What’s Happening at PVF West? by Becky

It’s May, and of course that means we’ve gotten a hard frost the last two nights. Everything seems to have survived by some miracle that we won’t question, and we’re breathing a sigh of relief as we stuff more plants in the ground. Because that’s what we do in May. We plant. And mulch. And plant. And weed.

Izzi, Zeke and Becky planting tomatoes
Izzi, Zeke and Becky planting tomatoes

April 30 was a great big benchmark day. Our first round of tomatoes, somewhere around 1400 plants, went in the ground! This will be our first of three tomato plantings that will sustain us through the season. We planted Celebrity, Cherokee Purple, Pink Beauty, Sweet Tangerine, Juliet, Sun Sugar, and Favorita. Not a bad start! We also have a few more varieties in the hoop house–our second attempt at PVF West for really early tomatoes. If all goes well, we may have A FEW tomatoes as early as the fourth of July! Other exciting vegetables in the ground right now include broccoli, peas, beets, chard, lettuce, kale, fennel, onions, garlic, spinach, arugula, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, and eggplant.

Tomato plants under Reemay
Tomato plants under Reemay

Once the plants are in the ground, we can’t just forget about them until they get big and juicy. Some of the more tender plants, like the tomatoes, summer squash, cukes, peppers, and eggplant, need a cover to keep out the sneaky frosty nights and keep in the warm. We’ve been trying to tuck those crops under a cover of  fabric called Reemay. We place a series of support hoops along the length of the row, typically about 5 plants apart. Once in place, we begin at one end and work to the other end of the row with the Reemay. First we anchor the end of the cloth with dirt. Then a team works to pull the cloth tight over the hoops–along both the length and width of the row–and anchor it in place with more shovels full of dirt or bags filled with dirt, working one hoop at a time. When the team reaches the end of the row, the cloth is cut and the end is anchored with more dirt clods. We’ve also used this cloth in the past to keep the deer from making a snack of our crops, but our exciting new deer fence seems to be doing the trick.

Mulching tomatoes with hay
Mulching tomatoes with hay

Other crop tending tasks are mulching with hay and weeding. Mulching is a multi-purpose task. First and foremost, it keeps down the weeds. It also adds organic matter to the soil and keeps the fruit  clean. And, though the greenhouse work has slowed a bit, keeping a good rotation of plants is integral to having a long, productive growing season and enough to sell.

And markets! All of PVF West’s markets are in full swing. Stop by the Saturday morning Leesburg or Arlington Courthouse markets or the White House Market on Thursday afternoon to say hello and sample the fruits of our labor!

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