Waiting for the Sun

May 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Vera Videnovich

Frost advisories to 80 degrees in one week?

Last week I was wearing a scarf, jacket, and boots while planting snap beans. This week I was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, t-shirt, and sandals to plant okra and cucumbers. And sun-block. Even our greenhouse seedlings are waiting for some sun exposure before being transplanted in the fields.



The frost advisories kept the seedling flats in the greenhouse. A few days of “hardening off” is needed before planting them in the fields. It’s sort of like getting a little tan before going to the beach. Even plants can get sunburned without a little sun-prepping. 

In addition to the cold, the wet ground made prepping the fields difficult. There was a lot of moisture still in the ground from a snow-heavy winter and some intense spring rains kept us out of the fields. I missed a window of (dry) opportunity in early April with a broken rototiller. After that even my tiller, lighter than the Farmall tractor, couldn’t get through the bottom of my water-logged fields. The tines dug in and splattered muddy clay all over me before I could get the machine to dry(er) land. I still haven’t worked the low spots and am watching the spring flowers bloom in them. There are also bunches of wheat growing, remnants from from last year’s straw mulch. 

Planting deadlines were met, just barely, last month. Each week I have a “deadline” schedule of what needs to be planted in the garden to meet CSA and farmers’ market schedules. Those 23-day radishes? I don’t think so. It’s been more like 30 days and they’re still tiny shoots. Rare for a radish as they love cold, wet weather. I’m feeling some panic trying to figure out what to do for my second CSA delivery on Wednesday, hoping for a miracle and all the radishes and the Swiss Chard magically transform into enough produce for 25 boxes!

Today I’m watching the weather forecasts and waiting for it to cool a bit to transplant my tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings. I’m hoping for some cloud cover, too. An overcast sky (or late afternoon sun) are kinder to new transplants. The less stress they experience the faster they’ll grow and the faster I can bring them to market!

I’ve been farming since I was a toddler and I can tell you that not one year is like another. I get asked for gardening advice, a lot, and can recite what the books and research say. I’m thinking of charging consulting fees to supplement my income, especially on market days where I spend up to a half-hour answering questions and then making a $3 sale.

In reality, though, it depends on your soil, which way your garden faces, how you water, how much you water, how little you water, or any number of conditions. I really should just folks to simply pay attention. My decades-worth of farming tells me Mother Nature dances to her own tune and it’s free jazz.