Further Signs of Spring


One sure sign Spring is making its presence felt is the return of the birds to the garden.  They make wonderful guests in my vegetable garden, chirping and singing merrily, soaring and diving in search of early season bugs (they’re welcome to all they can catch!) I sometimes have to stop the frantic work of early spring to take a moment to stand and watch the birds.  Caught this one waiting for a handsome fella to help with the next generation.

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Another sure sign is the arrival of the first garlic shoots peaking through their winter blanket of mulch.  This time of year I visit the garlic patch several times a week in frustrating anticipation.  Yesterday the trip was rewarded with the joy of discovery.  Garlic is one of my favorite crops to grow.  Traditionally, it has been labelled ‘easy to grow’ in Maine.  Who knows what that means but it’s becoming harder and harder.  With the changing climate and everyone and their mother jumping on the garlic bandwagon, new diseases are moving into the state to affect the garlic crop.  I grow about 7 varieties and if I can find disease free cloves I will add more.  Below is one of my favorites.  Pskem River, which I originally purchased from the Seed Saver’s Exchange.Potting on Broccoli 025

Finally, it must be getting into full Spring swing if I’m planting tomatoes.  Every year I can’t wait to plant them and I jump the gun.  In years past I’ve planted in February and tried to push the envelope in our hoop houses.  Some years I’ve lost entire crops to a late May frost.  Others I’ve watched the tomato plants grow like crazy and get too big in their pots because I was terrified to put them out after the aforementioned depressing frost discovery.  This year I have forced myself (how I don’t know) to wait…and wait some more.  Pulling out my planting labels to reuse showed that I am planting a full three weeks later than last year.  I deserve a reward!  Perhaps and awesome tomato season?  Here’s hoping.Planting Tomatoes 007Planting Tomatoes 004


Tomatoes are one of the most valuable market crops there is at your local farmer’s market and CSA.  Everyone wants tomatoes all the time.  People are willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for tomatoes in early June.  But consider what goes into that tomato before you purchase it.  Early June and tomato don’t mix folks.  In order for it to happen there was a lot of carbon released into the air.  That tomato came from a greenhouse that had to be heated in the dead of winter to protect the early, delicate seedling.  That heat came from the burning of wood or, more likely, propane.

The fact is you should be savoring the agony of waiting.  Like not being allowed to open presents until Christmas the wait just makes that first bite into a tomato…in season, so much better.  Until then there is plenty of other local fare to please the senses.  This time of year you can find fresh greens in abundance.  Coming soon will be chives, radishes, the first asparagus and rhubarb.  With all this, is it really so hard to wait for an in season tomato?  Local Food.  Eat well – be well.

Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.