For those of us up here in New England, March usually means one thing - the big melt. This is the month when snow typically starts to turn into something more like pea soup, and that typically means everything’s hovering above freezing during the day, and below freezing at night. This year has been a bit warmer, however, and for Eliot and Clara Coleman, as well as the entire team at Four Season Farm, this means spring prep is going smooth as the days start to get longer.
According to Clara, the warmer days have meant a slightly easier changeover for spring, since most of what the Four Season team is working with is now a little bit dryer and winding down the winter harvest. We spoke with Clara about how Four Seasons is getting set up for the change of seasons in their Rimol greenhouses, and what they’re looking forward to in the weeks and months to come.
Finishing Off The Last Of Winter’s Harvest…
A major part of planning an effective four-season farming schedule is scheduling your winter harvest out long enough to last through till spring, as well as having a robust store of roots and long-term crops stored in a cool dark place to bolster sales during the colder months. At Four Season Farm, Clara, Eliot, and the team do just that - and it pays off when there’s still plenty to sell at the local farmer’s market even in the middle of February.
Back when winter was first starting to really bare its teeth, we looked at how Clara and the Four Season team got ready for the cold months by planting hardy crops like carrot, kale, and spinach that can take the cold, and harvesting selectively so that each plant could re-grow for a later harvest or storing away in the root cellar for the months ahead.
Now, they’re just about reaching the end of that winter schedule. The winter kale and spinach seeded back in September is on its last round of harvesting and is being completely cut down during this final harvest. The carrots, too, which have been stored in the cellar for a few months, are starting to reach the end of the stockpile. Luckily, the team at Four Seasons is ready for the changeover, and they’ve got plenty in the works to take the place of these soon-to-be finished winter crops.
...And Getting Started On What’s Next For Spring
With warm weather and longer days ahead, it’s finally time to start getting crops ready for their time in the ground. Clara and the team at Four Season Farm started these seedlings back in mid to late January, including everything from leafy greens like swiss chard, kale, and lettuce to more substantial veggies like scallions and broccoli.
These seedlings (after sprouting in the warmer, more protected part of Four Season’s Plant House) are the transferred to the slightly colder, less well-insulated main section of the greenhouse for hardening off, where the plants are more exposed to become better accustomed to strong sunlight, cool nights and less-frequent watering. This helps improve their success rate once they’re in the movable Rimol greenhouse and helps facilitate smoother transplanting both now and a few weeks from now, around early April.
A big part of the success of this four season system relies on careful planning, but that’s not to say there isn’t still the occasional brush with the unexpected. For Four Season Farm, it was a visit from some unwanted guests - voles.
Shortly after getting carrots seeded in the ground under the protection of the greenhouse a few weeks ago, a family of voles decided to slip in during the night and made a mess of the newly seeded beds with their tunneling. The Four Season team was able to clear out the voles fairly quickly, but the full extent of the damage won’t really be known until the carrots start to germinate - about 2 weeks to a month away. For now, the team will just wait and hope, but these issues are all part of handling a four season growing operation.
Planning For The Warm Months Ahead
With temperatures climbing and sunlight lasting just a little bit longer each day, the march toward spring is undoubtedly on the way. For the crew at Four Season Farm, this means it won’t be too long until they’re fully in the swing of transplanting.
The seedlings that are sprouting and hardening off now will soon be put in the ground - first under the protection of a poly-wrapped greenhouse, and later with some full sun to encourage hearty growth through the warm months. According to Clara, the next big items to get their day in the sun will be artichokes (to harvest in July), tomatoes (to transplant around mid-April for an early June harvest), and cucumbers (in the ground in in the greenhouse in about three weeks, and expecting three successions over the season).
The road to a successful spring season is still a few weeks of hard labor away, but the team at Four Season is experienced and ready to take the transition in stride. By setting a reliable plan and sticking to it, Clara, Eliot, and the Four Season crew can welcome the warm weather without having to scramble to get everything in the ground at once, and the ability to get seeds and early crops started under the protection of a greenhouse gives Four Seasons a huge benefit, as well as a leg-up on the growing season.
If you’re looking to get started on your four-season farming operation this year, or if you’re looking to extend the spring growing season you’re already used to, Rimol Greenhouse Systems can help make sure you’ve got the right equipment and right skills to get the job done. Get in touch and let us help you get your four-season grow in the ground and off to a great start.