THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Pea Shoots
• Stir-Fry Greens
• Claytonia, aka Miners’ Lettuce (for salad)
• Green Onions
• Green Garlic
• Fresh Mint
Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.
Maybe it was the full moon this week, or maybe summer is really going to stay. This was a week of births. Wednesday the geese hatched five goslings. This was their second attempt, the first only gave them one baby and it didn’t last long. Friday a rogue hen hatched out a clutch of 13 baby chicks—the first of the season. And Saturday Bess finally had her litter of 7 big babies. They were so big that they needed assistance coming into the world, but they are very robust and healthy.
If all it takes is one warm day to make the plants grow a noticeable amount, imagine what can happen in a string of several sunny days. The plants grow by leaps and bounds. We planted cabbage starts about the same time that Carpinito brothers planted cabbages next door. This was about 6 weeks ago, and it has been cold. This was a perfect example of the difference between growing organically and conventionally.
Let me explain: The day before we planted, Mike worked some organic fertilizer into the soil. This is a good brand of chicken manure and minerals that works well for us in growing green things. We planted and waited, it rained. Nothing much happened, except that the plants started turning purple. This is a sign of nitrogen or phosphorus deficiency. Why would they be deficient if we had put plenty of fertilizer in the soil? Because organic fertizers don’t work like miracle gro. They are raw nutrients that need to be digested by soil organisms, which then free-up the nutrients in a form that the plants can use. This makes for a healthy, vibrant soil that can support vibrant life.
The day after Carpinito brothers planted their cabbage, they sprayed something, then two days later they sprayed something else. They spray insecticide for flea beetles and for cabbageworms. They might have used a chemical foliar fertilizer as well, in addition to the fertilizer used in the soil. Non-organic fertilizers are chemically active, and available to the plants immediately. In fact, they act so quickly that they burn up the organisms in the soil. In a short time, this results in broken-down soil devoid of life. When you add that to the fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides used in conventional farms, it is a wonder there is any life left in the soil at all. It becomes merely a substrate, it is no longer soil.
We do spray special fertilizers on the leaves of the plants, when a quick reaction is needed. Mostly we use a type of fish emulsion, with some kelp added for trace minerals. This is our only recourse when the air and soil temperatures are too cold to support soil fertilizer uptake. So finally, after three foliar feeds, the soil is warming up to the point that those organisms can take over feeding the cabbages. And our soil is healthy and full of life.
The peas are flowering, which means pods in about two weeks. The lettuces are growing, which means we’ll have real salads in another week, and the spinach and beets are growing quickly now too. The sweet onions are swelling up nicely into beautiful, juicy bulbs. By July, we won’t have to scavenge around the farm for produce any more—we’ll have no shortage of variety and tastiness.