It’s the middle of September but it feels like springtime all over again. The days have been warm, the nights have been cold, the grow room is full of plants and once again, lamentably, we have a lot of work to do. Thankfully, fall planting should be our last big push of the year, then we can rest. I’m looking forward to the rest. But before we get there, we still have to put in a few thousand transplants, plant the alliums, direct seed carrots and mache, build some hoops, frame out the ends of our tall hoops, get everything protected against the winter cold and prep our dormant beds for next year. It’ll be a lot of work but it’ll be over soon enough. One last big push.
Some of the planting, like garlic and onions, is pre-work for next spring. But most is for a winter harvest. People don’t realize how possible it is, even in fridgid Colorado, to grow fresh, local produce all year around. It dosen’t even require an energy-hog, heated greenhouse. The secret is to select naturaly cold hardy varieties and then to protect them from the elements using a no-input, barrier system. For instance, this year we will grow bunch onion, parsley, kale, spinach, arrugala, carrot, radish, pac choi and tatsoi. All these plants do great in the cold and provided with minimal protection like low hoops paired with row cover (I’ll detail this soon), can easily surrive a Colorado winter.
This year we considered going big and growing for some local winter farmers’ markets, but it wasn’t going to work out. Farms have a rhythm; plant, harvest, clean-up, plant, harvest, clean-up, on and on. Things happen sequentially. This year our rhythm is all wrong for a heavy winter crop. We’d have to pull still productive plants whose harvest we need now to supply our market booth. I’m not ready to trade next weeks product for market opportunities in December. So the fall planting is primarily for us. We’re growing to feed our families. If we have anything left over maybe we’ll go to a market or two, but that’s not a priority. Instead, our priority is to learn from this year, tweak our timing, work on the rhythm and get ready to go all out for next winter. After all, if we’re ever going to have a sustainable local food system, we’re going to have to master winter growing.