Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spring Farm Update

by Farmer Richard
Crew transplanting onions.

This has been a weird and unpredictable spring!  It warmed up in late February and March. The snow melted, the maple sap started to run….perhaps a bit too early? The ramps came up in early April and by the second week of April we started harvesting them.  All indications pointed towards an early, warm, dry spring! We planted our first salad greens, radishes, beets and carrots on April 14. Early?  Yes, but we love it!

We had fairly dry weather early in April which allowed us to get the overwintered parsnips and sunchokes out of the cold winter ground. The overwintered spinach looked pretty good and by the end of April we started to see signs of the asparagus starting to come up. We were thinking “Yes!  We’re going to have nice early season boxes for our members!” ….and then our fortunes changed.  Cold, damp weather going into the first of May slowed all growth to a crawl!  Some crops did continue to grow, despite the cold temperatures. The garlic, rhubarb, and spring onions looked good, until we had an unsuspected and freakish hail/slush storm with strong north winds. It was quite a
Jose Manuel and Alvaro laying plastic for sweet potatoes.
storm! It moved through quickly but managed to dump about two inches of hail and sleet balls on us in just about 15-20 minutes! Unfortunately the rhubarb and overwintered onions took a beating as the hail hit the tops of the onions and the rhubarb stalks. The wind was coming from the north, so one side of the plant looked pretty bad while the other side of the plant was virtually untouched!  Whoa here, what happened to our early spring?!

After the storm, it was on the dry side so we continued to plant on schedule, even early sweet corn and green beans. The first 24 hours after a seed is planted are probably the most important.  If we plant on a warm day and plant shallow, we can usually germinate the seed. Voila!  Our first planting of beans germinated, pushed through the ground and were looking good. They were just coming up and then on May 15, our average last light frost date, we had a freeze!  27-28°F was our low temperature that set in for about 6-8 hours overnight and into the morning. The green bean sprouts that were still under the ground froze!  The sweet corn froze too, but recovered with new shoots. Most of the beans, however, did not survive.  Despite the fact that we had a cover over the strawberries, some of the blossoms were damaged. It looks like about 40% of the blossoms were damaged, but still a lot of smaller strawberries are ok and coming.
The zucchini and cucumbers were under a cover as well.  While the zucchini toughed it out and had a pretty good survival rate, the cucumbers in the same field didn’t fare so well.  They had about an 1% survival rate. So sad. On a brighter note, the beets, carrots, chard, burdock, broccoli, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, etc are all alive and just waiting for warm weather to grow!

We picked the asparagus hard before the frost on May 15, but some asparagus still froze off and we lost 5 days of production.  That’s why there was such a small bunch of asparagus in last week’s box!  We were very happy to see larger harvest numbers this week when the crew picked on Monday.
Captain Jack supervising.
 No, the asparagus season is not over!
 With some extra time on our hands, we turned our attention to that which we always turn to when we have a free moment during the growing season….weed control! Can you believe it has been so cool that even the weeds haven’t been growing!! While we’ve been waiting for the vegetables to grow, our crew has been busy trimming around fields, has done a lot of landscaping, painted our barn and the nursery greenhouse, cultivated and cleaned every small weed from the plantings.
Finally, this week the warm weather came and we have been busy transplanting some of our warm weather plants including eggplant, tomato, pepper, squash and melons. While it has been a challenge to manage things this spring and provide a nice box, the tide is turning. The crops…and the weeds will grow!

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