MarkMaker Chris Fischer looks forward to spring on Beetlebung Farm, sharing his tips for growing healthy greens this season.
We’ve nearly seen off the cold nights of winter and at any moment spring vegetables will come alive. All I can think of is green. Vibrant green grass. Perfect, succulent peas. Green asparagus. Brilliant spinach. All so inspiring, and delicious.
Gardens, rooftops and even window sills present perfect opportunities for growth. Spring to me means a new chance, a new season and another opportunity to work with the earth – hopefully harmoniously – to produce healthy crops and beautiful flowers. Anticipation was always my grandfather’s favorite part of farming and each and every year since his passing – as I have taken over growing operations on the farm – I feel that anticipation just as he did.
If you’re growing spring vegetables for yourself this year, make sure to apply these four farming cornerstones for healthy spring crops.
Whether you’re working with a garden vegetable patch or doing it on a larger scale, you need your tools to be in working order. For me, that means my tractor and rototiller, which I’ve needed to keep well-maintained through the coldest season. These tools will help me spread the compost that was made the season before and incorporate it into our garden beds. This is always the first step: Make sure your tools are well-maintained as you’ll rely on them to keep your soil healthy and rich. Without this you can’t grow a thing.
The other two major factors that lead to a successful growing season are ways to keep the pests out and a proper irrigation system. We have a huge amount of animal pressure on our little plots on the farm and one rabbit can wipe out an entire crop of lettuce in a night’s feasting. Meanwhile, deer continue to get braver and appear to be able to jump higher and higher in search of the delectables we try to keep from them. So we mend fences and then get to mending hoses, as both hoses and pipes undoubtedly always spring a leak or two in our frosty winters.
Every year the same risks and rewards need to be evaluated in planning your first few plantings, as the earlier in the season you plant, the more volatile the weather is. My father is wise when it comes to these risks and generally will wait an extra week or so saying: “If I plant today or if I plant in two weeks, the plants will be the same size in a month because the weather is just too cold.”
What to plant is always dependent on the goals of the grower. On Beetlebung Farm we plant for sustenance, beauty and to make a few extra bucks, so our considerations are varied. We make sure our wildflower fields are clear and healthy, our kitchen garden is well-fertilized and slowly begin to fill it with peas, garlic and onions first. For me, the last few years have always been different so we work through seed catalogs and weather predictions to plant what is optimal for our needs.
When warm weather finds some consistency, then we begin the daily ritual of caring for our crops. Starting each day by getting your hands dirty and bending this way and that makes for great days and sore backs. We plan as much as we can, then react to how the crops are growing and always work in a realistic way that is in tune with nature’s ebbs and flows.
It is a challenging cycle but always an adventure – and spring is the season when my senses are awakened once again to the best smells and tastes the world has to offer. It is my favorite time of year and – like the farm – I feel alive more so than any other time of year.
Got a surplus of spring vegetables? Why not start your own supper club by following Chris’ guide and make the most of the season’s spoils.