From GINA COVINA
Laughing Frog Farm
Days in the 80s, nights above 40. we may after all be heading into that rare season with an early start. If so, we’re ready for those mythical July tomatoes. Just about all our summer crops are planted out, most in the ground a month earlier than ever. I’m still ready to cover everything in a freeze, but I’m beginning to think that may not be necessary.
Once in the ground the plants face new dangers, chief among them – so far this year – gophers. What about our newest hoop house, the one with a hardware-cloth liner for its raised bed, with seams carefully wired together and edges turned to climb the sides? Oh yeah, the “gopher-proof” one. Last week I found a potato plant pulled most of the way underground in that armored bed, only its wilted top showing. A line of dino kale along one side has lost half its number, unnoticed at first because the plants disappear so completely, leaving no trace but a small hole. So much for my vision of the dino kale as a row of miniature palm trees in the hoop house landscape. Not to mention so much for gopher-proofing. (My theory: the young apprentice rodent-hunter cats, playing with a gopher caught outside the hoop house, casually toss it up over the hay bale side, as it squeaks “No, anywhere but there, don’t throw me into that gopherless realm of the most delectable roots.”)
The bonus in all this planting is the simultaneous harvest of winter crops to make room. The glorious nettle plants made the newest 10’ x 10’ compost pile more than a foot taller (nettles make for a fine-textured mineral-rich compost). Kale, spinach, and chard supply us with daily green smoothies, greens for friends and neighbors, and popular chicken feed. Yellow dock and dandelion roots (not purposefully grown as winter crops but encouraged around the edges of the gardens so there are always plants to pull from the beds) have gone into spring tonic teas (my favorite also has ginger, burdock, and licorice roots). Long days make all this activity possible – I’m on farmer hours now, up at dawn and (on ideal days) to bed by 9:30.