Last Saturday was our first week back at the Dieppe Market of the season. We had some cabbage, rutabaga, and pumpkins but we really had a lot of spinach!
We wanted to let our customers know how we had this spinach to sell so early in the year. This is the story:
We planted the spinach seeds in trays back in late September of 2012. We couldn’t sow them in their final destination in the caterpillar tunnels because we still had tomatoes pumping out delicious fruit at that time. Note: in this picture, I’m actually sowing peas but I don’t have that many pictures of me starting seeds.
In mid-October, once we’d cleared all the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and melons from the caterpillar tunnels, we transplanted the spinach. In this picture, Danielle is in the back tucking in each seedling. We trialled a few different varieties of spinach: pigeon, renegade, giant winter, and bordeaux (red-stemmed spinach).
Throughout the winter, every time it snowed heavily, we’d go out and shovel the snow from the top and sides of the tunnels so they wouldn’t collapse. Note: these tunnels are each 136′ long (shovelling them is VERY good exercise!).
Spinach is very cold-hardy and actually gets sweeter in the winter. But with the low light levels in the winter, it grows super super slowly. We also made sure not to add sources of nitrogen (even compost) before planting to ensure the spinach leaves wouldn’t end up with elevated nitrate levels with the low light levels.
We had also trialled some outdoor plantings (no protection) of spinach for overwintering. These did fine while there was snow cover but after a few thaws and freezes, most of the plants died.
A glimpse inside the tunnels mid-winter.
In March, we started watering the spinach on a weekly basis. Spinach is sensitive to too much water but with our sandy loam, the soils in the caterpillar tunnels drain exceptionally well and we don’t have to worry much about overwatering! This is a picture of one of this season’s volunteers Jody.
During our Biodynamic Day at the farm, an intern from another farm brought a refractometer and tested the Brix levels of our spinach. We’re planning on buying a refractometer this year and will be testing Brix levels throughout the season. We’ll keep you up to date with the results!
Finally, the harvest begins!