The weather this spring has been pretty remarkable. Although we’ve had more rainfall in the February through April period than any year on record (19 inches and counting, including over 9 inches in March alone!) the rain has come in brief but intense periods. In the dry spells between, we’ve managed to stay right on track with our schedule of seeding and transplanting in the field.
We’ve been aware of our soil’s capacity to drain and dry out since our first spring here, when we had a major flood on April 1st. One week after the floodwaters receded we were able to work ground that had been underwater and get seeds sown. We had already planned to incorporate long fallow periods into our rotational plan, and witnessing the natural drainage capability of our soil in that situation really reinforced our commitment to giving our fields a rest as often as possible. The activity of earthworms and other soil-dwelling animals, as well as invisible fungi and bacteria, serve to form soil particles into larger aggregates with lots of air pockets and tunnels running through. Frequent tillage breaks these aggregates into smaller pieces, which can only be restored by leaving the soil alone for a while.
But I digress…. What I intended to write about is the hive of activity that is the farm in late April. We are mid-way through our big onion planting – about 20,000 cippolini, shallot, and Duvalla Walla sweet onions. We succession plant leeks for harvest from late summer through deep winter, and some of those have already gone into the ground as well. It’s important for us to get all our onion seedlings out of the greenhouse this week, because the first week of May is our scheduled seeding date for winter squash. We won’t have room for those trays of squash seedlings until the onions vacate!
Another big one-time planting project is tomatoes. We are putting about 900 plants into two greenhouses today, with another 600 scheduled to go in another house in mid-May. This first round should get off to a great start, as temperatures are forecast in the low 80s this coming week. Once the plants are in and growing, we’ll soon start the ongoing pruning and trellising job that keeps the vines up in the air and off the ground.
Of course, all our other crops continue to get planted out on a regular succession: lettuce every week, fennel and escarole every two weeks, chard every four weeks, broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi on a staggered succession to provide good diversity for the CSA and farmers markets this summer. It’s pretty amazing to check the seedling house these days – plants go from medium size to “get me in the ground” in about three days.
In non-planting news, we are getting ready for the start of farmers market season. Duvall opens this coming Thursday, May 1st. We’ll be back at the Broadway market on Mothers Day (May 11). Today we hauled our little red farmstand caboose back up to its station at the end of our driveway, and it’s got a good spread of early spring produce: radishes, tender Red Russian kale, mustard greens, and baby lettuce.
And that’s all the news from the farm this sunny and blustery Sunday. Stay tuned for more soon!