our overwintering purple sprouting broccoli, next to our flowering kale

Spring Madness

April 25, 2014 by Melissa Streng - No Comments

These past weeks have been big ones for Dancing Roots Farm. The beautiful sunshine that we had during the last couple of weeks gave us an amazing opportunity to work very hard to get our crops in the ground- one might call the entire scenario a bit of spring madness.

While we always have great plans to put our spring crops into the ground during the first two weeks of April, we are only able to do so if the weather permits. It needs to be sunny and dry in order for Bryan to safely till the fields- if he tills when it is too wet, it could destroy our soil quality for years to come. But luckily for all of us, eaters and farmers alike, the sunshine that began on the week of April 7 dried out our fields enough so that Bryan could till our spring field, allowing us to plant a bounty. We planted Blue Wind broccoli, Amadeus broccoli, chard, Flashy Troutback lettuce, Chioggia beets, Early Wonder Tall Top beets, Austrian Crescent fingerling potatoes, and Yellow Fin storage potatoes. On Friday April 11, we worked till sunset putting crops into the ground.

Then we anxiously left them without irrigating them for the hot weekend ahead, hoping that the rain in the forecast would soon arrive to give our baby plants a good drink. To our delight, the plants held up beautifully during the dry hot weekend, even without irrigation, and the additional dry weather that persisted until Wednesday afternoon, allowed us to put the remaining crops in the ground that we hadn’t gotten to the Friday before. Almost immediately after we put our last potatoes in the ground on Wednesday afternoon, the rain started to come down, giving all of our crops the big drink they needed. It was an incredible relief for all of us at Dancing Roots to get those crops in the ground, and we could not have done it without the entire crew working overtime.

The weather gave us another window on Monday April 21. The fields had dried out just enough by Monday afternoon that we were able to till and plant our Walla Walla onions and White Spear scallions. As we were planting, it started raining, turning the fields into a mud pit. Had Bryan tried to till just half an hour later, it would have been too wet! We felt blessed that we had been able to successfully get our crops in the ground.

bryan uses the chisel plow to break up the soil on this sunny april day

bryan uses the chisel plow to break up the soil on this sunny april day

This is great news for the early spring CSA shares as they will almost certainly have a wonderful diversity during the first weeks.

The other big endeavor was our spring share, which we distributed on April 10 and 11. We have found that April is a great time for vegetables, due in big part to our overwintering section, which is full of purple sprouting broccoli, rapini (which is kale and cabbage sending up delicious shoots as they begin to go to seed), kale, and collards. Our greenhouses are also packed full with tender greens in April, such as arugula, cress, and miner’s lettuce.  It seems that throughout the winter, we never have quite enough food in the fields until April 1 comes around, and then we have more food than we know what to do with. It is incredible to see the seasonal change so clearly through our fields.

Right now, our fields, though grey and raindrenched, are full of yellow and green, Our covercrop has grown to be a few feet tall, promising excellent organic matter for the fields, while our overwintering kale has almost completely flowered, leaving one of our fields strikingly yellow, a reminder of sunshine even in the midst of raindrops. When the sun comes out, you can walk through the flowering kale and hear buzzing, our honey bees gathering as much nectar as they can during those rare dry April moments.

This reminds me that in springtime in the Pacific NW, vegetable farmers are much like worker bees, working as quickly as they can during the dry moments, so that they have a bountiful harvest for the later months.