It's amazing how quickly spring starts. One week, it's 20 degrees and snow, and the next, green growth is popping up out of the ground. As a homesteader, I try to prepare as much as possible for this sudden burst of energy and life. Often the transition is all too soon, and I am behind in pruning, weeding, planting, etc. before I even get started!
As much work as this time of year is, I relish the chance to be back outdoors working in the soil I love. Here's an update on what's fresh and growing right now:
Spinach, kale, and mache that I planted last fall are all busy reaching a harvestable size in the garden. I've started more cold-weather veggie seeds, including lettuce, claytonia, collards, and peas indoors for a head start on the growing season, and those are ready to be transplanted outside next week. A week or two after that, I'll do another sowing of seeds and include some new things like radishes. This means I'll have three successional plantings to harvest food from before the heat of summer even sets in!
Seedlings get "hardened off," or acclimated to a life outdoors, after being started indoors.
I planted this spinach last fall, and now it is almost ready to harvest!
The livestock is happy to be out! My chickens are thrilled to be out foraging in the yard again. Now that it's warm enough, I'll start breeding my rabbits again. Between poultry, rabbit, and venison, we pull in over two hundred pounds of meat a year. It's a lot of work, but is worth it to me and my husband.
The hens are out! They are so happy after being cooped up all winter. It's very fun to let them out in the mornings and watch them run around like kids at recess. It's still a bit too muddy and cold to get the rabbits out on pasture yet, but soon they'll be enjoying nibbling on fresh greens in a sort of mobile cage or "rabbit tractor" that we have built for them.
Other crops are growing, but not ready to harvest yet. My garlic and strawberries did great over the winter and are now sprouting like crazy. No sign of the first asparagus spears yet, but I have a hunch they'll be popping up and time now. Asparagus is one of my favorite things because it is so ephemeral and precious. Locally, the season for asparagus only lasts during the springtime, and those fat, flavorful spears can make you wonder why you ever wasted your time with those flimsy, wimpy stalks flown in, in December. Look for asparagus at local farmers markets- it really is an amazing treat and worth every penny!
"Strawberries" are so named because of the protective layer of straw used to mulch the plants over the winter. I just uncovered the straw off my plants yesterday, and this is what I found! Every year we use them to jam & jelly, dehydrate, bake into pies, and still we have more fresh than we can eat ourselves!
Garlic popping up is always a fun sign of Spring to me. Hopefully the asparagus will join rank soon.
Inside, more seeds are getting started. Onions, broccoli, and leeks will be ready to transplant out in a couple weeks. I'm planting heat-loving things like peppers and tomatoes now. Cabbages, melons, squash, and cucumbers will have to wait awhile before their time comes. It's all cyclical, and planning my strategy for what I'll grow, and when and where, is one of my most favorite annual projects. My early spring seed-starting set-up
Beets, chard, kales, spinach, peas, onions, leeks, peppers, arugula, and some herbs are what I have started so far
The goal is always maximum yield, but it isn't the only thing that counts. I like to experiment and try new things. Every year, I hone my growing techniques a little more. There are always failures, but I enjoy those too because they teach me. Best of all, the time spent outdoors connects me to the greater world around me. This morning as I took photos, I was able to watch crows building a nest, and was delighted by a singing phoebe in my yard- true signs of spring.
I hope you enjoy the energy and life the season of Spring provides! To learn more about gardening, visit one of our many upcoming programs at Garfield Park Center!