I am sharing more about the process of growing food—through this blog and also by inviting people to work in the garden with me, mornings and evenings (except Wednesdays and Sundays.) I want people to understand more about the process.
I garden with the stars—I get better crops with no chemical inputs. Because of the dramatic changes in the weather, I am working harder and using all the intelligence and sensitivity that I have developed as a gardener and farmer. Even with my best efforts, I may not have a crop to sell—because of some freak storm or some animal damage.
Let me tell you about planting broccoli last week. According to my planting calendar, Wednesday morning was a good time to plant broccoli. We have about five hundred small broccoli plants in plastic trays ready for transplanting. They must be planted in cool weather to produce a crop: broccoli do not like heat.
When seedlings are first planted, they are like babies: they need extra attention. Their roots are not yet connected to the soil, and they can draw in only limited nourishment. Ideally, a gardener transplants seedlings in the evening, in cloudy, cool weather, just before a rain. Heat, wind and sun kill baby plants easily—they wither.
Wednesday morning: the weatherman predicted high temperatures in the 90’s with strong west winds. Hot. Sunny. Windy. Each of those factors can kill a seedling. We had all three. The sudden heat and wind felt ferocious, brutal—for the plants and the gardeners! We had to make a judgment: would we plant? But if we did not plant broccoli on Wednesday, when would we have our next chance?
We planted with care. We watered the seedlings with water warmed by the sun; we planted the broccoli quickly and deeply, then watered again. We put clay flower pots in the rows to create height, covered the pots and broccoli with lightweight fabric I use to protect the plants from sun and wind, and anchored the fabric with clods of dirt so that it would not blow away. The pots kept the plants from baking.
Then we blessed our work and the plants. That evening, we watered the plants again. Five days later, I pulled the fabric off; the plants had taken. The process had taken twice, even three times as long as it would in a year with “normal weather.” On Sunday, we put a rabbit fence around the plot—so we would not lose the seedlings to hungry rabbits one night. Now I am watching for the first sign of insects…
Next time you eat a broccoli, think of a farmer—and if you want to learn more about this process, come help on the farm!