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State of the Farm 2023: May Planting

I don’t normally put up much on the farm this time of year but I’m fairly excited this year.

We’ve had an extraordinarily warm April followed by a fairly warm May. Normally, we wait for full planting until Memorial Day—the time when we can be assured of no late frost. But this year we’re taking a chance on the weather.

First, let’s talk about the orchard.

None of the stone fruits managed to create blossoms. Between the drought last year and the mild winter punctuated by below zero cold, they seem to have said to hell with reproduction. Let’s just try to stay alive.

That’s okay. There’s always next year. I don’t blame them one little bit.

To make up for it, all of the paw paws, apples, pears, cherries, and Cornelian Cherries, seem to be setting bumber crops. We have four pear trees. Two are long established and two are about four years old. The long established pears have on the order of fifty blossoms each. One of the young trees has a few blossom and I think the other is thinking about it for next year. We have evidence that there are set fruit on all of the blooming trees but don’t have an idea of how many.

It helps that there are a lot of bees this year.

All of the apples—even the ones that have not shown blossoms before—bloomed. There’s some evidence that there might be fruit set but nothing to count on at this point.

We have two cherry trees full of set fruit and same for Cornelian Cherries.

Even the new quinces that I planted last summer—that were pounded by the falling hickory—have blossomed. Heck, even the brand, spanking new quince that I pulled from the box a week ago has blossoms. (The white stuff is Surround, a clay caterpillar preventative.)

We have five paw paw trees. Three of them are now old enough to put out blossoms—the remainder are still too young. Paw paws take a while. The Elder Tree is covered with flowers from base to crown and the two younger trees next to it have blossoms true so we should get some cross pollination. Paw paws taste like the best part of mangos and bananas mixed together and a hint of sparkling wine.  We are hoping, someday, have to solve the problem of fruit storage. So far, we’ve just eaten them.

Now, let’s turn to the garden.

This is the first year we’re going to try to truly scale up. The target has always been to get a significant amount of our calories from the garden. This year we’re going to put what we’ve learned toward that goal.

I’ve mentioned before we’ve decided to implement cattle fence panel trellises. We bought six of them and set them up in pairs. Each panel is 16 ft x ~4 ft so this gives us three trellis tunnels eight feet long. The plan is to plant beans, squash, etc., on the trellises and we’re dedicating a significant section of the garden to bush beans. We’re trying for significant poundage from beans.

But the big calorie source is going to be from potatoes. We’re planting two thirty-pound bags worth of seed potatoes. So far, we have two Birdie Beds and a big chunk of the east garden planted—about 2/3 worth of the seed potatoes. We’re hoping for a three-fold increase but we would like to get much more.

Squash has always worked for us and we’ll be hopefully getting more yield there, too.

It does mean we’re going to have to be serious about storage. The beans will have to be dried. We’re going to need something to act as a root cellar for all those potatoes.

Man, that’s a problem I’m looking forward to solving.

It’s still a big risk. While I’ve got more time these days to manage the garden we’re always at the mercy of the weather. We can manage a drought as long as it’s not so severe we’re attacked by the wild life. But a cold, wet June is hard to recover from.

We shall see.

Next time I promise I’ll talk about something else.


1 thought on “State of the Farm 2023: May Planting”

  1. we’re always at the mercy of the weather

    That’s pretty much true of all agriculture. My dad farmed for a living when I was growing up, and I remember the years when we had either too much or too little rain — sometimes both in the same year — rain delaying planting, then getting hit by a summer drought and an early frost. Years later, my mom was looking at the record books from those years and wondering just how we stayed in business.

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