Fresh aspargas

Spring is here. Or so it seems despite the very cool weather and gray days. We had to mow the lawn this week as it was too long to not mow and have it appear that we had not abandoned the property. The green of the grass is as green as green can get. Weeds are coming on strong in both the soil of the hoop houses and in the fields that have not yet been prepped for planting.

So far we have not been plagued by black flies as we work outside, but their time is coming on fast. As soon as we have a stretch of two days of warm, sunny weather, they will emerge. Early spring crops are now harvestable and being sold at ours and neighboring farmstands, most notably fiddleheads and asparagus. Rhubarb is soon to follow and probably will be pickable within a couple of weeks. My seedlings that I struggled with earlier are just about ready to be put to soil, but the greens that were scheduled to be matured and picked by planting time for the peppers and tomatoes in the hoop houses are nowhere near ready to pick. 

We will have a conundrum on our plates in a week or so…wait for the temptingly immature plants to come to harvestable size and hold the planting of the “regular” inhabitants of the hoop houses or let them sit and stretch a bit longer to harvest and potentially hold back and retard the growth of the tomatoes and peppers while we wait. There are always tough decisions to be made. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but these are big decisions here on the farm that take a lot of talk, a bit of hand-wringing and a whole lot of angst.

We are continuing to prune in the raspberry patch. At the end of the season, we removed all the canes that had born berries, as their life expectancy was over and they would simply be a dead stalk in the spring. We leave all of the new growth at this point of the production process, as we never know how bad or how easy a winter we will have and whether or not there will be a lot of winter kill. We are still in the process of pruning out excess growth and topping the plants to promote fruiting. It looks like we had some, but not an excess of damage, though it is always hard to determine the extent of winter kill until after berries are formed.

As much as we do not like winter, raspberry canes do not like it, either. The portions of the plants that stay below the snow line are usually fine, but the ends of the canes that are above the snow are susceptible to winter damage. The vascular system of the plant, the vessels that carry water and nutrients from the roots to the tips to nourish leaves and berry growth, can be damaged by the thaw-freeze process above the insulation of snow during the winter. Unable to properly support a heavy fruit load, the vascular system can give up and berries and leaves die on the vine. Winter kill is tricky to spot much before harvest time, so we certainly hope there is little damage in the patch.

We certainly hope winter kill is not on our plate as the plants look in good shape to head into the growth cycle of the spring. The apple orchard pruning was finished a couple of weeks ago, though we still need to clean up the prunings and tie down and “stretch” some new branches to train to grown the way we need them to grow for optimal apple growth. The buds are swelling, and will pop pretty soon…again, as soon as we get a short stretch of warm and sunny weather. The bees are ready…there have been very few blossoms of any sort until the last few days. We actually observed a bee hoping to claw her way inside an unopened bud on an apple tree the other day. It is time.

We are under the gun so to speak, as we will need to start mowing between the rows both in the orchard and the raspberry patch pretty soon before the grass gets too tall to keep things in check. The cool and wet weather has kept spring in check, and when she comes, she will come fast and furious this year. We are overwhelmed with items on the check list and sick of working in the rain. It is spring … we want to enjoy the sunshine for a bit. It is time.

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