Planting on deadline
Signs of life came early this spring. Despite another extreme winter I managed to get into the fields a little earlier this year than last, where the ground was still frozen into early April. This past winter had such an early and sustained snowfall that the ground never really froze underneath and I managed to harvest garlic shoots for and Empty Bottle Farmers Market and the last winter indoor market at Logan Square.
My first deadline of the year is always to plant potatoes on Good Friday. Usually I have a few extra weeks as I follow the Julian calendar to observe the holy days but every four years (this year) Easter falls on the same day. I made a run to the local feed mill/seed store and stocked up on Austrian Crescent Fingerlings, ran the tiller through a few rows, and planted them on March 26. Now on April 22 I’m seeing the first dark shoots come out of the sandy soil . . . along with the first few weeds of the season. Last summer’s tomato blight also attacked my late potato crop so I’ll be running to the feed mill soon to look for something to treat the disease, which can linger for a while in the soil.
After I planted the Good Friday potatoes I threw in a double row of sugar peas, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and kale. Being frugal with space I threw in radish seeds into each row since they’re a 21-28 day crop and will be out of the way by the time the other plants start to take off. The peas are now an inch tall and I ran some recycled old sheep fencing along the row as a trellis.
Trying to meet my second-planting deadline a friend came by with a tractor and larger tiller to break up larger portions of my field:
The larger tiller did break ground deeper than my smaller rototiller but left large chunks of weeds/grass and awkward mounds of soil. Not to complain with the extra help. . . just saying it’s hard to deal with later when I’m weeding. I started my smaller tiller crumbled up the larger soil bits and leveled the soil for about five rows before the engine sputtered, sputtered, and died. My mechanic brother came to take a look and announced the engine was blown. A quick internet search found a replacement – in southern Indiana – for $240 (minus shipping costs). Not wanting to deal with another setback and a setting sun, I went back into the field and planted a few rows of parsley, transplanted lavender and Swiss chard, threw in more potato sets, and seeded the rest of the finely prepared soil with beets (more radishes) and onion sets for scallions.
So on today, Earth Day, I’ll be harvesting for market tomorrow at the University of Chicago’s Earth Fest. In addition to the green garlic and sorrel I’ve been harvesting (and selling through Green Grocer Chicago) now I’ve got some early mint and baby fennel.