By Farmer Cass Fraunfelder
This Winter and Spring has offered us some very warm temperatures. In many ways it has been so comfortable. It was nice to harvest each week wearing a light jacket or just short sleeved shirts and overalls. I have been working the soil with the tractor and reseeding new crops as we run out of what we had. The tractor generally is not used at all in the winter and early spring as it is too cold to start new crops. We plant in the late summer and early fall to have enough to make it through the fall, winter and early spring. Many of the crops we plant are staggered so that we always have something and it doesn’t all come in at once. For the most part we have done well with this and we make it through until it is time to plant spring and early summer crops. The month of February was very warm and we had some rain. We actually utilized drip tape irrigation in February. This is not the norm as it is usually too cold and we take the chance of broken pipe. I usually blow the system out to winterize and prevent pipe breakage.
So with this said, many of our winter plants started to grow faster with warmer temperatures. Our collard greens doubled in size. These plants generally grow slow all winter as they do better with cooler temperatures. The 3rd Friday in February, the best looking broccoli I’ve ever grown was ready to harvest. Our next trip to the restaurants was a week away. By the time the next Tuesday rolled around the broccoli plants had bolted, gone to seed and started to blossom. We essentially lost 1400 beautiful plants and made no revenue. Sad but true. Warmer weather is not necessarily a good thing. In the last week of February, over 800 collard plants bolted, threw a hard center stem and set the blossoms, which made the collards very bitter and no longer a viable crop to sell. We were able to cut the blossoms and sell them for edible garnish. They are very tasty sautéed.
The onions started getting bigger and were not baby onions anymore. My chefs like them small. The turnip greens started to bolt. The turnips in the ground are still good. The baby carrots started to get too big. The radishes grew too big as well. We are still selling many of these items, but at a lower price. We do have a large production of baby cabbage and have done very well so far. Small cabbage are much sweeter and less fibrous. We still have close to 2000 plants. This coming Friday is St. Patrick’s day and we are hoping for a good week.
Now here we are about to get slammed with Old Man Winter over the next three days in the 3rd week of March. We are generally starting to warm up after a cool winter. Not this year…
In February we start propagating seed in peat pots in the greenhouse. We start many varieties of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. In the last week many of these seedlings popped out of the soil just in time for the coldest weather this winter. Now Farmer Cass has several thousand seedlings to watch over in the Farm NICU. We have installed a heater to keep the inside temp about 30 degrees warmer that the outside temp especially at night. It has definitely been an unusual winter, and now early spring.
Farmer Cass is still very happy to be a year-round farmer. The weather has taught me to be more patient than ever.