California Tea Farm Update

We are going up to the tea-farm-in-progress this Sunday and plan to do so every Sunday from now on, if we can. Last week, 18 koi fish went into the pond (18 for obvious reasons - a group of nine fish is believed to be lucky, as is any number with an eight). I made a deal with a local farmer to start working the land and have requested a permit from PG&E to bring power to a pump station we're going to install to pipe in county irrigation water from the aquaduct. Unfortunately, it's already too hot to start cover crops now without irrigation, so we'll bring in the water and then decide if we still want the cover crops. The farmer, Joe Martinez, and I decided to start tea seedlings in the fall. For now, we are cleaning up the property and doing maintenance. It's hard to believe how fast grass can grow with so much recent rain!

The soil tested out to be within the right range (pH around 6) for tea. It's true that tea likes humid conditions; that's why it's critical to have irrigation in the summer. Summer in Asia is hot and humid, but here in California it is hot and dry. We will most likely go to drip irrigation with forging spray to keep the leaves moist. Since no one else has grown a commercial tea crop in California before, we will have to try it and see, but my gut is telling me yes, so what can I say! California's Central Valley is a major growing center for flowering camellias, so if these other camellia varieties do well, why not Camellia sinensis?

I have not completely settled on varietals yet, but most likely the first batch will be arriving from Taiwan and that means oolong.