As much as I knew it would come, being here at the end of the giddy stage of spring, when our farm (where landscaping has taken a second seat to things growing for the business) abruptly turns green after that splash of color, is still something like walking on uneven ground, that bumpy step a little jolting. Everywhere I look it is green, the green of grasses, mostly, and other weeds loving the warming up of the weather just as much as the rest of us. The fruit trees are done blooming, the spring bulbs and flowering trees too, even the early weeds have already blossomed and set seed (shudder). Thankfully we are able to leave the beautiful white and pink blooms of our winter arugula and black spanish radsishes along with the unmistakable yellow flowers of the mustards and turnips for a bit longer…the bees and my eyes need something colorful to feast on. But these blossoms too, begin to feel like weeds as they get in the way of working around new growing things.
As ambitious as early spring is with its newfound energy, the rising from winter’s slumber and slow going, the inevitable next step comes and its reality is not as flippant and full on as the sowing of a new year’s seeds. The season gets warmer, and the watering and weeding begin. That is what we did this weekend,; recovered beets and kohlrabi and carrots from the mat of other growth thinking it had found a nice place to grow too, freed some broccoli from the start of a dangerous relationship with the nasty bindweed, gave our bunching onions access to more light, and started on getting the grass out of the fava beans although their growth is vigorous enough to withstand sharing–we just don’t want the slugs having ladders to the pods which are now setting.
And this kind of work is more sobering than planting even when the sense of accomplishment is almost more fulfilling when you finish. Now our early spring love affair with a new season is tempered by what time brings. Just like any love affair, your vision at first is beautifully rose colored. Now that the first flush of petals have fallen, some of those irksome growing challenges are up for evaluation. There are still spots in the field where the difference in soil quality is fairly dramatic. There are still some broccolis buttoning (producing a small head before the plant matures because of stress from soil or heat?), still poor germination on our first planting of carrots, still flea beetles on the pac chois, and spotted cucumber beetles on the chard. Things are not picture perfect, for sure.
Still, the upshot is that we are seeing all of these things on a much smaller scale than ever before, and we can see that at least from the pest perspective, the plants are stronger than the damage they can do this year. Soon they will have outgrown the worst of it. Carrots are in the queue for succession plantings into July, and in truth the germination percentage on that first planting is close to 50% where we had 0% on our first planting last year (I suppose we are just pushing the envelope for carrots with that first planting anyways). We way, way, way overplanted broccolis because they are so fickle anyways. And at least after the main growing season comes to a close, we can clear this space and really work with it for soil improvement since we have a separate space for fall/winter plantings. That will make a world of difference.
So the season matures, we settle into its routines. We have the bulk of our spring planting done (which is why we took the last few days to weed, weed, weed). Most of the tomatoes, the eggplant, some more corn, and more basil…that is what is left besides things that are continually planted in succession. We won’t have another big planting push until July, so weeding and watering do become our main occupations, along with the all important harvesting! And even though all the early spring colors have turned to blankets of green over here, when we weeded the raspberries yesterday, our first year’s planting was vibrating with a steady bzzzzz! Many of those early flowers are working there way towards summer fruit, a feast of colors for the plate. And we planted all those annual flowers, a quick fix for more lavish blooms for us and cut flowers for all of you. And even the humble vegetable blooms that proceed the harvest are beautiful in their own right. It may be green right now, but just around the corner will be summer’s color show, one that holds steady and true into winter even though it doesn’t take our breath away quite like the first of spring.