Onion snow

It looks like the worst of winter is behind us (fingers crossed!) and I’ve finally been able to get all the crops in the ground that were scheduled to be planted on or before April 1. So far, we have beds newly planted with carrots, beets, potatoes, peas, Fava beans, and onions. However, it’s still early spring and that means the weather can be unpredictable. While this Thursday is forecast to be a sunny, balmy 63 degrees, tonight there is actually a chance of light snow. Late, light, fast-melting snows like this are often referred to in Pennsylvania as “onion snow” as they tend to come right around the time that onions are put in the ground and, by melting quickly, provide a nice layer of moisture for the newly-planted crop.

Another crop that’s just getting under way is the garlic. Planted at the end of October last year, the first shoots are beginning to peak above the ground, although they are still protected by a layer of straw mulch.

Garlic beginning to grow, 2015
Garlic beginning to grow, 2015

(Slowly) Getting Going

After a storm last week that dropped surprisingly more snow than expected, I was starting to wonder if I would ever be able to get seeds in the ground. However, several days of drier weather allowed the top beds on the Home Farm to dry out enough that I was able to prepare them for planting and get pea seeds and onion plants in the ground yesterday! Today, I put in 5 new blueberry bushes to supplement the two we already have. Blueberries take 3-4 years to reach harvestable maturity, but once they do, we’ll have a bounty of berries at market!

In the greenhouse, the kale, collards, and broccoli (in the back row in the picture below) are growing away and getting ready to be planted in 2-3 weeks. The tomato and pepper plants (in the front row) are lagging behind a little, not very happy with the cloudy days and cool nights we’ve been having recently.

Greenhouse Transplants, late March 2015
Greenhouse Transplants, late March 2015

Growing in the Greenhouse; Waiting in the Field

Despite this week’s warmer temperatures, I’m still waiting to get seeds in the ground outside. After the heavy snow two weeks ago, combined with it’s unusually rapid melting, the ground is still far too wet to prepare the beds for planting. Even with the gentle hand-powered techniques we use on the Home Farm, working wet soil can cause clumping and compaction that can negatively impact soil health and quality over the long term. I’ve cleared the winter leaf mulch off the beds that will be planted with spring peas, onions, and potatoes and am hoping they dry enough to get them tilled before the snow forecast for Friday!

At this time of year, when work in the field can be more a matter of waiting than doing, it’s nice to step into the greenhouse and see things already beginning to grow. The spring kale, collard, broccoli, and lettuce seeds have already germinated and sprouted their first set of leaves (called cotyledons). The pepper, eggplant, and tomato seeds have been planted in trays and are currently housed on heat mats to keep their soil warm, something these hot-weather crops need in order to germinate at this time of year, even in the warm greenhouse.

Sprouting seedlings, March 2015
Sprouting seedlings, March 2015

Will winter ever end?

Although it’s already the beginning of March, the Home Farm still looks like a pretty forbidding place. Mostly covered in a layer of snow and ice, it’s hard to believe that the farm will be home to a range of early spring crops in less than a month’s time. In an ideal world, potatoes, onions, and peas should be going in the ground in about 2 weeks, with kale and collards following a couple of weeks later. But, as always with farming, we’ll have to wait and see what the weather allows!

Inside, things will hopefully start getting green sooner. I’ve just planted a tray of seeds to experiment with growing under the light stand that I’ve set up in my house. And this week I’ll start seeding the first trays of transplants in the greenhouse.

Snowy farm, March 2015
Snowy farm, March 2015