I finished my lunch yesterday, stepped out onto the porch to head back out to the greenhouse to cheer my green friends on to greatness, when I realized that I couldn’t see the 100 ft to the greenhouse itself. Not only that, the world had suddenly turned white. That turned out to be one of the three mini blizzards that we experienced during the day. Of course, each time the snow melted pretty quickly but it still put a wrinkle in the day here on the farm. Such is the way things go when you are working with someone as unpredictable as Mother Nature herself.
During each season there are several very intense time periods for the market gardener and even more so for those of us with livestock, the orchard, and other perennial fruits to manage. It’s not that we are any busier than usual, it’s that there are so many different balls in the air that must be juggled if we are to have a successful season. For us, the next six to eight weeks are perhaps the most critical. Honestly by the time the farmers’ markets start up in May our busiest time is behind us.
Now that the really cold weather is past, the fruit trees get their annual pruning. This involves thinning, training, and just a general going over to promote good health and maximize fruiting. Each type is different and our apple trees take the most work by far. Our thorn-less blackberries aren’t too far behind and after a winter like this one even more work is required. Blackberries fruit on the second year wood, which means the canes must overwinter and make it through the cold. All the training and work of the previous summer can be undone by a harsh winter. Unfortunately for this year’s crop the -17 degrees we had here looks to have done them in. Take heart however because the new red raspberry patch looks like a bountiful crop is on the horizon.
Planting, of course, has already started; the greenhouse is one third full already. With the first break in the weather flats of spinach, beets, kale and others will head out to the garden. Most of these crops will have to be covered for the first few weeks to be sure they get off to a good start. You may have seen the picture of the truckload of seed potatoes. It takes two or three weeks to get the potatoes ready to go to the garden. Each potato will be cut into sections with one or more “eyes”, which will begin to grow. These sections will be heated and cured for a couple weeks to make them more resistant to rotting in the cold ground before they sprout. The thousands of onion seedlings have been separated and transplanting into raised beds in the greenhouse itself to grow for five or six weeks to get large enough to be transplanted to the garden.
So how do things look so far you may ask? Well the cold weather is holding things up a bit but it has been dry enough to begin field work this week. Field number five had the year off last season except for a cover crop and we were able to turn it under this week and prepare the ground for potatoes. Planting is at full speed and still on schedule although the fuel and electric is flowing to keep things moving forward. The hens are continuing to lay their eggs and the new chicks, now 4 weeks old are eating more feed than seems possible. The cows are a little bored and are eagerly awaiting fresh grass instead of hay but overall doing well. We have daffodils ready to bloom and tree buds are beginning to swell, both sure signs of great things to come. We look forward to a great season and trust you are too. Don’t complain or grumble too much… it won’t do you any good and you know as well as I do that we might just be wishing for that freak snow storm to cool us off before you know it.