From the Farm: Our Early Spring Seedlings and Strawberries
From the Farm with Brad Kelly
We’re still not quite sure what to make of it, but it certainly seems that spring arrived a couple months early this year. We have not experienced much of a winter here in the south and temperatures remained mild through the month of February. A hard freeze in mid to late March would be especially devastating this year as most every gardener, farmer and hobbyist we know have started setting out seedlings. When the weather is this nice (this early), you really don’t have a choice. Hopefully, most of the spring seedlings will be hardy enough by mid-March to withstand a freeze or two.
We wrapped up all of our winter pruning out at the farm last month and we have been setting out transplants and planting seed potatoes over the last 2 to 3 weeks. We are still harvesting collards, carrots, beets and turnips that we planted in the fall and we hope to be harvesting our spring vegetables by the time those officially “play-out.” Our strawberries are loaded with blooms right now and we will have to keep an eye on the nighttime temperatures from here on out as these will need to be protected with floating row covers if there is a chance of frost. If you want to get a jump on summer plantings, now is the time to start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. However, you will need to start these in a greenhouse or indoors under a grow light.
You may be starting to think that these sub-tropical temperatures are just absolutely wonderful for every fruit and vegetable under the sun. You may want to bridle your enthusiasm if you find yourself in conversation with a peach grower. Most peach varieties grown in the south need anywhere from 850-1,000 chill hours to produce a healthy crop. Chill hours take place when temperatures are 45 degrees or below. “When trees are not in temperatures below 45 degrees long enough during the dormant stage, peaches can turn out small and malformed.” (www.macon.com) Much of middle Georgia is expecting less than 600 chill hours this year, which is well below what is needed. There are certain practices that can help with this issue such as the use of certain agricultural products or reduced pruning; however, nothing is going to make up for a warm winter. So for the sake of the peach growers, don’t wish winter away just yet. And when you bite into that first delicious peach later this year, be sure to take the time to enjoy it!
Brad manages our farm operations, which include our certified naturally grown farm outside Madison and the Kelly family’s plantation in Leesburg, Ga, known as Rock House Farm. Rock House Farm produces grass-fed beef, heritage Berkshire hogs, and two varieties of heirloom corn, among other crops.