Sound Pine Farm celebrated May Day by putting the first of our transplants in the ground! The kale, chard, and cabbages that are finally getting to spread their roots beyond the confines of their cells were seeded back in March, and have been patiently waiting for the rain to ease up and for their beds to be prepped on the farm. This year Maine has experienced a late spring (this phenology map show our region to be 20 days late for leaf out https://www.usanpn.org/news/spring), which has affected many farmers’ ability to prepare ground and bring delicate transplants outside. Knowing spring can be unpredictable, we’ve done a few things to help our seedlings with the transition, including seeding into larger-celled trays than we normally would to give our plants lots of nutrients while they wait, fertilizing them with fish emulsion fertilizer for a boost of nitrogen, and “hardening” them off– a process of gradually introducing them to outside temperatures and conditions.
While the transplants wait, we’re busy preparing beds in between rain events. Because the fields have so far been too wet for a tractor, we’ve been prepping our beds by hand. This first involves using the broadfork, a tool that breaks up compaction, aerates and fluffs the soil, helps with water drainage, and allows weeds to be more easily pulled out. We follow broadforking each bed with weeding, applying a layer of compost, adding soil amendments (to add necessary nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), incorporating the compost and amendments into the soil, and then raking it smooth in preparation for planting. Finally, after all these steps, the transplants are planted and then covered with fabric row covers to give them some protection against cold nights and spring pests. We will check on them in a week or so for their first round of weed control, but they are now in Mother Nature’s hands.