[Note: I wrote this last year, but it is still current given our weather. I have been asked by a few people to post what I write for an APA. This is one of my APA writings. It is part of a memoir I am writing about our farming experiences. I have not gotten bold enough to start writing about the bad stuff, my fears, and such. Please be patient with newsy things.]
Weather has made us what we are. We make our plans based on it. We talk about it, read about it, and watch it. Weather determines if we are flooded out of our homes or live a mucky albeit safe life in the mud. While you would not know it here in Kitsap County, chilled under the miles-thick cloud blanket, this year, 2010, has been the hottest year worldwide recorded since 1880 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began keeping records. That does not mean that 1879 was hotter, only that no records were kept before 1880 by NOAA. This year, three areas experienced cooler than normal temperatures: Scandinavia, southeastern China, and the Pacific Northwest.
The food we eat, locally grown or imported from some far-flung place, depends upon the weather. When the temperatures vary beyond of the range we consider normal, our food crops die. For tens of thousands of years, the weather has fluctuated very little. During those years, we humans developed agriculture, domesticated animals, and gave up the nomadic hunter and gather life for one of home ownership, grocery stores, and relative leisure.
Since we became vegetables farmers, our lives have revolved around germination tables. We have built and will continue to build structures to trick our food crops into behaving as though the temperature is warm enough. Because our temperatures in Kitsap have been cool, we build our structures out of plastic in hopes of capturing and amplifying the heat of the day so that our plants think that they are living in Paradise. If the temperature commonly becomes too hot, farmers will be building structures to keep the crops cooler.
The ideal temperature for plants to germinate is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Vary too far from that temperature range and our food crops do not grow in great numbers and produce adequate amounts of food. Within that range, each plant variety has its own ideal germination temperature.
In many areas of our country and around the world, a salad with delicate lettuce is a rare treat. Lettuce likes to germinate between 65 and 70 degrees. Between those five degrees, the greatest percentage of seeds will germinate, and within that range the greatest number of lettuces will survive to maturity. Lettuce, like most plants, will germinate and grow in less ideal temperatures, but at 32 degrees it becomes a slimy mess, and at 88 degrees it crumbles to dust. Sudden fluctuations in temperature, such as last week’s 20 degree temperature drop, stresses plants and makes them bolt — produce seeds and die — so that they fulfill their biological destiny of next year’s plant. This hold true for all plants including grains we use for bread and livestock feed. Even Okra, which germinates and grows at the highest temperature given high humidity, will die above 110 degrees.
For over half a century, we have been eating off the highway and shipping system, and worldwide weather conditions take on a new meaning. When we read that Summer daytime temperatures hold steady at 90 degrees, we know that the crops are dying. Less food will reach the grocery stores worldwide.
A quick list of optimum germination temperatures
for common vegetables
75 to 85 degrees F Corn
75 to 80 degrees F Beans and Tomatoes
75 degrees F Carrots
70 to 85 degrees F Squash
70 to 75 degrees F Kale, Kohlrabi, Spinach
70 degrees F Peas
65 to 75 degrees F Lettuce, most Brassicas
60 to 70 degrees F Onion, bunching
Most plants grow best in their germination temperature range.
I had planned to add something more personal, but all that personal stuff keeps happening and so I don’t have much time to write. In the next issue I will regale you with our big vet day, AKA the castration party.