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Still Holding On

35° 33° 26° 36° 38° 39° 40° 48° 40° 37° 44° 46° 38° 35°……

These have been the overnight lows—not what you'd expect mid-April, that's for sure. The weather is challenging us on many levels, a main one being greenhouse management. One of our two Amityville greenhouses is still being heated full-time, and I regularly go out in the middle of the night to check the heater, which occasionally goes out. The other greenhouse we leave unheated and so that plants can harden off before moving to the farm, but when the overnight low nears 32°, the heat goes back on. Normally, the plants would then wait a day or two in the farm greenhouse before moving to the fields, but this year we’re delaying transplanting as long as possible. Most spring plants can withstand a light frost, but they won’t thrive in consistently cold soil, which is what we've got right now. When we can’t hold off any longer, we cover the transplants with row cover. We use row cover primarily for pest control, but this spring it’s doing triple duty by providing added warmth and protection from torrential downpours. Row cover, I’m sorry I ever said anything bad about you. Things are not desperate yet—the plants stuck in the greenhouses still seem fairly content in their flats—but when you’re checking the weather ten times a day, you know you’re having a tough go of it.

Dan walks away from newly-planted blackberries.

One bright spot in an otherwise dreary month is progress on the berry front. For years, I’ve discussed transitioning the berries to higher ground. Their current, low-lying Pond Field was selected for its proximity to the Tin House (less walking for CSA members), but over the years we’ve encountered the limits of poor drainage. We always got a crop, but I also felt it could be better. So, last fall, we began the big move. We broke ground in Chapel Field for new blueberries, and we’ll spend a full year amending the soil to make sure the pH is exactly where it needs to be. Blueberries require great patience. It’ll be at least four years before we see a crop, so we’ll maintain the current bushes while we wait for the new ones to produce. Meanwhile, new raspberries are arriving next week, and they’ll be relatively quick—only 1-2 years before a crop. The strawberries will also move into Chapel Field, and they’ll be ready next year. Only the blackberries, which are vigorous enough, will remain in Pond Field. Heck, we even added a row! Glenn had plants to donate, and since Dan and I were going stir-crazy from the greenhouse holding pattern, we figured planting blackberries was better than planting nothing.

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