bugs – companion planting, trap crops, diatomaceous earth, pesticide – but nothing has worked. This year, instead of trying to control the squash bugs, we focused on preventing them from reaching the plants. We covered all of the squash and cucumbers with row cover and did not remove it until the plants were full grown. Of course, squash bugs eventually moved in and killed the plants but not before we harvested over 14,000 pounds of squash and cucumbers.
In 2016, we plan to take this one step further. In July, we will plant squash and cucumbers in a second garden on a different piece of property and cover the plants with row cover. By the time squash bugs kill the plants in garden #1, the second garden should be ready to harvest.
In 2014, we spread manure on one garden and the plant growth in that garden showed signs of herbicide damage. We sent plant samples to NMSU and they confirmed our suspicions. Further research pointed to herbicide damage caused by using manure from animals that ate hay harvested off of a pasture treated with a broad leaf herbicide such as picloram, clopyralid and aminopyralid. Click here for the pdf.
An article published by Clemson University reported that spreading activated charcoal on a contaminated field would deactivate the herbicide so this spring we spread activated charcoal on this garden and it seemed to work. We had very few plants that showed signs of herbicide damage. The ones that did were on the outside edges of the garden so it is likely that we simply missed a few spots.
Despite having a longer growing season and a record overall harvest, the 2015 tomato crop was disappointing. Our total tomato harvest was approximately 30% less than in 2013 and 2014, the tomatoes were smaller and there were fewer tomatoes on the vines. At this point, the cause is unknown. Potential causes and solutions will be researched this winter…a new learning opportunity.
Preparations for 2017
For Seed2Need volunteers, this project has become a year-round endeavor. We have a young Eagle scout candidate and his team of volunteers coming November 14 to clean up the gardens and put equipment away for the winter. We start ordering seed and gardening supplies in January, prune fruit trees in February and start the tomato and chile seed at the end of March. In April, we till, reinstall the irrigation system, transplant seedlings and lay plastic mulch. In May we plant and the cycle starts all over again.
One of our volunteers, a retired teacher, compared May to going back to school in the fall…it becomes a time to catch up with old friends. That is what I love about this project. It sprouts lasting friendships as well as vegetables.
Thanks again for supporting Seed2Need and for helping us provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the families in our community facing food insecurity. Your participation and support is greatly appreciated.
We will be looking forward to another record breaking garden season in 2017.
Best wishes for a joyful holiday season,
The Board of Directors and the volunteers of Seed2Need