What Crops Does Watson Farms Grow? At Watson Farms we grow June and Day Neutral Strawberries, Raspberries, Apples, Sweet Corn, Peas, Beans, Squash and Pumpkins. All these crops are available ready picked from our farm market while in season. The only crop available for u-pick in season is apples.
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We plant the June bearing strawberries in late April or early May. They normally blossom around early June at witch time the blossom is removed to help encourage the growth of runners. The plants spend the summer growing and producing runners to fill in the rows. We cultivate the young strawberries several times throughout the summer to pull the runners in to make a row. In the late fall we cover the strawberries with straw to protect them from extreme temperature (both very cold temperatures as well as warm temperatures) during the winter.
The straw will be removed form the field in April so that the plants can start to grow. They will start to bloom in late may and it takes approximately 4 weeks from 10% bloom to first harvest. Our average start date for pick your own is June 22nd, although we have started as early as June 10th and as late as June 30th. (It all depends on Mother Nature) Harvest usually lasts about 4 weeks. Once harvest is completed the leaves are mowed off to remove the diseased leaves and to encourage new growth. The walkways are then rototilled to narrow the strawberry rows and incorporate the straw in the walkways. In the late fall we then spread the straw on the plants again.
The plants are treated the same until after harvest when they are normally then plowed down due to the reduced plant health.
Day Neutral Strawberries
These are strawberries that produce fruit all summer instead of just in June. We start by laying plastic on the ground to help with weed control as well as to warm the soil in the spring to get the plants growing faster. Holes are punched through the plastic with a machine and the plants are planted through the plastic by hand. The new plants start to blossom about the first of June at which time the blossom is removed until the plants for about 3 weeks to allow the plants to get established and get large enough to be able to produce fruit. We would normally start picking these berries in mid July but the heavy picking does not begin until August. These plants will fruit until the first heavy frost which is usually mid to late October. We then cover the plants with straw for the winter.
The straw is removed in early April, and they are treated the same as June strawberries until harvest is complete, however because of the plastic on the row they normally start to fruit about 1 week ahead of the June strawberries. They will be picked for about 3 weeks at which time the plants need a rest period. They will not start to fruit again until early to mid august. They have fruited so heavily in June that they do not have the energy to produce bloom during this period, and it takes some time for the plant to build up enough energy to start producing fruit again. Once the fall harvest starts they will be picked until the first heavy frost at which time we remove the plastic and plow up the field.
We would normally plant new raspberries as early as possible in the spring. The new plants resemble pencils with roots when we receive them. The first year is spent developing an extensive root system. During this first year the new plants will only reach a height of about 3 feet and no new canes are produced so the row looks rather thin.
The new canes will start to grow in late April. The row fills in very quickly and by early July the new canes have completely covered up the original plants. In raspberries the cane will grow for the first year and produce fruit the second year, then in the fall it dies. The few canes that grew the first year will produce some fruit the second year but they are short and the fruit is often hidden by the growth of the new canes. Late in the fall the dead fruiting canes are pruned out of the field.
Third and Subsequent Years
The cans that grew in the second year will break bud and start to grow in late April. By mid June they are in full bloom and we normally start to pick in early July. During harvest the fruit gets too heavy for the cane to be able to stand up on its own so during May we tie up the canes so that when we are picking the canes do not fall on the ground. Also early in the spring the new canes start to grow which will produce the crop for next year. Late in the fall the twine used to support the fruiting canes is removed and the dead fruiting canes are removed to get ready for the next year.
Apple trees normally take 3 to 4 years before we start to be able to pick any quantity of apples.
The trees are planted in late April or early may. With the new dwarfing rootstalks the trees produce so many apples that they are not capable of supporting the weight of the apples so we have to install a trellis system. This trellis also gives us something to train the tree to so that it grows straight up instead of zigzag. Soon after planting we install large wooden posts every 40 feet and a small metal or bamboo post at every tree, and tie each tree to their individual post. Grass also gets planted around this time. The grass helps control the weeds as well as keeping it from getting too muddy in the spring and fall.
