So far the month of March has been true to form, snow rain; sun and clouds. The climate is telling farmers it is time to begin thinking about a new planting season. Now that there are warmer days afoot, and frost more infrequent, greenhouse conditions are warming to where they can provide a stable enough environment for an spring transplanting of greens. Many to all of the new seedlings entering the ground now began 4-6 weeks ago when they were seeded into germination trays, away from the colder depths of winter. Indoor winter seeding gives farmers a chance to control environmental and soil conditions more acutely when plants are at their most vulnerable stages, pre-germination and early emergence. A critical variable is soil temperature. For example, Red Russian kale is suggested to be planted in soil that is maintained at around 75 degrees until germination, at which point soil should be kept at a consistent temp around 60. While the ambient temperature is rising closer to that, there is still the threat of a cold frosty night outside. In order to ensure that 75 degree soil temperature for Russian Kale, Sarahlee from Rainshadow has her seedlings protected under controlled cover. While the seeds begin their biotic life cycle, work is to be done preparing their field bed in the greenhouse. Farmers harvest what they need from the existing winter crop for sale, but most everything else is either plowed into the ground for decomposition into organic soil carbon or fed to the animals. Then a new layer of compost is mixed in for a boost of soil biology, mineral nutrients and more organic matter. After some time the growing trays begin to show green with little kale radicles poking through the soil surface. Shortly after, the starter house is rich with healthy looking seedlings that are ready for the soil.
When the seedlings are substantial enough to move, they are transplanted by hand, one by one, hundreds at a time, into their new field bed. Most of the greens planted now will be ready for harvest in about 4 to 5 weeks time, right when many producers on this side of the mountains are starting up tractors and preparing outdoor field rows. At this point, there will be some earlier planted greens ready for consumption in just a few weeks from today. Until then, there is a growing bounty in the ground. At the time of harvest Rainshadow Organics will be pulling out various types of chard, kale, radishes, beets, and a variety of carrots. Jack from Story Hill farm is will have multiple varieties of crisp, full lettuce heads, beets spinach and cool season herbs. Chris from Juniper Jungle will be ready for market with spring greens in hand, and crop of grains planted in his fields to try something new. Everywhere,from all of the farms around here, the spring harvest should be rich with local produce from farmers who have put months of hard work into creating healthy food and healthy land.