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January 31, 2015
Planning Ahead
A note from the Farmer
Greetings from the farm! As I look out the window, a steady snowfall is blanketing our already white yard. I look back to my computer screen which is filled with a spread sheet full of dates and figures. I am finishing the planting plan. Six months of seeding and transplanting laid out in advance. Every head of lettuce fits into the plan, every carrot has a schedule. Hundreds of entries, each representing the start of a new crop, a new item for harvest months down the road. In this way we can be sure to have enough quantity and variety to harvest every week during the season.
Transplants will need to be started six weeks before they go to the field, and as long as three months before the expected date of harvest. February is already time to get started. Early greens are seeded in February, early tomatoes, March 1.
Lettuce transplants
How many flats of tomato plants will we need in late April. What’s the best date to start them? Too early and the whole crop could be taken by a late spring freeze, too late, and we must all wait an extra week or two for those first delicious ripe tomatoes. Timing is essential and what worked last year does’t always mean it will work this year. Last year our early greens were ready to leave the greenhouse and we still had patches of sno
w on the ground. You can’t plant anything into cold mud. The result was unhappy, root bound transplants and a delayed CSA start. So we take our best guess based on experience and stay flexible in case things change.
Once we start planting we don’t stop for six months. The first seeds go into trays in February and we are still seeding the last few late greens after Labor Day. Some crops need to be planted as many as twenty times. Lettuce every week from spring until fall, snap beans every other week from May to August, broccoli five times, carrots twice. Crops that most home gardeners plants once in May we plant multiple times; tomatoes four times, cucumbers four times, squash four times, and peppers twice. This ‘succession’ planting helps guarantee a strong harvest throughout the crop’s growing season. Layer upon layer the plan expands, helping us make sense of this complicated puzzle.
We plan now because we know that come June, we will be lucky to be able to see a day or two into the future. The summer rush is all consuming. No time to stop and consider, just do, do, do.
Plant, weed, harvest, repeat. We follow the plan without question, the questioning has already been done. So I sit, watching the snow, sipping my tea and working my figures, knowing that this job may be one of the most important I do all season.
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