The Season to Sow

It’s time to seed again………….. I hope.

The calendar is telling me so, as is experience and intuition. But this most-recent onset of sleet, rain and chill has me worrying that our first round of seeding in the field might be undone by harsh, grizzled days.

Caitlin seeds beets into soil block mix.

In mid-February, we enjoyed the crystalline moment of sunshine and distinctively warm temperatures that is a common turning point for winters in the Pacific Northwest. Along with the clarity came a moment in the greenhouse seeding Allium (our onions, shallots and leeks) as well as beets that were placed into a homemade soil-block mix designed for easy transplanting once the beet bed dries out for tillage and bed prep.

By early March, several beds on a south-facing slope were dry enough to work. So work them we did. Out came our new tiller, and into the green-chopped beds and freshly tilled cover crop went sweet pea, shelling pea, snap pea, spinach and radish seed.

Then back came the rain — a cold rain this time.  So it goes, as we wait for the end of brief, vermilion dry spells to stick digging forks in the soil to check for moisture levels that are adequate to allow for work, for upturning our delicate humus that compacts and loses body when compressed during too-wet times. Now we wait, hoping that the seeds we sowed are not rotting in their furrows, the victims of cold temperatures and inhibited germination.

Seeding carrots and salad in the greenhouse.

While spring rains plunk tirelessly down on the sheet-metal roof of our house, we recede to our greenhouse. First, some carrots and salad went into the greenhouse floor at Timken Farm. Next, it’s time for Brassica and Solanaceae above the heated warmth of electric coils designed to trick them into sprouting. We’ve planted cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seeds in cells of germination mix. As soon as those are up, we’ll take them off the heat and plant a round of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

There is certain magic contained in the act of sprinkling seeds into nursery trays, knowing the plants will not survive outside quite yet, but trusting the warmer days will come at a time that coincides at least roughly with our projected dates — for leaving these starts for too long in their trays and four-inch pots during a long, wet spring leads to stifling, root-bound conditions that are harder on the plants than getting them out into the field when they just start to fill-out.

Our braising mix is harvested from overwintered greens.

We trust that it is indeed time to seed, and we fill up our greenhouse tables with delicate starts. We dive into our field beds between rainstorms planting early vegetable crops and sowing cover crop where overwintered plants, now harvested, once lived.

In between those pristine moments we continue to work inside, resting moments longer, awaiting the long days ahead and looking forward to sweet days of lingering sunsets and perfectly ripe tomatoes.

The rain might be falling, but so are our seeds. There is trust in this act. Surely the sun must come back soon.

One response

  1. Chandler

    Beautifully written–I miss you guys! But the rain? Not as much…

    March 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

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