Sunday, February 26, 2012

Signs of Life at the Garden

 What friggin season is it now?  Winter? Almost spring? Dry?  Looking at the mostly bare beds this afternoon, I cursed myself for not having saved or planted more for the "winter."  I want to think that winters like this only happen every few decades, and if so I have missed an opportunity to be pulling out heads of lettuce, bunches of kale or even some hearty leeks from the garden in FEBRUARY.  Dammit, if only I had planted that last succession of lettuce....

But, the good news is, I left the spinach in the ground.  The spinach I planted in September and harvested a couple of times before the solstice hit.  This beautiful spinach has survived and ever so slowly has continued to grow underneath some flimsy row cover.  In a few weeks, the growth will probably explode and be ready for the farmers market.  Until then, I eat it at one precious meal every week, savoring the sweet leaves in omelets or with some onions and a little cream...
 I wish I could tell you what variety this is, but I honestly can't remember.  My record keeping gets a little hazy in the fall.  My guess is Tyee, since it is savoyed.  The spinach is probably the greenest thing at the farm, but there are little signs of life popping up with enthusiasm.  My favorite is the garlic (pictured below, mulch moved aside).  When it sprouts in your kitchen, it's a shame.  When it sprouts in your garden, it's a miracle! These were planted during my last work party last year, by some enthusiastic youth who also happened to straw mulch all my beds.  Thank you young energy.  I know they will be excited to see the little lovelies come spring.  Real spring, I mean.

I seeded some very early spinach in early February (after all, you can never have too much spinach in the spring.  And if you follow the blog, you know what an ordeal this was).  After many nights and a few snows, they have come up under the protection of my cold frames - those things are handy.  Spinach is one of the few vegetables that will germinate in cold weather.  The soil temp can even be near freezing and these troopers will germinate at near 100%.  As a matter of fact, they won't do well in warm weather and will germinate poorly at soil temps above 78 degrees F.  Hence no spinach in the summertime.  Look at these cuties below with their seagull wings.  Yes, I love seedlings, a lot.

Before you go and think that everything worked perfectly this winter.  I give you exhibit A (pictured below right).  I placed my other cold frame over the artichokes in the hopes that they would survive the winter and provide me will a California-sized harvest this year.  No such luck.  The crispy brown extremely dead leaves are the artichokes.  The slightly alive, but very poor looking bush is a rosemary plant that I also stuck under protection.  This one is the best looking of the three.  Sad.

But enough of that, I have some very exciting news!  Way back when, I applied for a Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant to study heating a greenhouse with compost made of coffee grounds and yard waste (read: fallen leaves and wood chips).  I didn't blog it because I was too nervous that I might jinx it all.  Well I was just notified last week that I received the grant!!  Yay!  "Wait, what greenhouse?," you ask.  That's the other piece of good news.  I was driving down the road and I saw a frame from what was an temporary garage/hoopy thing.  At 12' x 20', it is pretty much the perfect size for my little operation.  And at $100, the price wasn't too shabby either.  Thank goodness for stopping at the side of the road and knocking on strangers' doors.  If it weren't for that, I'd be out a thousand or so just for the frame.  At first I thought I would have to squeeze it into the South Pine lot, but the YMCA has generously (and excitedly) offered up some space in their community garden.  Hooray for everyone!  If you are really curious, (or you are the press), you can read the press release here: YMCA and South Pine Street City Farm Team Up to Build Community Greenhouse in Kingston