30Mar2008

Springish Weather

Since the ice storm, we have been working feverishly to finish our seeding plans, ordering seeds, and starting everything in the greenhouse. Despite the cold overnight temperatures (15 degrees last night!!), we decided to open the greenhouse on March 19th. After all, we have to start planting sometime and those seeds are going to need some baby-ing no matter how you look at it, so every year we hem and haw as to when to open up and start paying for gas to heat the house, and we always open it around the 3rd week of March.

And after 2 weeks of trays just sitting there with dirt in them, we finally have green! It’s always relieving to see all those seeds emerging from their warm wet soil. It really is a leap of faith putting those seeds in the soil, watering them faithfully everyday, hoping for sunshine (the passive solar keeps the house warm enough to not heat with gas), and keeping vigil over the greenhouse thermostat (we wouldn’t want the potential plants to freeze!). Then, suddenly, around the 10 day mark, all our mother hen-ing has paid off, and seeds have decided to sprout! They’re lovely and green and full of promise. We are reminded that we will indeed have crops this year, things will grow. Hard to believe with so much snow around, though it is melting slowly but surely, and there is classic April rain and high 50 degree temperatures on the horizon for this week! Hard to believe that we are scheduled to plant our first crops in the field April 23rd! A lot can happen in a few weeks!

Another hoophouse experiment is taking place alongside the broccoli raab experiment, and that is fava beans! We have recently gotten obsessed with beans in general and decided that after a long absence from our roster of seeds, fava beans deserved another chance. Normally, when we plant them, they get tall and gorgeous, and just when they’re about to flower, the entire plant turns black. I’m talking black slime. Not unlike a deliquescing shaggy mane or stinkhorn or inky cap mushroom. It’s just nasty and a huge let down. We had a moment of clarity (which we’re sure others must have figured out long before us) reading John Jeavons’ book concerning favas. They hate heat. Just hate it. Won’t grow in it at all. Well, we have a plot of dirt in a non-heat situation that could work out just swimmingly – in the bed next to the broccoli raab in our hoophouse at the farm! We ordered some favas from Fedco and right there on the bag, was written: “favas dislike heat”. As we read on in Jeavons’ book, it just got better – there’s a compound in favas that appears to undo damage done by verticillium and fusarium wilts that live in the soil where tomatoes are grown year after year. These are big bad baddie diseases that farmers fear especially where it concerns tomatoes and other solanaceous crops. The usual treatment is to do a 5 year rotation on that plot. Well, we don’t have enough land to do such long rotations, so the fava bean could be a really nice way to prevent these wilts on our farm. Not to mention the nitrogenous powerhouse that these guys are packing! At any rate, we decided to plant them and we’ll see. Here’s some pictures of that process. By the way, the broccoli raab has sprouted and is pretty much in stasis. We wait!

Favas in the seeder – too big for the seeder…

Mara making a furrow for the favas with a shovel.

Favas in hand

Favas being seeded

Mr. Smeems helping Spence

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