With winter here in full force, there is the assumption that Riverview Gardens urban farm closes down for a long winter’s nap. Oh no. As the mercury of the thermometer drops down, we gear up. Of our 20 passive solar greenhouses, or “hoophouses,” 15 remain up and running until spring. Most people’s first question “Are your hoophouses heated?” No. Our hoops are passive solar, meaning that really it’s just big plastic half circles and the sun. And that’s enough to extend our growing season to year round production. We aren’t growing any tender hot season goods, like tomatoes or peppers, but leafy greens, peas and root crops will do just fine.
There is quite a bit of work that goes into maintaining a growing climate in our hoops during the harsh winter months. Fastening the side walls and securing the structures through high winds keep the farm team and ServiceWorksÒ participants on regular inspections throughout the winter. Watering takes on a whole new meaning with our underground irrigation turned off. Gallon drums and tanks with motors are fixed unto the back of our sturdy blue pickup.
The bees are nuzzled up in the hives, after they had an extended fall to gather late pollen from esters. Wraps around the brood boxes, and entrance enclosures are shortened to help keep out any intruders.
Thoughts of winter drudgery slough themselves into our collective heads. Our minds are on the prize. All the tiny buds of growth. The wee seedling slowing emerging from the musky compost of our planting beds. It warms my heart even in a brisk wind to know that we will just keep farming. Our perennial herb house is freshly seeded with an annual herb of cilantro to keep the Thyme and Sage company till spring. Radishes should be ready by Christmas like decorative balls of jolly, alongside the vibrant greens of spinach and kales. Bright beets and crisp carrots will fight the doldrums of winter blues.
There is much planning and preparation that must take place too amongst the work at hand. Crop rotations, field alterations. Transplants and pruning. Culling out the weak trees from the stand. The great debate to collect sap for syrup or leave the trees alone. Pouring of the seed catalogs and choosing who makes the cut.
We keep it busy on the urban farm, working alongside ServiceWorks participants who are working hard to move forward. The season changes and time seems to change as well. From busy hectic summer to so much harvesting in fall, comes a slower and more peaceful winter pace. We work and chat and the to-do list doesn’t shorten like the days do, but the rush and bustle seem to melt into a calmer attitude.
Our winter volunteer hours are Monday – Friday, 8am to 4pm, and the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of every month, 9am to Noon. Orientations for first timers are held every Mondays at 830am and the 2nd Saturday at 9am. Visit https://riverviewgardens.org/volunteer/ for more details. We accommodate all skill sets and differing abilities. So grab a friend and your warm winter boots. We’ll see you soon!
~Eshalon Mayer, Farm Manager