Redwood Empire Farm dry farms some of the tastiest tomatoes around. Can’t dry farm without at least 20″ of rain. While the rain is annoying, at least 20″ is the key to some great tomato flavor.
A few years ago the U.C. Santa Cruz Agroecology Program compared the flavor of dry-farmed and drip-irrigated tomatoes; the dry farmed ones won hands down.
In an article in Field Notes, The Agroecology Program newsletter explained how Early Girls are dry-farmed on an on-campus demonstration farm. “Dry farmed means the plants that produced your tomatoes have not been watered since May 2, when they were transplanted into the field. Their roots grew deeper to follow the moisture as the soil dried down. The idea behind dry farming is to produce a tomato with more concentrated flavor, and save water to boot.”
The article continued: “From a purist’s standpoint, dry farming means growing crops without any irrigation to supplement rainfall. But you can adapt the idea to any degree you want. For tomatoes, dry farming works best with clay or clay-loam soil in areas that get at least 20 inches of rainfall. If your soil is sandy or rainfall is below 20 inches, you’ll need to apply some water.
“Dry farming’s obvious advantage is water savings. But equally important is flavor–and this method will reward you with the best tomatoes you’ve ever tasted.”
Albert explains the basics of dry farming: the soil has to be worked to keep the water from evaporating. Cultivate your garden to capture rainwater. Surface cultivation will break up soil crusting and allow water to seep into the soil.
Albert said ideally the “soil preparation begins in the fall to maximize water savings but March is not too late.” The basic dry farming method is dust mulching: Dust or dirt mulching disrupts the soil drying process essentially separating the upper layer of a garden’s soil from the lower layers.
“Just 2 or 3 inches deep will help capture up to 70 percent of rain fall. Be sure to work the soil “after every rainfall to break crusting caused by the rain.”
Just because The Patch , Redwood Empire Farm and other seasonal vendors aren’t at the market, doesn’t mean they are home with their feet up! They are getting ready for next year.
In the meantime year round vendor, Bernier Farms has sun dried tomatoes.