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Shorter Days

October 21, 2011

How much more will the beets grow?

My work days are getting a little shorter. Earlier in the summer, I could get up by 5 am, get outside to work right away and stay out working until 7pm or later, even. Not anymore. I really noticed the morning light yesterday, when I wanted to get out to harvest for the day’s  deliveries. I did go outside a little after 7 am, but even by 7:30, I didn’t feel like I had enough light to see really well (at least, not to see the things I was looking for, like flaws on the kale). My day is now ending by 6 or 6:30 pm, when the girls are ready to go in.

This baby slug got a free trip to the slug jar

The vegetables notice the shorter days, too. They are getting closer to the day when they will stop growing at all and just hold. I am still trying to figure out where that point is. I read on a seed catalog website that 10 hours of daylight is the magic number for plant growth. At less than 10 hours, vegetables stop their active growth and pretty much just hold steady. I did a little search and found out the first week of November is when we get to about 10 hours of daylight (or at least about 10 hours between sunrise and sunset). However, just because the plants stop growing doesn’t mean the pests stop eating. The slugs and larva are out feeding on the plants and, unfortunately, the plants can no longer outgrow their damage. It is a balancing act for me, to figure out how long I can keep plants in the field to grow a bit more, but not get too much pest damage. The act starts much earlier in the summer, though, since I also have to make sure the plants are out in the field soon enough to be mature by the time we get to 10 hours of daylight. Each year I get a little closer to that sweet spot.

Just the hot peppers are left in the orchard field

In the shorter days this week, we got a little more of the garden ready for winter. We cleared out the orchard field of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant and Steven planted the cover crop there. I planted the garlic for next year and will finish up tucking in that bed with a layer of compost today. Other activity in the garden had nothing to do with us, but some visitors: deer. I have been noticing more signs of their presence this month: footprints in the beds we have gotten ready for winter and nibbling on the fall crops (chard and kale in particular). I am not sure what it means, but they have been in our garden more this year than ever before.

I guess deer like Swiss chard

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