Needless to say, its been an usually cold and wet spring here in Nova Scotia. The farmers are not happy, the bees are frustrated and we are burning fire wood very late into the season. I wonder in the back of my mind if there are no longer any ‘normal’ patterns in our weather, likely due in large part to the climate emergency.
Despite this year’s weather trend, late May is the time when a lot needs to happen in the garden and greenhouses. Traditionally, gardeners in the region wait until the long Victoria day weekend to begin their gardens. This is usually after when the last frost has occurred (but that is no longer the case, as is evidenced by last year’s very late freezing night in early June).
In the Transition Garden, we believe in a 9-10 month growing season. We have already gotten started in March with seeding transplant trays in the greenhouse, and in April with seeding directly into the ground in cold frames. There are many cold hardy crops that you can grow early. Many of these I consider to be quick 4-6 week turn-around spring crops, which go in and come out before you plant the summer heat loving crops. These include arugula, radishes, spring turnip (get the 40 day variety), bok choy, cilantro, beet greens, and the cold hardy leaf lettuces (my favorites are the old heirloom varieties black seeded simpson and red oakleaf).
So, by late May, the Transition Garden is already well into harvesting spinach (planted last fall), radishes, arugula, spring chives and lettuce). But we are also actively beginning the planting of other crops for the main summer season.
Last week, we direct-seeded more radish (we like to start a small amount every 2 weeks), dill, parsnip, potatoes and beets (I like the big storage variety Detroit red). We also transplanted cabbage (red and green), broccoli, Brussel sprouts, onions and chard. These are all frost hardy, with the chard being perhaps the more susceptible to cold – so we placed row cover over this bed. Our peas went into the ground about 3 weeks ago.
This coming week, we will continue to seed and transplant – rutabaga, radicchio and other things. We will also continue preparing 2 of our greenhouse beds for summer tomatoes and peppers.
LOCAL FOOD RESILIENCE
We consider the Transition Garden to be a ‘home micro-farm.’ About 2 acres are under production, and the gardens are worked by 3-6 gardeners on a weekly basis. This is a community effort and we all share the harvests. We run this farm differently from a community garden, where each individual gets their own small plot to grow what ever they like. In the Transition Garden, we grow most everything, everyone involved helps with it all, and we all share the harvest. Not only that, but we learn a huge amount from each other.
This community aspect of growing food is key to Transition Garden. I believe it will be key to how we feed ourselves in the future, even only 5-15 years from now. Local community-based food production will re-arise in an essential way once we start to see the increasingly dramatic effects of the climate emergency. These effects will impact the major bread basket regions of the world, and associated supply chain disruptions and food pricing. The most obvious recent example is the unprecedented spring flooding in the mid-western US farm belt, in which thousands of acres were rendered unplantable for this season. The trends in other agricultural areas is also not good, whether it is loss of top soil, ground water depletion (used for irrigation) or other unsustainable pressures.
I will continue to discuss the important of growing your own food in further posts, and we will provide valuable how-to content as the season progresses.
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