Spring is always a challenging time of year here in Indiana. It seems we travel from ice and snow to crazy winds into wonderful, sunny 70 degree days and then back to cold. Really cold. While we can layer and unlayer multiple times a day, it’s not quite that easy for plants. They take their cues from day length, tempature, precitation and a host of other things, some of which are still a mystery to us. So how do farmers decide when to plant? Well, of course, there are cool season crops and more defined warm season crops. Salad mix, radishes, kales, spinach, chard, green onions, mitzuna, salad turnips – all of these plants prefer to grow and mature when the weather is cool. Hot tempatures signal them to finish maturing. Time to send up seed stalks to ensure their survival for the next generation. Cool season plants can tolerate quite a bit of tempature fluctuations. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes, basil, zucchini, cucumbers only grow well when the weather has become settled. Usually these plants can go in the ground in late spring/early summer when the ground is warm and the nights stay far above freezing.
In the spring, I try to be patient and wait for the earth to awake. It truly is a beautiful unfolding process. It begins with those first hints of warmness – the sun teases you and calls for you to come outside. It’s warmth is so welcoming after months of dull, grey skies. Next, and my very favorite spring occurence , is when you can actually smell the earth awakening. It’s such a wonderful fragrance and it’s usually accompanied by the singing of hundreds of tree frogs. You know, those first warm nights – they just smell so good. I, like many other farmers, are anxious to “get in the ground”. I remember when I was a young girl I was warned to take a wide path around the old farmers in the spring. They were testy! When I first got married in 1980, it was a perfect Saturday for planting. There were quite a few farmers there that really wanted to be on a tractor out in their field instead of at a wedding! My dear friend and mentor, Victor, was just as ancy as could be. There were soybeans to be planted. Why couldn’t I have chosen a rainy day to be married?! His brother, David, did decide to stay home and plant. Beautiful fields, perfectly cultivated and filled with beans – until that afternoon when the sky broke open and poured buckets upon buckets of rain, washing out hundreds of dollars worth of seeds and a whole day’s work. And so it goes. Year after year, we always try to find that perfect time to plant – when the sun is warm, the wind is calm, it hasn’t rained too much, but just enough, when it’s not too cold at night……ah, but, for for now, I’m heading out to the greenhouse to stoke the fire. The tempatures will hover around 27 early tomorrow morning. Much too cold for all of those beautiful heirloom tomato and Italian pepper plants. Even the Chard and cabbage don’t like to be quite that chilly! Then I’ll set my alarm for 1am and 5am and off again to keep the babies warm.