Looking Toward Spring

When daylight comes up slowly then drops off quickly at 6, and a cozy fire is needed most nights, we know things will slow down soon. But until the fields are drenched and too wet to walk through without major compaction, planting should be done to have something to sell next spring. What can be planted at this time of year?

This is the most difficult time of year for consistent germination. Cold soils are part of the problem, but more importantly, the shorter day length smothers the seeds’ efforts to grow. Even though they are a bit of a gamble, the farmer bets on chicories. Today he planted open-pollinated radicchio and treviso, castle franco and even some escarole. And he planted peas, super sugar snap and Maxigolt, an English pea. (Favas could be planted, but we already have enough in the ground.) All these crops planted with a push seeder.

field footprints

Tell-tale footprints, after a field is seeded with a push seeder.

The chicories are a hearty family. They tolerate cold stress and the brute force of a sharp hoe to separate them when the time is right. The air space does them good. Their growth may be stunted, but they will grow. Lettuce, even though it likes the cool weather, tends to mildew in the winters, possibly because of the denseness of the plantings. It is not planted here from October through half of January.

He prepped fields that were growing mache that had become so weedy that they were a lost cause. All too often, he plants hoping the crew will have time to weed it allowing early harvests. Unfortunately, during the summer months, keeping a crop clean, that isn’t needed for sale now, is often let go.

This year we are growing more in the greenhouses to be transplanted in the field later. Little Gem lettuce, Rainbow Chard, Mache and even kale. Giving these crops a headstart on the weeds is the reason for planting “indoors” and making sure they are kept with the right soil moisture for months. When they are big enough, probably in late January or early February, they will be planted. The trick is, waiting for the right field conditions. These crops will be sold to local restaurants and on the farmers’ market stand in the spring.

Yesterday two guys planted 12 240 foot rows of garlic, Chesnok Red and California Late White. It took them ½ a day, to plant the 100 pounds of cloves. Garlic can be sold early, as green garlic, then it bulbs up, dries and we sell it through next year.

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