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March- How spring weather affects the farm

An important part of being a farmer is keeping track of the weather. Farmers use all kinds of techniques to rig environmental factors in our favor including greenhouses, hoop houses, cold frames, row cover, shade cloth, irrigation, and plastic mulches. These help us regulate temperature as well as soil moisture levels.

In spring, what farmers worry about is rain! Too much and you cannot go in the fields. You can ruin your soil by plowing, tilling, digging, or even walking in wet fields. At our farm site, the soil drains pretty well, so the rain has not blocked out too many work days.

Temperature, especially daily high and lows, is something farmers have to keep a close eye on. The soil as well as the air have to be warm enough that seeds will germinate and plants won’t deep freeze. Farmers and gardeners should know their zone (ours is 7a) and last frost date (ours is April 15th, conservatively). All field preparation, greenhouse seeding, and transplanting schedules are based on weather predictions.

Plants don’t like to be shocked, and do best with a gentle transition from the warm, windless greenhouse to the colder, windy field. Right now our kale, collard greens, scallions and onions are taking daily trips outside for 4-8 hours to be “hardened off” before they leave the controlled conditions of the greenhouse for the more stressful field conditions. 

So far, the weather has been working out for Windy Hill Family Farm, but if you are a praying, intention-setting, or blowing-on-a-dandelion type of person, please send wishes for even temperatures, light and consistent rains, lots of sun, and no late frosts for Centreville, Maryland this year.

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Liam Miller