Finally the spring window has opened up and the clock has begun to tick: Get the cool weather crops in now or you won’t have anything come Memorial Day…or your first potatoes won’t be ready for Fourth of July…or your greens will suffer in the June heat before you’ve gotten what you’ve wanted out of them.
This is the start of our fifth season growing and selling vegetables. It’s a big year for us, as we now have more than double the amount of vegetable growing area we’ve ever had in years past. Thanks to the “back four” (our version of the back forty) that we leased to put the 500 chickens on, we’ve also carved out more space for veggies.
We’ve spent the last year prepping a nice new 100’ x 100’ field in that back area (photo above and top), which will be the home to 100’ rows of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, and potatoes—all of which are moving out of the market garden to leave me lots of room for lettuce, carrots, flowers, etc. The soil in that field, though rocky, is rich and fertile. Best of all, since Roy has been hot-composting large amounts of chicken manure since last summer (turning over with the tractor every so often), we now have a great supply of composted manure to juice things up.
Also, having rotated some of the chickens into a new pen a few months ago, we will have another 80 x 80 foot bonus area (photo above) ready to use (the soil is nearly black) before too long (most likely for squash). With the hoop house, the market garden, and a few other miscellaneous spots, that gives us about a half-acre of veg cultivation (not including berry bushes here and there—and more coming.). Based on what we’ve been able to do in past years with a small amount of space, we’re hoping for a great year. Of course there will be drought and crop failure and probably a plague of locusts. And most definitely a hurricane or two. But why not think positive at this point? Spring is all about hope, after all.
Roy started in the back by planting two 100-foot rows of potatoes (more on the way), and trying out our new Earthway Seeder to quickly lay down four 100’ rows of arugula, two of kale, and one of chard on one end of the new field. I had too many onions to plant them all in the market garden so some went down next to the arugula. I started planting out flats of lettuce and bok choy, and seeded baby turnips, mizuna, mustard, tat soi, and more radishes. (And admired the peas, which have all germinated and are a few inches high.)
Then the challenge was to get the fabric row cover up over all of the greens, which will grow a little faster and stay somewhat protected from pests this way. Roy got more PVC plumbing pipe and we fashioned more hoops, which we hold in place by popping them over small dowels. Then we fought over who got the new Agribon (brand name for row cover, also called Remay) and who had to use the old stuff with the holes in it. This year we are swearing to use only boards, bricks, and rocks to hold the stuff down, as the pins make wicked holes. But the fabric always tears anyway, no matter what you do. This is not a big problem for crops like lettuce that just enjoy the little microclimate under cover, but don’t need protection from the flying pests. But the bok choy and the kale will quickly begin to look like swiss cheese when the little pests get through those rips and tears in the fabric.
The result is a fairly unattractive sea of white fabric that kind of wrecks the whole concept of spring beauty. But it is satisfying to look at, nonetheless, as it means we’ve got stuff in the ground.
The ducks are loving more room to move around, but some of the Aracaunas fly out every day. (The same five birds, actually.)
Next up is planting out the rest of the lettuce and kale, starting the basil in the hoop house, starting more seedlings for the farm stand, planting carrots, and planting several more rows of potatoes. The work feels good—I’m calling it pitchfork yoga and planting squats. Hurrah for spring!