Here’s to Sunshine and Longer Days!
Spring arrives in 10 days, but we’re already plenty busy with spring work at the 2nd Street Chicken Ranch. Mild days have allowed us to get out into the flower beds and rake up the fall leaves, giving the daffodils and tulips some breathing room. It’s been a relatively mild winter in north Idaho, and the spring bulbs and bleeding hearts are a good 5 to 6 inches out of the ground. The milder temps have also allowed for some early weeding; it’s great to get a jump on the clover before it has a chance to take over the beds.
Low-Tunnel Raised Beds Help Get a Jump on Spring Planting
The low-tunnel raised beds where once again a great success. Late last summer and throughout the fall, I planted three beds with spinach, kale, cress, arugula and lettuce. We harvested some spinach and lettuce from one bed before it went dormant for winter, and then added a second “blanket” (row cover) about 3 inches above the crops inside the tunnels.
In early February we were seeing signs of growth, and just last week we had our first harvest of arugula — nearly 3 pounds from one cutting! This was the earliest and largest harvest yet from overwintered crops grown in a low tunnel. The baby spinach, kale and cress are also ready to harvest, and once again we’ll be enjoying fresh, home-grown greens.
The lettuce, unfortunately, did not overwinter as well. It grew beautifully, but was bitter tasting. Not so good for us, but it did make for some very happy chickens, who enjoyed the fresh greens (along with a few fat worms left clinging to the lettuce roots). With the lettuce cleared out, I was able to plant several more rows of arugula, spinach and lettuce, which will be harvested before we start planting tomatoes in late May.
Having the low tunnels has truly allowed us to extend our growing season well into the fall and get a good head-start in the spring. It’s sheer joy to be working the ground and sowing seeds outside in early March!
But it’s now time to start sowing seeds inside…this coming week the entire operation moves inside the house, as we get our heirloom tomato plants started. And what an operation it is…mixing soil, filling peat pots, counting out seeds, labeling containers. This year we are starting more than 20 heirloom tomato types, and will be offering our plants for sale again from the Ranch and at the Wednesday Kootenai Co. Farmers’ Market. More on that and seed starting “how-to’s,” next week!
How are your garden plans coming? Let me know in the comments below!