The snow’s gone, replaced by puddles and mud. You can still see the road through the trees—the only aerial green so far is evergreen. An overall browned-out scene, but what’s not in the pic is the vigorous twittering of birds, the tantalizing hint of real warmth in the still chilly air, the slightly musty dampness of winter earth waking up, as the outdoors steadily gets ready to…explode!
[From 9 May 2015] More seed: Not by the 50 lb bag, but it still adds up. You find a balance between buying smaller quantities that are quickly used so that you always have fresh, vigorous seed that’s ready to pop up at the least sign of moisture and warmth, and the huge savings from the bag that’s two or three times bigger than what you need for the season, and may be around for an extra year or more. Shopping! It’s like a human condition you can’t escape.
The covers are off and it’s all shades of green! That’s about three months, left to their own devices, living through freezing nights, often around -20°C (-4°F), and a low of -32°C (-25.6°F), under a couple of layers of medium-weight row cover, which means, little light (with the plastic added in, somewhere around 50% of already weak winter sun). Inside, at ground level outside the row cover, the lowest it got on the coldest night was an amazingly not-so-chilly-at-all -13°C (8.6°F). As a simple survival test…excellent!
There’s official calendar Spring, and then there’s spring in the field, that ignores exact dates and goes by the weather, marking winter as over whenever the freezing temperatures end. If today’s two-week weather forecast is anything to go by—it is, in this case, when being off by ±5-10°C (14-23°F) either way isn’t a big concern—market garden spring starts now. For the moment, I’m mainly concerned about overnight lows in the unheated greenhouse, and whether row cover is necessary. If it stays above -15-20°C, my safe-with-no-cover cutoff, it should be fine to pull back the covers and let the sun shine in (prepared, of course, to put it right back if there’s a sudden severe dip, which we hope doesn’t happen). Nothing complicated, just a little of the gambling that’s called working with the seasons!
Long-term veggie storage can get fairly involved, with root cellars, sticking things in piles of sand, adjusting humidity, spotting and culling the spoiled, that sort of thing, or it can be as simple as tossing a plastic bag of small carrots, little guys that wound up at the bottom of an empty market bin, into the fridge’s crisper drawer, and forgetting about them until they’re found four months later while rooting around for ingredients for stew. These carrots represent exactly the latter, a few handfuls of Nelson (orange), Red Samurai, and Purple Sun. They’re in perfect shape, crunchy and tasty—the plastic bag maintains the humidity that keeps them hard—so a quick rinse, chop-chop, and in they go. (They’re partly cut because I’d already started slicing them when I decided to take a pic.) Another whatever-veg-is-around beef stew. What could be simpler?!
Spring, soon! So far, though, still chilly and winterish. The photo describes it perfectly: not much snow, but cold enough for the thin layer to stick around (-10°C/14°F at night). And no signs of fresh new green growth just yet… It’s good to know, because it’s happened before, that it could suddenly turn into a startlingly warm T-shirt-optional March. Weather!
A reminder: Building Soils for Better Crops: Sustainable Soil Management is an excellent, book about soil for growers, free to download, or you can buy a hard copy. Follow the link, or read a bit more where I posted about it quite a while ago. The image above is cropped from the cover, a very specific type of old school farm view and set-up, which happens to be the one I’m familiar with; where you are may be totally different, as may be the soil, but the idea of growing is the same, and chances are this book is useful!