Happy Garlic Ready for the Snow

Friday, March 26, 2010

Accelerating Toward a Bottleneck

The hours of daylight following the vernal equinox and the budding and blooming seem to increase with the workload on the farm and garden. This is not a coincidence. It is as if a door is opening during the next couple of months through which much of the planting of 2010’s growing season must pass. This door will close, and with it the opportunities for getting many of our favorite summer veggies (corn, melons, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) in the ground will also pass.

During spring, I often find myself oscillating between exuberant, joyful anticipation and unavoidable anxiety about how to make all the pieces of this year’s puzzle come together, as we accelerate towards the bottleneck. A rough estimate suggests that I have about 13,000 square bed feet (this number excludes paths) of vegetable ground to prepare, amend, plant, irrigate, weed, etc. This does not take in to account the tasks of starting seedlings in our greenhouse, potting them up, and hardening them off before transplanting them into prepared soil; almost all of this work will be happening in the next couple months, and the orchard, berries, vines, and other perennials too will demand some attention. Sometimes I wonder and worry a little – how will it all get done? But then I remember the answer – one piece at a time.

The puzzle is really starting to come together now that the soil at the farm is starting to dry out. I've been waiting not so patiently for the opportunity to get in there and start preparing the first of the beds for potatoes, onions, early season tomatoes and the first succession crops. This was a great week for it and I spent most of my days at the farm incorporating the winter cover crop, preparing beds, and planting our first carrots and beets.

The saying, "april is the cruelest month" only really makes sense to farmers and gardeners, everything is beautiful and you want nothing more than to sit in the sun and enjoy it, unfortunately it is also one of the busiest months and if you hope to enjoy a great summer garden you'd best put in your time. Furthermore it is already getting late in the season, most of my broccoli and cabbage are already in the ground, potatoes and onions will be in by mid april, early tomato starts are about 6 inches tall, peppers are germinating in the greenhouse, and we should harvest our first lettuce and spinach in about a month (not counting overwintered crops). So get out there, a little planning and a little bit of early season work will make the busy months of April and May that much easier and/or allow that much more to get done!

Ryan Wanamaker

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Drunken Plum Blossoms

Southern Californians have to be careful when we hear old gardening sayings; they usually originate in the Eastern United States, and their relevance to our distinct climate can be marginal. That said, March came in like a lion and appears to be going out like a lamb. Early in the month we were hammered by cold wind, snow, sleet, and rain. Now, on the eve of the vernal equinox, with the days lengthening and temperatures gradually warming, it is official: spring is in full effect! Here in the mountains and in our orchard it is magical... the honey scent of native manzanita blossoms mix with those of our plums, crocus appear like the spring elves that they are, and daffodils dominate the forest and orchard stage alike.

Yesterday as I balanced on a beautiful wooden orchard ladder finishing up my stone fruit pruning in the late light of a real spring day, I felt drunk on the smell and feel of it all. Standing in a sea of small, delicate plum blossoms with the courtings of all woodland wildlife drifting on a desert breeze I felt that Julian in Springtime is heaven. I felt lucky, and grateful.

Good gardening is about gratitude and humility above all. Most of what we need is already here: sun, soil, water, air, diversity, and all the associated processes of growth and decay. It is too easy to become confused by the complexity of it all and by the feelings that we are, or need to be, in control. In this confusion, we forget that nature provides for not just the woodland wildlife, but for all creatures, including gardeners. It is in forgetting gratitude and humility, and interfering with healthy, natural systems that we encounter most problems.

Thanks for reading,
Ryan Wanamaker

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Camp Stevens Farm and Garden Blog!

Thanks for checking out this first post for our brand new Camp Stevens Farm and Garden Blog!
I hope this will be a good venue for letting you all know what is going on in our fields, orchard, and gardens, and how you can get involved.

Around the gardens here, winter is always a time when there is no shortage of ambition. Seed catalogs clutter the tables and visions of colorful carpets of spring greens, frilly carrot tops and warm, loose soils fill my mind. Coming into the new year, we have completed many seed orders, comprised of over 100 different varieties of peppers, lettuce, beets, onions, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, and more and more vegetables. We are just beginning the real work of starting seeds in our greenhouse, preparing soil, and planting... the 2010 growing season is off and running!

It is shaping up to be an exciting year. Camp Stevens will be continuing its relationship with Volcan View Farm, just down the road from us. We will take on the management of their two main fields for the production of row-crop vegetables, to supply our kitchen with bushels of locally grown, fresh, organic produce. As we wait for the soils at the farm to dry out, we have been filling up the better-drained soils in the camp gardens with lettuce, peas, broccoli, fennel, chard, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, cabbage, and spinach; we are looking forward to an awesome spring harvest. If you get a chance to visit us soon, you will be treated to the spectacular and ephemeral display of our orchard in bloom.

Besides bringing exciting plans, 2010 is turning into one of the wettest years Julian has seen in a long time. There are few things more satisfying for a gardener than when he gets some seed in right before a nice long gentle rain, and 2010 has offered ample opportunity for this! The moisture has delayed some of our plans, for we must wait for soils to dry out before working them, but in southern california we are never allowed to complain about rain (unless, that is, it washes our houses away).

And for all of you, it is not too late to plant bare-root fruit trees, if you can find any available. Also, southern californians can still squeeze in some great cool-season vegetables, like greens and roots, while we start gearing up for those sexy summer crops. So get out there while the soils are moist and the climate is mild -- it is Spring in southern california! This is the time of year when things naturally want to germinate and grow. The plants we put in the ground during this time of year invariably succeed with much less coddling and work than those planted later in the year. This is due to the elegant principle -- one which should be a guiding principle for all human endeavor -- that whenever we hitch our wagon onto nature's train (in this case, the train of gently warming weather, increasing daylight, and the amazing presence of moisture), she will pull for us.

If we all do our part, our world can be a garden,