March is greenhouse month

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In mid-February, right after my birthday, Ben gets the greenhouse started. Every Monday, he seeds a new round of flats. The flats are germinated in the house, either in a cool guest room, or in a closet we have newly outfitted with a space heater and metal shelving. Some seeds, like tomatoes, germinate best in the heat, others, like lettuce, in the cool. Once the first seed leaves show themselves, the flat gets whisked out to the greenhouse where the sun shines. We heat the greenhouse, but only barely; we want our plants to be hardened and ready for chilly spring conditions, so we only heat enough to keep the nights in the forties.

We’ve started longer term crops, like the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that won’t be ready until July, as well as some of the first crops that we plan to have in our first CSA share, like lettuce, kale, and the gorgeous napa cabbage you see in the photo. The weather forecast says it will be staying a bit warmer at night early this week, and so we plan to transplant that napa into the field. Also going into the field early next week are carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes.
We’d like to share a few other highlights from our crop plan with you. Last year, we increased the area planted in tomatoes, which allowed us to really load up the CSA shares with tomatoes for a few weeks in late August and early September, so we plan to repeat that. Another change we made last year that we plan to keep was our switch from bush beans to pole beans. Pole beans have better flavor, are more productive, and are easier to pick. We think those positives outweigh the only downside of the time we have to spend setting up and taking down the trellis. We delivered far more beans in the shares last year than ever before, even as we had less area planted in beans.

New this year, we’re trying for some fall broccoli. Even the best broccoli farmer I know says that there’s only a 70% chance of broccoli every year, but we found the space to give it a shot. Another new crop this year is celery, which we’re looking at as sort of an experiment. From what we’ve read, Virginia’s climate is borderline too hot for celery, which takes a long time to grow but prefers cooler weather and plenty of water. We made some irrigation improvements last year, and we found a space for it close to the edge of a field where it will receive some morning shade, which may help it keep cool. So if we get some celery or broccoli that we like the looks of, they will make it into our CSA  share, and show up at market!

It is not to late to join our CSA!  Bring the fruits of our labors into your home, and sign up now–we would love to have you!

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