14 May Row covers- a love hate relationship.
What would spring be without talking about reemay– the giant white fabric row covers that blanket our crops. This multipurpose tool, that we farmers love and hate in equal parts, doubles as both a bug deterrent and a frost barrier to our early spring crops. It keeps the first plantings of cucumbers and green beans warm, protects our strawberry flowers from frost damage, maintains enough soil moisture over the mutiple weeks that is takes tiny carrot seeds to germinate, and prevents the minuscule flea beetles from turning the leaves of our radishes and bok choy into swiss cheese.
We woke up this Monday after Mother’s Day to a crunchy silver coating covering the grass and fields. This was the latest we’ve seen frost here at the farm in the past eight years. We knew it was coming, so we delayed planting our field tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Why not use the row cover? Why the love hate relationship? One word: shoveling. And more shoveling. On our blustery hill top it is a struggle to keep those long twisty aerodynamic sheets anchored down. It requires lots and lots and lots of shoveling- a scoop of dirt on the edges every 5 feet or so, or heavy sand bags to weigh down the edges. With acres of 200 foot beds covered with remay, well, that’s a lot of shoveling, especially for our softened winter bodies that haven’t quite strengthened to the arduous work of spring. After a few weeks of planting and covering and shoveling, if we didn’t have them already, we’ve gained some ripped biceps, and a new appreciation for the diversity of tasks that make up being a farmer.
With the start of the farmers markets, and the first on-farm CSA pick-up beginning May 28th, we begin to make the switch from intensive planting to juggling both planting and harvesting. All the while we still need to find the time for tasks like thinning turnips, weeding carrots, hilling potatoes, trellising peas, mowing grass, fixing tractors, building and repairing greenhouses, and seeding every week so we can keep a steady supply of produce, and jobs, going all season long.
Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.