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Picture Perfect Incomplete

May 12, 2021

Holy moly, there’s a lot going on. So much to do, so much to tell...

So far so good, as far as spring transplants go. I never take this for granted, having suffered a painful share of springtime losses over the years. Our takeaway from these losses is that it’s always better to transplant fashionably late, and that row cover is our best friend. From late-April to late-May, our young plants are mostly hidden under billowing sheets of row cover. It isn’t conducive to farm photography, but it’s worth the ugly duckling wait. Just today Peter and I pulled the cover off the kale, chard, and collards, and we marveled at the difference between the 99% of plants that flourished under cover and the unfortunate 1% that missed the cut and were set back by frost, geese, leaf miner. All hail row cover!

If you’re looking for a picture-perfect field in May, the strawberry field is where it’s at. This year they’re on a field with a pretty steep slope, and I’ve said a few not-so-nice things about this field in the past. No matter how much compost we apply in the spring, it always looks like a rocky beach by October. But strawberries may be the lid for this field’s pot. Their roots go 6-12” deep, so they can mine for nutrients and minerals even when much of the topsoil has been washed away…which isn’t to say we’ve given up on topsoil. We mulch the strawberry pathways with woodchips to suppress weeds, facilitate customer picking, and to mitigate erosion. Not only do the chips absorb the impact of a hard downpour, they break down into a rich organic matter over time. For all these reasons and more, the strawberry field is looking pretty sweet.

A big congratulations to the winners of the 2nd annual Tin House poster contest—Lucia Sabbagh in the adult category and Maya Coopersmith in the children’s. The theme of this year’s contest was alliums. Participants were tasked with creating a color image of that included nutritional info, cooking tips, and interesting allium facts. This year we had six contestants—three times as many as in 2020—and we thank Marcelo Mazeiro and Emily, Natalie, and Lucy Cain for also participating. Artwork will be on display in the Tin House all season, and we hope to have three times more in 2022!

Cover crop update: the winter rye and hairy vetch seeded last fall is fast-approaching maturity. It’s flowering, almost shoulder height, and in another 2-3 weeks, we’ll mow it down. If you want to know why this is so exciting, join us this weekend at our annual farm tour (5/15 & 5/16, 10am), and/or on October 13, when we host a cover crop field day with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk and Nassau Counties and NOFA-NY.

Here’s something that surprised me…the popularity of a recent Instagram post about Dan’s beer grain exploits. First, a little context. For the past several years, Dan has been collecting spent beer grains from Lithology Brewing Co. in Farmingdale to feed to Judy’s chickens. This byproduct is a great source of protein and minerals for the chickens, and of carbon and nitrogen for the soil. That is, it’s a very valuable, free resource, if you can make use of it.

Salvage guy that he is, Dan has worshipped at the beer grain altar for years. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to sweep dried grains from the bed of the truck, or was told I couldn’t use the truck because it was needed for a beer run. More than once, I’ve wanted to shove Dan’s beer grains you-know-where. But Dan has this uncanny knack for being a trendsetter, despite being a relative Luddite. So it wasn’t totally surprising that a run-of-the-mill Instagram post about his beer grain routine was so hugely popular. Oftentimes I hate it when Dan’s right, but this time I’m content to share in his glory.

We’ve been selling plants since early April, but tomatoes are finally in. They are the stars of the show, to be sure, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to loving a juicy beeksteak as much as anyone. But I also feel a concerned farmer’s need to counter early spring tomato-mania, when big box stores entice shoppers with fruiting plants in April, with no concern for outside soil temps. So to all the folks chomping at the bit to get their tomatoes in—those who think their gardens aren’t “complete” without them—I’d simply say that there is no such thing as a complete garden. Plants come, plants go, but a garden is never over, tomatoes or no tomatoes. Thank goodness for that.

Finally, our official grand opening is this weekend. Steve, Peter, and I are sizing up which crops will be ready by Saturday (more than you think), Dan will be doing his oyster-beer-egg thing, the tables will be loaded with plants, and we’ll have a field tour with tractor and equipment demos at 10am. It’ll be a good time all around, and we hope you join us!

Farm Tour & Plant Sale

Saturday May 15, 9am-3pm (tour at 10am)

Sunday May 16, 9am-3pm (tour at 10am)

Restoration Farm

140 Bethpage Sweet Hollow Road

Old Bethpage, NY 11804

Thanks for reading, and see you at the farm.



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