It’s been a whirlwind of activity on the farm the past few weeks – this time of year, everything wants to be done at the same time. What to do when?! This morning we were trying to figure out what to tackle first and Ken said ‘Well, which of the 14 things that all need to be done now should we do first?’ The greenhouse is exploding with plants whose roots are seeking real soil. The garden ground has finally warmed enough we can plant more and more seeds directly, and barely keep ahead of the weeds. And all the plants are so new and tender that they are the most delicious for the bugs and beetles, so everything has to be covered with row cover (floating fabric that keeps the bugs out). But then again, it’s spring, so some of them – like the tiny and voracious flea beetle, are just emerging from the soil and so they come out under the row cover to a feast! These are the culprits responsible for the (ahem) ‘lacy’ radish leaves.
However, the greenhouse is looking rather empty these days – we have planted broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, beets, carrots, corn, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, beans, melons and gladiolas in the past few weeks. Everything just needs a good soaking in order to take off. Since nature doesn’t seem to be cooperating, we are going to take matters into our own hands and start some irrigation. That should make it rain for sure!
And of course, it’s the perfect time to move and merge households – ha! Ellen and Aaron have sold their house in Portland and moved their things to the family farm. Farm succession in action has a lot less to do with tractors and spreadsheets than it does with 4 almost identical mesh strainers and too many laundry baskets.
We have been doing some experimenting with cover crops and planting crops directly into them – aka – no-till, with mixed success. The advantage is that the plant matter left on the surface provides nutrients and protection from the elements for the new plants, as well as benefiting the micro organisms that live in the soil (this is obviously extremely simplified – see Ken for a full scientific explanation of the complex symbiotic relationships at work here). The disadvantage is that sometimes it’s difficult to kill the cover crop, and sometimes the weeds get too established before the cover crop takes over. Just last week we tried a few rows of popcorn planted into rye that had been rolled, and initially it looked great, but now the rye is rising from the dead and seems like it might smother the poor popcorn. But have no fear – there is lots of popcorn that is not part of the experiment, looking great!