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With the first market of 2015 starting this Friday, the season feels officially underway! While the excessive cold early in the spring definitely means that some crops will be coming in a little late, we’ll still have a table full of wonderful spring crops and vegetable seedlings to kick off the year. And the best news is that, from this week onwards, the crop variety and availability will only increase!
On another note, I want to let everyone know that the wyckhomefarm blog will be going on a few month’s hiatus, probably beginning after next week. I am expecting a baby in the coming weeks and will be taking off the summer for maternity leave, with plans to return in early September. But don’t worry- the farm will be in excellent hands while I am gone, so expect the usual from the farmers market each week!
Also, make sure to stop by our Rose Open House this Saturday (May 30) from 11am- 4pm. Visit and learn about Wyck’s beautiful historic rose garden, check out the Home Farm, enjoy children’s activities, and much more!
Every spring is different and invariably throws some sort of curve ball all it’s own! Last year, it was the unusually cool weather that made the start of the season difficult. This year is the complete opposite. Not only is it hot out, but also, and more problematically, unusually dry. We haven’t had a decent rainfall in weeks and, to compensate, have had to run the sprinkler almost every day just to keep things cool and irrigated and able to continue growing successfully. At this point in the year, such a heavy toll on the irrigation system is unusual.
On the positive side, the warmer weather is definitely helping the crops to grow faster. With our farmers market starting next week, it’s nice to know that we’ll have a decent number of crops on the table that first day. Of course, this means that the weeds are growing extra fast as well. Problem weeds that I usually don’t have to deal with until mid-June have already been up and growing for several weeks now, putting an extra strain on our work hours at an already busy time of year!
With the end of this past winter seeming to drag on forever in freezing weather, snow, and sleet, it’s been a shocker to find ourselves in the hot, dry conditions we’ve been experiencing over the past couple of weeks. Early May is when the warm weather crops start to be planted and usually it’s a gamble with the weather in a totally different sense- trying to prevent these plants from being damaged when an unexpected cold snap comes. This year has been the opposite. Even the tomatoes are looking a little stressed out from having to deal with temperatures near 90 degrees so early in the season! Fortunately, things have cooled off a little for the rest of this week, which will be a must appreciated reprieve for both me and the crops!
One of my favorite things is growing crops that look the same in the ground as they do when purchased at the market, so it’s always a fun time of year when the asparagus starts poking above the ground! The first time I saw asparagus growing, I couldn’t believe what it looked like- it’s as if someone took a bunch of asparagus from the grocery store and stuck it in the ground. As the first crop to mature each year on the farm, the beginning of asparagus season is always a great way to welcome in the coming growing season. If you live in the area and are interested in purchasing some asparagus in the next 6 weeks, send me an email!
This year, I decided to put in new rhubarb plants on the Home Farm. Rhubarb takes a good while to grow from seed, so I ordered crowns instead. They arrive in the mail looking like shriveled roots that could never grow into anything- just one of the many times you have to take nature on faith when farming! And in the past two weeks, the rhubarb has burst into life, shooting tiny leaves and stems above the ground. We will have to wait a couple of years to start harvesting from them in order to let the plants get nice and strong, but it’s another exciting thing to look forward to!
Every year, I like to do some experimenting. I’ll try new crops and varieties, test different forms of soil preparation, and trial unique techniques I’ve heard or read about. Some of these I plan to do and others, like my first experiment this spring, come about by accident. When I planted the spring peas several weeks ago, I pulled out some row cover (also called reemay or agribon) to cover the seeds and keep them warm. Unfortunately, the piece I grabbed was only half a bed long, so I decided to try covering only half of the bed and see if the warming effects of the row cover had any impact on the pea seeds’ growth. Earlier this week, I took off the row cover for the first time and the difference was certainly noticeable. In the picture below, the peas on the left germinated and started to grow under the row cover while those on the right were uncovered and exposed to the elements. I’ll definitely be keeping this technique in my back pocket for next year to help get a jump-start on pea season by covering the seeds with row cover for the first few weeks!
In early April, I’m always nervous to feel like spring has finally sprung. Just when you’re getting used to warmer days and to nights above freezing, another depressing cold spell is bound to strike! But with temperatures getting into the 60s and even 70s, even when intermingled with chillier, drizzly days, it’s definitely starting to feel (and look) like spring might be getting a foothold at last.
On the farm, the peas are just beginning to germinate, sending their first root (known as a “radical”) down into the soil.
Daffodils and other spring blooms are popping open everywhere and the kale, broccoli, and first of the lettuce seedlings are getting ready to go into the ground later this week!
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.
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.