Grower’s Row: Marching In Like A Lion

By Lauren Kaplan

The month may be off to a predictably cold start. But if the proverb proves true, the next four weeks will usher in some lamb-like weather. This means it’s time for us, the farmers, to start shepherding our fledgling crops.

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In the first few weeks of March, we’ll be transitioning our greenhouse space -- which for much of the last few months has served as our winter wash station for high-tunnel greens and storage roots -- back to a nursery. Soon, the tables which now stand empty will be overflowing with trays of seedlings. Sprouts of all kinds -- everything from tomatoes destined for the high tunnels to perennial flowers, herbs, and vegetable starts for our Plant Sale -- will cover every available sunlit surface. They will be demanding water at all hours of the day, as their little cells dry out, as well as the opening and closing of doors to keep them warm (but not-too-hot). Tens of thousands of little lives we’ll have, every one eager to gather sun and spread their roots, to stretch their stems and swell their fruits. It will be chaos: glorious, riotous leafy-green chaos… and a welcome change from the gray quietude of winter.

Leon spreading compost

Leon spreading compost

March is also a time, as the soil softens, to start preparing beds to receive these demanding little charges. The first step with all beds is to cover them in compost: a dark, biologically-active soil-like material rich in organic matter and nutrients. It’s a ton of fun to hop on the compost spreader (picture an oversized Radio Flyer wagon with spinning blades in the back), drive it into the fields, engage the PTO (or power take-off), and smell the earthy black richness as it spews wildly across the fields. We’ll be systematically covering the entire farm in compost over the next few weeks, as well as tilling in our winter cover crops, marking out beds, and generally getting ready to get into the ground.

What March has in store for us is anyone’s guess. Some days are damp and bone-chillingly cold, while others are harbingers of spring, soft with birdsong and warmed by the sun. As unpredictable as these days are, they all have one thing in common: the excitement at the start of yet another growing season -- PFP’s 20th! -- and all of the eager anticipation for the crops that are to come.