Andrew recently declared September to be the April of the fall. He meant that like April, this month is a crucial time to prepare for the next season. In April, we’re always busy getting ready for the summer. Right now, seeds must be sown, transplants put in the ground, and new plants watered and weeded in order for us to have crops in the fall and winter. All of these are key tasks over the next few weeks while we also continue to harvest our late summer produce. But this week had had accents of April even in the hot (106 on Tuesday and Wednesday) and dusty weariness of September. Why?
First, there’s all the transplants and seeds going in the ground, just like in April. Equally as exciting is seeing all the subsequent growth. The potatoes have grown a lot, just in one week, all the transplants have also grown an impressive amount, and many of the seeds have germinated and the first leaves are visible.
Pictures of the potatoes last week (L) and this week (R)
One of the most notable transplanting activities this week was the strawberries. Unlike the other transplants that we buy, our strawberries don’t come to the farm in trays with the roots in soil. Instead, they come packed tightly in boxes, without soil. These are bare root strawberries and planting them is very similar to buying a bare root tree; they don’t look like much, mostly roots, the stem (called the crown) and some desiccated, unhappy looking leaves. Hopefully, once in the ground and with some water they’ll grow leaves and eventually flowers and then fruit. Strawberries are notoriously finicky and are easily diseased, so each year that we grow strawberries, even though it is possible to save runners for the next season, we purchase a new set to make sure that they’re healthy. We also purchase new plants because, while strawberries can produce for multiple years, after the first year, the size and quantity of the berries declines. This year we’re growing two varieties, some in plastic mulch, some without. Last year was not a good strawberry year, which is why they only made it into CSA boxes for two days, so we’re hoping this year is better.
Then, after the first day of planting strawberries wrapped up on Thursday, it started to sprinkle. After a cloudier than usual day, the rain began early in the evening and continued on and off into the early hours of Friday. It wasn’t much, not nearly enough to offset the dire water situation we’re facing, but it was refreshing and much appreciated, and managed to get some of the dust off the plants and equipment. Friday morning felt crisp and clean, albeit a little humid, and almost like it could’ve been a spring morning in late April, with clouds in the sky and all the rows of new transplants and sprouting seeds. And it only got up to 90 degrees! Most importantly, the warnings about dry lightning igniting fires (as happened last year) didn’t come true, at least in our area. We heard some thunder but there were no fires. Is rain on newly planted strawberries an omen of a good year ahead? Only time will tell!
One last element of spring in September: last week saw the arrival of several baby animals to the farm. There are seven newly born piglets, and our most recent group of chicks arrived in the mail and is currently getting situated in the brooder.
This definitely isn’t April, but the signs of new life (plant and animal), precipitation, and fast-paced preparation for the season ahead certainly illustrated for me why this month is our April of the fall.
– Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager