Paul Malchow

In this issue, The Land kicks off its 2019 “From The Fields” feature. First of all, we would like to thank the four farmers who graciously agreed to serve as this year’s crop reporters. It is a considerable commitment on their part to provide regular updates throughout the year — especially when there is so much work to be done on the farms.

As you can see in this week’s feature, the reporters seem undaunted by a rainy spring and soggy fields. They remain optimistic planting will commence soon and are eager to embark on another growing season. (On April 29 I saw a farmer planting peas in Le Sueur County.)

This also happens to be The Land’s annual garden issue and I’m not sure gardeners are being quite as patient with the weather. Die-hard gardeners have an advantage over crop farmers. Many can scratch the gardening itch in March by starting plants indoors to be transplanted in mid-May. (Historically, the chances for a hard frost are pretty slim after Mother’s Day.) The young plants are now in the process of being hardened off — languishing outdoors during the day and brought indoors at night.

Did anyone get their potatoes planted on Good Friday? Although some gardeners swear by that fabled planting date, it may not have been a good plan for 2019. Cold damp ground can cause the taters to rot and we’ve had plenty of those conditions so far. I’d like to hear from the Good Friday planters to learn how things went.

Judging by our plants at home, the shrubs and perennials are behind “normal” years. We have seen cherry blossoms this early in some years, but at this point leaves are just beginning to peek out of their buds. Bloodroots have broken ground but seem to be waiting for some sunshine to send out their white flowers. Even the sunny spots in the perennial gardens are showing little life. That is, they would be sunny spots if we ever get any sunshine. The only plants which seem to be growing with vigor are the day lilies. Even the rhubarb has shown little progress over the past two weeks.

Three weekends ago it looked like spring had arrived. Golf courses were open, people were raking their lawns (not a good idea, by the way) and we tossed some radish and pea seeds into one of those “sunny” spots of the garden. Since then, we’ve had a snow storm and less-than-ideal growing conditions. Nonetheless, the vegetables have broken ground to let us know all is not lost.

Still, it seems like ages ago when the seed catalogs began arriving in the mail — teasing us that spring is just around the corner.

Unless you’re operating a CSA, the plight of the gardener pales to the investment and commitment of the crop farmer. Aside from bragging rights for having the first ripe tomato on your block, little is lost if the gardens are planted on May 15 or June 1.

Even in the days of my youth, when my parents counted on our substantial gardens to supply vegetables for the coming year, there seemed to be little fretting about getting them planted in comparison to the crop fields. (Of course, garden labor was more readily available when schools were no longer is session.) In fact, I recall a major factor in the timing of garden planting was having vegetables ready for the county fair.

So as you watch rain drip off the roof and you can still see your breath in the morning, try to follow the lead of our From The Fields reporters and don’t fret. We can only take what Mother Nature gives us. It may seem like an eternity waiting for that first fresh garden salad. Even pulling weeds sounds like a fun chore right now. In the meantime, plan what you’ll do with that daily bushel of zucchini waiting for you down the road.

Paul Malchow is the managing editor of The Land. He may be reached at