2023 review and looking ahead to 2024

This post is inspired by visitors who came to our farm today, who said they read our blog posts. We talked for about an hour and we could have easily talked for much longer. We love meeting our neighbors and exchanging knowledge about farming in our changing climate.

And what a wild and busy year 2023 was (hence the lack of blog posts)! We had a long, cold spring that went directly into a heat wave for the entire month of July. The insufficient summer rains could be best characterized as a non-soon…and then the first frost arrived about two weeks early in October on Friday the 13th. These conditions resulted in a longer than expected spring lettuce harvest season and an all-too-brief summer tomato harvest season.

Now we’re seeing a wet and cold winter apparently due to El Niño. What will 2024 bring us? Hold on to your butts!

What are we doing to prepare? As always, soil health is first and foremost in our minds. Plants grown in healthy soil are naturally more resilient to whatever comes. We’ve been spreading compost and mulch throughout our planting areas to boost soil fertility.

Since it’s likely that we’ll be seeing more Southern NM weather here in Central NM due to climate change, we need to adopt Southern NM growing techniques. After all, the USDA recently announced the updated Plant Hardiness Zone map and we’ve graduated from Zone 7a to Zone 7b, meaning our winters are now 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer on average than they used to be. As farmers, we try to see these changes as opportunities instead of challenges.

Perhaps out biggest project to prepare for the coming season is building shade structures over our planting areas. We had previously planted honey locust trees for shade, but they aren’t yet large enough. So in the meantime, while the trees continue to grow, we will construct shade structures. We’re still in the planning stages of this project, so look for a future post once we start building.

And what are we going to plant? We’re taking more advice from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange on what to grow during hot summers, some of which we had already been following.

Goodbye Phaseola vulgaris “green beans” (and wax beans and purple beans that turn green when you cook them), hello Lima beans. We had already been growing yardlong beans and we’re adding a few new varieties in different colors.

For tomatoes, we’re keeping everything that was successful last year. All of our favorites and yours from previous years will return. And we’re adding a couple of varieties developed at Southern research universities for added insurance. As we did last year, we intend to participate in H2 Academic Solutions’ Hummingbird Festival over the last weekend of April to sell seedlings. All of the same tomato varieties we grow on our farm will be available to the public at this sale.

You can read the rest of SESE’s recommendations for yourself. Our other crops for the coming year include 12 varieties of lettuce for autumn through spring harvests, bunching onions, lemony sorrel, collard greens, celtuce for pickles, basil in 6 varieties, purple sweet potatoes for both summer greens and autumn tubers, Swiss (rainbow) chard, New Zealand spinach, purple snap peas, potatoes (fingerling as well as low glycemic Huckleberry Gold), Persian cucumbers, cantaloupe, pattypan squash, garlic…and more!