Spring and summer already on my mind

  • Rosaly Bass recommends trying new plants each year to replenish the soil and expand your own horizons. Courtesy

For the Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 15, 2018 5:35PM

We are just coming off a period of record low temperatures and howling winds. And it seems like winter has just begun. However, I’m excited. Seed catalogues are coming in, and we are gearing up for the next season.

This week, I met with my farm partner, Matt Gifford, and our farm manager, Linda Estabrook, to discuss field rotations of our crops and other strategies for next season.

Because Rosaly’s Garden is certified organic, we are required to have a three-year rotation of our crops. It is a good farming practice, and it makes sense for backyard gardeners as well. You won’t deplete your soil of critical nutrients. With crop rotation, you are also less likely to get disease in your plants, and your overwintering garden pests have to hunt for the crops they love if you move the location of those crops

Just like home gardeners, we pore over our seed catalogues noting our long-time favorites and looking for new varieties to try out. We always choose crops that do well in our area and ones that are popular. We discard the ones we tried and didn’t like. We buy hundreds of pounds of seeds, enough to plant our 25 acres of vegetables, flowers, and herbs, as well as enough seeds to grow the thousands of bedding plants that our customers order for their own gardens.

In February, you can go to our website, rosalysgarden.com, look for the order form and order your plants. Our order form includes the most popular vegetables, flowers and herbs that we sell. We sell a much bigger variety at the farmstand. The advantage of ordering from our order form is that we grow these plants just for you so you can be assured that you will get the plant you want. You can also shop from the farmstand to get any other plants you like

I always advise gardeners to buy locally from organic growers. Organic bedding plants are simply healthier and have been cared for such that when you take them home and put them in the ground, they are ready to take off. Plants sold in big box stores are often treated with growth inhibitors or regulators to keep them nice looking in the containers for a fairly long time. When you plant them in your garden, they frequently take a long time to start growing because the growth inhibitor or regulator has to wear off.

During our planning meeting, we decided what to plant in our hoop houses so that we could get early, mid-season and late crops. Hoop houses are green houses, made with metal hoops, and then covered with plastic. Hoop houses are fairly simple to make. You probably would want to order the hoops from a greenhouse supply store. Hoops can be high and fairly wide so you can walk into your house or fairly short and small so you can just cover chosen plants.

We have six 100-foot hoop houses. They all have roll up sides so we can control the temperature. One of these hoop houses is dedicated entirely to bedding plants, the ones we plant for our customers’ gardens as well as the thousands that our field hands will plant as soon as the ground is ready.

Our hoop houses make it possible for us to have salad mix and spinach in early spring, and tomatoes from early July through late October, and this year our biggest hoop house will be for wall-to-wall early spinach, after which heirloom tomatoes will grow.

I started the farm in 1973 and am still learning. Matt has been working at the farm since he was 17 and he’s still learning. Gardening is never the same from one year to the next which is why planning is so critical. With so many things beyond our control, it’s important to make the best possible plan.

So start planning your garden. Be strategic, be creative. We’ve all jumped the gun and planted too early only to have our seeds washed away by relentless spring rains or ruined by sustained cold. Buy plants that are hardy and plant them where and when they have the best chance of thriving.

One of our biggest additions on the farm is the expansion of our blueberries. We had 200 bushes, and this past fall we planted another 300 mature bushes. Some of them match varieties we already have but more than half of the new bushes are later varieties. This will extend our blueberry season for another month.

Check your seed catalogues and order forms from local growers and think about planting different varieties of whatever it is you like most. Tomatoes? Try five or six different types. Same for lettuce or kale, basil, or your flowers. Adding new crops each year is one of the ways that keeps this work so fun and fresh.

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>BodyTaglineRagged<Rosaly Bass is the founder and co-owner of Rosaly’s Garden in Peterborough and author of “Organic! A Gardener’s Handbook.”