While technology has advanced quickly over the past 150 years, and our lives are more and more insulated from nature, there are some things that all of our technology just cannot hurry. This is a roundabout way of saying that it has been a cold, wet spring. Having both these conditions makes it hard for farm work to happen at a normal pace. Typically, we are in the full swing of planting, seeding, and weeding – but this year the weather has largely stood in the way.
There is a process that needs to happen in order to plant. The ground needs to be prepared, either by plow or disc, to work in the previous cover crop and condition the soil for planting. Typically, we also work in compost or fertilizer. We prepare beds with spaders, rototillers, and other equipment. The sun and warmth are also part of this process, because as the soil warms and dries, it breaks apart; it becomes smooth and friable, which is the condition suitable for young plants and seeds.
When the weather is cold and wet, the soil sticks together, binds up machinery, and bogs down into a slurry mess. The plow hasn’t fundamentally changed in over 100 years. Machines we work with accelerate the process, but the increase of daylight hours, warmth, and dry conditions that are normally typical as spring progresses are necessary. Even if machines were built that could work through cold, wet soil, seeds won’t germinate if they are cold. It takes a number of warm days for the soil to warm up, and April was a month of many nights in the 30’s and days in the high 40’s & low 50’s.
So, what do we do when the weather doesn’t cooperate? Complain, mostly. To each other, to anyone who will listen, because out of the heart the mouth speaks. We need about 48 hours of dry weather and about 55 degrees for soil to approach workability. And honestly, we just haven’t had many breaks like that recently. A nice sunny day, surrounded by rain, is nice…but not overwhelmingly helpful.
Chances are the weather will turn a corner, and by June, the sun will shine brightly, and the days will be long and warm. Still, these precious growing days of May cannot be replaced, because our schedules are determined by the celestial movements of our planet and sun. No matter what May looked like, the days will shorten in September and the growing season will enter an accelerated decline.
So, again, what do we do when the weather doesn’t cooperate? We have been planting our greenhouses. The tomatoes shivered their way through the cold freezing nights of April, but they pulled through! The peppers are mostly planted in the houses, too. Outside, in the breaks in the rain, we have planted potatoes, onions, and shallots. We are seeding trays of veggies in our greenhouses so that when the good weather comes, we will be ready to plant.
While this may be the roughest spring I have ever seen, I do not despair at having a good season. Like in baseball or football, a slow start does not make or break a season. We faced overwhelming heat last summer, and still managed to deliver a great season. A light first box of the summer season will be made up in later boxes. The sun does not shine evenly throughout season, but when it does, we will be ready to catch all of those precious photons. Rain or shine, we’re persevering and are looking forward to a great summer.