What a spring. It is spring, right? I keep telling our seedlings that I promise I didn’t seed them two months early. They look at me and ask, where is the sunlight, you know we need it to make our food, right? On a rare sunny day you can almost see them growing, every cell of their little green bodies stretched and ready to use every single ray of light.
Weather challenges are a part of farming. We do everything in our power to be prepared for any variety of weather events, but one thing that I find hardest to control for is excess rain and a lack of sunlight. Cold, Wet, Grey. We’ll be fine – you’ve put your faith in a few farmers who like the push the envelope, who want to make things work and we definitely are, but boy it would be nice to have a warm, sunny week to lift our spirits, dry our soil and help our plants photosynthesize!
Growing for a CSA is like taking on debt from a lot of people you really care about. Instead of a bank, we’re thinking about all of you when we worry about crop loss, or poor weather. It’s you who inspire us to be extra creative and push ourselves that little bit more to make sure we have great produce available for each week of your share.
We have our big greenhouse and our two high tunnels right next to it. We use space in all three to plant in the ground. Right now those beds are planted with spinach, lettuce, arugula, bok choy, salad greens, radishes and a row of cilantro. We also grow in flats on the tables. When we saw what a cold, late spring it was going to be, we increased the amount we’d be growing in flats for the early shares to make sure we’d have enough. We’ve planted pea tendrils, micro-basil and micro-cilantro so we can have some fresh, fantastic flavor to kick off our spring shares.
We’ll keep planting in flats as long as it looks like the weather isn’t turning. We can plant micro-greens for salad too. We consider these types of plantings a kind of insurance. It does cost us in materials (soil, flats, seeds, water) and time to plant and care for them. But its like buying insurance. We all do it. (I spend WAY more on it than I would like to each year). But this type of insurance I find more valuable. I can use it, even if every other crop turns out and I didn’t need it to begin with, I have extra I can just give to CSA members, or see if I can find a restaurant who wants to buy it, or donate it to a food pantry.
We pushed the envelope last week. The soil was still a little wet to work, but we needed to get plants out there. When you see a small window during a wet spring, you take advantage of it. I was so thrilled with our team. We set a plan for the week on Monday and despite a few challenges we made planting happen by Friday and Saturday. Erin got some training on the tractor, and we got to experience our first round of many, many, many field prep and planting days for 2018.
We planted almost a quarter acre with crops that we need both for the Spring CSA and for the Summer CSA. We planted peas, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, arugula, lettuce mix, radishes, sweet turnips, dill, cilantro, bok choy and kohlrabi. All crops that can tolerate cool, wet weather, but who enjoy it when its a little drier and a little warmer. Luckily we plant on raised beds, and use row cover to protect the crops from cold and pests. The added benefit is that the row cover prevents the rain from directly hitting the soil, making it more like a mist when it gets to the plants, preventing erosion.
Boy am I glad we planted when we did. I don’t think we’ll be planting again until the end of next week after the Marathon Monday Monsoon. At that point we’ll be planting another round of most of the crops listed above and also trying to plant our first round of broccoli and cabbage, new potatoes, fresh onions and scallions.
Until then we’ll be crossing our fingers and keeping each other’s spirits up. Being bummed on a grey day is not fun. When every day is grey, you’ve got to do something to inspire a little hope. We put on music while we pot-up peppers and eggplants and think about hot, sunny summer harvests. We talk about why farming is important to us and why its worth it.
Our seedlings are doing well, despite wanting a little more sunshine and we are starting to fill to the brim! The weather will turn, one of these days, and we’ll be planting tomatoes and melons before you know it!!