The trees are pruned in March and we will sometime tie down large limbs to reduce the vigor of the limbs and this also helps them to develop fruit buds which will produce apple in the future. The trees are kept small because they produce fruit when they are very young. The second year each tree might produce a couple of apples but by the third year there is a surprising number of apples and this is energy that in the past the tree would have put into growing taller.
Third Year On
Apple trees are pruned every winter. They will start to show green leafs in early May and normally by May 24th they will be in full bloom. Many of the bloom do not set and this is a good thing. Each cluster of bloom has 6 individual blossoms and if we get 1 apple from these 6 blossoms that will be all the fruit the tree can handle. We go back in mid July and remove by hand the extra fruit. If we do not the tree will not have enough energy to grow all of the apples to a marketable size. Most of the fruit will be very small and end up on the ground. In mid august we start summer pruning. This process allows light into the center of the tree to help color the apples; as well it removes any undesirable branches from the tree. On green and yellow varieties this is not necessary to do in the summer but if we have time we do it in the fall because it is a lot warmer than trying to do it in the winter. We start picking with Macs in early September. They are put in Controlled Atmosphere storage for sale throughout the winter. This storage decreases the oxygen in the air from 21% to 3% and increases CO2 levels from 0.5% to 5%. This slows the respiration rate of the apple and thus allows us to store it for extended periods of time. (Some varieties can store up to 12 months this way)
We usually start planting early varieties of sweet corn in late April. We have to wait until the ground is warm enough for the seed to grow. (About 10 degrees Celsius) We plant 3 different varieties at this time which will allow us to pick corn for about 12 days starting in late July. About 2 weeks later we start to plant our main season varieties. These varieties need warmer soil temperatures to grow.
We will plant corn every week to 2 weeks depending on the temperature until the first of July
Peas & Beans
Peas are the first crop we plant every year. If possible we plant them before the end of March. They can even be planted while the ground is still frozen. The first planting includes several different varieties that mature at different times. This planting will allow us to pick peas for about 3 weeks. We will continue to plant peas till late May using one long day verity to give us a continues supply of peas till late July.
We start planting beans in mid may. We have to wait till then because beans can be killed by frost. We continue planting about every two weeks until the end of July to ensure a continuous supply of beans till thanksgiving. We will normally start picking beans about 60 days after planting and will get 1 to 2 pickings off of a planting.
Welcome to Watson Farms U-Pick. U-Pick opens in the spring just in time for kids to get out of school and come and help. Ted Watson (Paul’s Father) always says “I think we should weigh the kids when they leave, not the baskets.” You can come and pick your own fruits and veggies when in season and also enjoy the other free activities like the tractor and wagon ride, straw jump, petting zoo, activity area and more. We have containers for sale or you can bring your own. Everything is weighed and priced per pound. Make sure you call the “Crop Report” phone recording, turned on 24 hours a day, before you come to check picking conditions and hours of operation. The Crop Report is updated at least once a day. See you soon at our U-Pick.
Check out our crop report to see when our U-Pick is open!
Irrigation & Equipment
At Watson Farms we a have a pond that irrigates all crops whether through drip irrigation or overhead sprinklers. We like using drip irrigation better because it only waters the crops and on the driveways, walkways, grass or weeds. We also use a lot less water this way and yet fully water all the crops. Underground pipes are run the full length of the farm so we can tap in and water every field that need it. Over head sprinklers are still necessary to have because if the weather man calls for frost, we irrigate the entire time to avoid freezing the booms or fruit because water freezes at 0 degrees celsius and the plants freeze at -2 degrees celsius. As long as water is present, the water will freeze first keeping the plants at 0 degrees celsius. This is only a major problem in the spring when blossoms or fruit are present.
We have many different pieces of equipment on the farm.
Tractors are used to plant crops, work fields, harvest crops and allow customers to take a tractor and wagon ride from the U-Pick booth to the field and back so they can pick their desired fruits and veggies. Every tractor on the farm has a purpose for one or more things to do on the farm. We also have other equipment such as plows and cultivators for tilling the land. Bush hogs and lawn mowers for cutting the grass. Forklifts for loading and unloading trucks and many other pieces too.