Grower's Row: Spring Update

By Patrick Lang

We're on the precipice of something that feels big... This is at least the sense I get as we push through April and begin the month of May on the farm. The feverish work (for the most part) of April and early May are entirely dedicated to Plant Sale/Open Farm Day and the start of the CSA season, including May Share.

What has the farm crew been up to? In the weeks leading up to the plant sale, PFP's small greenhouse has been packed with both plants and people; one is forced to move deftly given the many precariously situated trays and pots of growing seedlings! While plant growth has generally been good this spring, we have experienced far more overcast skies than we are used to. Cloudy conditions demand that we be very attentive to moisture in the greenhouse, since standing water will evaporate slowly, a condition that can favor the spread of disease.

Other plants that would benefit from more bright sunlight are this season's tomatoes, which were transplanted into the high tunnel in mid-March! In this case, the slow growth may help us a little bit, as a tremendous amount of work will be needed to maintain these growing plants: pruning each plant and setting up 1 to 2 trellis lines for each plant are both priorities these days. Of course the promise of red and orange slicing tomatoes, as well as over 20 varieties of heirlooms, makes this well worth the effort.

Finally, as we think especially about extending the beginning of the CSA season, we've shifted our thoughts somewhat to perennial crops on the farm. There are many reasons to consider perennials as a complement to our favorite annual veggies, and chief among those is greater reliability in an era of climatic instability. The first May Share distribution of 2016 was postponed several months because of uncharacteristically cool spring weather, and relying more on perennials will make such postponement less likely in the future.

As some folks know, asparagus was planted a few years ago as a reliable, perennial spring crop. Unfortunately, the very early harvest does not correspond with any of our distribution times, which makes it unsuitable for CSA (fortunately, though, our education team is able to use it throughout the harvest window, sharing the beauty and deliciousness of asparagus with PCSD students!). This spring, we directed our attention to rhubarb; the 200 plants we've tended in the past 2 years yielded 600 new crowns when we dug them up, and each one has been replanted in a new rhubarb patch that is near the pick-your-own entrance. Rhubarb is wonderfully productive and demands almost no maintenance, and the plants recently transplanted should be large enough to provide delicious early season food one to two years from now.

If you will be here for Plant Sale and Open Farm Day (and we hope you are!), check out the perennial patch near the PYO gate, where the new rhubarb patch rests alongside raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries that all have a fresh, thick layer of woodchips, helping to ensure their continued health. We look forward to helping to get your garden going and to welcome the 2017 farm season this May. See you here soon!