We had our first work weekend of the year, spending a beautiful Saturday processing lots of compost and raking leaves away from all the bulbs coming up. Spring is really coming!
Sunday morning started out with some heavy rain, so once that let up a little, our pruners got to work on our fruit trees. Last year was the first time we pruned them in both the spring and fall. Pruning in really important for encouraging the trees to produce fruit. We definitely saw a difference last year, so after a full pruning cycle, this year may be even better.
We also collected soil samples for testing and started planting! The past few years we have been planting our peas pretty late and not seeing very significant yields as a result. Peas can actually be planted a month before the average last frost, so we went for it, turning in some of the remaining snow in the bed. Judging from internet advice, the warmer, sunnier conditions this week should help the seeds get a jump start, even though there was still snow on the ground. We’re planning to plant additional rows every two weeks until summer.
And remember farmers: yellow strings on plants or beds means don’t pull it!
As we start planning for this year’s plantings, we’re taking a look back at how last year went. We weigh all our crops when we harvest, and this is how they all tallied up:
Cucumbers are always our heaviest crop, by far! We grew a greater diversity of crops last year compared to the year before, so in comparison we saw smaller yields in part because of planting less (tomatoes, in particular). But we saw increased yields in arugula, sweet peppers, and eggplant.
Prospect Farm members met for the annual planning meeting this weekend to kick off the 2019 growing season. We talked about making some changes to our composting system, triumphs and disappointments from last year, and picked the dates for our first work days. Weather willing, we’ll have a spring clean-up weekend March 9th and 10th!
If you are interested in being a part of Prospect Farm, right now is an excellent time to get involved and join a committee or two. The planting committee will be meeting soon to determine our spring schedule, we have our first event slotted for the end of April, and we have infrastructure projects afoot. Come to one of our work days or email email@example.com for more info.
Got Seeds? Potential abounds as we approach spring. Come meet other gardeners and trade remains of your favorite packs, seeds you decided not to plant or seeds you have saved. Please label your seeds with variety and year. Learn about planting and growing seeds. Free seed catalogs. Art packs for sale from Hudson Valley Seed Company. Saved seeds from the OSH garden to clean and take home. Free seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. Bring seedy snacks to share! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to add something to this event.
The farm has been pretty quiet since we trench-composted and leafed up most of our beds for winter. But spring is creeping onto the horizon! GreenThumb just announced their annual conference, which kicks off the season in NYC. All our members who have attended have gotten so much out of this day of workshops — this year’s topics include: food systems education, kids’ activities, vegetable growing techniques, and community garden design for the present and future.
Sat, March 30, 2019 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM EDT
CUNY GRADUATE CENTER, 365 5TH AVENUE
After weeks of muggy weather, fall dropped just in time for our Open House. We had a small but enthusiastic group of visitors helping us find the bugs in the compost and the snails pretty much everywhere. We also harvested the last of our tomatoes (many still green), plus more okra, peppers, and green beans, and picked a lot of wild asters. We’ve been slowly planting some fall crops, including brassicas and root veggies. We may try some winter planting experiments this year as well.
Cooler temperatures are definitely settling in with the arrival of fall. While our tomatoes are pretty much done, we’re starting to harvest squashes — both the butternuts we planted and the delicata that volunteered along the fence line. We have one more watermelon on the vine, plus peppers and eggplants still ripening. We’re trying to pull up all the morning glory we find along the fence, since it’s such a prolific seeder and takes over, binding the plants we want along the way. But it’s hard when it looks so pretty.
As we harvest and pull up spent crops, we’re starting to plant for cooler temps — arugula and spinach sowed by seed and brassicas started by seed for later transplanting. Coming next will be some cover crops and perhaps some winter planting experiments.
Jo and Keight attended a Greenthumb event on seed keeping and storytelling, led by Owen Taylor of Truelove Seeds and hosted by East New York Farms. Growing plants for the purpose of saving seeds is a bit different from growing plants for harvest, mainly in that it takes longer, as you want to leave the plants growing until the seeds are as developed as possible, usually far beyond the point you’d want to harvest the plant for eating.
We walked around the farm looking at different plants and their seeds, including the popular callaloo variety of amaranth and motherwort, learning how to tell when seeds are ready to be collected. One method Owen mentioned from experience on his farm is watching when the goldfinches begin snacking on a particular crop.
Afterwards Owen walked us through different seed saving techniques depending on the type of plant. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and other plants where the seeds have to be separated from the fruit itself benefit from soaking in water for several days until they begin to ferment.
Peppers are pretty easy to deseed and don’t require fermentation, and the beet seeds we worked with weren’t too difficult to strip off the dried stems by hand. But getting seeds from dried flowers can be more difficult, as with the motherwort and tobacco Owen brought, which required several stages of work to separate the seeds from the chaff. Starting by threshing the whole plant in a bucket with a stick through a few passes through different sifters (sadly missed getting photos of these steps while we were seed saving ourselves!). In the end, he used a vacuum powered separator which uses suction to separate that lighter chaff from the seeds.
In addition, the workshop touched on the deeper stories that seeds bring with them. Truelove Seeds offers rare and culturally important seed varieties, and Owen spoke to the journeys seeds have taken around the world over just the few hundred years, becoming an important part of one culture and then evolving into other cultures. Growing plants for the purpose of seed keeping ensures the health of those plants and decreases our reliance on large seed and seedling producers.
It also inspired us to be less anxious about our plants that go to seed before we harvest them — especially as we rarely harvest all of something before the point it’s less tasty for eating! It’s as an opportunity to save those plants for future sowing and have a hand in keeping those varieties alive in the grander sense.