Every farmer has an internal clock. As the weather shifts, it pressures toward the next season, creating that sense of motivation that reminds us, “Hey, it’s time to get ready.” …
Every farmer has an internal clock. As the weather shifts, it pressures toward the next season, creating that sense of motivation that reminds us, “Hey, it’s time to get ready.” Spring is a climactic moment of this internal clock. It presents itself as winter is at its coldest, and having been snowbound in our homes, we have nothing better to do than watch the food we’ve stored up all year begin to diminish. It’s at this point in the deep cold that we farmers, gardeners and homesteaders alike have to fight this internal clock and our own desires to begin planting seeds.
Many first-time food growers are excited and impatient to begin to put seed to soil in their basements, heated garages and even bedrooms. However, despite the feeling that spring is about to arrive, it is important to fight these urges and hold out for the proper moment. Anyone who has ever seen a movie where a defending force opposes their attackers will know that it can be crucial to wait those final moments before the war begins to make your move. As a “Lord of the Rings” fan, I think of the arrows waiting to be loosed as the armies rush the walls. If released too soon, they would fall on bare ground and not the enemy. A bit dramatic perhaps, but the metaphor stands, because if you fail to wait to plant your seedlings, no matter what your gut says about when the weather will break, you may not be able to get them out of their starter trays when they come to size. What’s more, these early started plants can die, choked out in their tiny starter cells without exposure to natural light, wind and other elements that strengthen and support healthy growth.
I’m not one to believe the groundhog, per se. However, I agree that winter this year seems to have a further end in sight than in recent years. In light of this, I may wait an extra week or two more than I did even last year to make sure that my seedlings have a chance. Whether or not you blame the groundhog for the long winter is your business, my dear readers, but understand if I see him or his cronies on my property, they will be executed on sight. They tend to make a mess of one’s crops and fields, but in the case of their weather predictions, I suppose I can add that to the list of reasons why they’re not welcome in my land.
As for the task at hand, I implore you to spend the extra few weeks planning your garden. Map out where you will grow your food, and perhaps avoid the mistake I have made in years past, which is to sow too many seedlings of a certain kind due to a lack of planning. Another thing you might do with your time while fighting the urge to sow is prep your indoor seeding area. Hang your grow lights if you use them, straighten up the tables and prepare the watering system you might use. If it’s an old milk jug, great; if something fancier, all the more reason to prepare. I like to get together the odd items I use for seedlings such as oscillating fans. If you have a low-setting fan that you can place near your seedlings when they start to gain height, it will help to strengthen them naturally as they seek to steady themselves against the wind.
If all else fails and you can’t think of anything else to do with your time while waiting to start your seeds, find yourself a picture of that groundhog and set up a nice dartboard in your seeding area. Feel free to extact your revenge upon it for all this snow and call the vengeance a fictitious sacrifice in honor of your upcoming growing season.
The way out here, sometimes the hardest thing is to sit on our hands and wait when we know there is work to be done on the horizon. But it’s in our good-natured country way to find something to do in the meantime. Even if it’s improving one’s hand-eye coordination by pin cushioning a poster of a groundhog.