by Camille Cody
March in the garden is actually mostly OUT of the garden – it is in flats, seed trays, greenhouses, over heating mats and under grow lights. March is the time of year when most farmers have ordered their seeds (or pulled out their saved seeds from last season) and are sowing them in the greenhouse to transplant later when the seedlings are big enough.
With the last frost of the year falling anytime between April15th and May 30th, farmers in our area know to count backwards from a likely date (a tricky job to say the least) to plan for sowings ready to be transplanted into the fields once the soil is good and warmed up; a good 8 – 12 weeks in some cases.
Basil, lettuce, onions, broccoli, kohlrabi, parsley, kale, leeks, cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard, artichokes, chives, cauliflower and greens like tat soi, cress and pac choi are among some of the crops farmers in our area are starting to seed indoors now. If this list makes you long for summer (and really hungry!) now is the time to consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) program through one of our local farms. Some local CSA farms include: Sunfield, Colinwood, Red Dog, Dharma Ridge and Nash’s.
And March for farms with sheep or goats usually means the onset of lambing and kidding season, and slowly increasing egg production – due to longer hours of daylight – for those with chickens.
Rachael of Mystery Bay Farm (artisan goat cheese producer) on Marrowstone Island has 12 pregnant does, each of which will birth anywhere from 1 to 4 kids. Solstice B&B owners Jim and Linda, have a flock of about 60 sheep and are expecting lambing to begin mid-March, as is John of Spring Rain Farm and Orchard. Five months after being bred in October/November, little lambs and kids will be taking their first awkward steps, running amuck on the farm and drinking their fill of mom’s milk until they’re weaned at about 1 month of age; at which point dairies like Mystery Bay will begin a regular milking schedule to keep up cheese production.
And lest you think nothing local is available to you during the month of March, consider the over-wintering crops that farmers have been maintaining or keeping in cold storage: numerous varieties of potatoes, hardy greens, carrots, beets, celeriac and turnips – and Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips are two crops that get sweeter after a freeze and can be pulled from the ground first thing in the spring when everything else is dormant, even from under a blanket of snow!
And just like aged cheeses, lots of farms in our area offer value-added products as an addition to fresh produce. Take Finnriver Farm for example, their latest lines of fruit wines are mixed with their own apple brandy and are just now making a debut both at the farm’s on-site tasting room and on the shelves at the Corner! A bottle of Pear, Black Currant or Blueberry wine might be just the thing to warm us up as we wait out March for balmier weather.