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Spring is an interesting time to farm commercially. You never know what you’re going to get, especially in Virginia. Last year it was so cold and wet I was unable to work the soil until mid-April. The old rule of thumb is the spring planting date is March 15th. So I was a month late and behind the eight ball. I spent a lot of time starting seedlings. Things like cabbage, broccoli raab, spinach, lettuce, broccoli & cauliflower. I hand worked beds in the field where I had plowed and tilled previously. In new ground I created one hundred square foot wide raised beds using a double digging approach.

I set everything out and in no time almost every single plant had bolted. Even little tiny 2-inch plants! I learned a valuable lesson from this: you really have to get a jump on things early if you want to be a spring farmer. Last year I was renting space in a heated greenhouse.  Understandably, my friend didn’t want to turn on the heat until March 1st.

This year I built a primitive greenhouse in January.

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It is unheated but still provides protection. I began starting seeds February 1st and wish I had started earlier. Here we are past the spring planting date and I do not feel comfortable planting what is inside.  We just had a little snow and it was 26 degrees last night.  In spring you have to beat the heat. In Fall you have to beat Jack Frost.

Other discoveries: you have to have a good balance between direct sowing and transplanting. Last year I went too heavy in the direction of transplanting and did very little direct sowing. This year I have reached a better balance.

I had an interesting conversation with an old-time Hanover County farmer the other day. He is a big fan of direct sowing just about anything except tomatoes eggplant and peppers. He claims direct sown crops will catch up with transplants in no time. It will be interesting to see if this is true as I am direct sowing and transplanting the same crops.

One thing is certain: never discount the knowledge of a wise old farmer. What they know is invaluable and most of it is oral tradition. We should learn from them and use their knowledge in developing a production system.  Ultimately, disseminate the information to others.

Dominic Carpin
delli Carpini Farm
Raising pure, clean food in accordance with organic sustainable principles

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