Signs of Late-Winter


Plastic has its share of haters these days. From metal straws to wooden toothbrushes, consumers everywhere are eager to reduce their reliance on plastic. Though Dan and I don’t think of ourselves as haters, it is a fact that we only offer recycled boxes at the farm stand, we eschew plastic mulch in the fields, and we use potting mix bags as garbage liners at home. Isn’t it ironic, then, that come late-winter we are intensely focused on covering the fields with 22,000 square feet of plastic. Ironic or not, we are the proud owners of an extensive supply of plastic tarps, all serving multiple functions. First off, tarps warm the soil, which is pretty critical in the spring. Second, they trap moisture as well as heat, which encourages weed seeds to germinate. Without light, these baby weeds die, thereby providing growers with beds that are relatively weed-free. Finally, and most importantly for us, tarps aid the breakdown of cover crop and plant residue on the soil surface. This, in turn, reduces how much a grower must till the soil in preparation for planting. Insofar as tillage degrades soil structure by literally oxidizing it, tarps play an important role in soil preservation. Plus, there is the added benefit of not running the tractor as frequently. In terms of carbon footprint, swapping diesel fuel for petroleum-based plastic may be an even trade, but when you consider that our tarps should last anywhere from 5-20 years, it’s possible that tarps also contribute to an net carbon reduction.

Another late-winter task is preparing to fire up our two Amityville greenhouses. From early-March to early-September, the greenhouses function as the plant nurseries that they are, but for the remaining months of the year, they suck in anything and everything you can

imagine. Firewood, bikes, power tools, salvaged furniture, beach toys, sports equipment—