Lingering snows putting a damper on your spring garden dreams? Join a seedling CSA!

Hannah Davidson runs the seedling CSA that Andrea Chesman joined this spring. Photo by John Falk

As I write this at the tail end of March, it is 21°F out but Weather Underground says it feels like 12°F. And it does. It does! I tapped my maple trees two weeks ago and still there’s no sap to boil. I really don’t think spring will ever come.

So what was I to think when a crazy email from my friend Hannah Davidson arrived, inviting me to join a seedling CSA at the Good Earth Farm in Brandon, Vermont? A two-foot-deep blanket of snow still covers my garden. I’m just guessing here, but I can’t imagine being able to sow seeds in mid-April for my usual spring greens and peas.

This is Hannah’s first year selling her seedlings via a CSA, and it turns out seedling CSAs are the newest trend in small-scale agriculture circles. The grower — who gets hit with expenses in early spring for greenhouse energy and maintenance costs, soil, and seeds — gets money upfront. The gardeners get seedlings spread out through the planting season — in this case, including plants for a fall harvest picked up in August — without having to worry that the seedlings they want to buy will disappear by the time Memorial Day weekend winds down.

It’s the fall harvest plants that excite me most when it comes to this CSA. I always plan to get a fall sowing in and I almost never succeed. In the dog days of August, I stop believing that the weather will ever be cool enough to support another planting of lettuce or spinach. (Oh! Just like I don’t believe spring will ever come…)

My check goes in the mail today. Two hundred dollars will cover five pick-ups of plants. Here’s what I’ll be getting:

Tomato plants in the greenhouse. Photo by Hannah Davidson

The first pick-up of plants on May 2nd or 3rd is scheduled to include two 4-packs of lettuce, two 4-packs of spinach, one 4-pack of kale, one 4-pack of chard, two 6-packs of snap peas, a bundle of 25 yellow and 25 red onions, and one 4-inch pot each of dill, cilantro, parsley, plus a 4-pack of my choice.

The second pick-up in late May will contain one 4-pack of broccoli, one 4-pack of cabbage, one 4-pack of sauce tomatoes, one 4- pack of heirloom tomatoes, one 4-pack of peppers or chiles, one mixed 4-pack of zucchini/summer squash, two 4-inch pots of basil, and two free choice plants (larger tomatoes or perennial herbs or flowers).

Pick-up number 3 on June 6 or 7 will hold one 4-pack of butternut squash, one 4-pack of mixed pumpkins/winter squash, one 4-pack of musk melon/watermelon, one 4-pack of cucumbers, two 4-packs of lettuce, one 4-pack of eggplant, one 4-pack of brussels sprouts, and two free choice plants.

July’s pick-up will be light, but will offer cucumbers, zucchini/squash, broccoli, storage cabbage, kale, chard, and more herbs for succession planting.

The fifth and final pick-up on August 8 or 9 will include curly parsley, flat parsley, dill, kale, chard, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli.

Hannah Davidson at work. Photo by John Falk

Yes, I will be losing out on getting to choose my favorite varieties. I don’t know whether Hannah knows I like Asian varieties of both cucumbers and eggplant. She definitely doesn’t know (yet!) that she is being overly generous in the summer squash department. But what I love is the fact that I am committing to renewing a patch of the garden each month when I prepare some beds for the new plants.

I am also committing to the idea of spring.  Now if only the weather would cooperate.

Andrea Chesman

Andrea Chesman is the author of The Fat Kitchen as well as many other cookbooks that focus on traditional techniques and fresh-from-the-garden cooking. Her previous books… See Bio

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