Where you choose to place your crop is very important. Consider the following: does the crop like shade or sun, heat or cool, water or dry? Is the crop prone to diseases that might be made worse by leaf or soil moisture? Is the crop bothered by insects that might reside in the surrounding riparian area? Here are some examples of how these factors play into site selection in the summer.
Crops that have consistent water needs go in fields where irrigation is possible, and crops with better drought tolerance go in the non-irrigated fields. Tomatoes are a great example of a crop that needs irrigation. They need consistent water or else they have problems, such as cracked skin and blossom end rot. Squash, cucumbers, and melons also need regular water. Some great drought resistant summer crops include most herbs, peppers, Chinese Long Beans, eggplant, and many types of peas and beans. These crops will probably be alright in the fields, farther from the water source.
The amount of sun and shade the crop gets is also important. Most summer crops need full sun to yield their best, but not all of them. Although tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and beans need plenty of sunshine, they will do fine with afternoon shade. Other crops such as kale, lettuce, Asian vegetables and other cool season leafy vegetables can often be grown in the summer if you provide plenty of water and protection from the sun during the afternoon. They may even do well with shade most of the day. Don’t make the mistake of putting your crops that like cool weather, in the full sun. Nearly all herbs enjoy full sun and plenty of heat. Basil thrives in dry sunny locations. The same is true with herbs such as sage, tarragon, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and mint. If you are planning on growing something exotic, such as ginger or turmeric, you will need a site with sun protection in the afternoons.
What about diseases? Crops that tend to get a lot of foliar diseases, such as tomatoes, need to be located in a place that dries out the dew quickly in the morning (full morning sun) so that leaf wetness is minimized. Minimizing leaf wetness can make the tomatoes less prone to many diseases, such as late blight and early blight. Other crops that are prone to diseases and do better if the leaves dry out quickly include squash, cucumbers, peppers, and even some types of snap beans. It is also beneficial to place them in a breezy location, so that the wind can help keep the leaves dry. You might also consider leaving some extra space between the rows and the plants to let even more sun and breeze help keep the leaves dry. Dry leaves almost always mean less foliar diseases.
Foliar diseases are not the only problem impacted by where you place your crop. There are also plenty of root rotting pathogens as well. Two of them are strongly associated with soil wetness: Pythium and Phytophthora. These pathogens are so connected with soil moisture, that they have been called “water molds”. They depend on water to live, reproduce and spread their spores. They cause damage by rotting the roots of your crop. The problem is that nearly all crops are susceptible. There are almost no crops that will be happy and disease free if your soil is too wet. Try to be sure your planting site has good drainage with no areas of standing water. The lowland bog isn’t the best choice to plant anything. If you are irrigating, do not “over love” your crop by watering it too much. You are more likely to kill it with that kind of love. Make sure your soil is able to dry out between irrigations. Crops that seem especially prone to root rotting diseases include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons, cole crops such as cabbage and kale, and even beans. That covers almost all of them. No good comes from an extremely soggy field or overwatering.
What about insects? Some of the insects that bother common agricultural crops start out in the areas outside the field. For example, thrips have a wide host range and often thrive in the weeds and bushes. Given the right conditions, they can migrate from the weeds to the crop. This is especially true if your crop is green and lush and the weeds are starting to die back due to summer drought. You might want to put crops susceptible to thrips, such as tomatoes and peppers, in areas that are well mowed and clean. Do not put them in the back of the farm near the weedy fallow area. There are also other pests, such as sharp shooters, psyllids, caterpillars and aphids that live in the riparian areas. I have also seen hordes of grasshoppers relocate from my neighbor’s freshly cut corn fields into my vegetable fields! Grasshoppers do their damage on low growing crops such as beans. If you know your neighbor is going to mow down his 100 acre corn field in the middle of the summer, put something taller in the field that borders his. In as much as possible, keep a little distance between your vegetable fields and the great wild, or even your neighbor’s huge corn field.
Site selection is one of the keys to successfully farming. By putting your crops in a location where they get the right amount of light, the right amount of heat, quickly dry the morning dew, don’t have wet feet, and are not set up for an insect invasion, you will have much happier, disease and pest free plants that yield their best naturally.
Eat your veggies,