Planting Tomatoes in Sunny March

It’s been an exciting week at Terra Firma, maybe a little more exciting than we would like. With this week’s big storm forecast more than seven days out, we took advantage of the dry weather to plant our first tomatoes. Many years, including last year, we are fighting with wet soil and racing the rain. This time around, not only did the planting go smoothly, we were working in shirtsleeves and sunglasses most of the time.

But rain is not the only concern when planting tomatoes in March. After all, it is still technically winter, and tomatoes cannot survive temperatures below 33 degrees. For that reason, we set out irrigation pipe that can be turned on during the night if it gets too cold — water coming out of the sprinklers is always warmer than the air and keeps the plants from freezing.

We started planting tomatoes on Wednesday of last week and finished on Saturday. Three of those nights our frost alarms woke us up sometime after midnight, sending us racing out in the cold to turn on the pumps and keep the plants from freezing. This was a bizarre contrast to the almost summer-like warmth during the day.

On Monday of this week, we were given the gift of one last warm and sunny day and it seemed a shame to waste it. In the greenhouse, our first summer squash plants were ready to go — two weeks ahead of schedule thanks to the abundant sunshine we’ve been having. We decided to plant them as well. Decisions like these are a crap shoot: the storm now hitting might batter them to pieces, but if it wet weather had kept us from planting them for another two weeks, they would have become rootbound and unplantable anyway.

The field where we were planting the squash is just a stone’s throw from the strawberry patch. The berries have been flowering now for almost two weeks and those flowers will turn into green and then finally red berries over the next several weeks — depending on the weather. Driving past the field, I caught a flash of color in the corner of my eye. I was sure it was a hallucination, but I got out to check the field anyway. I was astonished to find a single ripe red berry hanging on a plant. It was the only one I could find, but it still counts as the first time we have ever had a ripe strawberry in March. You won’t be seeing berries in your boxes next week or the week after, but they are coming soon.

Thanks,

Pablito

In Your Boxes

The exciting news continues, as we are pleased to present you with…(drumroll please) the first Yolo County Asparagus of 2012!

All the warm weather we’ve been having for the last month has heated up the soil and woke the roots up from their winter slumber several weeks early.

Asparagus is one of the few items in our boxes that comes entirely from another farm. After several attempts at growing our own asparagus, we finally determined that our location in Winters is simply not a good spot for everyone’s favorite spear vegetable.

Luckily for us — and you — our friends and neighbors Jim and Deborah Durst in nearby Esparto don’t seem to have this problem. For about ten years, they have successfully been growing organic asparagus and providing us with all that we need.

Asparagus will be a regular feature of your spring CSA boxes for most of the next ten weeks or so. Having said that, the big winter storm forecast for this week may shut harvest down for a few days, which would mean no ‘gras in next week’s boxes. Asparagus is essentially impossible to harvest in heavy rain and mud. Keep your fingers crossed for warm and dry weather next Monday.

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