As a family run produce farm who also operates a Community Supported Agriculture program here in the Pittsburgh area, spring is a busy time for us. The days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, and it’s time to start working in the fields!
Most of our seedlings are started in late January/early Feburary either in a rented greenhouse or in our basement underneath grow lights. Come late March or early April, it is time to start preparing the fields and transplanting.
During the second week of April here in the Pittsburgh area this year, we had AMAZING weather! Of course, as farmers we took full advantage of the sunshine and the warmer temperatures. However, as produce farmers in western Pennsylvania, what do we plant in the spring time when the weather can be 80 degrees one day then snowy the next?
WHAT CAN YOU PLANT WITH UNPREDICTABLE SPRING WEATHER IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA?
There are many different vegetables that prefer cooler weather and can be grown in the spring. During April, in western Pennsylvania, peas, spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, kale, arugula, mustard greens, collard greens and turnips can be planted directly into the ground from seed. During early spring, potatoes are also planted. For our 2023 season, we planted over 1000 pounds of potatoes! Garlic is planted in the fall and overwinters, however, during the spring it starts to show its green tops above the soil. Spring is also a perfect time to plant onion sets. Our Pittsburgh based CSA farm planted approximately 25,000 onions of different varieties. While machinery can be used to plant some things, onions and garlic are all planted by hand!
These vegetables are all cool-weather crops, which means they can tolerate cooler temperatures. They are also relatively quick-growing, which means they can be harvested and sold early in the season. For western Pennsylvania, depending on weather, this means we can start harvesting some items in late May or early June.
Spring is also a good time to plant perennial vegetables and fruits such as asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. These vegetables will come back year after year, so they are a good investment for produce farmers. For our 2023 season, we have planted 2000 strawberry plants. As we plant them, we dream of eating fresh picked strawberries in June!
WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA SPRING DOES HAVE CHALLENGES FOR PRODUCE FARMERS
Of course, spring is not without its challenges. As we already discussed, the weather can be unpredictable, and there is always the risk of frost. Sometimes there is a lot of rain making the fields muddy and challenging to maneuver in. However, produce farming in western Pennsylvania is one that requires skill, careful planning, a lot of weather monitoring and preparation. Thank goodness Haffey Family Farm has over 30 years of experience with Farmer Jeremy!
TIPS & TRICKS FOR GROWING PRODUCE IN THE PITTSBURGH AREA
Let’s share some tips for you all who may want to start a vegetable garden this year. Afterall, we as your local Pittsburgh based CSA produce farmers are here not only to share quality, fresh picked produce but growing tips as well.
What does Farmer Jeremy recommend for spring growing? Here are some of his tips so you can get the most out of the spring season:
- Start planning early. The best time to start planning for your spring garden is in the fall. This will give you time to do your research, order your seeds and seedlings, and prepare your soil. Here at Haffey Family Farm, we begin planning for the next season before the previous season ends. This includes planning cover crops, cleaning up fields and beginning crop plans and seed ordering.
- Be prepared for the weather. The weather in the spring can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared for anything. This means having a plan for dealing with frost, rain, and other potential problems. As produce farmers, Farmer Jeremy is constantly watching and checking the weather. This way we can be prepared for potential frost with row cover and also check for the right time to plant and be sure that there will be enough irrigation.
- Plant a variety of crops. This will help to ensure that you have a harvest even if some of your crops are damaged by the weather. One of the reasons the spring is so busy for us as produce farmers is because of the quantity and variety of crops we plant. This allows us to provide to both our CSA members and farmer’s markets customers a variety of produce in June.
- Harvest regularly. The more often you harvest your crops, the more productive they will be. For Haffey Family Farm crops, some things will not regrow after harvest (for example, onions), however, other things will allow repeated harvests such as strawberries, peas, and spinach.
SUPPORTING ONE ANOTHER DURING SPRING TIME
Spring time is a refreshing time of year for all of us. The dead of winter has ended, the hours of sunshine are longer and the temperatures are warming up. Although at times, nights may still be cold or we may see a random snowflake here or there in Western Pennsylvania, spring time is a busy and exciting time for produce farmers! By developing a relationship with your local farmers, supporting them and speaking with them you too can learn how to grow a successful spring garden. If you don’t have the space for a garden, don’t worry! Your local produce farmers are there to support you. Be sure to support them by joining their Community Supported Agriculture programs or visiting your local farmer’ markets.
As always, we appreciate the support of all our customers! We cannot wait to share our spring produce with all our Pittsburgh based customers! See you soon!