Back to Back Issues Page
New Terra Farm News -- Factoids of Interest to the organic foodie
July 26, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010
Written & Published by Scott Kelland
Written at New Terra Farm
13510 County Rd 15
Merrickville ON

New Terra Farm News is sent only to those who have requested it. We value your privacy and never share our mailing list with anyone. To Cancel or Change your subscription, use the links at the bottom of this e-mail.

Important News about New Terra Farm

There's no good way to do this, so let me jump right in to it; on Wednesday July 21 we were hit by a heavy hail storm. The storm hit around 3:30 in the afternoon, featuring winds from the north at about 70 or 80 miles an hour, and hail the size of walnuts.

We were home at the time, since this was supposed to be our garden clean-up week. Because of this we did not go to the mid-week market in Merrickville, which turned out to be a good thing. One of our ponies freaked out because he was getting hit by what felt like gravel being hurled at fast-ball speeds. Fortunately we were able to catch him and get him in the barn with no injury to anyone.

The hail was big enough and traveling fast enough to destroy row cover in the field. We had about 15 beds that were covered to protect them from wind and bugs. The wind blew the row covers off and the hail shredded the plants underneath.

The hail also punched holes in the tough plastic covering my greenhouse; this is pretty amazing as this is 6-mil plastic guaranteed for 5 years; you couldn't punch your fist through it.

The hail actually killed a chicken that was too slow getting to cover; I found her body when I came back from the barn after putting the horse away.

Here's the nitty-gritty: Much of the outdoor garden was destroyed. We have spent the last few days in cleanup and assessing what remains, and what we will be able to salvage for fall. The tomatoes, beans, peppers, and squash took a real beating, and are almost completely destroyed. The immature bean plants from our second and third plantings were less damaged, and may produce something in a few weeks.

Every one of our 200 tomato plants suffered some damage; perhaps a quarter of them might produce some fruit. We picked up buckets-full of green and nearly-ripe tomatoes with holes punched in them by hail. The same is true of the peppers.

The large soft leaves of the squashes were completely shredded by hail, and the stalks broken; the summer squashes themselves had chunks chopped out of them.

The beds of carrots, beets and turnips that were coming along for late summer delivery suffered damage; the plants were flattened and some tops were broken off at ground level.

In an amazing display of the power of nature, a bed of mature cabbage was destroyed when the hail and wind shredded the row cover over the bed, and then chopped the cabbage to bits.

The new transplants of cabbage, lettuce and bok choy that we put in the garden last week suffered about a 50% loss.

Even potato plants had their tops shredded; they may come back to produce something, but only time will tell on that one.

So, what's the plan?

We been assessing and planning for the last few days; here's the plan to recoup some of the losses.

The tomatoes, squash and cukes in the greenhouse suffered only minor damage, so we can expect some harvest from them. And some of the outdoor tomatoes will produce some fruit. We are pruning and topping all the remaining plants to get them to ripen any undamaged fruit.

We stripped all the fruit off the peppers, in the hopes we can stimulate them to start producing again.

The plantings of storage cabbage, rutabagas and carrots were relatively undamaged by the hail; these plantings had just emerged. We are tripling-up on the plantings of turnips, beets, and carrots.

We have more transplants in the small greenhouse that will be ready to go into the field shortly; this is a part of the normal successive plantings we do, to make sure we don't lose an entire season.

Its not too late to plant more potatoes; the challenge will be in finding seed potatoes at this time of year. I've put the word out through some grower friends to find some.

And of course we have time to start more greens that will produce in the fall. We should have lettuces, salad mix, bok choy, and spinach, chard and kale again.

What's the bottom line?

I figure we won't see anything harvest-able from the garden for about 3 weeks. Hopefully its not longer. Here's what we're going to do:

We will endeavour to stretch the season the fall, by the same number of weeks we lose from this debacle. We usually plan to deliver until around Thanksgiving; if w lose three weeks, we will try to go into November with our deliveries.

This should be possible because we had already been making plans for a separate 'winter share' of veggies for a limited number of customers. We will now dedicate those resources to providing at least some veggies to everybody, and supplement with the additional plantings as described above.

That's all she wrote, folks. The really frustrating aspect of the above is two-fold; first, this was the best growing season we had seen in three years, and it was wiped out in about 15 minutes. All our protective measures were just about useless.

Second, we were really happy about the Merrickville Market; now I will not be a participant at a market I started.

And I guess there is a third thing, we are going to take a real kick in the cash flow without income from the Market and our winter shares. Our expenses will remain the same or perhaps go up a little as we do clean-up and replanting.

This is the nature of farming, however, and demonstrates the fragility of our food supply. It's why I keep encouraging new growers whenever I can.

I'll be in touch as things go along, feel free to contact me at Scott' e-mail or call me at 613 269-3884.

p.s. I've still got some chickens left from this batch, drop me a line if you want some. I will do another delivery run next Saturday.

p.p.s. I've got a lot of pictures of the damage to the garden, I will be looking for a site I can post them on (maybe Flickr). I'll let you know when they're up, if you're curious


Back to Back Issues Page