Thursday, April 25, 2013

Planting Time at a Small Farm

When some people want to make chit-chat, they talk about the weather. When farmers talk about the weather, they actually care. I could talk about the weather all day long! Well, maybe not all day long, but certainly for an hour or so. It determines so much of what we do. Responding appropriately to the weather is a skill I'm trying to master. When to plant, when to water, when to fertilize; these are all things that the weather dictates.

The cool weather recently has been great for us. I don't know about other farmers, but it was such a long winter, that I thought we weren't going to get a Spring. Now that our Spring crops are finally in the ground, this cooler-than-average temperature is giving them a chance to thrive. The Swiss Chard and Kale are looking amazing! And we're going to have a decent lettuce season as well.

The warm weather a few weeks ago allowed for us to start planting the summer stuff right on time this year! With the turn to colder weather these past two weeks, the squash, tomatoes, and peppers aren't growing as quickly as we expected, but this is giving us a chance to take it easy with our planting and not have to weed as quickly as the warmer weather would have necessitated. We've got our first round of veggies in the ground and we'll start on the second round next week.

With a small farm, with small acreage,  it's often difficult to figure out how best to plant transplants. We don't have a tractor implement to help us. We do it all by hand and hoe. We recently got a new pull behind tiller for our tractor and the softer soil is going to help us improve our planting speed Nevertheless, for The Farm at Dover Vineyards, planting time is pretty slow. We can do about 12 flats/ hour on a good day in great soil. I took some pictures as we planted peppers the other day.

First, Nicolae, the Perfectionist, gets the irrigation line straight. Then he turns it on, so that as he digs the holes and we put the plants in the ground, the soil is already moist. He then commences to dig the holes with a hoe, whilst walking backwards.

Next, Mike goes along with a bucket full of Daddy Pete's compost and puts it in the holes.

Next, I go along with the plants and put them in the holes.

Finally, Liuba goes along and plants the little buggers. With lots of care and love.

I'll go back in about a week's time and fertilize them. It works best with 4 people, however if someone is out, it is possible for one person to put the fertilizer and plants in simultaneously.

For an update on the vineyard:

The vineyard broke bud a little late this year, and for that we are grateful. Knock-on-wood, we are safely out of  the frost danger. We went back and double pruned a week after they broke. The crimson clover has been keeping the weeds down and attracting a whole host of insects. We haven't mowed the inter-rows yet, so that's saving us a bit on labour. We'll be starting our spray schedule tomorrow.

I'm really enjoying this cooler weather, but I know it will end soon. When the heat comes, we'll be ready with planted rows. We'll be opening up our building soon on Hwy 29 next  to the vineyard. Stay tuned for details involving that! We might even be going to two markets in Charlotte!! Lots of chances to support your local farmers.