Adam Lewand-Koch, Blackrock Farm, Kennebunkport, Maine
The skating rink that was once the driveway to the greenhouses at Blackrock Farm has largely melted away, we’ve set the clocks forward and we are beginning to prepare for spring in earnest. Every time I walk into the office Kevin (our vegetable guy) and Helene (the owner) are discussing types of radishes, planning space usage of the fields, discussing crop rotations or hammering out any other of the myriad of things that need to be figured before the frost leaves the ground. While our experience grows with each passing season there are aspects of the vegetable garden that we must restart each year, just like any gardener starting a plot at home.
The first and perhaps most important step is to contact our local cooperative extension for soil testing. These scientists tell us everything we need to know about the makeup of our soil, which gives us a better understanding of what soil amendments we need to add in order to start the season with a strong foundation. Blackrock recommends that anyone starting a vegetable garden submit their soil to be tested and remain mindful of an organic approach to amending the space, as well as a change in approach, if necessary, to pest management that excludes chemicals.
The garden is then thoughtfully plotted, allowing for the rotation of crops, which means a new plan must be created each year. Changing the location of your plants, even within a small plot, is necessary because different plants supply and deplete different nutrients, and attract different opportunistic insects. Rotating your crops keeps harmful bugs off balance and allows the soil in your garden to perform different tasks. The planting of peas fixes nitrogen levels in soil; meanwhile, tomatoes are very heavy feeders. Flip flopping the spaces we use for peas and tomatoes is one of our most important rotations.
We select our seeds from reputable dealers like Johnny’s or Fedco, and even now we have to read the packets to ensure a timely harvest. It takes a lot of planning, but the results are well worth it. There is a peace of mind that comes with knowing the vegetables you are eating come to your table without pesticides, and I know I have gained a healthy respect for just how much food can come from a small piece of land with just a little bit of attention. But most of all, the vegetables are far more delicious than any you can buy at the supermarket, and because you just picked them, as fresh as can be.
Here at Blackrock we conduct several vegetable growing seminars each year in an attempt to reach out to the local community through shared learning. For more answers to any questions you might have I would highly recommend visiting a small scale organic farm near you.